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Female representation remains uneven across STEM fields. Expectancy-Value Theory provides a framework for understanding complexities of STEM career choices; values, as well as gendered beliefs and identity, predict achievement-related behaviors and are associated with STEM gender differences. Specifically, this study aims to understand how altruism and femininity may differentiate membership in STEM fields. The Maryland Adolescent Development in Context Study tracked adolescents from 7th grade to age 26. Six cross-sectional sub-samples of participants associated with STEM outcomes were used. We found altruism partially accounted for gender discrepancies between STEM disciplines; gender, altruism, and femininity predicted towards life sciences and away from physical sciences. Altruism mediated the relationship between femininity and STEM choice and was substantially more predictive than self-concept of ability. This study highlights the importance of values and offers evidence that STEM career trajectories may be influenced by congruency between values, identity, and gendered beliefs about STEM fields.


Institute for Positive Psychology and Education

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Journal Article

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