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Title: Who is a scientist? The relationship between counter-stereotypical beliefs about scientists and the STEM major intentions of Black and Latinx male and female students
Abstract Background

Despite the diverse student population in the USA, the labor force in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) does not reflect this reality. While restrictive messages about who belongs in STEM likely discourage students, particularly female and minoritized students, from entering these fields, extant research on this topic is typically focused on the negative impact of stereotypes regarding math ability, or the existence of stereotypes about the physical appearance of scientists. Instead, this study builds on the limited body of research that captures a more comprehensive picture of students’ views of scientists, including not only the type of work that they do but also the things that interest them. Specifically, utilizing a sample of approximately 1000 Black and Latinx adolescents, the study employs an intersectional lens to examine whether the prevalence of counter-stereotypical views of scientists, and the association such views have on subsequent intentions to pursue STEM college majors, varies among students from different gender and racial/ethnic groups (e.g., Black female students, Latinx male students).

Results

While about half of Black and Latinx students reported holding counter-stereotypical beliefs about scientists, this is significantly more common among female students of color, and among Black female students in particular. Results from logistic regression models indicate that, net of control variables, holding counter-stereotypical beliefs about scientists predicts both young men’s and women’s intentions to major in computer science and engineering, but not intentions to major in either physical science or mathematics. Additionally, among Black and Latinx male students, counter-stereotypical perceptions of scientists are related to a higher likelihood of intending to major in biological sciences.

Conclusions

The results support the use of an intersectional approach to consider how counter-stereotypical beliefs about scientists differ across gender and racial/ethnic groups. Importantly, the results also suggest that among Black and Latinx youth, for both female and male students, holding counter-stereotypical beliefs promotes intentions to enter particular STEM fields in which they are severely underrepresented. Implications of these findings and directions for future research, specifically focusing on minoritized students, which are often left out in this body of literature, are discussed.

 
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NSF-PAR ID:
10387461
Author(s) / Creator(s):
;
Publisher / Repository:
Springer Science + Business Media
Date Published:
Journal Name:
International Journal of STEM Education
Volume:
8
Issue:
1
ISSN:
2196-7822
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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