A Persistent Academic Ethical Dilemma: Too Few Female Students in STEM Five Decades after Title IX


Research over the past three decades on the gender gap in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) has consistently found an underrepresentation of females pursuing STEM degrees and careers. This is, at its foundation, an educational ethics issue. Schools at all levels, ranging all the way from middle school to graduate school, have a responsibility to prepare more females for careers in STEM. Experts have proposed a variety of fixes to encourage female students to study STEM, including increased funding, some of which have helped, and yet the gap remains. This paper examines one such effort to address this education and ethics issue - voluntary (elective) programs outside of normal school hours that provide young female students’ opportunities for active participation and engagement in STEM. Are these enrichment programs actually increasing subsequent female participation rates? The authors use a correlational study in an attempt to determine whether there is a positive correlation between participation in a voluntary before school STEM program (in grades 6–8), and their subsequent enrollment in STEM courses in high school, and/or in college and career. The authors surveyed intermediate school students, and the results showed that although voluntary before-school programs may not increase female interest in STEM, they do help to maintain long-term interest by those who have already demonstrated an inclination toward STEM. This is a pilot study with a limited number of subjects from one geographical area. Future research should be conducted that focuses on a larger nationwide sample to determine if school enrichment programs indeed act as career influencers for female students.

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Correspondence to Kurt Stanberry.

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Stanberry, K., Stanberry, C. & Reeves, T. A Persistent Academic Ethical Dilemma: Too Few Female Students in STEM Five Decades after Title IX. J Acad Ethics 19, 25–34 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10805-020-09370-5

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  • STEM
  • Enrichment programs
  • Female students
  • Educational system
  • Title IX