Women in STEM: Examining the Perennial Gender Gap
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The underrepresentation of women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers constitutes a major issue in both post-secondary and professional domains. The underrepresentation of women in those fields limits the talent reservoir as well as prevents women from accessing lucrative professional positions and securing their financial stability. Although past explanations of the phenomena attributed this to a gap in mathematical and scientific abilities, current research trends illustrate that women outperform men in standardized testing in STEM, and yet they remain underrepresented in STEM careers and in the achievement of STEM degrees. One way to remediate this deficiency is to attempt to bolster female efficacy and interest in the field. As the presence of social models has been shown to influence efficacy, this study examines to what degree manipulations of social models enhances or diminishes student self-efficacy and interest. In an experimental intervention, over 500 high school students studied the profiles of fictional scientists, all of which varied in gender, level of attractiveness, utilization of gendered language, and inclusion of a human element. The results illustrated that the type of model and the type of message matter, with the use of female language and average looking models yielding the highest results. The results of the study suggest that students’ STEM efficacy and interest respond to model manipulations.
science, technology, engineering, mathematics