Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Hamil, Burnette Wolf

Committee Member

Forde, Connie

Committee Member

Hare, Dwight

Committee Member

Price, James

Committee Member

Burroughs, Susie

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Secondary Education

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Education


Department of Curriculum and Instruction


The purpose of this study was to investigate the factors in the life histories of women in academia in science and engineering that they perceive to have influenced their success and how these factors have influenced their success. Three broad areas were addressed: challenges, accomplishments, and attributions to success. This study employed a multiple-case design, and purposive sampling was used to select the participants in this study. Each of the seven participants held a Ph.D. and was employed at a doctoral-degree granting institution in a science or engineering field. Four major themes emerged from the data with respect to challenges that influenced the success of the participants: (a) no perceived academic limitations during their years of elementary and secondary schooling, (b) no other challenges during the elementary and secondary school years that hindered achievement in their educational background or their path to academia, (c) no gender-related expectations in the family background, and (d) no gender-related academic expectations or discrimination in graduate school that hindered success in graduate programs or the path to academia. Six of the participants attained at least one achievement-based accomplishment in high school, and four participants attained achievement-based accomplishments as undergraduates. Five major themes emerged in the data with respect to factors to which the participants attributed their success: (a) parents or other family members held high academic expectations, (b) father served as mentor and role model, (c) had at least one mentor in the Ph.D. program, (d) at least one colleague or administrator served as a mentor during their academic careers, and (e) participated in collaborative research and publishing with colleagues in academia. These all contributed to success in various ways. Recommendations for future research include: (a) replication of the current study, (b) multiple case-study research comparing the factors which influence the success of women in science and engineering who have entered and persisted in academia with those who have not been successful, and (c) research comparing the factors influencing success of women in academia in science and engineering disciplines with those in other disciplines.