Aspiring STEM Professionals Promoting Gender Equity in STEM (2024-2025)


Women are still underrepresented in STEM. This occurs not because women lack STEM abilities, but because stereotypes, biases and discrimination drive them away. Existing initiatives addressing this gender gap tend to focus on three approaches: skills development, exposure to diverse STEM careers and connection to STEM mentors and role models. This project focuses on a fourth approach: preparation for gender bias, i.e., building awareness of systemic obstacles women face in STEM (bias literacy) and developing both practical gender bias response strategies and positive STEM identities. 

Research has found that this approach can be protective for ethnoracial minority parents and students as they encounter racial discrimination. Additionally, preparation for bias is most effective when it is paired with interventions that also enhance individuals’ pride as members of the marginalized group. 

At college and career stages, underrepresentation of women in STEM has several causes. Among the most critical are a biased or hostile environment for women and a lack of female role models, which deter women from remaining in STEM fields. Gender bias in STEM persists, and women continue to enter fields where they will encounter these biases. The lack of STEM role models for women is evident in the underrepresentation of women scientists on Wikipedia. In fact, less than 20% of Wikipedia biographies are about women, and 80% of Wikipedia editors are men.

Project Description

Building on the work of previous teams, his project will include three separate research components. Team members will research the gender gap in STEM, including dissemination of research on women in STEM via Wikipedia. The team will also research the impact of the course and summer workshop curricula. Finally, the project will research the causes that middle school students and adults tend to attribute to the gender gap in STEM. 

The 2024-2025 team will work through a preparation for bias curriculum targeting undergraduate and graduate STEM students. This curriculum will cover bias literacy, developing awareness of the causes of the gender gap in STEM including barriers students can expect to face as they transition into STEM careers and postgraduate study. Team members will learn about bias response strategies, learning about and building skills to navigate and overcome these barriers while considering their associated risks and benefits. Lastly, the curriculum will cover empowerment, or nurturing pride in students’ identities as STEM women through research and public dissemination of the accomplishments of women scientists, mathematicians and engineers. The associated assessment of this curriculum will be submitted to the IRB for review and approval.

As part of the curriculum, team members will conduct research on “hidden figures in STEM” and contribute to WikiProject Women in Red, a group of Wikipedia editors working together to close the Wikipedia gender gap. The team will engage in a research project creating or expanding Wikipedia pages about STEM women’s accomplishments, careers and backgrounds. 

The team will continue an existing summer workshop for middle school girls. Middle school girls come to campus for 10 half-days, and on each day, participants investigate a new math problem through discussion and work with some physical demonstration. The group will visit the lab of a faculty woman, exposing participants to a range of diverse STEM jobs. Through a fun Q&A session, participants see these accomplished women as relatable. 

Anticipated Outputs

Wikipedia articles; curriculum surveys; peer-reviewed publications

Student Opportunities

Ideally, this project team will include 4 graduate students and 20 undergraduate students from diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds who are enthusiastic about increasing the visibility of women in STEM. A strong student team will include students from a diverse set of majors and/or career interests, including math, STEM fields, education, psychology and gender issues. The student team will be comfortable with a variety of STEM subjects and have the knowledge necessary to effectively communicate the accomplishments of women in a range of STEM fields.

Students will have opportunities to use and improve their research, writing and communication skills. Team members will gain experience working with library staff, identifying source materials and drafting and editing articles. The team will plan and run summer workshops, and team members will learn professional skills they can use in their future careers.

In Fall 2024, the team will meet weekly on Tuesdays from 3:05–4:20 p.m. to develop bias literacy, discuss practical bias response strategies and learn about the visibility gap for women in STEM. Team members will participate in readings and in-class discussions of topics including: gender stereotypes, causes of the gender gap in STEM, implicit bias, imposter syndrome, intersectional double bind and gender wage gap. Students will learn about and practice bias response strategies, such as how to negotiate their first salary in a way that avoids gendered penalties. The team will conduct a research project creating or expanding Wikipedia pages about STEM women's accomplishments, careers and backgrounds. Students will have the opportunity to analyze collected data. 


Fall 2024 – Summer 2025

  • Fall 2024: Distribute pre-test survey; attend weekly classes on bias preparation; select research focus; research and interview women in STEM; post Wikipedia articles
  • Spring 2025: Attend weekly classes on bias preparation; analyze data; select research focus; research and interview women in STEM; post Wikipedia articles; distribute post-test survey
  • Summer 2025 (optional): Run middle school workshops


Academic credit available for fall and spring semesters; summer funding available

See earlier related team, Assessing and Improving Girls' and Women's Math Identity (2023-2024).


Image: Participating middle schoolers (GEMs) creating their own Eulerian graphs, by 2022-23 project team

Image: Participating middle schoolers (GEMs) creating their own Eulerian graphs, by 2022-23 project team

Team Leaders

  • Victoria Akin, Arts & Sciences-Mathematics
  • Sophia Santillan, Pratt School of Engineering-Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science
  • Lauren Valentino, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • David Bryan, Academic Technologies, Office of Information Technology
  • Deric Hardy, RCSC-Ris
  • Danette Pachtner, RPS-Lilly Library
  • Christina L. Williams, Arts & Sciences-Psychology and Neuroscience

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Elizabeth Moffitt, Durham Public Schools