A Summer of Growth

Before this project, I was very unfamiliar with the process of conducting research, and didn’t have much experience with reading published research either. From the start, my research mentor/ colleague, Dean Murrell, has been a guiding light for me making my way through this project. I used to think that conducting research had to entail working in a lab, reading tons of books, or physically collecting data. Because my topic is on something subconscious, I realized from the start that my preconceived notions were incorrect, and was very unsure about what my research would look like. During our first meeting, Dean Murrell walked me through the research process, and I even needed her to explain what she meant by saying “review the literature.” It made a lot of sense once she clarified that before jumping into my own research, I would need to understand what is already out there and learn about different approaches taken by prior researchers on similar topics. I also didn’t realize how non-linear a research project can be. I envisioned working on this project throughout the summer, meeting certain deadlines throughout, and spending relatively equal amounts of time on each step of the process. I now realize that it’s difficult to predict a specific timeline for a project of such large scope. It’s important to set goals and benchmarks, but not everything can be planned in advance. For example, once we determined that we will be conducting various interviews regarding the Glass Cliff Phenomenon, Dean Murrell explained that my interview questions will need to be approved before I can move on with asking them, and that could take weeks. All in all, not only have I learned a lot this summer about the Glass Cliff, subconscious bias, and attributing traits based on gender, but my eyes have been opened to the research process. I couldn’t be more happy with the amount of growth I have had academically this summer as a result, and am so excited to do more research in the future.

As I mentioned above, although I have gained a lot of knowledge on subconscious gender bias this summer, I already had some experience with that subject area. The process of conducting research itself was brand new to me, and so I believe the act of doing a research project was most valuable. Firstly, I now know that conducting research is something I enjoy and is a very effective way to learn deeply about one topic. Additionally, anytime I have the chance to step outside my comfort zone and try something new, I believe I experience more growth than doing something I’m more familiar with. Over the summer, I have learned not only the structural aspects of conducting research and how research papers are formatted, but I’ve learned a lot about how to manage my time on such an open-ended, self-directed project. I believe this will help prepare me for more challenging projects in my upper-level college courses, as well as long-term projects I may encounter in my job one day. Unlike most classroom projects I’ve experienced before now, there has been no teacher checking up on my progress, giving me graded feedback, or answering every little question I have. The project has taught me not only to have confidence in my own abilities, but also how to organize and go about doing a project so independently. 

Although I came into this project knowing I wanted to study the Glass Cliff Phenomenon, I had no idea what specific question I wanted to answer. It turns out there’s a huge variety of directions one can go with pretty much any research topic, and I reached a point a couple of weeks in where I felt like I knew everything there was to know about the Glass Cliff and gender attribution of traits after reading the literature, yet had no idea where to go from there. After speaking with Dean Murrell several times, she helped guide my thinking by suggesting I write a two page summary; one page on the Glass Cliff, and the other on how people attribute traits to people differently based on their gender. Although I was skeptical as to whether this would lead me to determining my overarching research question, the act of sifting through all of my notes, determining the most important and consistently written about points, and putting it all into my own words was exceptionally helpful. I ultimately realized after looking at my summary that looking specifically at how successes and failures are attributed to men and women as either due to internal or external factors differently. Reaching this point was a major breakthrough for me, and has led me to where I am now, which is preparing to conduct interviews to determine ehow to solve the issue that success is often attributed to external factors for women, whereas failure is attributed as an internal factor, and the opposite is true for men.

This assistance has served such an important role in my research, as it allowed me to stay in an apartment in Oakland this summer that I wasn’t planning to move into until next Fall originally. This gave me a private space to work and have zoom calls with Dean Murrell. Additionally, the award allowed me to spend time focusing on my research in the summer months rather than working as many hours at a job. Without this assistance, I doubt spending as much time as necessary to make true progress on my topic would have been possible. I am so appreciative of all that I was able to learn and accomplish during this time period, and couldn’t have done it without the support. 

Although the scholarship funding period has concluded, I still have plans to continue working on my project throughout August and the upcoming Fall semester. Because I have come to the decision that I will be collecting data via a large number of interviews, Dean Murrell and I will need those questions to be approved before I can continue with the interviews. At this point I know specifically that I will be providing one of four different scenarios of either a man or woman being placed into a “Glass Cliff” position and either succeeding or failing to the interviewees, and asking them their thoughts on the situation. The scenarios will be based on true events, but company and people’s names will be removed. I am currently in the stages of finalizing these scenarios and follow up questions, and once they are approved, will begin conducting interviews of Pitt alum, as well as other male and female professionals from a variety of backgrounds over the next several weeks. I am hoping these interviews will help me find good solutions for the Glass Cliff, and other gender discrimination that inhibits women from reaching and thriving in leadership roles. 

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