Laboratory talk and women’s retention rates in science

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Begell House Inc.


Despite initiatives designed to increase women's participation in science, their attrition rates remain high. To improve women's retention rates, this article proposes a closer examination of the culture of science to discover what it is about it that women might find uncomfortable, that could create a "chilly climate" for them. A 2-year ethnographic study of a university research laboratory group was conducted that identified the group's communication style as problematic for some female members. A weekly meeting was selected that exemplifies several of the dynamics of the communication style that women at this laboratory had found problematic. An analysis of this meeting identified specific features of the talk and examined research findings from the fields of language and gender research and laboratory studies to explain why women might find these features problematic.