Raising Awareness for Gender Bias in STEM Majors

By Andrew Carney

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UTC / The Loop) – UTC students and faculty request higher awareness for gender bias in STEM fields – an understated issue in academia.

A senior computer science major here at UTC, Rachel Frye, raises the issues with gender bias in this field, “I constantly hear how I’m not good enough, how I didn’t really earn my grade…the professor just goes ‘easy on me’. Some of my classmates constantly discredit any female students’ work that earned a good grade, destroying our self-confidence and causing some girls to quit the program.”

Gender bias in STEM fields is not a new issue in academia, but it is one that appears to have not progressed as much as other social issues, nor has it received as much attention as it needs to, to be properly addressed. ToolsforChangeinSTEM.org provides more information and resources to overcome this important academic and social issue.

Women have just as much place in STEM fields as men.

Women have just as much place in STEM fields as men.

Dr. Claire L. McCullough, PE, a professor in the computer science department, encountered gender bias early in her career and recently conducted research to test if gender bias still exists within her field today. Other researchers at top-tier universities have conducted similar research on this burgeoning academic concern.

  • Harvard University created a test known as the “Harvard Implicit Association Test” (IAT), which seeks to discover implied associations between topics. Results from students taking the Gender-Science version of the IAT, highlight the gender bias in STEM fields. The test can be taken at this link after signing up and requesting the Gender-Science IAT.
  • UTC students enrolled in CPSC 3610, “Ethical and Social Issues in Computing”, were asked to take the Gender-Science IAT, and the results are similar to those found by Harvard, which raises concerns over gender bias in our own university.

In her study, Dr. McCullough believes that “simply increasing the number of women entering programs will not be sufficient to affect significant change: in addition, attitudes of male students must be addressed.” Students’ self-confidence in university is a necessity and degradation by their peers is an unnecessary addition to the learning process; one that must be changed for students to thrive academically.

Frye believes that this issue can meet resolution and that it starts within herself. She believes that it is a constant battle and is always trying to prove something. Not to herself, to her professors or friends, but to the world…that gender isn’t a determining factor in someone’s skill in STEM.

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