to increase retention of women in STEM we have to talk directly about the problem
This study tested the following five commonly held beliefs regarding what factors might impact females’ physical science career interest:
- having a single-sex physics class,
- having a female physics teacher,
- having female scientist guest speakers in physics class,
- discussing the work of female scientists in physics class, and
- discussing the underrepresentation of women in physics class.
Conclusion: No significant effects are found for single-sex classes, female teachers, female scientist guest speakers, and discussing the work of female scientists. However, discussions about women’s underrepresentation have a significant positive effect.
Hazari, Zahra, et al. “Factors That Affect the Physical Science Career Interest of Female Students: Testing Five Common Hypotheses.” Physical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research, vol. 9, no. 2, 2013.
Why is the pipeline leaky? Other People's Bias
Below are journal articles about how other people's implicit biases can hinder a women's progress through the STEM pipeline.
- When considering requests from prospective students seeking mentoring in the future, faculty were significantly more responsive to White males than to all other categories of students, collectively, particularly in higher-paying disciplines and private institutions. Women and minorities were collectively ignored at 2.2 times to 1.4 times the rate of White males.
- In peer-review boards, men's publications are evaluated as more relevant even if they have the same impact factor.
- Wenneras et al., "Nepotism and sexism in peer-review." Nature, vol.387,(6631):341-3. 1997. (No access to Nature? Here's a PDF.)
- When presented with identical resume's with randomly assigned male or female names faculty rated male applicants significantly more competent and hireable than the (identical) female applicant. These participants also selected a higher starting salary and offered more career mentoring to the male applicant. The gender of the faculty participants did not affect responses, such that female and male faculty were equally likely to exhibit bias against the female applicant.
Why is the pipeline leaky? Your own Bias
Below are journal articles about how your own implicit bias can hinder your progress through the STEM pipeline.
- A confidence gap exists in women where by they rate themselves as having lower scientific ability, and assess their answers to scientific questions more harshly, when in fact the statistics show actual performance of males and females is on par.
- Stereotype threat is a result of a lifetime of exposure to society's negative images of a person's ability. People are or feel themselves to be at risk of conforming to stereotypes about their social group. This reduces the performance of individuals who belong to negatively stereotyped groups. Group members are likely to become anxious about their performance, which may hinder their ability to perform at their maximum level. This has been linked to a depletion of working memory.
Below are journal articles that highlight the power of value affirmations in diminishing the effects of stereotype threat.
- This study found that values affirmation reduced the male-female performance and learning difference substantially and elevated women's modal grades from the C to B range. Benefits were strongest for women who tended to endorse the stereotype that men do better than women in physics.
- This study found significant gains in closing the gender gap through value affirmations in the field of business.
- A long term study on value affirmations found that middle schoolers who did value affirmation activities had long-term benefits on college-relevant outcomes.