Women and Minorities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics: Upping the Numbers

By McLaren, Patricia Genoe | Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences, June 2009 | Go to article overview

Women and Minorities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics: Upping the Numbers


McLaren, Patricia Genoe, Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences


Women and Minorities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics: Upping the Numbers Edited by Ronald J. Burke and Mary C. Mattis (2007) Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited, 379pp. ISBN: 978-1845428884

The book under review is an edited collection that aims to address the reasons behind the underrepresentation of women and minorities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and to provide strategies and solutions at all levels of this complex problem. The individual chapters of the book range from broad overviews of the problems that women and minorities encounter in STEM, to a grounded theory approach, to understanding how women experience an engineering education, to a highly detailed program implementation plan for undergraduate student support systems. The book as a whole is weighted more towards women than minorities, and while certain chapters will hold greater interest for some than for others, it should appeal to a variety of readers. Researchers will find both conceptual and empirical data that begins to answer some questions and points out future directions for study. Educators, recruiters, and career development professionals will find high-level, detailed, and specific directions as to attracting and retaining women and minorities in STEM. Women and minorities who are considering education and career options, or who have already chosen a STEM discipline, will find that this text addresses a variety of concerns in a multi-levelled and understanding manner and may help them to make a more informed decisions.

As a reader I encompass a broad range of the intended authence of the book. As a high school student I decided against engineering as a possible undergraduate degree option as I felt that, although having taken the math and science courses on offer, my lack of computer science knowledge would be too great a liability. The chapters that address changing the image of engineering in order to recruit more women caused me to doubt the basis of that decision made all of those years ago. After changing my major, I graduated from university with a degree in computer science and worked for almost ten years as a software developer. I always felt completely accepted wimin the software development environment and I had what I felt to be a successful career. For this reason I tend to read papers and books on the struggle that women undergo in IT workplaces with a fair amount of skepticism, and my approach to this book was no different. However, in the midst of a successful career I chose to leave the software world to go back to school and pursue a doctorate in management. Rather than being driven out of the software field by frustration and discrimination, I was driven towards a PhD in an attempt to find solutions for what I saw to be endemic management problems in the software industry. Now, reading research on the number of women who are leaving STEM careers always leaves me feeling as though I have deserted the cause. As part of my doctoral studies I have been introduced to a wide body of feminist research and therefore I can read those research-focused chapters from an informed perspective.

The book is divided into five parts. The first includes two chapters and is an overview of the topic of women and minorities in STEM as we know it today. It discusses why it is important to include women and minorities in STEM, the challenges that exist, and strategies effective in the face of these challenges. These chapters provide a good introduction to past research, and would be useful to readers who do not have an awareness of the problems. For those readers who are either living the problems or who have already conducted research on them, however, these chapters offer little that the readers will not already have read.

The second part of the book consists of five chapters under the theme of experiences of women and minorities in STEM. The chapters in this section reach levels of understanding about the context in and the depths to which problems exist that are not commonly seen in the existing literature. …

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