P85: Comparison of life experiences of men and women in the sciences
A lack of sense of belonging has been shown to contribute to women leaving the sciences (Seymour 1997). Contributing to this is the fact that most women find affirmation externally (through friends, family and professors) for their life decisions (Seymour, 1997; Zeldin 2000). Our previous work indicated that women often established themselves in a science field based on positive experiences/achievements in the sciences rather than social support mechanisms. This led to a feeling of being a “black sheep” among non-science female family and peers. A set of comparative studies in 2000 and 2008 were done examining factors affecting women’s and men’s choices of majors and careers (Zeldin 2000 and Zeldin 2008). The individualistic attitude of our previous participants more closely align with the attitudes of the men than the women in Zeldin’s studies. An explanation for this phenomenon is found in the sociological Distance from Privilege model (Nobel, 1999). Since the women from our previous work align more closely with stereotypical men, we wanted to explore this same question from a male perspective. This qualitative study focuses on the life experiences of men in science fields. Participants range in age from undergraduate men pursuing a science related undergraduate degree to men who have retired from an academic career in the sciences. Men completed personal statements and in-depth interviews which explored past choices as well as current perceptions of the results of those choices. Preliminary results on the comparison of the life experiences of men and women will be presented.