The underrepresentation of women in STEM fields is a growing concern in both education & government
What Does the Research Tell Us?
Girls are taking many high-level mathematics and science courses at similar rates as their male peers, with the exception of physics and engineering, and are performing well overall. However, gaps in mathematics and science achievement persist for minority and low-income students. (National Science Foundation (NSF), Science & Engineering Indicators, 2012)
In 2008, 12% of bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering, 3% of master’s degrees in science and engineering, and <1% of doctorate degrees in science and engineering were awarded to minority women. (NSF, 2011)
In general, boys performed slightly better than girls in mathematics, but larger gaps exist between students of different racial/ethnic backgrounds or family income. As in mathematics, science performance varies significantly by racial/ ethnic background and family income. (NSF, 2011)
The rates of science and engineering course taking for girls/women shift at the undergraduate level and gender disparities begin to emerge, especially for minority women. (NSF, 2011)
Women make up 47% of the overall workforce, but are much less represented in particular science and engineering occupations. (U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011)
Students from historically disadvantaged groups such as African American and Hispanic students, both female and male, are less likely to have access to advanced courses in math and science in high school, which negatively affects their ability to enter and successfully complete STEM majors in college (May & Chubin, 2003; Frizell & Nave, 2008; Tyson et al., 2007; Perna et al., 2009).
The transition between high school and college is a critical moment when many young women turn away from a STEM career path. Although women are the majority of college students, they are far less likely than their male peers to plan to major in a STEM field. (American Association of University Women)
Exposing girls to successful female role models can help counter negative stereotypes because girls see that people like them can be successful and stereotype threat can be managed and overcome. (AAUW)