A new report pulls together existing research on the social and environmental factors that contribute to the underrepresentation of women in science and engineering.
The report was produced by the Washington-based American Association of University Women with support from the National Science Foundation of Arlington, Va. One research finding that it highlighted is that when teachers and parents tell girls their intelligence can expand with experience and learning, they do better on math tests and are more likely to say they want to continue studying the subject. Another finding suggests that negative stereotypes about girls’ math abilities can lower their test performance.
“Just describing that to students can actually make the effect go away,” said study co-author Christianne M. Corbett, a research associate at the AAUW.
The study urges educators and parents to “spread the word” about girls’ and womens’ achievements in math and science to combat stereotypes; teach girls that intellectual skills are acquired and not a product of innate talent, and explain to them that buying into negative stereotypes can diminish achievement.
A version of this article appeared in the March 31, 2010 edition of Education Week as STEM Careers