Seeking congruity for communal and agentic goals: a longitudinal examination of US college women's persistence in STEM Academic Article uri icon


  • AbstractAn abundance of literature has examined barriers to womens equitable representation in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, with many studies demonstrating that STEM fields are not perceived to afford communal goals, a key component of womens interest in future careers. Using Goal Congruity Theory as a framework, we tested the longitudinal impact of perceptions of STEM career goal affordances, personal communal and agentic goal endorsements, and their congruity on persistence in science from the second through fourth years of college among women in STEM majors in the United States. We found that womens intent to persist in science were highest in the fall of their second year, that persistence intentions exhibited a sharp decline, and eventually leveled off by their fourth year of college. This pattern was moderated by perceptions of agentic affordances in STEM, such that women who believe that STEM careers afford the opportunity for achievement and individualism experienced smaller declines. We found that higher perceptions of communal goal affordances in STEM consistently predicted higher persistence intentions indicating women may benefit from perceptions that STEM affords communal goals. Finally, we found women with higher agentic affordances in STEM also had greater intentions to persist, and this relationship was stronger for women with higher agentic goals. We conclude that because STEM fields are stereotyped as affording agentic goals, women who identify interest in a STEM major during their first years of college may be drawn to these fields for this reason and may benefit from perceptions that STEM affords agentic goals.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 12.75

author list (cited authors)

  • Henderson, H. L., Bloodhart, B., Adams, A. S., Barnes, R. T., Burt, M., Clinton, S., ... Hernandez, P. R.

citation count

  • 1

complete list of authors

  • Henderson, Heather L||Bloodhart, Brittany||Adams, Amanda S||Barnes, Rebecca T||Burt, Melissa||Clinton, Sandra||Godfrey, Elaine||Pollack, Ilana||Fischer, Emily V||Hernandez, Paul R

publication date

  • June 2022