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A Model of Threatening Academic Environments Predicts Women STEM Majors’ Self-Esteem and Engagement in STEM

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Zachary Petzel


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The present study tested a model of threatening academic environments among a vulnerable population: women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Women in STEM are underrepresented and more likely to perceive their STEM educational environments as threatening than do men. U.S. Women majoring in STEM fields (n = 579) completed a questionnaire measuring each construct of a model of threatening academic environments proposed by Inzlicht et al. (2009). Supporting the model, greater gender stigma consciousness predicted greater gender-based rejection sensitivity. Gender rejection sensitivity predicted more negative perceptions of campus climate. More negative climate predicted more experiences of stereotype threat, which in turn predicted lower perceived control. Lower perceived control predicted greater disengagement from STEM domains, which predicted lower self-esteem. Differences also emerged between women in male- compared to female-dominated STEM subfields and between racial minority and majority women. This model describes how experiences of threatening environments may contribute to the underrepresentation of women in STEM. The model provides an overview for researchers, educators, and practitioners to better understand the relations among hostile STEM climates, experiences of identity threat, and academic disengagement. Interventions addressing environmental and individual factors in the model may improve retention and women’s experiences in STEM.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Casad BJ, Petzel ZW, Ingalls EA

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Sex Roles

Year: 2019

Volume: 80

Issue: 7-8

Pages: 469-488

Print publication date: 15/04/2019

Online publication date: 14/07/2018

Acceptance date: 14/07/2018

ISSN (print): 0360-0025

ISSN (electronic): 1573-2762

Publisher: Springer New York LLC


DOI: 10.1007/s11199-018-0942-4


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