Biological, Cognitive and Psychosocial Variables Associated with Female Students' Pursuit of STEM or non-STEM Major in College
Shuman, Anna Brenner
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In the United States a disproportionately small number of women entering the field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). This results in women missing out on job opportunities with better earning potential, and influence over the products they use. The current study examined variables involved in female college students’ choice of STEM or non-STEM majors in college. The predictive variables of interest included biological factors (i.e. the relative length of finger digits 2 and 4, and maturation rate as indicated by puberty onset, menarche), cognitive abilities (i.e. mental rotation and quantitative performance scores on college entrance exams), and psychosocial variables of gender role orientation (i.e. current gender role orientation and feminine gender intensification during middle school). Cognitive abilities and psychosocial variables were predictive in the pursuit of STEM majors among a sample of 169 female college/university students. The odds to select a STEM degree was 3.10 times higher for participants who performed better on the quantitative section of the Standardized tests compared to the reading section. Mental rotation ability was marginally significant in predicting a STEM degree. Participants who were relatively higher on their masculine sex role identity, were 6 times more likely to pursue a STEM degree. Potential contributions to the field is a better understanding of variables that influence female students’ academic pursuits, which will help identify how to best increase the representation of females in STEM majors, and subsequently STEM jobs.