Lessons from Diverse Women in STEM: Acknowledging Institutional Challenges and Empowering Agency Towards STEM persistence

Sophie Schuyler, Jonathan S. Briseno, Madison Natarajan, Anushka Sista, Kerrie G. Wilkins-Yel, Amanda Arnold, Jennifer M. Bekki, Bianca L. Bernstein, Ashley K. Randall

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Women pursuing graduate studies in STEM fields often face challenges, such as implicit and explicit messages (e.g., microaggressions, stereotyping) that communicate their lack of belonging in STEM, the delegitimization of their skills and expertise, and instances where both their voice and physical presence are ignored. These gendered, and in the case of Women of Color (WoC), racialized experiences, result in additional stress that negatively influences women's efforts to persist and succeed in STEM fields. This study, which is part of a larger NSF-funded project within the CareerWISE (CW) research program, highlighted the voices of white women and WoC in STEM doctoral programs with the goal of identifying factors that promote their STEM persistence. A total of 33 women in STEM doctoral programs across the United States were interviewed. Participants were asked to provide recommendations for fellow women in STEM who are considering leaving their programs to facilitate their persistence amidst challenges they might face. The findings were summarized into four broad themes: 1) seek interpersonal support, 2) prioritize mental health and wellbeing, 3) affirm and encourage one's belongingness in STEM, and 4) explore different academic options if needed. Findings led to important implications for current and future graduate students, departments, and institutions (i.e., building community, fostering a welcoming environment, reducing barriers to persistence).

Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - Jan 24 2021
EventCoNECD 2021 - Virtual, Online
Duration: Jan 24 2021Jan 28 2021


ConferenceCoNECD 2021
CityVirtual, Online


  • Academic success
  • Persistence
  • STEM
  • Women
  • Women of color

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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