Despite gender similarities in math and science achievement, women continue to be underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and careers. Increasingly, researchers are looking to gender differences in STEM attitudes as the root of this disparity. Theoretical support for the importance of STEM attitudes comes from several theories within educational, social, and vocational psychology, including Eccles' expectancy-value theory, which maintains that education-related choices are shaped by attitudes-namely, expectations of success and task value as well as self-concept. Yet, the studies testing this model generally have not taken into account the intersection of gender and ethnicity. The current study addresses this gap in the literature by describing gender differences in math and science attitudes and achievement among 367 White, African American, Latino/Latina, and Asian American 10th grade students in neighborhood public high schools from a large northeastern city. Male and female adolescents earned similar end-of-year grades in math and science, whereas Asian American students outperformed students from the other ethnic groups in math and science. Self-report data from paper-and-pencil surveys indicate significant gender differences in that male adolescents reported greater math self-concept and expectations of success and female adolescents reported more science value; gender differences did not vary across ethnic groups. Attitudes were strong predictors of achievement, consistent with hypotheses. To our knowledge, ours is the first study to examine math and science attitudes and achievement at the intersection of gender and ethnicity across four major ethnic groups. We discuss implications for efforts aimed at improving the representation of women in STEM.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Gender Studies
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)