Issue Date: September 4, 2017
Women leave science majors for a host of reasons, study finds
Female science majors will drop out of a science field only when presented with multiple signals that they don’t fit, a new study has found. Previous research suggested that women are more likely to drop out ofa science major because of low grades than men are. A team of researchers from Georgetown University looked at eight years of data from a large, private university on the East Coast to test that theory. The study (Natl. Bureau of Economic Research 2017, DOI: 10.3386/w23735)shows that overall, men and women are equally likely to drop a major in response to poor grades. However, women are more likely to drop out of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields if the disciplines are dominated by men. “We find that it takes multiple cues signaling lack of fit with a major to impel students to switch majors,” the authors write. They also found that high school preparation and the racial and gender composition of the faculty have little impact on whether a woman drops a science major.
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