June 15, 2019
June 15, 2019
October 19, 2019
Women in Engineering
Enhancing Gender Diversity in STEM Requires Support from All Keith J. Bowman, University of Maryland, Baltimore County Susan V. Rosser, California State University Office of the Chancellor
Professor Barbara Oakley of Oakland University recently attributed part of the responsibility for limited science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) diversity to faculty from the humanities and social sciences who “malign” STEM disciplines and characterize STEM careers as unworthy of literate and creative individuals. Does she have a good point? During the last two decades substantial effort has been dedicated towards reconciling developing students with what can be broadly defined as STEM identities. Considerable recent research on STEM identities has focused on the identities of groups and intersectionalities underrepresented in STEM disciplines and careers. Some research suggests that merely inserting a STEM label, e.g. science or scientist, into a discussion unleashes implicit biases of gender, race and ethnicity in middle school children.
Despite the use of different methodologies, STEM identity research on promoting inclusivity consistently shows that students, at least those from Western countries, are likely to describe STEM professionals as unattractive, asocial and disheveled white males. The gap between this depiction of a STEM person and their own identity is seen as an obstacle for women and other underrepresented individuals to development of their own STEM identity. Substantial research on curricular, co-curricular and extra-curricular interventions and pedagogical strategies designed to elevate students’ STEM identities and their likelihood of pursuing STEM careers ties to efforts to foster a STEM identity permitting all students to see themselves as a “STEM kind of person”.
Critical to advancing equity is exploring the role that all academic disciplines have in shaping gender diversity of the STEM workforce. With the increasing influence of engineering design and computing in shaping our lives, education standards should require all students to have significant and equitable STEM experiences. Such a requirement would foster an interest in STEM subjects and careers in more, diverse students, while reducing the focus on STEM pipelines. This would parallel the situation in some other countries where the college track requires all students to follow the same curriculum, regardless of gender. In another way, it would align with education in the humanities and social sciences where the focus is not on careers and pipelines. Larger increases in the number of bachelor’s degrees earned by women and distribution across disciplines have changed gender diversity for both STEM and non-STEM disciplines. One contributing factor is that bachelor’s degrees earned by American women have more than tripled since 1970, while those for men only increased by about sixty percent, although wide variance exists in gender distribution across the disciplines in both STEM and non-STEM fields, with the extreme being computer science where women earn less than 20% of bachelor’s degrees. Although in 2017 US men earned only 22% of psychology bachelor’s degrees, 30% of English-literature bachelor’s degrees, and less than 20% of education bachelor’s degrees, significant concern over the lack of males in some areas of study and careers is rarely expressed.
Bowman, K. J., & Rosser, S. (2019, June), Enhancing Gender Diversity in STEM Requires Support from All Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32746
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