Research Finds a Way to Boost Retention of Women in STEM Fields

It is well know that women are less likely than men to enter many STEM fields and women are more likely than men to leave STEM fields once they have started out in these disciplines.

dasguptaBut new research led by Nilanjana Dasgupta, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Massachusetts, may point to one way to increase the retention of women in STEM fields.

In a study of undergraduate engineering students, Dr. Dasgupta’s team found that women participate more and feel less anxious when they are assigned to work in small groups where women make up at least half of the members. The researchers assigned women to work groups where women made up roughly 75 percent, 50 percent, or 25 percent of all participants. They study found that only in work groups where women were a majority did women speak up as much as men.

Dr. Dasgupta says that “we need to create work teams or learning teams where women can focus on learning and mastery without worrying about what others think of them. This increases confidence about their ability and ultimately lets them aspire to a career in these fields.”

Dr. Dasgupta has been on the faculty at the University of Massachusetts since 2003. She is a graduate of Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. Dr. Dasgupta holds two master’s degrees and a Ph.D. in social psychology from Yale University.

The research, “Female Peers in Small Work Groups Enhance Women’s Motivation, Verbal Participation, and Career Aspirations in Engineering,” was published on the website of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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