Challenging Dominant Portrayals of Women in STEM

Jeanne Bohannon
blue circle with one orange Puzzle piece.

Invitation to Participate

This workshop is designed to engage students and teachers in making the life experiences of women in STEM fields more visible through an open and accessible wiki. It also provides participants with an opportunity to discover firsthand the participatory nature of historical recovery work through collaborative research and writing as well as digital composing. I invite you to join me as co-researchers on a quest to recover forgotten and misrepresented women in STEM fields through alternative her/stories told via wiki text. Please join me and delve deep into the original student-produced work that inspired it; check out what you, your students, and your colleagues can contribute; and come aboard as we set out reimagine the life experiences, lived realities, and applied influences of women in STEM.


Join Us

Future Directions


As a teacher-scholar who melds pedagogy and research, I am invested in working with students to recover alternative rhetorics, especially those that reflect the experiences of women who have been forgotten or mis/represented in canonical histories. Regarding such work, Cheryl Glenn has observed feminist researchers must “consciously [use] the practices of historiography to our advantage,” calling for us to “look differently and more deeply” at what women were doing in their personal rhetorics and everyday life experiences (7). Accordingly, Jess Enoch and Jordynn Jack encourage feminist researchers to iterate recovery practices and reflect on the process of recovery as a series of teaching moments “that involve the public remembrance, forgetting, and commemoration of rhetorical women” (5). Likewise, Jacqueline Jones Royster encourages us to step up our efforts, to “broaden the research baser, the inquiry base, the knowledge base from which interpretive frameworks can be drawn” (582). These rigorous challenges inspired me to seek new ways to help my students think deeper about what we can do, how we can do it, and where we can make an impact. One powerful means of working toward these goals is a digital recovery wiki.


Screenshot of Entries for #WikiWoman project
Screenshot of Entries for #WikiWoman project

Since my students and I write and study on the STEM-focused campus of a public research university, we were drawn to recovering STEM histories, and Gail Lippincott has noted the importance of making more visible the personal and professional lives of women in STEM fields. Responding to her scholarship, my students and I decided to produce work that challenges the conventional (his)story told about women in STEM by researching alternative narratives that tell more of a (her)story.

We also decided to make our work both digital and public, thereby re/mixing feminist historiography to challenge assumptions about the content of history, delivery, and tellers of history. When we produce digitalities (such as wikis) as communal practice alongside our students, we also produce opportunities for student-scholars to negotiate their own rhetorical growth and take ownership of associated outcomes. When we recover forgotten and misrepresented women through digital and public community writing, we also provide dialogic source material for audiences outside of our university settings. As Royster and Kirsh note in their influential text Feminist Rhetorical Practices, the recovery of people is not always enough: we must create interdisciplinary frameworks (40). The project I began with my students thus establishes a continuing resource for telling the stories of women in STEM at the same time it provides a template for writing about women’s contributions, actions, and personal rhetorics in other arenas. Our collaborative digital recovery project also evolved a pedagogy that encourages instructors and student writers to engage in feminist historiography work together.

With all this in mind, my students and I thought about our audience. Here, we were drawn to public writing, which connected our enthusiasm for creating a living publication and the exigence we felt to educate others about women’s contributions to STEM academic and professional fields. The result is a wiki with content designed for secondary student-scholars and their teachers and reflective of Common Core State Learning Standards. Notably, we aspired to be cross-disciplinary, providing a resource that both Science and English teachers and students could use in productive ways. We developed a template and a list of STEM-focused school groups, and we solicited support from high school teachers in the Atlanta metropolitan area.

Screenshot of Women in STEM Wiki homepage
Screenshot of the wiki I created with students.

The work of community writing scholar Steve Parks informed our process, especially what Parks names “limited community writing.” That is to say, our work was limited to a single semester, and it did not involve direct community partnerships, even while it was built on consultations with community members and was meant for an intended local audience.

While the original project served us well in size and scope, a few students were not satisfied. They cared so much about the work we had undertaken, they wanted to take the project up a level. Specifically, they were hungry for what Parks calls a sustainable initiative, one that transcends coursework through partnerships that cross institutions and communities. The CWSHRC #Wikiwoman workshop was born out of those students’ desire, and together we created #Wikiwoman, the larger project I shared with CCCC 2016 conference-goers. Further, via our wiki template, we are able to continually invite new contributors to join us in recovering the stories of women in STEM for multidisciplinary high school audiences.

The Path Forward: Join us!

This remediation makes it possible for Peitho readers and their students to contribute to the #Wikiwoman project. Instructors, if you are interested, please follow the directions below.

Sign Up

First, introduce the project by assigning or reading aloud some or all of this essay, including the template outline and sample page-in-progress below.

Next, ask students individually or in groups to fill out the Contributor Form. I will respond by sending everyone usernames and passwords for #Wikiwoman on Google Drive, where project documents are stored and project writing and editing takes place.

Last, see below to find out what an actual page-in-process looks like.

Try This Template

The outline below mirrors the online wiki template, and this link will take you to a sample wiki entry for Concepcion Campa Huergo, the Cuban vaccinologist who created the first meningitis vaccine.

  1. Lead Section (fewer than 50 words)
  2. Short Alternative Biography (300-500 words)
    • Examples from her everyday life
    • Experiences that shaped her life
    • Struggles and challenges
    • Her responses to struggles and challenges
    • Defining moments
  3. Contribution to STEM Fields (300-500 words)
  4. Impacts on 21st Century Society and Culture (300-500 words)
  5. Other Interesting Facts (50-100 words)
  6. Works Cited with links (Author, Title, Date, Link)

Future Directions

We foresee diverse opportunities for research, teaching, and scholarly community-building over the lifespan of this project, including collaborative presentations and publications, curriculum development, and community outreach with local high schools.

Disciplinary boundaries do not empirically define us as feminist scholars; nor do they serve to keep us from collaborating with our student-colleagues. Projects such as #Wikiwoman break down those boundaries, helping us teach and learn against the grain of obsolete paradigms and forcing us to enact change as feminist teachers, digital scholars, and student mentors. Please Join us!


Enoch, Jessica. “Feminist Rhetorical Studies – Past, Present, Future: An Interview with Cheryl Glenn.” Composition Forum. vol. 29, 2014.

Enoch, Jessica and Jordynn Jack. “Remember Sappho: New Perspectives on Teaching (and Writing) Women’s Rhetorical History.” College English. vol. 73, no. 5, 2011, pp 518-537.

Royster, Jacqueline Jones and Jean C. Williams. “History in the Spaces Left: African American Presence and Narratives of Composition Studies.” College Composition and Communication. vol. 50, no. 4, 1999, pp. 582-583.

Royster, Jacqueline Jones, and Gesa Kirsch. New Horizons For Rhetoric, Composition, and Literacy Studies. Southern Illinois University Press, 2012.

Parks, Steve, and Nick Pollard. "The Extra-Curricular Of Composition: A Dialogue On Community-Publishing." Community Literacy Journal Vol. 3, No. 2, 2009, pp. 53-78.

Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition