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A sociologist studying gender, work and organizations, STEM, and social networks, Dr. Ethel Mickey is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Massachusetts Amherst with their ADVANCE Program.

Mickey is a member of the first ARC Network Virtual Visiting Scholar (VVS) cohort. The VVS program provides a unique opportunity for select scholars across disciplines to pursue research meta-analysis, synthesis, and big data curation on topics crucial to STEM faculty equity.

The VVS program came at a perfect time for Mickey, who had just defended her dissertation and was exiting grad school. “The position I had was teaching focused, so there wasn’t the same kind of support for my scholarship,” she says. “Being a VVS scholar gave me an opportunity to work remotely to extend my work in new and exciting directions. Without it, my research would’ve stagnated.”

Mickey’s VVS research, on STEM faculty networks and gender, is an extension of her dissertation, which drew on a qualitative case study of a high-tech firm in the United States to explore gendered practices, experiences and outcomes of professional networking and revealed the exclusionary nature of networking and how networking can reinforce intersecting institutional inequalities.

While there is a lot of talk about networks and the social capital they represent as key resources for women in academia, how those networks are measured and conceptualized is a big question, one with many different possible answers. Mickey hopes that the first key takeaway from her research is the need to bridge those multiple answers and definitions moving forward. The second key takeaway is that those answers and definitions need to be translated into ways to develop institutional support for women.

“We need to think about the best ways to support relationships and support women’s careers.”

Mickey’s interest in STEM and STEM equity came out of her lived experience. As an undergrad at Vanderbilt, she noticed gender segregation happening among undergrads in terms of how majors were being selected, where she saw a lot of the women were pursuing traditionally feminine majors like education while the men were gravitating towards math and engineering. “As a sociologist, I’m trained to think about the way things are, and I wanted to know why this was happening.”

Mickey believes her time as a VVS scholar has been an asset to her career. “Reading the literature and engaging with these questions deepened my knowledge, and helped me secure my current job, and the network is wonderful,” she says. “I’m just starting my career, but it didn’t feel like a hierarchical space. There have been so many connections I’ve made, and opportunities to collaborate and coauthor on projects, like being able to swap manuscripts with people through the ARC Network.”

Mickey is excited by how the VVS program has grown and evolved. Mickey also discussed her work in a webinar for the ARC Network community.

“Scholars continue to turn over stones that have previously been uncovered as they attempt to unpack some of the most stubborn inequities in STEM. It’s exciting to see not only the diversity of scholars, but also the diversity of questions being asked.”
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