AWE Literature Overview

Self-Authorship and Women in SET (Science, Engineering, Technology)

Elizabeth G. Creamer, Virginia Tech
Kerri M. Wakefield, University of Michigan

It is no secret that members of underrepresented groups like women and people of color can face a series of obstacles to success in SET careers, including demeaning stereotypes and reduced opportunities for career advancement. This literature review explores the potential of self-authorship to improve the recruitment and retention of women in SET fields. Self-authorship is the ability to internally define one’s ideas, values, and relationships (Baxter Magolda, 2001). Self-authored individuals use an internal framework that can include a cultural and/or ethnic identity to filter information and make meaning of their experiences. Research has demonstrated that self-authorship facilitates the ability of high-risk students and members of underrepresented groups to be more discriminating when interpreting others’ opinions and less likely to allow stereotypes to influence their sense of self (Pizzolato, 2003; Torres & Hernandez, 2007). The Learning Partnerships Model transfers the principles of self-authorship to a practical framework that offers guidelines for educators to design activities that promote students’ development of self-authorship (Baxter Magolda & King, 2004). Ideal learning partnerships, including mentoring relationships, provide both challenge and support and encourage participants to reflect on their experiences, weigh multiple viewpoints, and become active participants in their own learning. This paper concludes with several recommendations for parents, teachers, and other professionals who seek to encourage women’s interest and success in SET fields by promoting self-authorship. These include teaching women to deconstruct stereotypes, evaluate the credibility of information sources, assess their skills and values, and to explore SET careers through formal and informal activities. Readers are also encouraged to reflect on ways to improve familial, educational, and work-place environments so that they are more inviting and supportive to underrepresented groups interested in SET. 

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Funded by The National Science Foundation (HRD 0120642 and HRD 0607081)