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Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering

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

Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering

DOI: 10.1615/JWomenMinorScienEng.2014005111
pages 27-45

DIFFERENCES IN SELF-EFFICACY AMONG WOMEN AND MINORITIES IN STEM

Denise M. Wilson
College of Engineering, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195-2500, USA
Rebecca Bates
Department of Integrated Engineering, Minnesota State University, Mankato, Mankato, Minnesota 56001, USA
Elaine P. Scott
University of Washington Bothell, Bothell, Washington 98011, USA
Sarah Marie Painter
Department of Integrated Engineering, Minnesota State University, Mankato, Mankato, Minnesota 56001, USA
Jamie Shaffer
College of Engineering, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195-2500, USA

ABSTRACT

This study adds to the body of literature on self-efficacy by looking at differences in self-efficacy among women, under-represented minorities, and majority students in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. Perceptions of self-efficacy reported by STEM students are also compared to young people in the general population in Western culture. Research questions about significant differences in self-efficacy across populations within major STEM fields are analyzed through surveys distributed to representative (by ethnicity and gender) populations of over 600 students in two phases at both a research and a teaching institution. While young women in the general population report lower levels of self-efficacy than men, these gender differences in self-efficacy almost disappear in STEM disciplines; gender gaps in self-efficacy are significant only in select disciplines (chemistry, computer science, and engineering). In sharp contrast to the similarities between men and women, when viewing ethnicity, African-American and Hispanic students demonstrate a higher level of general self-efficacy compared to their Caucasian and Asian peers, but these differences shrink substantially in the classroom. Among all ethnic groups studied, Asians, regardless of area of instruction or gender, consistently report lower levels of self-efficacy than other major ethnic groups. Differences in self-efficacy among gender and ethnic groups in multiple STEM disciplines at various levels in school, at both a teaching and a research institution, highlight the need to alter the STEM classroom and culture in order to level the playing field among minority and majority students.