Monday, April 16, 2012

Evaluating How We Present Role Models in STEM

Posted by L. Trouille

Univ. of Michigan social psychologists Diana Betz and Denise Sekaquaptewa recently published a thought-provoking article that I thought might be of interest to our readers -- "My Fair Physicist? Feminine Math and Science Role Models Demotivate Young Girls."


Women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are labeled unfeminine, a costly social label that may discourage female students from pursuing these fields. Challenges to this stereotype include feminine STEM role models, but their counterstereotypic-yet-feminine success may actually be demotivating, particularly to young girls.
  • Study 1 showed that feminineSTEM role models reduced middle school girls’ current math interest, self-rated ability, and success expectations relative to gender-neutral STEM role models and depressed future plans to study math among STEM-disidentified girls. These results did not extend to feminine role models displaying general (not STEM-specific) school success, indicating that feminine cues were not driving negative outcomes.
  • Study 2 suggested that feminine STEM role models’ combination of femininity and success seemed particularly unattainable to STEM-disidentified girls.
The results call for a better understanding of feminine STEM figures aimed at motivating young girls.

In reading this article, I came across a great site for Women in STEM articles. Check out -