Table of Contents


Title page

Copyright page

About AIR

Editor’s Notes

Chapter 1: Major Selection and Persistence for Women in STEM

The Role of Educational Settings in Women’s Pursuit of STEM

Forces Beyond the Classroom

Women’s Participation in STEM: An Agenda for Institutional Researchers

Chapter 2: Gender Matters: An Examination of Differential Effects of the College Experience on Degree Attainment in STEM

Literature on Women in STEM

Conceptual Framework

Description of the Study

Summary of Major Findings

Discussion and Implications for Institutional Research

Chapter 3: Living-Learning Programs for Women in STEM

Roles and Functions of Living-Learning Programs

Living-Learning Programs Focusing Specifically on STEM Topics

Empirical Evidence on Living-Learning Effectiveness and STEM Success for Women

Implications for Institutional Research


Chapter 4: The Role of Community Colleges in Educating Women in Science and Engineering

Role of Community Colleges

Initiatives to Increase the Representation of Women in STEM

Research on Women and Underrepresented Populations in STEM

Description of Study

Summary of Findings

Summary of Qualitative Findings


Implications for Institutional Research

Chapter 5: The Postbaccalaureate Goals of College Women in STEM

Theoretical Explanations

Social Cognitive Career Theory as an Explanation

Description of Study

Summary of Findings

Conclusions and Recommendations for Institutional Research

Chapter 6: Understanding the Factors Affecting Degree Completion of Doctoral Women in the Science and Engineering Fields

Attrition of Women in the Sciences

Conceptual Framework

Description of Study

Analytical Method

Summary of Findings

What Happens to Students in SEM over Time?

Discussion and Conclusions

Implications for Institutional Research

Chapter 7: Women of Color in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)

Definitions of STEM Fields and Women of Color

Patterns of Representation Among Students and Faculty

The “Double Bind” for Women of Color in STEM

Implications for Developing Inclusive Research Practices

Chapter 8: New Tools for Examining Undergraduate Students’ STEM Stereotypes: Implications for Women and Other Underrepresented Groups

Career Stereotyping

Description of Scale Development

Preliminary Hypotheses Testing

Implications for Research and Practice



Statement of Ownership

Title page

THE ASSOCIATION FOR INSTITUTIONAL RESEARCH was created in 1966 to benefit, assist, and advance research leading to improved understanding, planning, and operation of institutions of higher education. Publication policy is set by its Publications Committee.


Gary R. Pike (Chair)   Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis
Gloria Crisp   University of Texas at San Antonio
Paul Duby   Northern Michigan University
James Hearn   University of Georgia
Terry T. Ishitani   University of Memphis
Jan W. Lyddon   San Jacinto Community College
John R. Ryan   The Ohio State University


John Muffo (Editor, Assessment in the Disciplines), Ohio Board of Regents

John C. Smart (Editor, Research in Higher Education), University of Memphis

Richard D. Howard (Editor, Resources in Institutional Research), University of Minnesota

Paul D. Umbach (Editor, New Directions for Institutional Research), North Carolina State University

Marne K. Einarson (Editor, AIR Electronic Newsletter), Cornell University

Gerald W. McLaughlin (Editor, AIR Professional File/IR Applications), DePaul University

Richard J. Kroc II (Chair, Forum Publications Committee), University of Arizona

Sharron L. Ronco (Chair, Best Visual Presentation Committee), Florida Atlantic University

Randy Swing (Staff Liaison)

For information about the Association for Institutional Research, write to the following address:

AIR Executive Office

1435 E. Piedmont Drive

Suite 211

Tallahassee, FL 32308-7955

(850) 385-4155

Editor’s Notes

Attracting and retaining women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields at all levels continues to be a major issue of national concern (Goan, Cunningham, and Carroll, 2006). Although women have increased their presence in STEM fields over the past five decades (Hill, Corbett, and St. Rose, 2010), taking a closer look at the data shows women remaining underrepresented in key areas of study that are vital to economic growth and workforce development within the United States. Moreover, it is a progressive problem in that the presence of women in STEM declines toward the highest levels of the profession (Blickenstaff, 2005). This problem is especially puzzling given that women outnumber men on most college campuses across the country and women have excelled in other areas of study such as business, law, and medicine. Thus, the question remains: Why have women not progressed in similar ways within STEM fields?

This volume takes a comprehensive look at attracting and retaining women at various levels along the STEM pipeline, from early interest and preparation in math and science at the K–12 level to studying STEM at undergraduate and graduate levels to establishing a professional career in STEM. Further, the chapters within this volume raise important questions about the future of STEM education relative to stimulating interest, increasing persistence and degree completion, and designing studies to examine the experiences of women in STEM. Each chapter concludes with recommendations for institutional research, policy, and practice.

The first four chapters in the volume focus on women in STEM at the undergraduate level. In the first chapter, Casey A. Shapiro and Linda J. Sax discuss the literature relative to women’s decision to select a STEM major—a process that starts as early as middle school for most students. They conclude the chapter with recommendations for institutional research and future study on gender issues in STEM. The second chapter, by Joy Gaston Gayles and Frim D. Ampaw, focuses on the influence of the college experience on degree completion in STEM. In particular, the authors discuss the importance of examining differential effects of academic and social experiences on bachelor’s degree completion in STEM. Many colleges and universities have created living-learning communities to increase the retention of women in STEM. Chapter Three, by Karen Kurotsuchi Inkelas, gives an overview of the roles and functions of living-learning communities and summarizes empirical evidence on their effectiveness for increasing persistence and retention of women in STEM majors. In the fourth chapter, Dimitra Lynette Jackson and Frankie Santos Laanan discuss the major role that community colleges can play in educating the next generation of women in STEM. Jackson and Lanaan share the results from a national study on the experiences of women in STEM who transferred from the community college system, and they offer recommendations for future research.

Chapters Five and Six of this volume focus on women in STEM beyond the undergraduate years. In Chapter Five, Darnell Cole and Araceli Espinoza use social cognitive career theory to examine the postbaccalaureate career goals for women in STEM. On the basis of their findings, the authors offer recommendations for future research on the connection among self-efficacy, the college experience, and career goals for women in STEM. Frim D. Ampaw and Audrey J. Jaeger in Chapter Six discuss the experiences of women doctoral students in the sciences and factors that have an impact on doctoral degree completion. A major finding from their study was the importance of assistantship opportunities for women in STEM at the graduate level. The authors conclude the chapter with recommendations for research and practice on retaining women in STEM at the graduate level.

The final two chapters in the volume have specific implications for future research and research design concerning women in STEM. Dawn R. Johnson raises a critical issue in Chapter Seven, the problem of analyzing the experiences of women in STEM in the aggregate. Treating women as a homogeneous group obscures important racial and ethnic differences among the experiences of women in STEM. The chapter concludes by discussing the importance of addressing intersecting identities among women in STEM, which has implications for future research designs. The final chapter, by Sylvia C. Nassar-McMillan, Mary Wyer, Maria Oliver-Hoyo, and Jennifer Schneider, presents results from an NSF-funded project on scale development for two new research tools designed to measure students’ perceptions and attitudes about science and scientists. The authors offer recommendations for how these tools can be used in future research and in practice.

Joy Gaston Gayles



Blickenstaff, J. C. “Women and Science Careers: Leaky Pipeline or Gender Filter?” Gender and Education, 2005, 17(4), 369–386.

Goan, S., Cunningham, A., and Carroll, C. Degree Completions in Areas of National Need, 1996−97 and 2001−02. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, 2006. Retrieved October 7, 2011, from

Hill, C., Corbett, C., and St. Rose, A. Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Washington, DC: American Association of University Women, 2010.

JOY GASTON GAYLES is an associate professor of higher education at North Carolina State University. Her research examines how college has an impact on student learning and development, most notably for student athletes and students in STEM.