The STEM Gender Gap

1406 Words 6 Pages
Literature Review
The gender disparity in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields in the United States has reached a critical state. Previous research indicates there are several factors that have contributed to the STEM gender gap, including teacher (Beilock, Gunderson, Ramirez & Levine, 2010) and parental influences (Gunderson, Ramirez, Levine, & Beilock, 2011), stereotype threat (Shapiro & Williams, 2012), and institutional climate (Baldwin, 2009; Espinosa, 2011). Considerably less attention has been paid to the influence of mass media on people’s perceptions of women in science and related fields. Most of the existing research on this topic has come to conclude that the media’s role in perpetuating
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Stereotypes are beliefs about a particular group that are pervasive and generally accepted as true. Stereotypical representations of scientists reduce women’s interest in STEM. Research by Cheryan, Drury, and Vichayapai (2012) found that when exposed to a stereotypical computer scientist, women’s interest in computer sciences declined, regardless of the gender of the scientist. For the study, women from non-computer science undergraduate programs met with a man or woman who exemplified computer science stereotypes commonly displayed in media for two minutes. The authors found that most women were not interested in the field of computer science after their meetings. Women cited feeling as though they did not belong in that area of study. Cheryan, Masters, and Meltzoff (2015) conducted a study on the underrepresentation of women in the fields of computer science and engineering (CSE) and found that cultural stereotypes associated with the these careers ultimately keep women from pursuing them. The authors highlight that gender disparities in CSE are more prevalent than in any other STEM field, where women represent approximately 20% of the workforce. Popular shows like The Big Bang Theory perpetuate many harmful stereotypes, as it typically portrays people in these fields as “White (and more recently Asian) males, socially unskilled, and singularly obsessed with technology.” The authors argue that young girls need to be exposed to more diverse representations of these fields to show them that these careers are flexible, high-paying, and offer opportunities to generously shape people’s

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