White female students are more likely to pursue science fields in college if they attended a high school with a high proportion of female math and science teachers, finds a study in the journal Social Problems.
University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Duke University researchers looked at 16,300 students who attended high school in North Carolina and matriculated to the University of North Carolina system.
There was no link between teachers’ gender and the probability of picking a STEM major for young men.
White girls were more likely to declare or graduate with a STEM major if they attended a high school with a higher proportion of female math and science teachers. For black girls, there was no significant association between the proportion of female teachers and STEM outcomes.
It’s also possible “that the presence of female math and science teachers—even co-ethnic female math and science teachers—may not be sufficient to offset the chilly climate that young women of color might face in science and math classrooms,” the authors write.
A version of this article appeared in the March 16, 2016 edition of Education Week as Science Education