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Study: Privilege not indicator of women's success in STEM fields
Two University of Kansas professors have published a study showing that ability alone simply isn’t enough for women to excel in the STEM fields, and that how far women are from privilege makes a much bigger difference.
Barbara Kerr, Williamson Family Distinguished Professor of Counseling Psychology and Research in Education; and Karen Multon, professor and chair of psychology and research in education, published the study in the Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment. The study examines “distance from privilege,” or the idea that how far young women perceives themselves from ideal socioeconomic, geographic, educational and various other variables can determine how likely they can be to persist in education and careers in the STEM fields. Two methods for measuring where women view themselves in relation to ideal places of power and privilege were also developed.
“We’re trying to understand how to keep young women in college in STEM,” Kerr said. “Once they are in the field, how do we keep them there? We find over and over that women who do persist have had to overcome many barriers.”
The researchers have found that ability alone is not enough to predict whether a young woman will succeed in STEM. It is an important variable, Kerr said, but research should also consider a number of other social variables and take a subjective look at what may stand in the way of success. Developing a tool that can accurately measure distance from privilege can greatly benefit gender equity work and help develop a model for identifying women with the potential to persist in the field.