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Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering
SJR: 0.504 SNIP: 0.671 CiteScore™: 1.65

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

Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering

DOI: 10.1615/JWomenMinorScienEng.2017018018
pages 249-270

STEM CAREER INTEREST IN WOMEN AND INFORMAL SCIENCE

Katherine P. Dabney
Department of Teaching and Learning, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA 23284
Teri N. Johnson
Department of Teaching and Learning, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA 23284
Gerhard Sonnert
Science Education Department, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, MA 02138
Philip M. Sadler
Science Education Department, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, MA 02138

ABSTRACT

Recent studies show that informal science, also known as out-of-school time (OST) science, may be associated with STEM interest. Yet, there is a paucity of research examining which informal science experiences may encourage women's interest in STEM careers. This study of female, first semester freshmen, (n = 7,417) uses data from the OPSCI survey to examine the degree to which participation in informal science experiences during high school is associated with undergraduates' likelihood to pursue STEM careers. A general indicator of STEM OST engagement, specific activities and the number of years during high school in which students engage in these activities are examined. Our analysis, based on descriptive statistics, correlations, and logistic regression models, shows that participation in informal science during high school boosts females' likelihood of STEM career interest as entering undergraduates, with a higher odds of attracting females without an initial STEM interest. Furthermore, analyses indicate that the odds of a woman being interested in STEM upon entering college is greater for those who had long term participation (for two or more years during high school) in the majority of OST STEM activities, than for those who did not.