Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Spencer J. Maxcy


Women continue to be underrepresented as faculty at U.S. universities, especially in the physical sciences and engineering. The belief that only women can adequately serve as role models and mentors for other women may be a roadblock to progress for women in disciplines where they are underrepresented. This study of women faculty investigates how female career commitment is influenced by academic discipline and mentoring. The survey responses of sixty-six tenure-track women faculty were used to obtain data for both science or engineering and non-science or engineering academic disciplines at three public Ph.D. granting research universities. The women faculty in science or engineering departments, where women are in the minority, scored higher on a measure of career commitment than women employed in departments which already have a critical mass of women faculty. Women reported that mentoring was important to their advancement in non-traditional academic careers. Women who had been mentored by women did not have higher career commitment scores than women who had been mentored by men. In some instances, women who had been mentored by men had higher career commitment scores. Interviews revealed that the concept of mentoring is problematic for female and male academics. Supportive, skill development, promotion, and guidance mentoring behaviors were identified as being helpful to female academic career advancement. Women faculty in science or engineering reported wanting more acceptance, more respect, and more women faculty colleagues. Women faculty in non-science or engineering disciplines reported wanting more compensation and more support for travel and research.