FACTORS INFLUENCING LGB STEM MAJORS’ UNDERREPRESENTATION IN STEM FIELDS
While literature on sexual minority issues is limited, there is evidence supporting poor retention rate among lesbian, gay, and bisexual students (LGB) studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). STEM fields often have heterosexist environments that present unique barriers to LGB individuals, though, more must be done to understand factors that deter sexual minorities from entering and remaining in the field. I aim to contribute to the scarce LGB scholarship by examining the STEM climate and exploring factors related to persistence.
This dissertation is composed of two independent articles that each investigate the issue of underrepresentation of LGB individuals in STEM fields. The first article analyzes existing literature and calls on counseling psychologists to address the problem through using queer theory. I identify various factors that make sexual minorities a difficult population to research, note the additional challenges heterosexism creates for LGB individuals, and recommend counseling psychologists use queer theory to research the systems within STEM. I conclude with recommendations for clinicians and universities.The second article includes an empirical study examining factors related to poor persistence in STEM among LGB undergraduates. Using a mediation model, I hypothesized burnout and the imposter phenomenon would mediate the relationships between stereotype threat and STEM identity, as well as the relationship between STEM identity and persistence. Results indicated stereotype threat was a significant positive predictor of burnout and imposter phenomenon, while STEM identity was a significant predictor of persistence. Results also suggested the effect of stereotype threat on STEM identity is explained better using burnout and imposter phenomenon.