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The Importance of Role Model Effects for Promoting Inclusion in STEM and Related Fields 

Facilitators: Andrea Waddle, Maia Linask, Tom Zylkin 

According to the National Science Board (2020), women comprise 52% of the college-educated workforce in the United States but only 29% of all science and engineering-related occupations. Similarly, graduates from underrepresented racial and ethnic backgrounds make up 17% of college graduates but only 13% of science and engineering jobs. These disparities are also known to be common to many other quantitatively oriented subjects such as Mathematics, Economics, Statistics, Finance, and Computer Science. In Economics, for example, Goldin (2015) estimates that there are 2.9 male Economics majors for every female Economics major, and Opoku-Agyeman (2020) finds that African American Economics majors are underrepresented to an even larger degree.

This FLC will focus on an often-hypothesized dimension of this problem of underrepresentation: the importance of “role model effects” from having a same-gender and/or same-ethnicity instructor or advisor. A substantial body of research on role models across many disciplines studies and quantifies these types of effects. This FLC seeks to better understand the findings in this literature and how they may be applied to inform the ways in which we approach teaching, advising, guiding student research, hiring, curriculum design, and mentoring new faculty.  Our goal is to promote the sharing of knowledge and experience in this area in a way that will meaningfully inform these practices and support our commitment to having a diverse workforce and thriving student body.

Since role models are important in every discipline and research on the subject crosses disciplinary boundaries, we seek to recruit members across all schools and departments.