EFFECTIVENESS OF STRATEGIES TO ENCOURAGE PARTICIPATION AND RETENTION OF PRECOLLEGE AND COLLEGE WOMEN IN SCIENCE
Women are under-represented in science-related fields due to low rates of initial selection of science-related careers in secondary school and high attrition from science majors in college. Intervention programs designed to encourage the participation of women in science should act at both secondary-school and college target points. This study was intended to evaluate intervention strategies at both educational levels. The secondary-school intervention program included the use of gender-free resource materials and instructional techniques and presentations by female science-career role models. Those strategies increased students' perceptions that science careers are appropriate for women. Although that result supported the effectiveness of the intervention program, other results indicated that students' achievement levels and academic self-concepts superseded the intervention tactics for producing positive attitudes toward science. It was recommended that future programs include strategies designed to make science more relevant to students' lives and provide information about technological careers for less academically-oriented students. College women in nursing, biology, and engineering major programs were surveyed with regard to selected demographic and affective variables in order to identify strategies that are important for their retention in scientific disciplines. The effectiveness of career-planning seminars for developing career commitment among the college women was also evaluated. Discriminant function analysis of the data from the college students accurately differentiated women in the nursing, biology, and engineering programs. The derived discriminant equations may be useful as a counseling aid for females undecided about their college majors. Few demographic or affective differences were found between women in biology and engineering programs. Strategies that help retain college women in male-dominated majors may be equally effective for women in non-gender-dominated majors. Comparisons of biology and engineering majors who had and had not completed career-planning seminars indicated that the course was somewhat effective for increasing career commitment among women in biology. Both biology and engineering students' comments indicated that the courses helped develop their career plans, feelings of peer support, and the idea that having both a family and a career is possible.
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