Start Early to Strengthen the STEM Pipeline: How to Boost Girls' Interest in STEM

Abstract

Gender gaps in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) remain a large educational problem. One source of gaps involves stereotypes associating men with higher ability and interest in STEM. This talk describes how such beliefs contribute to inequity in education, and illustrates how to remove psychological barriers for girls and women in STEM. Stereotypes that girls are less interested than boys in STEM emerge early and contribute to gender disparities. My studies documented the existence of stereotypes among thousands of diverse children and adolescents in Grades 1-12, with negative consequences for girls’ interest, sense of belonging, and participation, especially in computer science and engineering. My data also offer explanations for variation in women’s underrepresentation across STEM fields. The discussion will center on how educators and parents can promote students’ motivation in STEM. Addressing stereotypes before they take root in the minds of children may remedy disparities and improve educational equity.

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