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Feminist Theory and Scientific Practice

Feminist Theory and the Culture of Scientific Practice: Making Sense of My Experiences as a Female Engineer

by Carol Johnston, PhD

Women face many challenges in achieving equitable representation in the science and engineering fields. Many scholars point to the lack of role models and the perceptions about femininity and scientific practice as barriers to women entering and staying in these fields. Can the way we teach our future scientists and engineers create a more inclusive environment that welcomes those whose identities do not initially align with being a scientist or engineer? This essay explores Johnston’s own experiences in navigating her entrance to and exit from engineering, using feminist research to make sense of her frustrations and triumphs. A lack of role models, masculinized images of scientists and hegemonic systems contributed to her feeling of not belonging. While feminist research has helped Johnston to make sense of her journey, she discusses her struggle with the seemingly opposing viewpoints of science through feminist theory and the positivist view of science as rational and objective.

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About the Author

Carol Johnston PortraitCAROL JOHNSTON, PhD, has taught in Mount Saint Mary’s Education Department for more than 10 years and currently serves as chair. She received her PhD in science education from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her research interests include interactions between scientists and K-12 science teachers, and science and math teacher identities. As principal investigator for a Robert Noyce Teaching Grant, she is exploring what works to bring talented math and science students into the teaching profession. She also is the researcher for a National Science Foundation grant to support women in persevering in science majors at the undergraduate campus.


To learn more about the research and resources from the Center for the Advancement of Women at Mount Saint Mary’s University, visit Or contact the director, Emerald Archer, PhD, at or 213.477.2544.