Can a simple email encourage women to stay in a STEM program?

Although great efforts are being made to increase the number of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) jobs, statistics show that women occupy just 28% of STEM jobs and account for only 17% of computer science majors and 21% of engineering majors.

Researchers from North Carolina State University and Kent State University want to know what can be done to broaden participation in STEM fields and improve the persistence of women in computer science. Based on existing social-psychology theory and the results of their 2018 pilot study, they suspect that the differences in career choices arise partially from gender differences in self-assessment of STEM ability while in school.

The researchers have received almost $300,000 in grant funding ($174,938 to NC State; $125,062 to Kent State) from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to test whether educational institutions can use a simple, easily-to-implement intervention, such as an encouraging email message, to increase the persistence of women in computer science and other STEM disciplines.  Their two-year grant project, titled “Analysis of a Simple, Low-Cost Intervention’s Impact on Retention of Women in Computer Science,” is funded by the NSF Improving Undergraduate STEM Education: Education and Human Resources program.

Principal investigators of the grant include Dr. Bita Akram, assistant teaching professor, Dr. Tiffany Barnes, professor of computer science, Dr. Thomas Price, assistant professor of computer science and Dr. Lina Battestilli, associate teaching professor of computer science from NC State, along with collaboration from Dr. Susan Fisk, an assistant professor of sociology at Kent State.

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