New NBER Research study: What is needed to increase the number of female students in fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)? Hire more Women Profs.

Thanks to Carol, a friend who is both a feminist and a physicist, for alerting me to these related articles on the needs and issues faced by female students entering STEM fields.

The first artcle is from the daily Web publication Slate which is owned by The Washington Post Company.

A Formula for Success : Want more women to study science? Hire more female professors.

In this article, the authors mention a new research study (linked below) which studies over 9000 cadets at the US Air Force Academy over a period of 8 years. Many of the variables that other researchers have faced in doing similar research are able to be controlled for in this study because of factors in this particular population.

The author states:

The authors found that women on average obtain scores that are 0.15 grade points lower (half the difference between an A and an A-) than their male classmates, even after accounting for students’ SAT scores. The gap in performance was widest for women taught by men. When a female instructor was put at the front of the classroom, nearly two-thirds of the grade point gender gap evaporated.

This report follows well my other recent post on women in business.

Here is the research report mentioned in the Slate article:

Sex and Science: How Professor Gender Perpetuates the Gender Gap
Scott E. Carrell † UC Davis and NBER Marianne E. Page ‡ UC Davis and NBER James E. West

USAF Academy May 7, 2009

Abstract: Why aren’t there more women in science? Female college students are currently 37 percent less likely than males to obtain a bachelor’s degree in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), and comprise only 25 percent of the STEM workforce. This paper begins to shed light on this issue by exploiting a unique dataset of college students who have been randomly assigned to professors over a wide variety of mandatory standardized courses. We focus on the role of professor gender. Our results suggest that while professor gender has little impact on male students, it has a powerful effect on female students’ performance in math and science classes, their likelihood of taking future math and science courses, and their likelihood of graduating with a STEM degree. The estimates are largest for female students with very strong math skills, who are arguably the students who are most suited to careers in science. Indeed, the gender gap in course grades and STEM majors is eradicated when high performing female students’ introductory math and science classes are taught by female professors.. In contrast, the gender of humanities professors has only minimal impact on student outcomes. We believe that these results are indicative of important environmental influences at work.

STEM departments, are you doing your research?


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