universities are contributing to the ongoing wage gap between men and women, as well as the continuing dearth of skilled scientists and engineers in the United States. Gender divisions in college education are significant because people who pursue scientific careers usually receive an undergraduate degree in their field.
While women earn nearly 60% of all undergraduate degrees; that's only 21 percent of degrees in the field of computer and information science, and only 19 percent of engineering degrees.
Fox and her co-authors found that university program directors believe women's self-confidence and their knowledge about careers in science was a bigger obstacle than their academic ability. At the same time, the hostile classroom climate in may be affecting student's self confidence in science and engineering courses. Fox says the key issues facing undergraduate women were: a lack of supportive peer relationships, a lack of faculty advisors, unsupportive classroom climates, a lack of both faculty and administrative commitment to undergraduate women, and little attention paid to gender equity on campus.
Despite seeming to understand the problem, the authors found that many institutions did not try to change the climate in the classroom, create more faculty advisors, or improve and strengthen the faculty commitment to educating women in science and engineering. Instead, they found programs often left these key structural obstacles "untouched,"—especially when it came to faculty. Diversity training for faculty, mentoring of undergraduates and new course components are examples of programs that could make a difference, researches say.
Schools need to focus less on "easy" but ineffective fixes, such as social activities, and more on challenging their existing institutional arrangements. Fox says many of the programs she and her colleagues studied have "set the goal of increasing their numbers of women students, without working to improve the climate of the departments they will be recruited to."
Successful programs, she says, find ways to integrate their core academic components with activities such as hands-on research opportunities for students.