Talking shop and shooting the breeze: A study of workplace conversation and job disengagement among STEM faculty

  • Holleran S
  • Whitehead J
  • Schmader T
 et al. 
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Abstract

Past research has examined women's subjective satisfaction in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), but the actual events that correlate with disengagement have not been identified. In this study, workplace conversations of 45 female and male STEM faculty were sampled using the Electronically Activated Recorder, a naturalistic observation method, coded for research or socializing content, and correlated with self-reported job disengagement. Both men and women were less likely to discuss research in conversations with female as compared to male colleagues, and when discussing research with men, women were rated as less competent than men. Consistent with the idea that women in STEM experience social identity threat, discussing research with male colleagues was associated with greater disengagement for women, whereas socializing with male colleagues was associated with less disengagement. These patterns did not hold for men. These findings point to the unique challenges women face in STEM disciplines.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Gender
  • Job disengagement
  • Naturalistic observation
  • Social identity threat

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Authors

  • Shannon E. Holleran

  • Jessica Whitehead

  • Toni Schmader

  • Matthias R. Mehl

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