Discipline: Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences
Subcategory: STEM Science and Mathematics Education
Lawanda Cummings - Paine College
Co-Author(s): LaShawnda Lindsay-Dennis and Tantiana Burns, Paine College, Augusta, GA
There is a current agenda to increase the number of minorities in STEM careers to secure the U.S. as a global power in STEM innovation and business. In a recent report of the President’s Council on Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST, 2012), it was noted that a million more STEM baccalaureates would be needed in the next 10 years. Research suggests that the underrepresentation of women and students of color in STEM careers is the product of contextual and psychological factors that shape academic and career choices long before students arrive on a college campus (Perry et al., 2012). Gender disparities in STEM careers are primarily driven by socio-cultural factors rather than a lack of capacity or intellect among women (Hill et al., 2010). For example, a review of research by Ong and colleagues (2011) reveals that despite early interest in science and math, three-fourths of women of color working in STEM field indicated that they were never identified or encouraged to pursue STEM studies, and 40% reported being actively discouraged. Additionally, negative stereotypes about girls’ abilities in math and science have been found to influence self-efficacy, educational choices, academic performance in math and science, and interest in pursuing STEM training and careers (Perry et al., 2012; Steele & Ambady, 2006; Bandura, 1993). Additional research is needed to understand the unique double minority experience of African American female students.
The current study, funded by NSF-HBCU-UP, is longitudinal research that follows freshman and sophomore students for 3 years. Using year 1 and year 2 data, a comparative analysis of STEM vs. Non-STEM African American women was conducted to identify within-group differences associated with contextual factors that promote or inhibit pursuit of STEM focused degrees. Preliminary analysis of baseline interview data and self-reported data in utilization patterns indicate differential trends in use of campus-based supports such as tutoring, faculty mentoring, and participation in academic student organizations. All students reported similar general academic self-efficacies (t(72) = -1.19, p =.24), indicating a strong self-perceived capacity for academic success despite degree field. In contrast, STEM students were twice as likely to utilize contextual supports (t(72) =1.72, p< .03), and reported greater domain specific efficacies than their Non-STEM counterparts (Math: t(71) =2.12, p< .05 and Science: t(72) =2.17, p< .05). Interview data further explicates patterns of help-seeking behaviors indicating that Non-STEM and STEM students generally seek assistance from peers instead of traditional academic supports. Participants also reported limited pre-college preparation despite their field of study. Additionally, the lack of a fully formulated plan or career trajectory for both STEM and Non-STEM students means limited understanding of intermediate tasks needed for goal accomplishment. A greater understanding of the role of contextual supports and efficacy development would elucidate the need for population-specific contextual supports for Black Women in STEM fields. Works Cited: Bandura, A. (1993). Perceived self-efficacy in cognitive development and functioning. Educational Psychologist 28(2): 117-149. Hill, C., Corbett, C., & St. Rose, A. (2010). Why so few? Women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics Washington DC: American Association for University Women. Ong, M., Wright, C., Espinosa, L.L., Orfield, G. (2011). Inside the Double Blind: A Synthesis of Empirical Research on Undergraduate and Graduate Women of Color in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, Harvard Educational Review. Percy, B. L., Link, T., Boelter, C. & Leukefeld, C. (2012). Blended to science: Gender differences in the effects of race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status on academic and science attitude among sixth graders. Gender and Education, pp. 1-19. Psychology, 42, 190-198.
Funder Acknowledgement(s): National Science Foundation: HBCU-UP
Faculty Advisor: None Listed,