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Project W.O.R.M.S. (Women for Outreach & Role Models in Science) is an outreach project that I initially developed at Stony Brook University with funding from the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science Women in Science Leadership Program. The overall goal of this project to promote recruitment of women and girls in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.

Rationale: Women have historically been underrepresented in STEM fields, and while this gap has been slowly shrinking over time [1], women are still significantly underrepresented in academia at the faculty level [2]. Some barriers to retention of women in STEM are beyond the scope of a small-scale project, such as systemic gender-based discrimination, sexual harassment, as well as lack of accommodations and affordable childcare for mothers. However, other issues that can sway women from pursuing careers in STEM can be directly addressed through short-term interventions. These factors include perceived expectations of brilliance [3], underestimation of personal ability and performance [4], lower levels of confidence [5], in addition to lack of representation and role models [6], which all disproportionately affect girls and women.

Goals: Through this co-ed program, students will gain insight into scientific research and careers while learning about genetics, developmental biology, and microscopy through hands-on activities led by women scientists. I am also measuring outcomes through questionnaires to inform future outreach efforts. I hope to accomplish the following outcomes:

  1. U.S. Census Bureau (2012). American Community Survey. Men and Women Working in STEM.
  2. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2020). The Condition of Education 2020 (NCES 2020-144), Characteristics of Postsecondary Faculty.
  3. Leslie, S.J., Cimpian, A., Meyer, M., & Freeland, E. (2015). Expectations of brilliance underlie gender distributions across academic disciplines. Science. 347(6219): 262-265.
  4. Ehrlinger, J. & Dunning, D. (2003). How chronic self-views influence (and potentially mislead) estimates of performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 84(1): 5-17.
  5. Sterling, A.D., Thompson, M.E., Wang, S., Kusimo, A., Gilmartin, S., & Sheppard, S. (2020). The confidence gap predicts the gender pay gap among STEM graduates. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 117(48): 30303-30308.
  6. Miller, D.I., Nolla, K.M., Eagly, A.H., & Uttal, D.H. (2018). The development of children’s gender-science stereotypes: a meta-analysis of 5 decades of U.S. draw-a-scientist studies. Child Development. 89(6): 1943-1955.