New research suggests more female peers create a female-friendly environment in STEM fields

By Tom Jacobs for Pacific Standard

The issue of why women are so underrepresented in the STEM fields—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—is poorly understood. One thing, however, is certain: They are not going to enter the field if they drop out of school.

And new research finds they are far more likely to do that under a specific set of conditions: when there are few if any other females in their doctoral program.

The results suggest "more female peers create a female-friendly environment that encourages women to persist in doctoral programs," write Ohio State University economists Valerie Bostwick and Bruce Weinberg. Their study is published on the website of the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The researchers examined data on all 2,541 students who enrolled in 33 graduate programs at six public universities in Ohio between 2005 and 2016. They found the average incoming class for such programs was about 38 percent female.

To learn more, read "Women in STEM Benefit From Same-Sex Support" from Tom Jacobs for Pacific Standard.