May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Where Are the Women in STEM? What Can We Do to Support and Retain Them?

Posted: Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

by Laura Henriques

Women are far less likely than men to earn pSTEM (physical Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) degrees or work in the field. This isn’t a new phenomenon, but it has gotten a bit of press lately. US News and World Reports had an article highlighting a Clinton Foundation Report showing women in developing countries have less access to cell phones (and therefore the internet) than men. This results in decreased access to health care, fewer job options, a lack of flexibility with work and childcare related issues, and a lowered sense of empowerment. That article linked to several other articles about the lack of diversity in STEM fields in the US, the leaky pipeline and more.

US data show that women attend and graduate from college at higher rates than men yet they earn pSTEM degrees at lower rates. A new report released by the American Association of University Women entitled Solving the Equation: The Variables for Women’s Success in Engineering and Computing provides insight into the problem and makes recommendations for helping narrow the gender gap in engineering and computer science fields.

Their report shares research findings that female engineers and computer scientists get hired at lower rates than their male counterparts and are less likely to remain in the field. The figure below (taken from the report) shows the percentage of women in selected STEM occupations. While women have made gains and are fairly well represented in biology and chemistry related fields, their participation is significantly below men in computing/math and engineering fields. (The gender gaps are even larger for women of color.)

Notes: Postsecondary teachers are not included. For biological scientists in the 1980 and 1990 censuses, data include life scientists as well as biological scientists. For chemical and material scientists in the 1960 and 1970 censuses, the category was titled “chemists”; in the 1980 and 1990 censuses, the category was titled “chemists except biochemists.” For computer and mathematical occupations in the 1960 census, no category for computer scientists

Notes: Postsecondary teachers are not included. For biological scientists in the 1980 and 1990 censuses, data include life scientists as well as biological scientists. For chemical and material scientists in the 1960 and 1970 censuses, the category was titled “chemists”; in the 1980 and 1990 censuses, the category was titled “chemists except biochemists.” For computer and mathematical occupations in the 1960 census, no category for computer scientists

One of the findings from the study suggests we have a gender bias. A study was done where university research scientists were given resumes that were identical in every way except for the gender of the applicant. They were asked to provide feedback on the applicant of potential student science-laboratory managers. Male applicants were deemed more competent, more hirable and the faculty member was more willing to mentor the male student. The gender of the scientist reviewing the resume did not factor into the decisions. The scientists were less likely to hire the woman because they viewed her as less competent even though she had an identical resume to the male student (Moss-Racusin et al, 2012 as cited in Corbett & Hill, 2015). The AAUW report shares findings from another study by Reuben and colleagues (2014) that show gender bias in hiring decisions. Based solely on appearance, men got selected at higher rates, based on predictions of future performance men got selected at higher rates. Only when objective past performances could be compared were women selected “correctly” based on performance. There are findings from other studies about stereotype threat, gender bias, and how gender-bias influences self-concept.

The report is not all doom and gloom. The authors showcase successes at Harvey Mudd College (where revisions to their computer science courses, early research experiences and bringing women students to a the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference) and elsewhere. They also make suggestions for us as we move forward. The list below is taken from the report (pages 104-105).

Educators at all levels influence how students perceive the fields of engineering and computing, as well as how students view themselves. The following recommendations come from the literature reviewed on bias (chapters 2, 3, and 4), stereotype threat (chapters 2 and 5), and values and career choice (chapters 6, 7, and 8).

Table2_STEM

While the recommendations from this report are specifically aimed at helping increase participation by girls and women, the recommendations are useful for promoting involvement for all students – male, female, under-represented students, etc.

Works Cited:

Corbett, C. & Hill, C. (2015). Solving the Equation: The Variables for Women’s Success in Engineering and Computing. Washington DC: AAUW. Available online at http://www.aauw.org/research/solving-the-equation/

Moss-Racusin, C. A., Dovidio, J. F., Brescoll, V. L., Graham, M. J., & Handelsman, J. (2012). Science faculty’s subtle gender biases favor male students. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(41), 16474–79. doi:10.1073/pnas.1211286109.

Written by Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques is a professor of science education at CSU Long Beach and past-president of CSTA. She serves as chair of CSTA’s Nominating Committee and is a co-chair of the NGSS Committee.

2 Responses

  1. Dear CSTA and Laura,

    Great Article!! I am sharing it with Assembly Woman Ling Ling Chang of the 55th District … she is highly involved in STEM and would be a great advocate for CSTA to reach out to and partner.

    She is coming to our school this week and we are very excited about her visit.

    Your article is enlightening and hopeful. Keep up the great work!

    Gratefully,
    Sue Pritchard … aka … Dr. P. of Washington Middle School in La Habra

  2. Sue — glad you found it useful. How did the meeting go? Laura

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LATEST POST

Participate in Chemistry Education Research Study, Earn $500-800 Dollars!

Posted: Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

WestEd, a non-profit educational research agency, has been funded by the US Department of Education to test a new molecular modeling kit, Happy Atoms. Happy Atoms is an interactive chemistry learning experience that consists of a set of physical atoms that connect magnetically to form molecules, and an app that uses image recognition to identify the molecules that you create with the set. WestEd is conducting a study around the effectiveness of using Happy Atoms in the classroom, and we are looking for high school chemistry teachers in California to participate.

As part of the study, teachers will be randomly assigned to either the treatment group (who uses Happy Atoms) or the control group (who uses Happy Atoms at a later date). Teachers in the treatment group will be asked to use the Happy Atoms set in their classrooms for 5 lessons over the course of the fall 2017 semester. Students will complete pre- and post-assessments and surveys around their chemistry content knowledge and beliefs about learning chemistry. WestEd will provide access to all teacher materials, teacher training, and student materials needed to participate.

Participating teachers will receive a stipend of $500-800. You can read more information about the study here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HappyAtoms

Please contact Rosanne Luu at rluu@wested.org or 650.381.6432 if you are interested in participating in this opportunity, or if you have any questions!

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption Reviewer Application

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

The California Department of Education and State Board of Education are now accepting applications for reviewers for the 2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption. The application deadline is 3:00 pm, July 21, 2017. The application is comprehensive, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson forwarded this recruitment letter to county and district superintendents and charter school administrators.

Review panel members will evaluate instructional materials for use in kindergarten through grade eight, inclusive, that are aligned with the California Next Generation Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (CA NGSS). Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Lessons Learned from the NGSS Early Implementer Districts

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

On March 31, 2017, Achieve released two documents examining some lessons learned from the California K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. The initiative began in August 2014 and was developed by the K-12 Alliance at WestEd, with close collaborative input on its design and objectives from the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, and Achieve.

Eight (8) traditional school districts and two (2) charter management organizations were selected to participate in the initiative, becoming the first districts in California to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Those districts included Galt Joint Union Elementary, Kings Canyon Joint Unified, Lakeside Union, Oakland Unified, Palm Springs Unified, San Diego Unified, Tracy Joint Unified, Vista Unified, Aspire, and High Tech High.

To more closely examine some of the early successes and challenges experienced by the Early Implementer LEAs, Achieve interviewed nine of the ten participating districts and compiled that information into two resources, focusing primarily on professional learning and instructional materials. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Using Online Simulations to Support the NGSS in Middle School Classrooms

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

by Lesley Gates, Loren Nikkel, and Kambria Eastham

Middle school teachers in Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD), a CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative district, have been diligently working on transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) integrated model for middle school. This year, the teachers focused on building their own knowledge of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs). They have been gathering and sharing ideas at monthly collaborative meetings as to how to make sure their students are not just learning about science but that they are actually doing science in their classrooms. Students should be planning and carrying out investigations to gather data for analysis in order to construct explanations. This is best done through hands-on lab experiments. Experimental work is such an important part of the learning of science and education research shows that students learn better and retain more when they are active through inquiry, investigation, and application. A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) notes, “…learning about science and engineering involves integration of the knowledge of scientific explanations (i.e., content knowledge) and the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design. Thus the framework seeks to illustrate how knowledge and practice must be intertwined in designing learning experiences in K-12 Science Education” (pg. 11).

Many middle school teachers in KCUSD are facing challenges as they begin implementing these student-driven, inquiry-based NGSS science experiences in their classrooms. First, many of the middle school classrooms at our K-8 school sites are not designed as science labs. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the NGSS Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

Celestial Highlights: May – July 2017

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

May Through July 2017 with Web Resources for the Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graphs of planet rising and setting times by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

In spring and summer 2017, Jupiter is the most prominent “star” in the evening sky, and Venus, even brighter, rules the morning. By mid-June, Saturn rises at a convenient evening hour, allowing both giant planets to be viewed well in early evening until Jupiter sinks low in late September. The Moon is always a crescent in its monthly encounters with Venus, but is full whenever it appears near Jupiter or Saturn in the eastern evening sky opposite the Sun. (In 2017, Full Moon is near Jupiter in April, Saturn in June.) At intervals of 27-28 days thereafter, the Moon appears at a progressively earlier phase at each pairing with the outer planet until its final conjunction, with Moon a thin crescent, low in the west at dusk. You’ll see many beautiful events by just following the Moon’s wanderings at dusk and dawn in the three months leading up to the solar eclipse. Learn More…

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.