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Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering
INTENDING TO STAY: IMAGES OF SCIENTISTS, ATTITUDES TOWARD WOMEN, AND GENDER AS INFLUENCES ON PERSISTENCE AMONG SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING MAJORS
North Carolina State University,Women’s and Gender Studies, Psychology
Contemporary research on gender and persistence in undergraduate education in science and engineering has routinely focused on why students leave their majors rather than asking why students stay. This study compared three common ways of measuring persistence-commitment to major, degree aspirations, and commitment to a science or engineering career-and emphasized factors that would encourage students to persist, including positive images of scientists and engineers, positive attitudes toward gender equity in science and engineering, and positive classroom experiences. A survey was administered in classrooms to a total of 285 female and male students enrolled in two required courses for majors. The results indicate that the different measures of persistence were sensitive to different influences but that students' gender did not interact with their images, attitudes, and experiences in predicted ways. The study concludes that an individual student's gender may be a more important factor in explaining why some female students leave their science and engineering majors than in explaining why others stay.
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