The influence of early experiences and university environment for female students choosing geoscience programs: a case study at Universidad de Chile

Villaseñor, Tania; Celis, Sergio; Queupil, Juan Pablo; Pinto, Luisa; Rojas, Maisa


This case study addresses the experiences of female undergraduate students in the geology and geophysics programs at Universidad de Chile. These majors are part of the Faculty of Physical Sciences and Mathematics (FCFM) and have a relatively large proportion of female representation compared to the other engineering and science majors at FCFM that are dominated by male students. We interviewed 12 female students in geoscience majors to understand (a) the reasons for choosing geoscience as a major and (b) their experiences both at FCFM and in geoscience in an institution with a strong masculine environment that aims to increase women's undergraduate enrollment. We found that the decision to pursue a geoscience career was made during high school, and they maintained this decision during the first years of college, which is heavily focused on mathematics and physics, with no geoscience-related courses. During this early period in college, known as the common core program, students perceived a hostile environment due to high academic demands and gender-based discrimination. Their experiences had a positive shift once they started the geoscience courses in their fifth or sixth semester. The relatively large proportion of female students in the geoscience majors at FCFM creates a positive environment in which the participants developed a sense of belonging in the geoscience community. Students also felt that the feminist movement during 2018 in Chile positively influenced their perspectives on their path at FCFM. These findings give insights for developing strategies to increase early interest, participation, and satisfaction of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines at various educational levels.

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Título de la Revista: Advances in Geosciences
Volumen: 53
Editorial: Copernicus
Fecha de publicación: 2020
Página de inicio: 227
Página final: 244