How to boost STEM enrollment for women

Info on former UO CAS Assoc Dean Ian McNeely’s 2009 effort to bring grade inflation (most present in non-STEM fields) under control, which failed after massive faculty opposition and Johnson Hall indifference, is here.

If the argument below is correct, it would have led to a large shift of students – particularly women – towards STEM courses.

Colleen Flaherty in InsideHigherEd:

Harsher grading policies in science, technology, engineering and math courses disproportionately affect women — because women value good grades significantly more than men do, according to a new working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

What to do? The study’s authors suggest restricting grading policies that equalize average grades across classes, such as curving all courses around a B grade. Beyond helping close STEM’s gender gap, they wrote, such a policy change would boost overall enrollment in STEM classes.

Using administrative data coupled with thousands of students’ course evaluations from the University of Kentucky from the fall of 2012, the study’s authors determined that students spent one hour more per week studying for a STEM course than for a non-STEM course, on average. At the same time, they earned lower grades in STEM courses.

The STEM classes in the sample were almost twice as large as their non-STEM counterparts and associated with grades that were 0.3 points lower. They were also associated with a 40 percent more study time.

Women in the sample had higher grades in both STEM and non-STEM courses than men. But they were significantly underrepresented in STEM.


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9 Responses to How to boost STEM enrollment for women

  1. Conservative Duck says:

    “…women value good grades significantly more than men do…” yeah, well, men value un-watered-down standards.

  2. honest Uncle Bernie says:

    The idea is to bring rampant grade inflation to the sciences — one of the few areas of academia that still receive very broad respect — in order supposedly to attract women.

    No thanks for this very dumb idea.

  3. STEM person says:

    Typical social science research, intense statistical dive into a topic that most intelligent people already know the answer.

    How about a novel concept, grade on performance. Set standards, grade on if those standards are met. This appears to be easier in STEM courses.

  4. just different says:

    Or just rethink the whole “grading” thing. There’s already a lot of evidence that (what we now call) grading is a stupid, antiquated, anti-educational practice. If it also has the net effect of forcing women out of STEM, that’s just another reason to not do it.

  5. Observer says:

    I am absolutely, vehemently for the advancement of women in science, but this is a silly idea, and one that doesn’t come near addressing the actual problems. The most egregious actual problem is the harassment and bullying of women in science, as every women scientist can tell you from extensive experience. I don’t care how much better my grades are if my fellow students wage a continually low-key war of hostility on me. This is a very wrong-headed proposal.

    • Compulsory Pessimist says:

      Regarding the gender gap, Observer is right. Women have ALWAYS been interested in STEM education. We don’t need special programs to encourage little girls to take science classes, and we don’t need to adjust grading schemes at university level to boost female student enrollment. We need to find ways to stop pushing females out, from grade school to doctorate. We need to end the constant harassment, belittling, and bullying by both male peers and educators themselves.

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