Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Poster Paper: Women Graduates in STEM: Role of Universities

Thursday, November 12, 2015
Riverfront South/Central (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Alina Parbtani, Florida International University
The United States of America (USA) is the leading country in the world due to the many innovative advances made possible through the dedication and hard work of the scientists, engineers and workers in technical fields. However, this global leader position is in jeopardy today due to the limited number of students who pursue an education and career in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Many students enter a university with a certain intended major, and then end up switching it due to the many options available. For students in STEM, this is especially the case, and women and minorities are even less likely to persist in these fields until graduation. America’s innovative capacity and global competitiveness is largely dependent on STEM workforce, yet women are underrepresented in this area, as related to jobs and degree holders. Their unique outlook in these areas is overlooked. This becomes an opportunity for the US as a nation to address this deficit.

Retaining and advancing women in the STEM fields is a serious challenge, which brings along many consequences as they relate to economic growth, technological advancement, and the global leader image of this country. For students in STEM, this is very common, and women and minorities are even less likely to persist in these fields as compared to their male and non-minority counterparts. And even if they do, they are not likely to graduate with a degree in that major (National Science Board, 2007).  It is expected that by exploring ideas which can fill the gap in current women-in-STEM initiatives by targeting female university students through their higher educational careers, can help encourage those students to graduate with a STEM degree and explore career options in that industry.

This paper explores the role of universities as it impacts decision making for female students who are pursuing a degree in the STEM fields. It takes into account an important area, which has not been thoroughly researched due to the complexity and confidentiality of information involved, and can be applied to other topics of representation as it relates to the importance of gender and minority, and its significance to the population served. The National Academy of Science (2005) recommends that a focus should be on improving post-secondary education focus on STEM, with a particular attention on investing in resources and human capital aimed to increasing STEM undergraduate majors. Using data analysis, results, and recommendations from previous research, this research aims to explore if certain characteristics of STEM in higher education institutions will lead to minority female student retention in among different STEM majors, and eventually increase their involvement in the STEM workforce.