Objective of the Research Project
The purpose of the research is to analyze the role of stereotypes in the STEM gender gap and assess if going to an all-girls high school, instead of a public high school, affects the interests and likelihood of the girls to declare a major in STEM. Girls often feel discouraged and less comfortable in male-dominated classes.
Therefore, by removing boys from the environment, it reduces the influence of stereotypes being spread through male peers or brought upon by pressure to compete with them. With boys removed from the academic environment, this makes it possible to see how much of an effect their male counterparts have on the gender gap in STEM. It also gives the chance to isolate teachers and observe their impact in the STEM gender gap. Since it is a correlational research study, the assessments will be done through surveys.
Survey’s will be handed out to five hundred girls from each high school in order to gain further insight into their thoughts and feelings about STEM, pressures to compete with the opposite gender in academics, and the education systems role in the development of their impressions about STEM. At the end, the girls surveyed will have an opportunity to provide feedback on ways they believe the education system can improve in minimizing STEM gender stereotypes within the academic environment.
Despite the decreases in the gender gap in fields like education and humanities, the gender gap and underrepresentation of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics continues to grow. Though many try to argue that the reason behind the gap is academic achievement, countless amounts of individuals insist that there must be other explanations for the substantial gender gap.
Why does the considerable size of the gender gap in STEM matter? The reason the gender gap matters is because as we move forward into a more technological future, high-tech jobs are increasing in number. This opens opportunities for women to occupy these high-paying jobs which could have even greater effects of reducing the gender wage gap since women still make seventy-seven cents for every dollar a man makes, with ethnic women making even less.
Additionally, representation of women in STEM holds importance in encouraging younger women to complete a STEM degree and pursue a future in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. If young girls see an underrepresentation of women, whether mentors or older friends, then they are not as likely to take interest or go into those same fields: this underrepresentation may cause young girls to fall victim to stereotype threats.
A stereotype threat refers to the danger of conforming to negative stereotypes created about one’s gender, race, ethnicity, or cultural group. Having female representation matters because they serve as role models to younger girls and exhibit that they are just as capable as boys to succeed in these fields.
Furthermore, we need more women in STEM because research is viewed as problem-solving. Therefore, women may offer insight or a different perspective when addressing an issue that men may overlook or do not have first-hand experience with.
Also, women have the ability to bring new innovations into the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Currently, women occupy a minuscule amount of jobs in the STEM workforce, which means that much of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics come from male-centric views. The issue with innovations being male-centric is that men and women are fundamentally different.
For example, it was not until 2012 that the Food and Drug Administration lowered the amount of recommended Ambien doses for women by 50%. It was discovered that women could not handle the same doses as men and were unknowingly waking up each morning and driving with the drug still in their systems. Though it may not be intentional, women’s variances from men are often not taken into account due to the lack of female representation in these male-dominated fields.
Before we can minimize the STEM gender gap, we must begin work within our educational systems in order to reduce the impact of gender stereotypes regarding science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Teachers hold a significant role in the spread or diminishment of gender stereotypes due to their role of authority in schools. Therefore, it is with great importance that teachers are properly educated on how to raise awareness about STEM occupations and aid girls in discovering relevancy within those male-dominated fields. Otherwise, the STEM gender gap will continue to expand as women become crippled by gender stereotypes.
Despite women encountering stereotypes at some point in their life, is it possible to combat those stereotypes ahead of time? Can combatting stereotypes ahead of time have an effect on the gender gap in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics? In all schools, gender stereotypes are present, but it is unknown how much these stereotypes are encouraged through male peers and their educators. This study intends to address these specific gaps in knowledge by assessing the impact of stereotypes in education systems, most specifically Los Angeles County education systems.
An objective of the research is to evaluate if attending a high school where there is not academic comparison or competition with the male gender would have an effect on a girl’s pursuit and completion of a degree in a STEM major. An additional objective is to determine the impact teachers have on the STEM gender gap when males are removed from the academic environment. A final objective of the research is to make recommendations on ways the education system can enhance their role in the fight against STEM gender stereotypes within the academic environment. The purpose behind the research is to measure the effect of teachers and male peers on STEM gender stereotypes in order to attain insight on how we can equip girls to combat these stereotypes.
RQ1: Do stereotypes affect the probability of a young woman to declare a degree in STEM?
RQ2: How do the levels of comfortability differ in all-girls courses as to co-ed courses?
RQ3: Does comfortability in the classroom affect academic performance?
RQ4: Does removing the competing gender from the academic environment increase the likelihood of a girl to intend to or declare a STEM major?
RQ5: How much of an impact do educators have on the STEM gender gap?
RQ6: Does underrepresentation have an effect on the likelihood of a girl to pursue a future in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics?
The subject population is young women at an all-girls high school and co-ed high school. More specifically, young women attending an all-girls high school and a co-ed high school in Los Angeles, California because of the diversity found in the schools, city, and state. Diversity holds importance in the surveys because it gives a more random, accurate sample. The young women at these schools are the unit of analysis because we are trying to see if there is a difference in likelihood of declaring a STEM degree in an all-girls school high school versus a co-ed high school.
Five hundred girls from each school will be surveyed because it only leaves room for about a 5% margin of error. Data will be collected through surveys with rankings of 1-5 to describe where each girl aligns with each statement presented, a one meaning that they strongly disagree and a five meaning that they strongly agree. Participants will randomly be selected from a school attendance roster at an all-girls high school and a co-ed high school to take part in the surveys, although all participation in the study is voluntary.
If they choose to participate, they will then be given slips from their teachers with a specific time to partake in the study. The surveys will take place in each school’s auditorium with around twenty-five girls during each session until all five hundred ladies have been surveyed, communication between peers will not be allowed during this time. The surveys will take place on the week of January 14th – 18th, 2019 during regular school hours.
The study is designed to gain a better idea of the effects of male presence on females in the high school academic environment and on their likelihood to declare a degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. It is also designed to assess the impact of educators on the STEM gender gap. However, a limitation of this study is that there are other factors outside the academic environment in which young women become exposed to STEM gender stereotypes.
The independent variables in the research study are the all-girls high school and co-ed high school because the academic environment is what is being manipulated in the study. The dependent variable would be the score value of the girls’ responses because their responses to the statements are what is being assessed: their level of agreement or disagreement with each statement is dependent on the population of the school environment.
The following statements will be presented to the participants to rank from strongly disagree (1) to strongly agree:
- I feel more uncomfortable in male-dominated classes.
- I feel comfortable regardless of gender in the academic environment.
- I don’t feel like I have to compete with the male gender.
- I feel pressure to academically compete with my male peers.
- I believe my test performance has been affected by male presence in the classroom.
- I do not believe my test performance has been affected by male presence in the classroom.
- My teachers have played a role in my interest in STEM.
- My teachers have discouraged my interest in STEM.
- Males are naturally better than females in STEM fields.
- Females are just as capable as males to succeed in STEM fields.
- I have experienced gender stereotypes in the academic environment.
- I have experienced STEM gender stereotypes in the academic environment.
- My educator’s make me feel like there is a place for me in STEM.
- My educator’s do not make me feel like there is a place for me in STEM.
- I believe there is a place for me in STEM.
- I do not believe there is a place for me in STEM.
- I plan on declaring a major in STEM.
- I plan on declaring a major other than STEM.
- The number of women I see a part of STEM is encouraging.
- The number of women I see a part of STEM is discouraging.