- A recent CDW survey of 300 college women that examined both those majoring in STEM and those who left their STEM major suggests a lack of female role models, including instructors, in these fields is a primary deterrent to their pursuit.
- Among the survey's findings are that 63% of female STEM majors question their abilities, close to 50% say their gender resulted in harder experiences, and 20% aren't sure they'll remain in STEM majors through graduation, Ed Tech: Focus on Higher Ed reports.
- Along with providing more female role models, researchers say the image of scientists, engineers and others in STEM fields needs to be broadened beyond negative stereotypes like that of the male "Dungeons and Dragons" nerd.
As the survey shows, despite being equal in science and math abilities, male students are three times more likely than their female peers to pursue STEM majors.
Providing role models who look like students also extends beyond just gender gaps in STEM studies, as well. A recent paper titled "Ignored Potential: A Collaborative Road Map for Increasing African-American Women in Engineering" — issued by Purdue University, the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), the Society of Women Engineers and the Women in Engineering ProActive Network — shows that less than 1% of engineering degrees went to African-American women in 2015. And the research expands beyond just these two examples. Closing gender, racial or other gaps is at least partially dependent upon students seeing role models who share similar backgrounds and experiences to those they know.
It's an area the nation has improved in notably in the past year alone, with one high-profile example being the spotlight shone upon the STEM contributions of African-American women at NASA in the Academy Award-nominated film "Hidden Figures."