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The Effects of a Single-Sex STEM Living and Learning Program on Female Undergraduates’ Persistence

Roxanne Hughes

Abstract


Fewer women choose to stay in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors. This decision-making process is influenced by a variety of external factors (parental support, success in science and math classes) and internal factors (reactions to grades, identifying with perceptions of STEM professionals). This study focuses on women’s internalizations and the influences of one specific external factor – a single-sex program aimed at sustaining STEM persistence at the university level. This study used a narrative life history methodology to examine the influences that a single-sex program at a United States university had on twenty-six undergraduate women’s STEM career choices. The study examined the criticisms aimed at single-sex programs (increase stereotypes, provide programming that is separate and not equal). The results of the study did not support these criticisms. However, the findings also did not unequivocally demonstrate the positive impacts of single-sex programs on the persistence of women in university-level STEM programs. The results highlight how women’s persistence in STEM programs is related to the identity negotiations they undergo and the support networks they find, both of which are affected by the culture of STEM departments.


Keywords


Single-sex programs; undergraduate; STEM persistence

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