A Social-Psychological Approach to Increasing the Achievement of Women in Math and Engineering: A Randomized Field Experiment
Gary Walton

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



University of Waterloo

Primary Discipline

One of the most persistent group differences in education is the lack of women pursuing quantitative fields. In a randomized experiment, my research will test three social-psychological interventions to boost women’s real-world achievement in math and engineering. Each intervention addresses a consequence of being targeted by negative intellectual stereotypes. The first intervention is designed to buttress women’s sense of belonging in math and engineering, particularly in the face of adversity (such as social isolation) that could otherwise lead them to doubt their belonging or “fit” in quantitative fields. The second intervention is designed to buffer women against threats to their sense of self-integrity—their view of themselves as good, virtuous, and efficacious. The third intervention combines the active ingredient of the first two. Measures will assess academic outcomes (e.g., grades and retention in math and engineering) and mediating psychological processes. Participants will be male and female university students enrolled in math and engineering programs. This experimental design allows me to compare the effectiveness of each intervention strategy to each other and to a control condition. It also allows a test of the separate and joint processes by which the interventions trigger long-term benefits. Indeed, the combined treatment is predicted to be most effective in improving women’s achievement in math and engineering, because it should trigger both a more secure sense of belonging and a more secure sense of self-integrity. This research has the potential to inform psychological theory and to create novel, theory-based remedies to increase the number of women pursuing quantitative fields.
About Gary Walton

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