Student STEM interest and test scores are influenced by:
Parents and teachers are more likely to underestimate a girl’s math ability relative to a boy’s (Bleeker 2004; Lubienski et al. 2013) and encourage boys more often in math and science (Tenenbaum 2009).
Women earn about half of science and engineering degrees (NCSES 2023), but relative participation varies by field.
75% of STEM positions require additional training after high school (Okrent 2021). STEM enrollment at higher education institutions three years after high school graduation is higher in suburban (17%) relative to rural (13%) students. These differences can be partially explained by the lack of rural STEM learning opportunities (Saw 2021).
One way to address recruitment and retention of women in STEM include is to restructure early education to cultivate interest in a STEM career by decreasing class size to increase student-teacher interaction (Deutsch 2003), providing hands on activities that connect learning with real life applications (Wang 2016), and emphasizing communal and societally beneficial aspects of STEM jobs.
Place-based education, which connects the classroom with the local community, history, environment , and workforce, can increase rural students’ beliefs about their own STEM abilities, STEM career interest, and aspirations to stay in their communities (Starrett 2022).
Strategies to match education with work-force needs in rural areas include engaging employers in the development of education and training programs at colleges and universities, regularly monitoring workforce data to identify unmet needs earlier, and publishing public workforce data with examples of best practices and current workforce training capacity in the region (USDA 1 2022; Goldman 2015).
U.S. STEM jobs are projected to grow 11% by 2031, compared to 5% growth for non-STEM jobs (BLS 2022). In MO, registered nurses and software developers had the largest amount of online job postings in 2022 (DHEWD 2022).
In 2021, 35% of STEM jobs were occupied by women (NCSES 2023). Women with STEM degrees are more likely than men to work in education and medicine (Diekman 2015). Factors that influence STEM workforce participation of women include (Wang 2016):
The perception of available future job opportunities is a key factor that determines where rural students who perform well in school want to live (Petrin 2014). Employment has grown more slowly in rural areas than urban areas, and rural areas still haven’t fully recovered from the Great Recession (USDA 2 2022). In rural regions, many of the jobs with the most online job postings were for health care professionals.