• An investigation of the early factors which influence women's career choices in physical science and technology

      Payne, Anneliese
      The composition of the workforce has begun to undergo a change. The U.S Department of Labor estimates that women, minorities and immigrants will constitute 80 percent of the additions to the labor force between 1987 and the year 2000 (Oakes, 1990). The National Science Foundation projects that the United States may have a shortfall of 40,000 scientists and over 250,000 engineers by the year 2006 (Argonne, 1990). Since women are among those who are significantly underrepresented among individuals preparing for a career in science, thirty women who are currently pursuing a successful career in physical science and technology were interviewed. This study determined participants perceptions of the factors that first influenced an early interest in physical science and technology. The investigation included perceptions regarding: 1) whether certain identifiable events or experiences influenced the decision to pursue science as a career and what those events and experiences were; 2) at what age these events occurred; 3) whether an adult(s) was influential and which adult(s) it was; and 4) identification of where these events and experiences occurred. The interview technique was selected as the best research method for collecting the qualitative and demographic data needed for this study. The results represent the participant’s recollections of out-of-school and in-school activities, family, friends and teacher support, self-image during the formative years, parents as the most important factor which influenced an interest in physical science, and major obstacles that had to be overcome by the participants in order to pursue successful careers in physical science and technology. Also included is participant’s advice to parents and teachers who want to encourage females to pursue a career in physical sciences and technology.