Thinking Pink About Science

Posted by Lisa Brady on 2/16/2017

We had a lively discussion this month on my District Dialogue television program with five of our women science teachers at Dobbs Ferry High School.

Did you know that girls that attend high schools where at least 72% of the math and science teachers are female, are 19% more likely to graduate from college with a degree in science or math, as opposed to similar students who attend a high school where only 54% of the math and science teachers are female?

This is part of the data found in a 2015 study published in the Economics of Education Review entitled, “Growing the roots of STEM majors: Female math and science high school faculty and the participation of students in STEM.” Researchers from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and Duke University tracked North Carolina public high school student data from middle school and high school transcripts, as well as family income and school characteristics.

A second similar study looked at four years worth of student cohorts in Florida from fifth grade through college graduation and found that female math and science teachers, as early as middle school, make a difference in how many women pursue math and science in college.

In Dobbs Ferry, women comprise 75% of both the science and math departments at the High School. In our Middle School 100% of our math teachers are women.

Authors of a related study published in 2016 in Social Problems, titled “Demographic Characteristics of High School Math and Science Teachers and Girls’ Success in STEM,” concludes that female math and science teachers may encourage interest among girls by pushing them to take risks and go against stereotypes and by raising their confidence in their abilities.

In our District Dialogue program, Dobbs Ferry High School science teachers Justine Henry (Physics/Chemistry), Kelly Rancier (Chemistry), Caroline Matthew (Special Education Biology/Earth Science), Erica Curran (Science Research) and Amanda Newhouse(Earth Science) share a fascinating array of experiences from their high school days and beyond which influenced their decisions to pursue careers in the sciences. They impart their insights and thinking about girls today in STEM programs and offer advice for helping girls to discover and maintain their interest in science.

The message from our science teachers to our girls is clear ….. an exciting, successful career in STEM can be yours!

Click to watch the District Dialogue program here

Read Jill Barshay’s column “Education By The Numbers” on this topic in The Hechinger Report