Saturday, March 12, 2016
Young white women from high schools with higher proportions of female math & science teachers are more likely to major in STEM fields
Given the prestige and compensation of science and math-related occupations, the underrepresentation of women and people of color in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics majors (STEM) perpetuates entrenched economic and social inequities. Explanations for this underrepresentation have largely focused on individual characteristics, including uneven academic preparation, as well as institutional factors at the college level.
This article focus instead on high schools. The study highlights the influence of the intersection between race and gender of female math and science teachers on students’ decisions to major in STEM fields.
The authors analyze longitudinal data from public school students in North Carolina to test whether organizational demography of high school math and science faculty has an association with college major choice and graduation. They find that young white women are more likely to major in STEM fields and to graduate with STEM degrees when they come from high schools with higher proportions of female math and science teachers, irrespective of the race of the teacher.
At the same time, these teachers do not depress young white or African American men’s chances of majoring in STEM.
Results for African American women are less conclusive, highlighting the limitations of their small sample size.