2022/03/12 03:30:33

Buy Flowers Myself?

‘Buy Flowers Myself?’: Chinese female STEM students’ Gendered Experience at Academic Conferences  为自己买花?中国理工科女性学生在学术会议上的性别体验

‘Buy Flowers Myself?’: Chinese female STEM students’ Gendered Experience at Academic Conferences


为自己买花?中国理工科女性学生在学术会议上的性别体验


Brief will be published on NRCEM

本文系将于中国教育流动网络上发表的摘要,中文为机器翻译


Yang, L., Smith, J., & Meyer, F. (2022). Gendered experiences at academic conferences: A comparative study of female Chinese STEM PhD students in China and New Zealand. International Journal of Multidisciplinary Perspectives in Higher Education7(1), 71–97. https://ojed.org/index.php/jimphe/article/view/4298


Yang, L.、Smith, J. 和 Meyer, F. (2022)。学术会议上的性别体验:中国和新西兰女性 STEM 博士生的比较研究。国际高等教育多学科视角杂志7(1),71-97。


In the novel Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf concretely expresses women’s pursuit of self-realization as “buying flowers for themselves”. In real life, women often face numerous inequalities, such as income gap, discrimination or cultural prejudice. Gender inequality also exists in higher education sector, especially in STEM fields. Women were underrepresented, and facing implicit biases, gender-based discrimination, and low psychological well-being. Academic conferences, as places that offers opportunities for PhD students to present their own research, network with others, and learn about the newest developments in their field of research, are inevitably affected by gender issues. Surprisingly, although there were several studies of female PhD students’ conference experiences worldwide, there was limited prior research in Chinese settings.


在小说《达洛维夫人》中,弗吉尼亚·伍尔夫将女性对自我实现的追求具体表述为“为自己买花”。在现实生活中,女性往往面临着收入差距、歧视或文化偏见等诸多不平等现象。性别不平等在高等教育部门也存在,特别是在STEM领域。妇女的代表性不足,面临隐性偏见、性别歧视和低心理健康水平。学术会议为博士生提供了展示自己研究成果、与他人建立联系、了解其研究领域最新发展的机会,这不可避免地会受到性别问题的影响。令人惊讶的是,尽管在世界范围内有一些关于女博士生会议经历的研究,但在中国背景下的研究却非常有限。


This small-scale, qualitative study is part of a larger study of conference experiences of female PhD students in STEM fields in New Zealand. We draw on Carlone and Johnson’s (2007) model of science identity development which stresses that identity development requires interactions with others and includes three interrelated and overlapping dimensions: competence, performance, and recognition. The formation of science identity is influenced by their gender identity of female PhD students and the locations they are studying in. As China and New Zealand are both significant higher education providers in the Asia-Pacific region, but vary in social system, cultural background and mode of doctoral education, the comparison of Chinese female students’ experience shows its rationality. Semi-structured interviews were conducted to gather data from four domestic female Chinese PhD students in a Chinese university and five international female Chinese PhD students studying in New Zealand.


这个小规模的定性研究是新西兰STEM领域女博士生会议经历的大型研究的一部分。我们借鉴了Carlone和Johnson(2007)的科学身份发展模型,该模型强调身份发展需要与他人互动,包括三个相互关联和重叠的维度:能力、表现和认可。女博士的性别认同和求学地点对科学认同的形成有一定的影响。由于中国和新西兰都是亚太地区重要的高等教育提供者,但在社会制度、文化背景和博士生教育模式等方面存在差异,因此对中国女学生经历的比较显示出其合理性。本文采用半结构式访谈法,对4名中国国内女博士和5名在新西兰留学的中国女博士进行数据收集。


For female Chinese PhD students both in China and New Zealand, their decisions to pursue a PhD were mostly driven by their aspirations for a career in academia or related industries. ‘Involution’ (内卷 in Chinese), a terminology that describes the phenomenon that higher education degree holders compete for entry-level positions in industries and universities was highlighted by study participants. They thus felt a ‘pressures of age’, both from the job market and their family. Our study participants reported pressure to earn their degrees before a certain age (35). Also, participants noted that Chinese parents generally see marriage, rather than a career, as a pathway for social mobility for their daughters, putting more emphasis on their daughter’s marriage than academic success. This pressure likely impacted on their development of a strong science identity as they felt that their families and society valued a different identity more strongly - that of a wife and mother.


对于中国和新西兰的女博士生来说,她们选择读博的主要原因是想在学术界或相关行业发展。研究参与者强调了“内卷”这个术语,它描述的是高学历者在行业和大学里竞争入门级职位的现象。因此,她们感受到来自就业市场和家庭的“年龄压力”。我们的研究参与者报告了在某个年龄(35岁)之前获得学位的压力。此外,参与者指出,中国父母通常将婚姻(而不是职业)视为女儿社会流动的途径,他们更重视女儿的婚姻而不是学业成功。这种压力很可能影响了他们强烈的科学身份的发展,因为他们觉得他们的家庭和社会更重视一种不同的身份——妻子和母亲。


Our sample of PhD students in both China and New Zealand reported that in their experiences, especially in bioscience fields, the gender gap between PhD students seemed to be reducing. However, participants reported that even with a more equal gender distribution, they were acutely aware of a ‘glass ceiling’ that restricts female students from success in STEM research fields. For example, they noted that supervisors had lower expectations of their work, seemed to prefer to take on male PhD students, or did not believe female researchers needed a PhD. In addition, it is noted that, in the sampled Chinese university, the resources distributed to female PhD students, including supervision time as well as conference and networking opportunities, are relatively limited compared to those of male students.


我们在中国和新西兰的博士生样本报告说,在他们的经历中,特别是在生物科学领域,博士生之间的性别差距似乎正在缩小。然而,参与者报告说,即使性别分布更加平等,他们也强烈地意识到限制女学生在STEM研究领域取得成功的“玻璃天花板”。例如,他们注意到,导师对他们的工作期望较低,似乎更喜欢招收男博士生,或者认为女性研究人员不需要博士学位。此外,值得注意的是,在抽样调查的中国大学中,分配给女博士生的资源,包括指导时间、会议和社交机会,相对于男博士生而言是相对有限的。


Although they were facing these inequities, they noted ‘a culture of silence’ in which their experiences of gender bias are a ‘little drama in their head’ that goes unspoken. In contrast,Chinese female doctoral students studying in New Zealand reported better experiences compared to their counterparts in China. They described a gender-balanced, positive, and supportive community of researchers in their STEM fields. Not content with that, one participant in this study drew a blueprint of a post-gendered world:

It would be better if we do not over-focus on the word ‘female’. If a woman has high achievement, like Chinese researcher Tu, Youyou, the media or the public always report her as a ‘female’ scientist. If an actual gender balance is achieved, we would not emphasize her female identity.


尽管她们面临着这些不平等,但她们注意到一种“沉默的文化”,在这种文化中,她们的性别歧视经历只是“脑海中的小插曲”,没有说出来。相比之下,在新西兰学习的中国女博士生的经历要好于在中国的同行。他们描述了一个性别平衡、积极和支持他们STEM领域的研究人员的社区。不满足于此,这项研究的一名参与者描绘了一幅后性别世界的蓝图:

我们最好不要过分关注“女性”这个词。如果一名女性有很高的成就,比如中国的屠呦呦研究员,媒体或公众总是将她报道为“女”科学家。如果真正实现了性别平衡,我们就不会强调她的女性身份。


In terms of the comparison of their conference participation, a noticeable gap exists in the opportunity to attend conferences between study participants in China and in New Zealand. While female Chinese PhD students in New Zealand had attended both national and international academic conferences in their research field, local female Chinese PhD students rarely went to conferences regardless of the stage in their PhD. Participants’ attitudes towards conference attendance also varied by the location of their PhD study. Female Chinese PhD students in New Zealand tended to see themselves as ‘presenters’, whereas female Chinese PhD students studying in China tended to define themselves as ‘listeners’ or ‘learners’. Participants in China reported more obstacles on attending conferences. Lack of faculty support and supervisor-student relationships were reported as influencing conference experiences. In addition, Chinese domestic students felt that they could not dedicate time to attend and present at conferences without falling behind on lab work and writing journal articles.


在参加会议的机会方面,中国和新西兰的研究参与者在参加会议的机会方面存在明显的差距。在新西兰的中国女博士参加过各自研究领域的国内和国际学术会议,而在新西兰的中国女博士无论在哪个阶段都很少参加会议。与会者对出席会议的态度也因攻读博士学位的地点而有所不同。在新西兰学习的中国女博士生倾向于将自己定义为“演讲者”,而在中国学习的中国女博士生则倾向于将自己定义为“听众”或“学习者”。中国的与会者报告说,参加会议面临更多障碍。据报告,缺乏教师支持和导师-学生关系影响了会议体验。此外,中国国内的学生觉得,他们无法在不落后于实验室工作和撰写期刊文章的情况下,投入时间参加会议和出席会议。


To conclude, this study found that gender identity perceptions continue to have a strong influence on the development of scientific identities among female Chinese PhD students, regardless of where they opted to complete their PhD studies. The interaction of personal (i.e., the pressure of age) and organizational factors (i.e., the perception of a glass ceiling) compounded the difficulty our study participants studying in China faced in their doctoral education, leading to more psychological and emotional pressure compared to  participants studying in New Zealand. Meanwhile, the absence of psychological support from Chinese universities made our study participants feel more isolated in seeking emotional support during their study than their counterparts studying in New Zealand.


综上所述,该研究发现,性别认同观念继续对中国女博士生的科学认同发展产生强烈影响,无论她们选择在哪里完成博士学业。个人因素(即年龄压力)和组织因素(即玻璃天花板的感知)的相互作用,加剧了我们在中国学习的研究参与者在博士教育中面临的困难,导致了比在新西兰学习的参与者更多的心理和情感压力。与此同时,由于中国大学缺乏心理支持,我们的研究参与者在学习期间在寻求情感支持方面比在新西兰的参与者更加孤立。


Attending conferences is one key mechanism for the development of a science identity and the extent to which women feel included in the science community. It is important to understand the experience of female PhD students in attending conferences as a first step in making positive change toward a non-biased and inclusive academic environment that provides equitable opportunities for women in STEM fields. Coming back to Virginia Woolf’s metaphor of female’s success in self-realization, women are not limited to being ‘angels at home’, but can chase their personal and professional goals, breaking free from societal expectations. To support women in succeeding in academia, academic institutions and the wider society needs to combat persistent gender biases that support female PhD students’ science identity development.


参加会议是发展科学身份的一个关键机制,也是女性觉得自己被纳入科学界的一个程度。重要的是要了解女博士生参加会议的经历,将其作为积极改变的第一步,向一个无偏见和包容的学术环境,为STEM领域的女性提供公平的机会。回到弗吉尼亚·伍尔夫对女性自我实现成功的比喻,女性并不局限于做“家里的天使”,而是可以追求她们的个人和职业目标,打破社会的期望。为了支持女性在学术界取得成功,学术机构和更广泛的社会需要对抗持续存在的性别偏见,这些偏见支持女博士生的科学身份认同发展。


Note: the larger study of New Zealand female PhD students’ conference experience in STEM fields named Small Fish in Big Ponds: Female Doctoral STEM Students' Conference Experiences and Science Identity Development will be presented in AERA 2022 annual meeting on 25th Apr.


注:关于新西兰STEM领域女博士生会议经历的更大研究名为“大池塘里的小鱼:STEM领域女博士生的会议经历和科学身份发展”将在4月25日的AERA 2022年年会上发表。

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