Thursday, April 20, 2017

Argument and Counter-Argument

My argument is that major choices are decided on based on factors such as personal attitude, societal values, and example by others. These factors frequently cause a gender disparity in areas of study, specifically with women in STEM. However, with the remodeling of the style and pedagogy of lower and (more importantly) collegiate education, the gender gap in major gap can be changed.
I was unable to find a source that countered my argument but despite the success of specific programs nation wide, many universities are still not altering the pedagogy of the curriculum to suit everyone. Perhaps the counter-argument (not stated explicitly in my research) is that society does not see it important enough to lower the gender disparity in majors, specially in STEM.

Literature Review 5


(2)Citation-Hoffmann, Leah. "What Women Want." Communications of the ACM, vol. 55, no. 9, Sept. 2012, pp. 120-119. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1145/2330667.2330693

(3)Summary- This work is a Q and A with Maria Klawe, the president of Harvey Mudd College, where they changed the computer science department in various ways because they saw that their was a shortage of women graduating with STEM degrees. They identified various aspects of their program that could be problematic in appealing to young women and changed them. She mentions changing the structure of their introductory class, using a different operating system, and making the curriculum more practical for women. Women are now a much larger percentage of the total graduates with Computer Science degrees.

(4)Author- The author is Leah Hoffmann. But the content comes directly from Klawe in the interview.

(5)Key Terms-
Harvery Mudd College- A private liberal-arts college focusing on mathematics, the physical and biological sciences, and engineering.
Java and Python- High level programming languages.

“to take our introductory course and change it from being a course about learning to program in Java to a course about computational approaches to problem solving.” (120)

“We know from research that for women and minorities, the attraction of computer science is what you can do with it. It doesn’t mean they are not interested in complexity theory or other esoteric parts of the field, it just means that that tends to be the driving motivation.” (120)

"The previous course had been very popular with the small percentage of students who already liked computer science and was absolutely despised by everyone else. And it went, literally in one year, from being the most despised course by almost everybody to the most loved course by everybody."(120)

(7)Value- I think this Q & A is very valuable because it shows that changes can be made in STEM fields, and on a collegiate level in oder to involve more women. Harvey Mudd identified problems and fixed them by making each element more appealing to women. Their changes came with immense success.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017


Over the course of my research I have identified some reasons for the difference in major choice between men and women. I have specifically been looking into why women not be choosing STEM. After identifying these reasons i have started to research ways in which society can change this. One way to do this would be by changing the pedagogy of STEM and making it more appealing to women. A prime example of where this occurred and helped the issue is at Harvey Mudd College. For the first time in 2016 more women than men graduated with a degree in computer science. Nationally 16% of Computer Science graduated are women but at Harvey Mudd it is 55%. One way the college does this is by putting more women in leadership positions. This addresses an issue I discusses in the beginning of my paper regarding the lack of confidence instilled into female students due to the lack of role models. The also made the computer science curriculum more inclusive and practical and these changed make women leaving the course leave with a more positive attitude. Because there are more women in the computer science classes, it encourages other women to join and makes them feel more comfortable. The numbers of women majoring in computer science also translate into those who are getting jobs in computer science which is the over arching issue. 64% of the women who accepted full time jobs had positions in the tech industry.

Monday, April 3, 2017


     The problem of gender discrepancy in majors, and specifically the lack of women STEM can be attributed to many factors. Simon, Killion, and Wagner, all part of the sociology department at University of Alabama, attribute the disparity to the difference in occupational values. They identify some values and feminine and some as masculine and claim that people of that gender tend to pick majors that accommodate their values and ideals. They also claim that STEM is looked at as being a "chilly climate" for women meaning traits innate in STEM are too masculine and therefore do not satisfy feminine ideals. Gokhale, Rabe-Hemp, Woeste, and Machina explain the lack of women in STEM due to negative attitude of those women and society towards women who want to pursue STEM. They bring in The Theory of Reasoned Action and Theory of Planned Behavior to explain the major effects of attitudes on decisions. Moakler Jr. and Kim found that lack of female role models is the problem because without role models their is not enough self confidence being instilled which does not help encourage women to join the stem field.
     The solution (which is still a work in progress) needs to be started before college. In order to encourage STEM majors universities should be working with high schools and programs like the Geoscience summer high school program whose effects were analyzed by Carrick, Miller, Hagedorn, Smith-Konter and Velasco. Women's interest needs to be sparked and fed early on in order to keep the interested. If this solution is implemented the next step would be keeping women in STEM once they enter college. The way to do this would be to change the pedagogy of STEM like Harvey Mudd did to better fit the needs, interest and values of women addressed in the problem stated above.


This Graph demonstrates the percentage difference in STEM fields between women and men. This is the problem I describe in my paper. Women are underrepresented in these fields for various reasons. This is a problem that we must find a solution for because we are lacking the contributions from a large part of our society.

Possible solution could be tackling this issues from high school age by having summer programs to orient and prepare more female students for STEM majors and create and stimulate more interest. However the problem goes even further once women enter college. Colleges need to keep women in these majors by changing the style of these majors and their pedagogy and gearing the classes and major more towards both major.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Literature Review #4


(2)Citation- Moakler, MW and MM Kim. "College Major Choice in STEM: Revisiting Confidence and Demographic Factors." Career Development Quarterly, vol. 62, no. 2, n.d., pp. 128-142.

(3)Summary- This article discusses the effects of self confidence grades, and encouragement by others to pursue careers in STEM. It points out that women do not get the same encouragement that men do and therefore do not have as much confidence which could be a possible reason for the discrepancy in major choices.

(4)Authors- Martin W. Moakler Jr and Mikyong Minsun Kim are both part of the Graduate School of Education and Human Development at The George Washington University.

(5)Key terms-
Self-confidence -students’ attitudes, feelings, and perceptions concerning their academic abilities
self-efficacy - performance capability, not current abilities. Performance accomplishments (academic abilities) are the most influential source of self-efficacy information because they are based on personal mastery (Bandura, 1977).

(6)Quotes- "Likewise, student ability and confidence in math and science and their effect on STEM career interest development have been reported in many studies, especially with respect to women and minorities." (129)
"American women traditionally steer away from STEM disciplines (Betz & Hackett, 1981; Fouad, 2007; Lee, 1998; Seymore, 1992). Perrone et al. (2001) attributed this phenomenon to the lack of female role models or insufficient confidence about entering STEM fields." (130)
"We found several positive indicators of STEM major choice: having parents with a STEM occupation, having higher SAT scores, having a higher high school GPA, having spent more hours studying or doing homework, being a minority (African American or Latina/o), having higher academic confidence, and having higher mathematics confidence. Consistent with previous studies and the social phenomenon of a gender gap in STEM, this study found that being female was consistently shown as a negative predictor for student STEM major choice." (138)

(7)Value- I think this article is very valuable because it brings another possible reason for the difference in major choices between men and women. Not only is the difference due to innate differences in genders, but also due to self confidence of students. Students who are encouraged by educators and parents are more likely to succeed in areas and subsequently pursue those areas. Women seem to be getting this encouragement and therefore not pursing the fields as much.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Literature Review #3

(1)Visual- Author Ann Mullen and her book Degrees of Inequality.

Mullen, Ann L. "Majors and Knowledge." Degrees of Inequality: Culture, Class, and Gender in American Higher Education. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UP, 2012. 157-227. Print.


Ann L Mullen is an associate professor and associate chair of the sociology department at the University of Toronto. Before that she held a Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship at the National Center for Education Statistics and then served as a Senior Research Associate at the U.S. Department of Education. Her research interests include culture, social inequality, gender and higher education. Her work has examined access to higher education, the role of elite institutions, the gendered segregation of fields of study, and competing cultural narratives about the purpose and value of higher education.

(4)Key Terms- Financial stability- While looking for majors, men were more interested in finding a career that would give them financial stability to support a family in the future.
Intellectual Interests- Women were more concerned with finding a career that satisfies their intellectual interests meaning a topic which they enjoy or intrigues them or which stimulates higher thinking.
Female and male dominated fields- fields such as social work, education, and nursing are fields dominated by woman where as STEM fields are more dominated by males.

(5)Quotes- "Because our culture devalues women, the kinds of work typically done by women are also devalued. Thus men face a more pronounced stigma for entering nontraditional fields, because they enter the devalued realm of things associated with femininity. However, when women make the non-traditional choice of a typically male occupation, they generally benefit from the higher social value of the occupation (in addition to better pay and elevated status)." (168)
"Interestingly, in the interviews none of the women entering traditionally male fields of study made mention of the gender composition of their field. This again suggests that women, while certainly facing other barriers, do not risk the same kind of stigmatization that men do when entering typically female fields of study."(174)
"What is notable in these mostly hazy descriptions of future work is that these women's ideas about their careers were built on a natural continuation of their likes and intellectual interests, rather than on any practical or financial concerns. Concerns about salaries were rarely a factor, much less a priority, in their decisions. When asked, about two-thirds of them responded that considerations of salary were not important at all."(186)
"While they overlapped with women in their intellectual interests in their fields of study, the men tended to be pulled away from these interests by two concerns that were not shared by the women. The first involved considerations of status, and the second, concerns about making enough money to reproduce the affluent lifestyle they experienced in their childhoods."(187)

(6)Value- This chapter points out many possible reasons for the gender discrepancy in major choices. Some unique aspects pointed out include that not only is their a major underrepresentation of women in male fields, their is also a major under representation of men in female fields. Another valuable point in this work is that men and women value different things such as financial situations, intellectual interests, and family goals and these values direct them in their major decisions.