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Does the Gender Gap in STEM Majors Vary by Field and Institutional Selectivity?


by Barbara Schneider, Carolina Milesi, Lara Perez-Felkner, Kevin Brown & Iliya Gutin — July 16, 2015

This research brief examines the gender gap in specific STEM majors among college sophomores and whether this gap varies across institutions of different selectivity. Using national longitudinal data, results show that women’s underrepresentation on STEM is solely driven by the field of physics, mathematics, engineering, and computer science (PEMC) and that the gender gap in this particular STEM field is ubiquitous across institutions of different selectivity levels. Men are three to four times more likely to major in PEMC even when comparing males and females scoring at the top of the SATs, who have a positive orientation toward math, and are enrolled at highly selective institutions.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: July 16, 2015
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 18026, Date Accessed: 12/12/2017 1:07:17 PM

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About the Author
  • Barbara Schneider
    Michigan State University
    E-mail Author
    BARBARA SCHNEIDER, PhD, is the John A. Hannah Chair and Distinguished Professor in the College of Education and Department of Sociology at Michigan State University. She is the principal investigator of the College Ambition Program (CAP), a study that tests a model for promoting a STEM college-going culture in high schools that encourages adolescents to pursue STEM majors and occupations. She also is a Senior Fellow at NORC at the University of Chicago, where she is the principal investigator of the Center for Advancing Research and Communication in STEM (ARC). Past president of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), her research focuses on how the social contexts of schools and families influence the academic and social well-being of adolescents as they move into adulthood.
  • Carolina Milesi
    NORC at the University of Chicago
    E-mail Author
    CAROLINA MILESI, PhD, is a senior research scientist at NORC at the University of Chicago. Her research focuses on socioeconomic and gender disparities in education. She currently serves as Project Director of a NSF-funded study of gender differences in college students’ persistence in computer science and as Associate Project Director of a NICHD-grant that collected and coded postsecondary transcripts for National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997. Her work has been published in Educational Researcher, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, and Social Science and Medicine.
  • Lara Perez-Felkner
    Florida State University
    E-mail Author
    LARA PEREZ-FELKNER, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Higher Education and Sociology in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Florida State University, and a Senior Research Associate of FSU’s Center for Postsecondary Success. Her research uses developmental and sociological perspectives to examine how young people’s social contexts influence their college and career outcomes. She focuses on the mechanisms that shape entry into and persistence in institutions and fields in which they have traditionally been underrepresented. In particular, she investigates gender, racial-ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities in post-secondary educational attainment and entry to scientific career fields. Dr. Perez-Felkner’s work has been published in Developmental Psychology, Frontiers in Psychology, and Teachers’ College Record, as well in edited volumes.
  • Kevin Brown
    NORC at the University of Chicago
    KEVIN BROWN, PhD, is a senior research scientist at NORC at the University of Chicago. His research focuses on program evaluation, scaling up educational reforms, and the foundations of social theory. He currently directs the NSF-funded Center for Advancing Research & Communication in STEM (ARC) and specializes in translating and disseminating education research to policy makers, practitioners, and the general public. Past projects include several program and center evaluations. Recent publications include “Charting the Impact of Federal Spending for Education Research: A Bibliometric Approach” (Educational Researcher, 2014).
  • Iliya Gutin
    NORC at the University of Chicago
    E-mail Author
    ILIYA GUTIN is a research analyst at NORC at the University of Chicago, assisting with NSF-funded research related to STEM education. His primary projects include an evaluation of STEM-related projects funded by REESE/ROLE awards, for the Center for Advancing Research and Communication (ARC) at NORC, as well as a current study examining the effects of gender on the experience and persistence of undergraduate computer science majors. Recent publications include: “Family Experiences of Competition and Adolescent Performance” (Journal of Marriage and Family, 2014).
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