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 a past-president of CSTA.

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

CSTA Annual Conference Early Bird Rates End July 14

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

Teachers engaged in workshop activity

Teachers engaging in hands-on learning during a workshop at the 2016 CSTA conference.

Don’t miss your chance to register at the early bird rate for the 2017 CSTA Conference – the early-bird rate closes July 14. Need ideas on how to secure funding for your participation? Visit our website for suggestions, a budget planning tool, and downloadable justification letter to share with your admin. Want to take advantage of the early rate – but know your district will pay eventually? Register online today and CSTA will reimburse you when we receive payment from your district/employer. (For more information on how that works contact Zi Stair in the office for details – 916-979-7004 or zi@cascience.org.)

New Information Now Available On-line:

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.

Goodbye Outgoing and Welcome Incoming CSTA Board Members

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Jill Grace

Jill Grace, CSTA President, 2017-2019

On July 1, 2017 five CSTA members concluded their service and four new board members joined the ranks of the CSTA Board of Directors. CSTA is so grateful for all the volunteer board of directors who contribute hours upon hours of time and energy to advance the work of the association. At the June 3 board meeting, CSTA was able to say goodbye to the outgoing board members and welcome the incoming members.

This new year also brings with it a new president for CSTA. As of July 1, 2017 Jill Grace is the president of the California Science Teachers Association. Jill is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, a former middle school science teacher, and is currently a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd where she works with California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative districts and charter networks in the San Diego area.

Outgoing Board Members

  • Laura Henriques (President-Elect: 2011 – 2013, President: 2013 – 2015, Past President: 2015 – 2017)
  • Valerie Joyner (Region 1 Director: 2009 – 2013, Primary Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Mary Whaley (Informal Science Education Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Sue Campbell (Middle School/Jr. High Director: 2015 – 2017)
  • Marcus Tessier (2-Year College Director: 2015 – 2017)

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.

Finding My Student’s Motivation of Learning Through Engineering Tasks

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Huda Ali Gubary and Susheela Nath

It’s 8:02 and the bell rings. My students’ walk in and pick up an entry ticket based on yesterday’s lesson and homework. My countdown starts for students to begin…3, 2, 1. Ten students are on task and diligently completing the work, twenty are off task with behaviors ranging from talking up a storm with their neighbors to silently staring off into space. This was the start of my classes, more often than not. My students rarely showed the enthusiasm for a class that I had eagerly prepared for. I spent so much time searching for ways to get my students excited about the concepts they were learning. I wanted them to feel a connection to the lessons and come into my class motivated about what they were going to learn next. I would ask myself how I could make my class memorable where the kids were in the driver’s seat of learning. Incorporating engineering made this possible. 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 California NGSS k-8 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Updated Recommended Literature List

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled an addition of 285 award-winning titles to the Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list.

“The books our students read help broaden their perspectives, enhance their knowledge, and fire their imaginations,” Torlakson said. “The addition of these award-winning titles represents the state’s continued commitment to the interests and engagement of California’s young readers.”

The Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list is a collection of more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and adolescents. Reflecting contemporary and classic titles, including California authors, this online list provides an exciting range of literature that students should be reading at school and for pleasure. Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama to provide for a variety of tastes, interests, and abilities. Learn More…

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

Teaching Science in the Time of Alternative Facts – Why NGSS Can Help (somewhat)

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn

The father of one of my students gave me a book: In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown, Ph. D. He had heard that I was teaching Plate Tectonics and wanted me to consider another perspective. The book offered the idea that the evidence for plate tectonics could be better understood if we considered the idea that beneath the continent of Pangaea was a huge underground layer of water that suddenly burst forth from a rift between the now continents of Africa and South America. The waters shot up and the continents hydroplaned apart on the water layer to their current positions. The force of the movement pushed up great mountain ranges which are still settling to this day, resulting in earthquakes along the margins of continents. This had happened about 6,000 years ago and created a great worldwide flood. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.