27 SES 11 A JS, Science Identities: Methodological considerations within an emerging field of research
Joint Symposium NW 27 and NW 33
Gendered identity formation can be difficult to research: it is a fluid, complex, political, and contextualised construct that cannot be neatly filtered into one measurable variable. This study used a mixed-method approach of secondary statistical analysis and life-history guided semi-structured interviews to investigate how women in UK biology and physics have achieved elite levels of success through gendered identity formation and negotiation. The quantitative method employed in this study focused on measuring gender inequalities to expose the ways in which women are included or excluded from scientific fields, and trends of participation and historical progression (or regression) toward gender equality (MacDonald, 2014; Scott, 2010). Life-history guided semi-structured interviews use the contextual data and historical understandings gleaned from the quantitative analysis to create a more complete narrative of how the participants’ gender identity performance formed and evolved over time. Using a feminist interview technique, power in the interviewer/interviewee relationship fluctuated between the two, redistributing agency, freedom, and responsibility (Hesse-Biber, 2007; Reinharz & Davidman, 1992). In addition, an early establishment of rapport, through thorough online preparation, a familiarity with the participants’ work, and the interviewer’s periodic personal disclosures, reinforced the feminist technique and allowed the participants the freedom to reveal more about themselves than they had done in previous interviews (Yates, 2013). The combination of these methods allows the researcher to obtain a richer understanding of the fluid and provisional gendered identity of the participants at the time of interview and how it formed within a socio-historical context. Findings include a variety of coping methods and performances specific to scientific field, including distancing, participating, or rebelling, depending on the participants’ gendered identity at the moment in question. This mixed-method approach identifies systematic issues in addition to individual triumphs, implicating needed policy changes in order to ameliorate women’s pathways to success in UK biology and physics.
Hesse-Biber, S. (2007). The Practice of Feminist in-Depth Interviewing. In Feminist research practice: a primer (p. 111). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications Ltd. http://doi.org/10.4135/9781412984270 MacDonald, A. (2014). “Not for people like me?” Under-represented groups in science, technology and engineering. Bradford, UK. Retrieved from https://www.wisecampaign.org.uk/uploads/wise/files/not_for_people_like_me.pdf Reinharz, S., & Davidman, L. (1992). Feminist Methods in Social Research [Paperback]. OUP USA. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.co.uk/Feminist-Methods-Research-Shulamit-Reinharz/dp/019507386X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1399494813&sr=1-1&keywords=reinharz Scott, J. (2010). Quantitative methods and gender inequalities. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 13(3), 223–236. http://doi.org/10.1080/13645579.2010.482258 Yates, P. M. (2013). Before, during, and after: identity and the social construction of knowledge in qualitative research interviews. Hydra-Interdisciplinary Journal of Social Sciences, 1(1), 31–41.
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