Reasons for Low Female Engagement in the Middle School Science Classroom

While increasing the number of women in science-related careers has long been researched, women are still underrepresented in the world of science. In an effort to gain more information about what is leading to low numbers of women wanting to pursue the sciences, this study researches if middle school students believe they can be scientists and how their experiences in the classroom, their backgrounds, and their exposure to role models in the sciences shape their desire to go into science related fields. This study includes three data collections: a student survey, a parent survey, and student focus groups. The study found that males (81.6%) and females (88.9%) both have positive views of science and see the science classroom as fun. It was also found that 24.5% of males and 21.4% of females plan on studying science in college. However, only 9.3% of females identified a desire to have a career in the sciences, as opposed to 26.5% of males. Parental opinions play a role in how students see themselves in the world of science. This was evidenced by 85.7% of the boys reporting they are good at science and 53% reporting their families saw them as good at science. However, only 44.4% of female students reported they are good at science and 44.4% reported their family sees them as being good at science. Both students and parents believe boys are better at science than females, which could be the result of a fixed mindset. Role models play a role in how female students see themselves in the world of science with only 12.5% of the scientists that students were able to name being female. Based on these findings, I would recommend that students should be explicitly taught about growth mindset, how the sciences are used in different careers to address a variety of societal concerns, and the contributions of females to the sciences.