Economics Seminars: Julien Grenet (PSE)

16 October 2019, 1.00 PM - 16 October 2019, 2.00 PM

Julien Grenet (PSE)

1B6, Priory Road Complex

Title: Do Female Role Models Reduce the Gender Gap in Science? Evidence from Classroom Interventions in French High Schools

Abstract: This paper reports the results of a large-scale field experiment that was designed to assess whether short in-class interventions by external female role models can influence students’ attitudes towards science-related careers and affect their choice of field of study. Using a random assignment of the interventions to high school classrooms in the Paris Region, we find that a one-hour exposure to a female role model increases by respectively 30 percent (20 percent) the probability for girls in Grade 12 to enroll in a selective (male-dominated) STEM track in higher education. We find only limited effects of the interventions on boys’ educational choices in Grade 12, and no effect for male and female students in Grade 10. Several mechanisms can explain the observed changes in college major choices among girls in Grade 12. First, for all students, the program strongly reduces the prevalence of stereotypes associated with jobs in science and gender roles in science. Second, it raises students’ interest in science-related careers. Third, it slightly improves their math self-concept. We find that the program was particularly effective at steering high-achieving girls in Grade 12 towards selective STEM studies, and that female facilitators with a professional background had larger effects than young researchers. The results suggest, however, that role models also increase students’ awareness of female underrepresentation in science and reinforce the belief that women are discriminated in STEM careers, which could potentially explain their limited effects among low-achieving girls.

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