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«A Resource Guide for Parents and Teens Developed and Compiled by the Youth Council of the DuPage Workforce Board A Letter to Parents: Your teen’s ...»

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Math skills are considered essential to success in STEM fields. Historically, boys have outperformed girls in math, but in the past few decades the gender gap has narrowed, and today girls are doing as well as boys in math on average (Hyde et al., 2008). Girls are earning high school math and science credits at the same rate as boys and are earning slightly higher grades in these classes (U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2007) (see figures 1 and 2).

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7.0 6.9 7.1 6.7 6.8 6.5 6.5 6.6 6.4 6.1 6.0 6.0 5.5 1990 1994 1998 2000 2005

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Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2007, The Nation's Report Card: America's high school graduates:

Results from the 2005 NAEP High School Transcript Study, by C. Shettle et al. (NCES 2007-467) (Washington, DC: Government Printing O ce).

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2.56 2.56 2.50 2.54 2.42 2.50 2.39 2.25 2.30 2.00 1990 1994 1998 2000 2005

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Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2007, The Nation's Report Card: America's high school graduates:

Results from the 2005 NAEP High School Transcript Study, by C. Shettle et al. (NCES 2007-467) (Washington, DC: Government Printing O ce).

AAUW 4 On high-stakes math tests, however, boys continue to outscore girls, albeit by a small margin.

A small gender gap persists on the mathematics section of the SAT and the ACT examinations (Halpern, Benbow, et al., 2007; AAUW, 2008). Fewer girls than boys take advanced placement (AP) exams in STEM-related subjects such as calculus, physics, computer science, and chemistry (see figure 3), and girls who take STEM AP exams earn lower scores than boys earn on average (see figure 4). Research on “stereotype threat,” profiled in chapter 3, sheds light on the power of stereotypes to undermine girls’ math test performance and may help explain the puzzle of girls’ strong classroom performance and relatively weaker performance on high-stakes tests such as these.

One notable gain is girls’ increased representation in the ranks of the highest achievers in mathematics. Among students with very high scores on math tests, boys continue to outnumber girls (Lubinski & Benbow, 1992, 2006; Hedges & Nowell, 1995); however, the proportion of girls among the highest math achievers has greatly increased during the past few decades.

The Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth identifies seventh and eighth graders who score greater than 700 on the SAT math section (the top 0.01 percent or 1 in 10,000 students). Since the early 1980s the ratio of boys to girls in this extremely select group has dramatically declined from 13:1 (Benbow & Stanley, 1983) to around 3:1 in recent years (Brody & Mills, 2005; Halpern, Benbow, et al., 2007).

Students from historically disadvantaged groups such as African American and Hispanic students, both female and male, are less likely to have access to advanced courses in math and science in high school, which negatively affects their ability to enter and successfully complete STEM majors in college (May & Chubin, 2003; Frizell & Nave, 2008; Tyson et al., 2007;

Perna et al., 2009). In 2005, 31 percent of Asian American and 16 percent of white high school graduates completed calculus, compared with 6 percent and 7 percent of African American and Hispanic high school graduates, respectively. Additionally, one-quarter of Asian American and one-tenth of white high school graduates took either the AP or International Baccalaureate exam in calculus, compared with just 3.2 percent of African American and

5.6 percent of Hispanic graduates (National Science Board, 2008). Yet even among underrepresented racial-ethnic groups, a growing number of girls are leaving high school well prepared in math and science and capable of pursuing STEM majors in college.

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The transition between high school and college is a critical moment when many young women turn away from a STEM career path. Although women are the majority of college students, they are far less likely than their male peers to plan to major in a STEM field (see figure 5).

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400,000 391,777 4,268 9,157 12,965 350,465 20,482 632 350,000 2,750 3,096 7,569

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46,641 53,869 200,000 90,867 150,000 64,686 100,000 114,285 108,249 50,000

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3.6 3.6 3.6 3.5 3.5 3.4 3.3 3.1 3.1 3.0 3.0 3.0 2.9 2.9 2.9 2.8 2.8 2.6 2.6 2.5 2.5 2.4 2.0 1.5

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Source: Retrieved November 11, 2009, from the College Board website at www.collegeboard.com.

Almost one-third of all male freshmen (29 percent), compared with only 15 percent of all female freshmen, planned to major in a STEM field in 2006 (National Science Foundation, 2009b). The gender disparity in plans to major is even more significant when the biological sciences are not included. Just over one-fifth of male freshmen planned to major in engineering, computer science, or the physical sciences, compared with only about 5 percent of female freshmen (ibid.).





Women who enter STEM majors in college tend to be well qualified. Female and male firstyear STEM majors are equally likely to have taken and earned high grades in the prerequisite math and science classes in high school and to have confidence in their math and science abilities (Brainard & Carlin, 1998; U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2000; Vogt et al., 2007). Nevertheless, many of these academically capable women

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0.7% 0.9% 0.5%

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0.4% 1.6% 1.1%

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1.1% 0.6% 1.5% 0.3%

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Source: Higher Education Research Institute, 2007, Survey of the American freshman: Special tabulations (Los Angeles, CA), cited in National Science Foundation, Division of Science Resources Statistics, 2009, Women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in science and engineering: 2009 (NSF 09-305) (Arlington, VA), Table B-8.

AAUW 8 leave STEM majors early in their college careers, as do many of their male peers (Seymour & Hewitt, 1997). For example, in engineering the national rate of retention from entry into the major to graduation is just under 60 percent for women and men (Ohland et al., 2008).

Although the overall retention of female undergraduates in STEM is similar to the retention rate for men and has improved over time (U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2000; Xie & Shauman, 2003), understanding why women leave STEM majors is still an important area of research. Women make up a smaller number of STEM students from the start, so the loss of women from these majors is of special concern.

Chapter 6 profiles the work of researchers Barbara Whitten, Jane Margolis, and Allan Fisher, showing the role of departmental culture in attracting and retaining female computer science and physics majors.

Despite the still relatively small percentages of women majoring in some STEM fields, the overall proportion of STEM bachelor’s degrees awarded to women has increased dramatically during the past four decades, although women’s representation varies by field.

In 2006, women earned the majority of bachelor’s degrees in biology, one-half of bachelor’s degrees in chemistry, and nearly one-half in math. Women earned a much smaller proportion

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60 1966 ■ 59.8% 1976 ■ 1986 ■ 1996 50 ■ 51.8% 50.2% 2006 ■ 46.5% 45.8% 45.5% 44.9% 43.1%

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36.3% 35.8% 33.3% 33.3% 30 31.2% 27.6% 25.0% 20 22.5% 22.3% 20.7% 20.5% 19.8% 19.5% 18.5% 18.5% 18.3% 17.9% 14.6% 14.6% 14.5% 10 4.9% 10.9% 3.4% 9.4% 0.4%

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Source: National Science Foundation, Division of Science Resources Statistics, 2008, Science and engineering degrees: 1966–2006 (Detailed Statistical Tables) (NSF 08-321) (Arlington, VA), Table 11, Author's analysis of Tables 34, 35, 38, & 39.

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6,827 7,944 60,000 34,652 8,915 8,781 30,000 48,001 31,347

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Source: National Science Foundation, Division of Science Resources Statistics, 2009, Women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in science and engineering: 2009 (NSF 09-305) (Arlington, VA), Tables C-4 and C-5.

AAUW 10 of bachelor’s degrees awarded in physics, engineering, and computer science. In fact, as figure 6 shows, women’s representation in computer science is actually declining—a stark reminder that women’s progress cannot be taken for granted. In the mid-1980s women earned slightly more than one-third (36 percent) of the bachelor’s degrees in computer science; by 2006 that number had dropped to 20 percent.

The size of the STEM disciplines, and, therefore, the number of degrees awarded, varies dramatically. As figure 7 shows, women earned 48,001 biological science degrees in 2007, compared with only 7,944 computer science degrees, 2,109 electrical engineering degrees, and 1,024 physics degrees. In comparison, men earned 31,347 biological science degrees, 34,652 computer science degrees, 16,438 electrical engineering degrees, and 3,846 physics degrees.

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2,340 2,199 2,000 1,624 1,186

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Note: Racial-ethnic groups include U.S. citizens and permanent residents only. Data based on degree-granting institutions eligible to participate in Title IV federal nancial aid programs.

Source: National Science Foundation, Division of Science Resources Statistics, 2009, Women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in science and engineering: 2009 (NSF 09-305) (Arlington, VA), Table C-14.

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Women’s representation among doctoral degree recipients in STEM fields also has improved in the last 40 years (see figure 9). In 1966, women earned about one-eighth of the doctorates in the biological and agricultural sciences, 6 percent of the doctorates in chemistry and mathematics, and 3 percent or less of the doctorates in earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences;

physics; engineering; and computer science. Forty years later, in 2006, women earned almost one-half of the doctorates in the biological and agricultural sciences; around one-third of the doctorates in earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences, chemistry, and math; and approximately one-fifth of the doctorates in computer science, engineering, and physics.

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1986 ■ 1996 ■ 2006 ■ 40 39.7% 35.3% 34.3%

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30.2% 29.6% 28.2% 20 21.3% 21.0% 20.8% 20.6% 20.2% 19.5% 16.6% 16.6% 16.6% 15.1% 13.0% 12.3% 12.0% 12.0% 10 11.6% 11.3% 9.4% 9.3% 9.0% 4.0% 3.0% 6.7% 6.1% 1.9% 1.9% 6.1% 0.3% 0%

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Source: National Science Foundation, Division of Science Resources Statistics, 2008, Science and engineering degrees: 1966–2006 (Detailed Statistical Tables) (NSF 08-321) (Arlington, VA), Table 25, Author's analysis of Tables 34, 35, 38, & 39.

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Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex discrimination in education programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance. The law states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance” (20 U.S. Code § 1681). Title IX covers nearly all colleges and universities. To ensure compliance with the law, Title IX regulations require institutions that receive any form of federal education funding to evaluate their current policies and practices and adopt and publish grievance procedures and a policy against sex discrimination.

When Congress enacted Title IX, the law was intended to help women achieve equal access to all aspects of education at all levels. During the last 37 years, however, Title IX has been applied mostly to sports. Recent efforts by Congress have brought attention to how Title IX could be used to improve the climate for and representation of women in STEM fields.

Critics argue that women do not face discrimination in STEM fields but rather that women are less interested than men in certain STEM fields and that enforcement of Title IX could lead to a quota system in the sciences (Tierney, 2008; Munro, 2009). Title IX requires neither quotas nor proportionality, and it cannot address gender gaps in participation due to personal choices; however, Title IX reviews can help identify institutional policies and practices that negatively, and in some cases inadvertently, affect personal choices in gender-specific ways (Pieronek, 2005).

Simply put, Title IX can help create a climate where women and men of similar talent who want to be scientists or engineers have equal opportunity to do so.

A report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (2004) focused on Title IX in STEM disciplines and concluded that federal agencies need to do more to ensure that colleges and universities receiving federal funds comply with Title IX. In response to these findings, federal agencies, including NASA and the Department of Energy in conjunction with the Department of Education and the Department of Justice, have begun to conduct Title IX compliance reviews more regularly (Pieronek, 2009).



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