Susan M. Perez, Ph.D , Alexandra Schonning, Ph.D, Karinna A. Rodriguez, B.S., Karin Rogers, B.S., Zoe I. Kennedy
Dr. Susan Perez | College of Arts and Sciences | Department of Psychology
It is well-documented that women in the United States are underrepresented in STEM fields and engineering in particular. This results in the underutilization of the available range of human resources and diverse problem-solving capacity in addressing the types of problems engineers are trained to solve. The lack of female representation in STEM fields may be associated with gender stereotypes and cultural practices that steer women away from engineering, a process that begins in childhood. This study examined the impact of one type of outreach, a 1-day opportunity for young girls in grades 1 through 5 to learn about and get hands-on experience with engineering. As part of this program, gender stereotypes as they relate to STEM fields were also discussed. We were interested in children’s interest in and previous experiences with engineering as well as their and their parent’s general beliefs about the child’s abilities in STEM areas. We collected surveys from parents and children prior to the program and from children immediately and 6 months after the program. Results showed that regardless of child age, participating in the program contributed to a significant increase in children’s self-reported engagement in engineering activities and in knowledge and interest in engineering. However, when followed up 6 months later, children’s self-reports in these areas returned to nearly pretest levels. The findings suggest the need for booster engineering experiences to maintain the gains achieved through participating in the Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day program.