Does role congruence affect major choice and retention?
Thesis (UNI Access Only)
Only 16.3% of U.S. undergraduates in 2007 planned to major in engineering with only 2.6% of them women (National Science Board [NSB], 2016). The disproportionate rate of men to women in STEM could be sending women cues that they do not belong in STEM (Cheryan, Plaut, Davies, & Steele, 2009). People perceive majors that are congruent with the female gender role as being more communal, and majors that are congruent with the male gender role as more agentic (Brown, Thoman, Smith, & Diekman, 2015; Stout, Grunberg, & Ito, 2016). Math skills may also be associated with men more than women (Leslie, Cimpian, Meyer, & Freeland, 2015), suggesting confidence in these skills that are associated with success in STEM are not congruent with the female gender role (Diekman & Eagly, 2008). Using role congruity theory (Eagly & Karau, 2002), I examined how communal values and self-reported math and problem-solving skills related to women’s choice of and retention in STEM majors. I used data from fall 2010 (N = 1921, response rate = 87.1%) and fall 2012 (N = 1695, response rate = 92.4%) first-year students from a midsized Midwestern University. There were more men enrolled in STEM majors than women, and men were better retained in STEM majors than women. Communal values did not mediate the relationship between gender and STEM major choice. Men had higher self-reported math and problem-solving skills scores, and the relationship between gender and STEM major choice was partially mediated by self-reported math and problem-solving skills (Study 2), even when controlling for ACT math scores. These findings suggest that building up women’s confidence in their math and problem-solving skills could increase women’s interest and retention in STEM majors.
Year of Submission
Department of Psychology
Helen C. Harton
1 PDF file (VII, 71 pages)
© Alba Karuni - 2018
Karuni, Alba, "Women in STEM:" (2018). Dissertations and Theses @ UNI. 669.