Women in STEM Careers

Women in STEM Careers

International Perspectives on Increasing Workforce Participation, Advancement and Leadership

Edited by Diana Bilimoria and Linley Lord

Adopting an international perspective, this book draws on current research from the United States, Australia and Europe examining women’s participation, advancement and leadership in STEM fields. The book explores the nature of STEM careers across industry and academia, and presents the latest thinking on successful individual, organisational and educational initiatives related to women in STEM. An invaluable resource for scholars, practitioners and policy-makers in organisations and government, as well as for women aspiring to or presently working in STEM fields.

Chapter 10: Gender equality interventions in the STEM fields: Perceptions, successes and dilemmas

Marieke van den Brink and Lineke Stobbe

Subjects: business and management, business leadership, gender and management, human resource management


The under-representation of women in education and occupations in the STEM fields is a global phenomenon and is widely documented (Blickenstaff, 2005; Burke and Mattis 2007; Bystydzienski and Bird 2006; Etzkowitz, Kemelgor and Uzzi, 2000; Shen, 2013). Although some progress is made (Shen, 2013), women face challenges in almost all career phases and functions (EU, 2008; WOPI, 2011). Many explanations have been given, but less attention has been paid to studying the possibilities and activities towards changing this situation. However, in recent years, the attention to evaluate gender equality interventions and programs has increased (Cronin and Roger 1999). Projects aiming at creating sustainable gender equality have proven complex (Acker, 2000; Benschop, Mills, Mills and Tienari, 2012; Bilimoria, Joy and Liang, 2008) and are accompanied by many dilemmas (Acker, 2000; Hearn, 2000; Nentwich, 2006). Although increasing numbers of governments, universities and research institutions seem convinced that gender equality policies are needed in order to increase the number of women in science, these policies continue to meet with open resistance, and they are considered highly controversial (Cockburn, 1991; Connell, 2006; Crosby et al., 2005; Hing et al., 2002; Van den Brink and Stobbe, 2014). Equality programs are often seen as the opposite of career policies based on merit and individual advancement (Bacchi, 1996; Noon, 2010; Tienari et al., 2009). Equality initiatives are then often framed in terms of dilemmas; with diversity, equal opportunities on the one hand, and merit and individual advancement on the other (Lamont, 2009). As a result, gender-equality programs are often received with ambivalence.

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