Interested in learning more about STEM and its intersection with diversity and identity? You've found the right place.
This annotated bibliography of peer-reviewed articles, opinion pieces, and news reports was originally created by Amherst College students in the 2016 Being Human in STEM course. We hope the larger interested STEM community will join us in expanding this resource. Please email the url, article text or pdf if possible, a brief summary, and how you would like us to attribute your contribution to firstname.lastname@example.org.
General Background Readings
Diversity Makes You Brighter This article, published by the New York Times, is a succinct and cogent overview of a study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It was written in response to the growing backlash against "diversity" recruitment efforts in higher education--an opinion infamously taken up by Chief Justice Roberts, who queried "what unique perspective does a minority student bring to a physics class?” during a ruling on affirmative action. The study itself shows that diversity can make a material difference on individual intellectual performance. Participants placed in ethnically heterogeneous groups were far more accurate at pricing stocks than their peers placed in homogeneous groups. This finding held true across international borders, as the researchers studied groups in both Texas and Singapore. Further, each "diverse" group improved the accuracy of its answers the longer they spent interacting with members of their groups. This is perhaps the most interesting finding of all--it suggests that the benefits of diversity are achieved through meaningful exchanges with those who are different from us.
Gender Bias Against Women of Color in Science This report includes both the data from original interviews conducted by the authors as well as a review of the existing literature to identify the bias against women of color in STEM professionally. For this study, the authors developed a rubric of four types of bias:
“Prove it again:” Women often have to provide more evidence of competence than men in order to be seen as equally competent
“Tug of War:” gender bias that fuels conflict between women
“The Maternal Wall:” By far the most damaging form of gender bias is triggered by motherhood. Maternal wall bias includes descriptive stereotyping that results in strong assumptions that women lose their work commitment and competence after they have children
“The Tightrope:” Women often find themselves walking a tightrope between being seen as too feminine to be competent—or too masculine to be likable
The authors found that a full 100% of respondents in their survey and interviews had experienced one or more of these biases (note: the executive summary of the report provides concrete data on the percentages of women of color who report these biases as well as data on the intersectional issues). The effect of instructor race and gender on student persistence in STEM fields While approximately 50% of white students continue with their STEM studies through senior year of college, only 30% of their peers of color will finish up their science majors. This study sought to explain these attrition patterns–otherwise known as a “persistence gap”– observed amongst minority STEM students. To accomplish this goal, the authors collected data from several cohorts of public university students in Ohio, following them from freshman to senior year. Perhaps unsurprisingly, ACT scores (used as a proxy measurement for pre-college academic preparedness) had the largest effect, accounting for approximately half the attrition rate observed among these cohorts. However, standardized testing does not explain the whole picture: sophomores, juniors and seniors of color who took courses with STEM professors of color tended to have more sustained interest in the sciences. In contrast, the presence or absence of faculty of color had no effect on white student retention. Together, these findings indicate that same-race professors are a uniquely crucial factor for minority student success in STEM fields.
Who Really Burns: Quitting a Dean’s Job in the Age of Mike BrownandMy Vassar College Faculty ID Makes Everything OK In approaching STEM education reform, it is the students–more specifically, their access to academic resources and the systemic inequalities they must overcome–that most readily capture our attention. Just as important, however, is the experience of the STEM faculty–those who create and maintain the learning environments in which STEM knowledge is disseminated. Faculty of color hold a special significance: studies have shown that faculty of color are essential in helping to retain minority students within STEM majors. However, it is these very same faculty members that feel most isolated and unsupported on college campuses; many feel overwhelmed and burdened by the support they must provide to students of color, a phenomenon termed “doing double duty". The two essays linked here, authored by black female professors at Vassar College, provide jarring personal testimony about the lived experiences of faculty of color.
Structural bias poses obstacles to faculty of color This report, part of the Pervasive Prejudice article series published by the Brown Daily Herald, assesses three "roadblocks" to minority faculty success in higher education institutions. The piece begins by reviewing faculty hiring practices, noting that "whiteness" is – whether unconsciously or consciously – considered an asset when evaluating professorial candidates. Importantly, it is not just getting a job that remains difficult for academics of color; once they have landed a position, many struggle to succeed at their chosen institution. The report notes that minority faculty face an "uphill" battle to achieve: they are far more overextended than their white counterparts, performing "double duty" to provide extra mentoring and advising to students who fall within their identity groups. This environment only worsens towards the top of the academic food chain–the senior faculty at Brown are overwhelmingly white, with people of color only making up approximately 4% of the full professors on campus. Unsurprisingly, this lack of representation only exacerbates the issue by placing immense pressure and responsibility on the shoulders of senior faculty of color.
Racial and ethnic minority students' success in STEM education This monograph reviews a vast number of books, journal articles, and policy reports to synthesize an overview of underrepresented racial and ethnic groups in STEM. The authors developed the Racial and Ethnic Minorities in STEM (REM STEM) Model, which illustrates the ways in which various factors influence success in STEM among underrepresented groups. The model is composed of seven constructs--K-12 Experience, K-12 Outcomes, College Experiences, College Outcomes, Financial Influences, Parental Expectations and Involvement, and STEM Specific Opportunity and Support--each of which informs or interacts with the others. For example, educational inequities in the K-12 Experience will affect components of K-12 Outcomes, such as academic preparedness in STEM. The authors hope this interconnected model will impart the importance of experiences at all levels to a successful future in STEM and inform future research, policy, and education practice.
Asian Women in STEM Careers: An Invisible Minority in a Double Bind Although 22% of those receiving doctoral degrees in 2009 were of Asian descent, Asian women still face trouble advancing in jobs in academia, industry, and government. They also make up the smallest percentage of tenured and full professors. These women are in what is referred to as a double bind; their success in STEM fields is hindered by both Asian stereotyping and gender bias. As a result, there are fewer and fewer Asian women found at higher ranking positions, and these percentages are lower than for non-Asian women at all ranks. Greater attention and effort must be paid to the unique challenges faced by Asian women in STEM to promote greater inclusion at all levels.
Socioeconomic Stratification in the STEM Pathway from College to the Labor Market Despite the wealth of literature on social class inequalities in access to college and degree attainment on the one hand, and the large body of research on inequality in STEM college fields on the other, little is known about whether, how, and when SES matters for STEM trajectories. Though SES status strongly effects enrollment in four year colleges, this study found that, once in college, SES does not appear to affect students’ interest in or likelihood of entering STEM fields. However, low-income students in STEM majors leave college at higher rates than their low-income non-STEM counterparts as well as their high-income peers across fields. Overall, the results of this study suggest that more advantaged students are able to maintain qualitative advantages even with the same educational attainment.
STEM & gender
StratEGIC Toolkit The StratEGIC Toolkit offers research-based advice about strategic interventions useful in an organizational change to create institutional environments that support women in STEM. Their research draws upon the programs and experiences of institutions that have implemented Institutional Transformation (IT) projects under the National Science Foundation's ADVANCE program. This practical toolkit distills and shares lessons learned about particular interventions and how they combine into an overall change portfolio. GEP Workshop Materials This website includes workshop materials from the Gender Equity Project. You can access previous years' workshop programs, information about the speakers, and link to great readings and handouts presented in each workshop.
Women, Science and Academia This article examines organizational contexts—that is to say, professional and academic structures—that might create environments of gender-based inequality in academic science communities. Specifically, the article focuses on three specific settings: academic departments, research groups, and advisor-advisee relationships. Across these three settings, female doctorate students reported stronger feelings of disconnection and discomfort relative to their male peers. However, certain contextual factors–for instance, being part of a department that has consciously worked to improve its gender ratios–were able to attenuate some of these negative feelings.Women, Science and Academiademonstrates that the woman’s STEM struggle extends far beyond the classroom. Indeed, “social networks of science” are a critical component in creating positive, welcoming STEM communities: precisely the thing that would allow women to thrive as they pursue their science careers.
Gender Differences in Students’ Experiences, Interests, and Attitudes toward Science and Scientists In this study, science educators administered a series of surveys to a cohort of sixth graders, using the responses to characterize the way that gender roles may impact interest in or untaught proficiency with STEM fields. Across all categories, male students appeared more inclined to pursue the physical sciences: they had more of a background with hands on/tool-based extracurriculars, and wanted to learn more about physical science concepts like electricity or radioactivity. In turn, female students were more interested in concepts corresponding to the biological sciences, and had experience with "biologically oriented" activities such as bird watching. Most interesting of all were the ways in which gender played into career aspirations; on average, female students wanted to “help people” through their careers, whereas male students sought professional fame and prestige. Together, these findings suggest that the gender patterns we observe in higher ed STEM classrooms may begin as early as middle school, and may be rooted in part within cultural expectations of how boys and girls should act.
The Mismeasure of Women This short article relates the psychological concept of "stereotype threat" – the way in which stereotypes can positively or negatively impact performance – to “impostor syndrome” – a term commonly used to describe the feelings of academic inadequacy and shame shared by many female STEM students.
Feeling Like a Fraud This article, published in the British Psychological Society’s May 2010 issue, characterizes impostor syndrome–a psychological phenomenon in which high-achieving women (particularly those working in the sciences) feel like intellectual frauds, despite academic or professional success. In addition to giving an extensive overview on the syndrome, the article highlights some possible causes for this condition – such as childhood experiences and societal expectations placed on women – and suggests a variety of strategies to help minimize these impostor-like feelings.
Tim Hunt, sexism and science: The real 'trouble with girls' in labs While at a cocktail party in 2015, biochemist (and Nobel Laureate) Tim Hunt suggested that female scientists served as emotional and romantic distractions to their male colleagues. His remarks received widespread global backlash, with many in the science community calling for Hunt's resignation from his post at UCL in London. This news article from CBC News attempts to ground this controversy within a broader context, helping us to understand how Hunt’s problematic commentary may reflect systemic sexism within the STEM community at large.
Reducing the Gender Achievement Gap in College Science: A Classroom Study of Values Affirmation It is common for women in college physics courses to earn lower exam grades than their male classmates, although differences in background and preparation cannot account for this gap. It is likely that identity threat and negative gender stereotypes are part of the cause. This study focuses on values affirmation, in which students write about the values that they deem most important, as an intervention to offset the effects of identity threat and reduce the gender gap observed in exam scores. Female students who completed the values affirmation scored better on exams and standardized tests, effectively reducing the gender gap, and this effect was greater for those who believed in negative gender stereotypes. These results show that values affirmation is a promising tool for increasing the chances of success for women or other underrepresented groups in STEM.
Students' Perceptions of Their Classroom Participation and Instructor as a Function of Gender and Context One consequence of the so-called “chilly climate” in STEM classrooms is that female students participate in class less than their male classmates and may feel less confident doing so. This study focused on the effects of class size and gender balance, discipline, and instructor gender on students’ perception of their own class participation and of their professor. Students who saw themselves as more active participants were more likely to be male and to report positive interactions with their instructors, and male active students participated more than female active students. While no effect of gender balance was seen on perception of participation, female students viewed their interactions with professors more positively in classes with a higher proportion of women. One noted exception of this is that female students reported less probing behavior, in which professors seek further explanation from their students, in predominantly female courses. This suggests that even though these students are more likely to participate, their interactions are still limited by gender bias.
Stability and Volatility of STEM Career Interest in High School: A Gender Study Gender disparities in STEM at the college level have earlier roots, and high school experiences in particular play a critical role in influencing students to pursue careers in science and technology. This study focused on gender differences in the development of interest in STEM careers during high school and later retention in STEM fields. The most powerful predictor of interest in STEM at the end of high school was interest at the start, which was reported to be much higher in male students than females. Overall, female students were less likely than males to maintain their interest or to become interested in careers in STEM.
The Costs of Inequality: For Women, Progress Until They Get Near Power There have been great strides in furthering equality for women in education and the workplace, yet women are still face unequal pay and are disproportionately underrepresented at the top positions in their fields. One aspect of this stagnation is the cultural expectation of women to prioritize child and elder care, disadvantaging those in high pressure fields like technology and finance. Another factor is a pervasive societal assumption about women in leadership positions; for example, as early as their teens, both boys and girls are more likely to prefer male politicians over female ones. The author offers several examples of ways to fight this inequality, ranging from something as simple as hanging portraits of influential women leaders alongside those of men to offering more job flexibility and family leave for men.
STEM & sexual orientation
'Ask Me': What LGBTQ Students Want Their Professors to Know Many LGBTQ students say that they face an array of challenges on college campuses throughout the nation. The Chronicle interviewed more than a dozen of the students to hear, in their own voices, about these challenges that prevent them from thriving in college. They address many different issues, including accommodating for name changes, addressing housing concerns, and providing adequate resources. This article includes the video (about 12 minutes long) and a description of some of their findings.
Queer in STEM: Workplace Experiences Reported in a National Survey of LGBTQA Individuals in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Careers, Jeremy B. Yoder & Allison Mattheis, 2016, Journal of Homosexuality, 63:1, 1-27 How do queer STEM students and professionals experience their work environments? The results of a 2013 online survey indicate that, out of more than 1,400 LGBTQA individuals in STEM, more than half (57%) are out to a majority of their coworkers, but 30% of respondents are not out to their undergraduate students. This report details the workplace factors that influence the decision to be out, perhaps most interestingly that queer individuals in STEM are more likely to be open about their identities in environments with greater gender parity.
Student Prejudice Against Gay Male and Lesbian Lecturers This report asked whether gay and lesbian professors are judged more harshly in situations with attributional ambiguity; in other words, do students rate gay and lesbian professors more harshly in situations in which their evaluation can be attributed to factors outside of their sexuality, e.g. strength of lecture? After strong lectures, students rated gay and lesbian lecturers more negatively than those whose sexual orientations were unknown, yet they rated weak gay and lesbian lecturers more positively than those presumed to be straight. This was contrary to the hypothesis that a weak lecture would provide prejudiced students an excuse to evaluate gay and lesbian professors more negatively. Instead, it is likely that prejudice against gay and lesbian professors takes a different form, one in which, while there is reluctance to rate poor performance too harshly, there is also a refusal to award positive evaluations when they are deserved.
Sexual and Gender Minority Identity Disclosure During Undergraduate Medical Education: “In the Closet” in Medical School As reported in this study, nearly one third of queer medical school students are not out, and an even greater proportion (43.5%) fear discrimination from peers and faculty alike. In their decision to stay closeted, many students cited a desire to separate their personal and professional lives, antigay comments and jokes from colleagues, and a fear of biased evaluations, consciously or unconsciously, from their superiors. Other respondents chose not to share their identities because of concerns about their future careers, worrying that disclosure could bar them from certain specialties or geographic regions. In addition to social isolation, the added stress of concealing one's identity can negatively affect physical and mental health, which, as this study points out, can contribute to burnout and career dissatisfaction. The authors suggest several strategies for improving the environments queer students face, including formal support groups and faculty and staff sensitivity training.
Gay Scientists–Where Are They? In this video, Professor David K. Smith speaks about the current lack of out STEM roles models in the public eye and the impact that visibility can have on queer students’ ability to imagine a future for themselves in STEM.
Making Their Own Way: Experiences of Gay Male Students in STEM In this study, a group of gay male undergraduates in STEM were interviewed and ask to reflect on their experiences in the classroom. Although this study included few participants, many emerging themes are consistent with the experiences of STEM faculty and medical and engineering students, such as the perception of the STEM environment as one that emphasizes objectivity and professionalism, discomfort coming out, and the social isolation that accompanies being unable to live and participate fully. The students interviewed stressed the importance of having gay-identified mentors and role models and considered these relationships essential to their continuing in the field.
The LGBT Climate in Physics Through a set of surveys and in-depth interviews, the American Physical Society (APS) assessed the barriers LGBT physicists face in feeling welcome within the physics community. Their broad findings indicate that the climate faced by LGBT physicists was highly variable, but in many cases, LGBT people experienced discrimination, isolation, pressure to remain closeted, and difficulty finding allies in their workplaces. In line with their mission to promote diversity and equal opportunity in physics, the APS made a list of recommendations to fight LGBT marginalization and foster a community that embraces its LGBT members. Among their suggestions were the establishment of a Forum on Diversity and Inclusion to benefit all underrepresented physicists and the implementation of LGBT-inclusive advocacy efforts, best practices, and mentoring programs.
Diversity: Pride in Science This article provides a variety of narratives from people reflecting on their experiences in STEM fields. While taking the time to differentiate between gender identity and sexuality, the report points out that most LGBT individuals typically struggle with these feelings in their teens and early twenties, a time when STEM students are supposed to be “mastering their fields,” commonly resulting in emotional turmoil. The report notes that some postpone coming out until after graduation, but for many the fear of coming out lasts past graduation. Scientists are aware that their research and publications are based on the judgement of fellow scientists and thus biases (whether conscious or unconscious) will affect their advancement in their field. The article also points out the lack of statistics on LGBT students in STEM fields and thus the pressing need to carry out large surveys of LGBT scientists so that the LGBT STEM community can be better served.
stem & nationality
Immigration & the Science and Engineering Workforce More than one quarter (27%) of those employed in science and engineering in the U.S. are foreign-born, compared to just 15% of all college-educated workers. In addition, foreign-born workers in science and engineering tended to have higher levels of education than their American-born counterparts. The majority of foreign-born science and engineering workers are of Asian descent, and nearly 90% of Asians in science and engineering are foreign-born. More than half of foreign-born STEM workers earned at least their first degree outside of the U.S. and most commonly immigrated to the U.S. for educational opportunities. Those who received all their degrees abroad most commonly cited economic opportunity as their reasoning for pursuing science and engineering careers in the U.S.