March/April 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 6

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

Leave a Reply

LATEST POST

California Science Curriculum Framework Now Available

Posted: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

The pre-publication version of the new California Science Curriculum Framework is now available for download. This publication incorporates all the edits that were approved by the State Board of Education in November 2016 and was many months in the making. Our sincere thanks to the dozens of CSTA members were involved in its development. Our appreciation is also extended to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and their staff for their hard work and dedication to produce this document and for their commitment to the public input process. To the many writers and contributors to the Framework CSTA thanks you for your many hours of work to produce a world-class document.

For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.

The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.

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.

Call for CSTA Awards Nominations

Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017

The 2017 Award Season is now open! One of the benefits of being a CSTA member is your eligibility for awards as well as your eligibility to nominate someone for an award. CSTA offers several awards and members may nominate individuals and organizations for the Future Science Teacher Award, the prestigious Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, and the CSTA Distinguished Contributions Award (organizational award). May 9, 2017 is the deadline for nominations for these awards. CSTA believes that the importance of science education cannot be overstated. Given the essential presence of the sciences in understanding the past and planning for the future, science education remains, and will increasingly be one of the most important disciplines in education. CSTA is committed to recognizing and encouraging excellence in science teaching through the presentation of awards to science educators and organizations who have made outstanding contributions in science education in the state and who are poised to continue the momentum of providing high quality, relevant science education into the future. 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.

Call for Volunteers – CSTA Committees

Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017

Volunteer

CSTA is now accepting applications from regular, preservice, and retired members to serve on our volunteer committees! CSTA’s all-volunteer board of directors invites you to consider maximizing your member experience by volunteering for CSTA. CSTA committee service offers you the opportunity to share your expertise, learn a new skill, or do something you love to do but never have the opportunity to do in your regular day. CSTA committee volunteers do some pretty amazing things: 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.

A Friend in CA Science Education Now at CSTA Region 1 Science Center

Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017

by Marian Murphy-Shaw

If you attended an NGSS Rollout phase 1-3 or CDE workshops at CSTA’s annual conference you may recall hearing from Chris Breazeale when he was working with the CDE. Chris has relocated professionally, with his passion for science education, and is now the Executive Director at the Explorit Science Center, a hands-on exploration museum featuring interactive STEM exhibits located at the beautiful Mace Ranch, 3141 5th St. in Davis, CA. Visitors can “think it, try it, and explorit” with a variety of displays that allow visitors to “do science.” To preview the museum, or schedule a classroom visit, see www.explorit.org. Learn More…

Written by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw is the student services director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director and chair of CSTA’s Policy Committee.

Learning to Teach in 3D

Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017

by Joseph Calmer

Probably like you, NGSS has been at the forefront of many department meetings, lunch conversations, and solitary lesson planning sessions. Despite reading the original NRC Framework, the Ca Draft Frameworks, and many CSTA writings, I am still left with the question: “what does it actually mean for my classroom?”

I had an eye-opening experience that helped me with that question. It came out of a conversation that I had with a student teacher. It turns out that I’ve found the secret to learning how to teach with NGSS: I need to engage in dialogue about teaching with novice teachers. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching science in some capacity for 12 years. During that time pedagogy and student learning become sort of a “hidden curriculum.” It is difficult to plan a lesson for the hidden curriculum; the best way is to just have two or more professionals talk and see what emerges. I was surprised it took me so long to realize this epiphany. 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.