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Why are some STEM* fields less gender balanced than others?

October 26, 2016 - 4:30pm to 5:50pm
201 Hewlett Teaching Center

All interested may attend until capacity is reached. Advance registration required. Register here.

*Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

This WISE Research Roundtable features Sapna Cheryan, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology, University of Washington.

Abstract: Women obtain about half of U.S. undergraduate degrees in biology, chemistry, and mathematics, yet they earn less than 20% of computer science, engineering, and physics undergraduate degrees (National Science Foundation, 2014). Gender differences in interest in computer science, engineering, and physics appear even before college. Why are women represented in some science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields more than others? Math performance and discrimination influence who enters STEM, but there is little evidence to date that these factors explain why women’s underrepresentation is relatively worse in some STEM fields. Dr. Cheryan will present a model with three overarching factors to explain the larger gender gaps in participation in computer science, engineering, and physics than in biology, chemistry, and mathematics: (a) masculine cultures that signal a lower sense of belonging to women than men, (b) a lack of sufficient early experience with these fields, and (c) gender gaps in self-efficacy. Efforts to increase women’s participation in computer science, engineering, and physics may benefit from changing their masculine cultures and providing students with early experiences that signal to both girls and boys that they belong and can succeed in these fields.

Dr. Sapna Cheryan is an associate professor of social psychology at the University of Washington. Her research investigates the role that cultural stereotypes play in causing and perpetuating racial and gender disparities in U.S. society. She has published numerous articles on these topics in journals such as Psychological ScienceJournal of Personality and Social Psychology, and Psychological Bulletin. Her work on gender disparities in computer science has been cited widely in media outlets, including in the New York TimesNPR, and Washington Post. In 2014, the White House issued a press release announcing a high school computer science classroom design prize based on her research. Dr. Cheryan currently serves on the Social Science Advisory Board of the National Center of Women in Information Technology. In 2009, Dr. Cheryan received the National Science Foundation CAREER Award. In 2012-2013, she was a visiting scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation in New York City, and in 2016-2017, she is a visiting fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. Dr. Cheryan earned a BA in American studies and psychology from Northwestern University and a PhD in psychology from Stanford University.

Stanford WISE Ventures, a joint initiative of the Vice Provost for Faculty Development & Diversity and the Vice Provost for Graduate Education, sponsors WISE Research Roundtables, featuring discussions with research scientists whose work illuminates paths to advance equity in scientific and technical fields.

Event Sponsor: 
Stanford WISE Ventures, Offices of the Vice Provost for Faculty Development & Diversity and the Vice Provost for Graduate Education, and the Stanford American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) student chapter.
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