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The Role of Peer Support for Girls and Women in the STEM Pipeline: Promoting Identification with STEM and Mitigating the Negative Effects of Sexism


The present study examined the role peers play for girls and women in fields related to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). One set of analyses tested a mediational model in which features of the STEM peer climate predicted girls' and women's identification with STEM, which in turn predicted their intent to remain in STEM. Another set of analyses examined the prevalence of sexism in STEM and assessed whether peer support might be especially beneficial for girls and women who have experienced sexism. Across all analyses, particular attention was paid to differences that were driven by participants' phase of education. The sample included STEM-oriented girls and women in high school (n = 134), college (n = 125), and graduate school (n = 102) who completed a survey online or in person. Analyses carried out with path analysis generally supported the hypothesized mediational model. Also, in partial support of hypotheses, women who were pursuing STEM undergraduate majors reported experiencing more sexism than did their counterparts in high school and graduate school. Lastly, as hypothesized, the association between peer support and the intent to remain in STEM was especially strong among girls and women who had experienced sexism. Discussion highlights both theoretical and applied implications.

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