Girls’ bias awareness didn’t boost interest in science careers

A pretty African American university woman reading at the parkGirls who learned about occupational gender discrimination had a greater belief in the value of science and increased self-efficacy in science, but no increased  interest in science careers, says a study in Psychology of Women Quarterly.

To test whether learning about gender discrimination would increase girls’ interest in science careers, researchers randomly assigned 158 middle-school girls to two intervention programs aimed at increasing girls’ interest in science; the sample was racially diverse. All girls attended a four-hour conference that featured sessions by female scientists and hands-on activities.The experimental condition included a one-hour session on gender discrimination, the other did not.

Contrary to expectations, girls who attended the conference showed a decrease in the egalitarian attitudes toward women in science, the researchers report. However, girls who received the gender discrimination information showed no change. Girls who received information about gender discrimination may have showed increased self-efficacy because it led them to reinterpret the past negative feedback they received, the researchers say. The experimental condition also increased the girls’ beliefs that science is a worthwhile subject of study, the researchers write.

“Effects of Learning about Gender Discrimination on Adolescent Girls’ Attitudes Toward and Interest in Science,” Psychology of Women Quarterly, September 2007, Volume 31, pp. 262-269.  

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