Vela, Katherine Nicole (2020-06). Empow"her"ing Female Students to Pursue STEM Fields. Doctoral Dissertation. Thesis uri icon


  • The focus for this dissertation was on empowering female students to pursue STEM fields. The first study in this dissertation was a content analysis which allowed the researcher to explore the various definitions and surveys used to measure psychological dispositions toward STEM fields to determine a clear definition for each factor. The next two studies used quantitative data from two STEM surveys to investigate whether students' perceptions or self-efficacies were influenced after attending a STEM summer camp. The second study compared female students in two conditions (an all-female and co-educational camp) in order to examine how female students' perceptions were affected by their environment and if these perceptions were correlated to their perception of STEM careers. The third study analyzed participants within the all-female camp to determine if self-efficacy toward STEM fields influenced perceptions of STEM fields and if engagement in an all-female camp had a greater impact for students with lower predispositions toward STEM. Results from the first study revealed insights into how prior researchers defined and assessed psychological dispositions. These results indicated authors of the selected studies generally opted to offer the definition of the disposition by describing the instrument or providing sample items. The second study's results revealed that female students in the all-female camp experienced a significant increase in their positive perceptions toward science (t=3.568, p<0.001) and there was a strong correlation between STEM perceptions and perceptions of a STEM career. The third study's findings indicated a significant relationship between female students' initial self-efficacy and perceptions of STEM fields (p<0.05). Furthermore, results indicated a statistically significant increase (p<0.05) in mathematics perceptions for the below-average group and science perceptions for the average group. Overall, results from this dissertation study yielded that engagement in a STEM summer camp was conducive for empowering female students to pursue STEM fields by positively improving their self-efficacies and perceptions toward STEM fields. The findings of this dissertation are important because increasing the number of female students pursuing STEM pathways is needed to close the gender gap in STEM fields and fill the need for a diverse STEM workforce in expanding STEM industries.

publication date

  • June 2020