Why Do Many Women Majoring in STEM Fields Decide to Switch Majors?

lindemannA new study by researchers at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, examines the reasons why many women leave STEM majors in college. Danielle Lindemann, an assistant professor of sociology at Lehigh University and the lead author of the study, stated that “we wanted to look at why so many women who originally intend to major in STEM drop out early in their college careers.”

The authors’ analysis found that the prevalence of large lecture classes in many STEM disciplines were unpopular among many women students. Women reported it was difficult to make connections with other students in these large lectures. This lack of connections contributed to “imposter syndrome,” where women believed everyone else understood the course material better than them.

The authors also found that young women wanted to feel that they were ‘helping people’ or ‘making a difference.’ “This sentiment compelled many to remain in STEM fields while, for others, it actually pushed them out of these majors,” Lindemann explains. “They want to see the human side of what they’re learning.”

Dr. Lindemann is a graduate of Princeton University. She holds a master’s degree from New York University and two master’s degrees and a Ph.D. in sociology from Columbia University.

The study, “I Don’t Know Why They Make It So Hard Here”: Institutional Factors and Undergraduate Women’s STEM Participation,” was published in the International Journal of Gender, Science and Technology. It may be downloaded here.

Filed Under: Research/StudySTEM Fields


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