• Persistence of Undergraduate Women in STEM Fields

      Jordan, Will J.; Brandt, Carol B.; Lombardi, Doug, 1965-; Schifter, Catherine (Temple University. Libraries, 2016)
      The underrepresentation of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is a complex problem that continues to persist at the postsecondary level, particularly in computer science and engineering fields. This dissertation explored the pre-college and college level factors that influenced undergraduate women’s persistence in STEM. This study also examined and compared the characteristics of undergraduate women who entered STEM fields and non-STEM fields in 2003-2004. The nationally representative Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS:04/09) data set was used for analysis. BPS:04/09 study respondents were surveyed three times (NPSAS:04, BPS:04/06, BPS:04/09) over a six-year period, which enabled me to explore factors related to long-term persistence. Astin’s Input-Environment-Output (I-E-O) model was used as the framework to examine student inputs and college environmental factors that predict female student persistence (output) in STEM. Chi-square tests revealed significant differences between undergraduate women who entered STEM and non-STEM fields in 2003-2004. Differences in student demographics, prior academic achievement, high school course-taking patterns, and student involvement in college such as participation in study groups and school clubs were found. Notably, inferential statistics showed that a significantly higher proportion of female minority students entered STEM fields than non-STEM fields. These findings challenge the myth that underrepresented female minorities are less inclined to enter STEM fields. Logistic regression analyses revealed thirteen significant predictors of persistence for undergraduate women in STEM. Findings showed that undergraduate women who were younger, more academically prepared, and academically and socially involved in college (e.g., lived on campus, interacted with faculty, participated in study groups, fine arts activities, and school sports) were more likely to persist in STEM fields. This longitudinal study showed that both pre-college and college level factors influenced undergraduate women’s persistence in STEM. The research findings offer important implications for policy and practice initiatives in higher education that focus on the recruitment and retention of women in postsecondary STEM fields.