Did You Know?

Did you know that many women may be less inclined to pursue science and tech fields because they see them as incongruent with romance? When researchers “primed” college women to think about romantic activities like dating, these women showed less interest in math, science, and technology careers than women who had been primed to think about friendship or intelligence. University at Buffalo researcher Lora Park suggests that “… one reason why this might be is that pursuing intelligence goals in masculine fields, such as STEM, conflicts with pursuing romantic goals associated with traditional romantic scripts and gender norms … and in fact, studies show that women who deviate from traditional gender norms, such as succeeding in male-typed jobs, experience backlash for violating societal expectations.”
Like the phenomenon of stereotype threat, in which a person’s anxiety about a negative stereotype may confirm that very stereotype, this research shows that the influences on women’s decisions to pursue science and tech are often subtle and might be improved if brought to light.
Did you know that research from the non-profit organization Catalyst shows that even high-performing employees need sponsors to help them reach the top tier of management? According to Heather Foust-Cummings, senior director at Catalyst, sponsorship is something that, “quite frankly, men have taken for granted and women haven’t been as aware of. We wanted to bring sponsorship out from underneath the curtain.”She goes on to explain that sponsorship doesn’t just benefit the employee by increasing their chances for a promotion — it also benefits the sponsor by improving his or her leadership skills, and benefits the organization by developing its talent.  
Did you know that the governor of Arkansas recently announced a $2.68 million initiative that will revamp the curriculum at state high schools so that it includes STEM courses, and recruit more college graduates to teach those courses? As part of the initiative the state will create more “New Tech High Schools,” where students are taught practical applications for their classes. “Everything is geared around students not having to ask, `Why am I learning this?'” said Matt McClure, superintendent of the Cross County School District. “If we find a way to make it interesting to students and has relevance to students, then they’re going to be engaged in their learning and they’re not going to be asking why.”
Did you know that Bryn Mawr students are six times more likely to graduate with a degree in chemistry nine times more likely to graduate with a degree in math than college students nationwide? In the wake of a new report from the U.S. Department of Commerce, “Women in STEM: A Gender Gap to Innovation,” Bryn Mawr president Jane McAuliffe discusses some of the factors that have helped her college produce such high rates of students majoring in STEM fields. She points to three strategies in particular that are effective regardless of students’ gender:

Offer students a variety of entry points into the sciences to attract and encourage a variety of students.
Use innovative pedagogy that teaches the applications of science to attract more students to STEM subjects – for example, introductory courses that apply principles to create fun projects and lab exercises that focus on problem-solving rather than the replicating instructions.
Attract and retain female (and male) faculty who can be role models by implementing family-friendly policies that help faculty prioritize both family and the path to tenure.

Did You Know? is a brief round-up of information and news that crossed NCWIT’s radar this week that we think might be of interest to you. Practices or content of the news presented are not vetted or endorsed by NCWIT.

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