Retention of Women in STEM Fields: Role Models May Not Be an Important Factor

There are many efforts underway to increase the number of women pursuing degrees in STEM disciplines. Many theories suggest that having a significant number of women in faculty positions to serve as mentors can have a positive impact on the number of women pursuing degrees in STEM fields.

But research by Amanda L. Griffith, an assistant professor of economics at Wake Forest University, finds that female role models in faculty posts appear to have no direct impact on course taking or degree pursuits.

Dr. Griffith has found no direct correlation between the presence of women faculty and future course-taking behavior or on subject choice. She does note that, “It seems that women learn better from women and earn higher grades as a result. It may be that women share similar learning styles or are more comfortable learning from professors of the same sex. The research suggests there is more behind what happens when women learn from women professors in college than just the fact that the female professor is viewed as a role model.”

Dr. Griffith’s data shows that women students earn higher grades when their professors are women and this success in the classroom might cause more women to remain in STEM fields.

Dr. Griffith is a graduate of Colgate University. She holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in economics from Cornell University.

Filed Under: Research/StudySTEM Fields


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