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Dr. Erin Winterrowd saw her sabbatical year as an opportunity to challenge herselfand do something outside her regular scope of research. An Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at Regis University, she had long been immersed in STEM equity as a research topic, buthad never done a meta-synthesis project before. The ARC Network Virtual Visiting Scholar (VVS) program sounded like just the thing.

The VVS program provides a unique opportunity for select scholars across disciplines to pursue researchmeta-analysis, synthesis, and big data curation on topics crucial to STEM faculty equity. As a member of the fifth VVS cohort, Winterrowd appreciated the program’s structure and network of other researchers and practitioners working to improve equity in STEM. “I worked to achieve tenure at two different universities, I’m at a teaching-focused institution, and I have a lot of administrative responsibilities, so it was nice to get back into the world of research.”

Her interest in STEM and STEM equity is a lifelong one. She comes from a family immersed in STEM; her father is an electrical engineer who started a tech company in the 1980s, her mother studied biology as an undergrad before moving over to tech management, and her partner is a process engineer. “I speak the language ofSTEM, and I’m quite familiar with the cultural aspects of the field,” she says.

Winterrowd thought she wanted to be a math major, but changed her mind after negative experiences in that department. She eventually found her love in psychology, where she was both interested in the subject and felt welcome. “It’s a testament to the importance of belonging. My dad will sometimes say I’m a frustrated engineer. In the world of STEM equity, you couldn’t build a much better-resourced person than me at 18, and even then, I still got pushed out.”

Winterrowd’s VVS project focused on academic motherhood and the child penalty. “For my own professional development, I wanted to attempt quantitative synthesis and I looked for a topic that had enough studies available for a summary that was also something I had familiarity with. The topic ended up being quite ironic, since I spent my VVS year in academic motherhood myself. It was cathartic reading about other women’s experiences as I was having similar ones.”

There was so much material to explore, Winterrowd ended up reframing her VVS proposal as a two-year project, which she is currently working on.

Gender equity in work, both in STEM and broadly, has changed a lot in the last few decades in a greatway, with much needed attention given to the diversity of women’s experiences in STEM. We need to pay attention to these differences,” she says. “I’m finding a number of non-significant findings that used to be significant. That could mean positive changes, or that could also mean we’re not disaggregating data orasking the right questions. What used to seem like a pretty clear-cut situation may not actually be that clear.”

For example, there is still a gender effect in terms of earnings in STEM, but within the context of salary and parenting, it’s not necessarily true that mothers earnless than non-parenting women. Similarly, for men of color, race-based differences are bigger in terms of salary nationally (e.g. white women make more money than some men of color). It’s thus possible that some academic fathers of color might have more difficult experiences than white mothers, but their experiences are being drowned out by white mothers in the literature.

“I hope people will take away that academic motherhood is a complicated issue and is further complicated by other social identities.”
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