An early intervention to encourage girls' interest in careers in drug abuse prevention: More than improving science achievement and attitudes

Mitzi Schumacher, Sondra Redmont, Michelle Johnson, Caroline Reid, Carl Leukefeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Most programs designed to increase the number of women in the pipeline for careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) target young women in high school and college. However, research shows that girls develop poor attitudes about low achievement in science well before high school or college-specifically in middle school. In addition, even though many explanations for the lack of women in science include references to the gender stereotyping inherent in careers in science, few interventions examine the impact of science enrichment programs on participants' gender stereotypes in occupations. This intervention targeted middle school girls, evaluating the impact of the program on participants' science achievement and attitudes, self-esteem, occupational stereotypes, and self-efficacy in completing science course work before, during, and after the enrichment program, as well as their occupational self-efficacy after the intervention. This intervention included 118 girls who participated in a 3-year program that included summer camps, Saturday academies, and professional and community mentoring. The effects across pre- and post-tests showed improvements in achievement and attitudes toward learning science; findings typical of efficacious interventions. After a year, a follow-up survey of comparison and intervention group girls showed similar improvements in attitudes toward science and occupational self-efficacy. Perhaps the most intriguing findings are the trends for girls to moderate their stereotypical views of male-dominated occupations and to polarize their stereotypical views of female-dominated occupations. The findings from this intervention have implications for inoculating girls' attitudes toward learning science and their biases based on gender stereotypes of careers in science in order to increase their likelihood of pursuing careers in science instead of trying to reverse the loss of women in the pipeline at a later age.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)377-396
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2012


  • Middle school
  • Science enrichment
  • Women in science

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)


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