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Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering
SJR: 0.468 SNIP: 0.905 CiteScore™: 1.65

ISSN Print: 1072-8325
ISSN Online: 1940-431X

Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering

DOI: 10.1615/JWomenMinorScienEng.v12.i4.30
pages 295-323

Middle School-Aged Children's Attitudes toward Women in Science, Engineering, and Technology and the Effects of Media Literacy Training

Jocelyn Steinke
Western Michigan University
Maria Lapinski
Department of Communication and National Food Safety and Toxicology Center, Michigan State University
Aletta Zietsman-Thomas
University of Witwaterstrand
Paul Nwulu
Western Michigan University
Nikki Crocker
Western Michigan University
Yaschica Williams
Western Michigan University
Stephanie Higdon
Western Michigan University
Sarvani Kuchibhotla
Western Michigan University

ABSTRACT

This study examined the efficacy of media literacy training designed to teach critical thinking about gender stereotypes on middle school-aged children's recognition of gender stereotypes; perceptions of women in science, engineering, and technology (SET); and attitudes toward SET and SET careers. A total of 302 seventh-grade students were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: discussion, discussion plus viewing of media images of women, or a control. No significant differences were found on attitudes toward women in science and attitudes toward science among middle school-aged children who participated in either media literacy training condition compared with those who did not participate in media literacy training. However, significant differences in girls and boys' perceptions of women in SET and their attitudes toward women in SET were found for girls and boys' evaluations of the characteristics of female scientists, with girls rating female scientists as more skillful, intelligent, expert, and qualified than did boys. In addition, girls and boys had very different scores on items that asked about women in science, with girls being more likely than boys to have positive attitudes toward women being as good at science careers as men, women having access to science courses and career opportunities, and a woman's career having the same value as a man's career. The boys' negative attitudes toward women in science found in this study were related to the extent to which boys reported that the media played an important role in their lives. The implications for future research on media influences on middle school-aged children's perceptions of gender and science and the development of media literacy interventions to promote girls' interest in SET will be addressed.


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