Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Public Policy & Administration

First Advisor

Dr. Sarah Jane Brubaker

Second Advisor

Dr. John Mahoney

Third Advisor

Dr. Natalie Baker

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Rowena Briones


This study implemented a social media based content analysis to examine the subjective experiences and the current public perceptions of sexism in STEM fields. Participants included men and women who a) identified as either in STEM or not identified as in STEM and b) commented through Facebook on HuffPost Women articles about women in STEM. The analysis indicated that sexism remains an issue for women in STEM careers. Women in STEM identified several gender-based challenges that they have experienced; some participants discussed how they handled those challenges. Men both in and not in STEM were less likely to acknowledge and more likely to deny that sexism was a problem for women in STEM than were women participants. Though findings showed a high rate of supportive commentary from women, they also showed a substantial number of male commenters displaying overt sexism. The analysis helped identify a new form of sexism to the literature on subtle sexism: Threat to Masculinity. More specifically, both men and women were found to display overt sexism to men who supported women by utilizing gender based stereotypes to validate their claims and police gender roles. Findings from this study support the literature suggesting that sexism remains an issue that needs to be addressed; the analysis begins to build a theory about how such sexism is portrayed through social media commentary as an important arena of social and cultural debate. Current policies aimed at ending sexism/discrimination should be expanded to support and encourage women’s participation in STEM careers.


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