Date of Award

Spring 2015

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Education

First Advisor

Jonathan Mathews

Second Advisor

Lynette Zuroff

Third Advisor

Daniel Gretch

Abstract

Historically, there existed a large achievement gap between male and female students in STEM fields in the United States. While this gap has drastically decreased, there are still areas of inequity. Recent data show that males and females now perform equally well on measures of scientific aptitude through twelfth grade and are equally likely to receive bachelor’s degrees. However, men are still more likely to receive bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields, as well as higher degrees in STEM fields. Men are also more likely to have STEM careers. This inequity appears to be influenced by a wide variety of factors. Biologically, data suggests that females exhibit less overall variance in intelligence and females also tend to have weaker spatial skills; these factors likely influence women’s representation in STEM fields. Sociological factors that impact women’s achievement in STEM fields include the impacts of stereotyping and the tendency to be both pushed away from STEM fields and simultaneously pulled toward other fields. Finally, women have unique challenges to consider when creating a work/life balance. To address this inequity, a variety of classroom initiatives are proposed. Specifically, teachers can help their students by instilling a belief in the idea of malleable intelligence. Teachers can also work to provide direct instruction on spatial skills to improve students’ STEM ability. All students can similarly benefit from an increased focus on the sociocultural aspects of learning. Finally, teachers can increase equity in STEM fields by providing early exposure to role models from a variety of backgrounds.

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