In most countries, girls underperform in math and they are less likely to choose a STEM career. Exposure to stereotypes has negative consequences on girls’ self-confidence in math, their performance measured by standardized test scores, and their likelihood to choose advanced STEM tracks (Carlana, 2019). According to the stereotype-threat theory, one potential way to reduce the negative effects of exposure to gender stereotypes is by increasing girls’ self-confidence in math.
I will exploit an already ongoing project, "Girls code it better" (GCIB), a coding course targeting female middle-school students, to study the relationship between gender stereotypes and education. GCIB has been running since 2015 in Italy and I will focus on 14 school that have taken part to this project in this school year (2018-2019).
The purpose of my research is twofold: firstly, I aim at evaluating whether GCIB could be an effective channel to reduce gender stereotypes; and secondly, I would like to establish whether a role model intervention can positively affect girls' willingness to enrol in a coding course. I will exploit two separate RCTs to answer to these two questions.
To evaluate the impact of GCIB on students, I will measure certain outcomes such as their self-confidence, perception of gender stereotypes, choice of the field of study and performance in school. I will exploit three sources of information: a survey, the results of an Implicit Association Test concerning school subjects and gender stereotypes, and administrative data provided by the Ministry of Education on pupils' school grades and high school track choices.
I would like to understand whether girls become less vulnerable to the stereotype threat after attending the project GCIB. To achieve this, I will compare the outcomes of girls who attended GCIB during the 2018-19 school year (treatment group) with those of the girls who applied and were not admitted (control group). It is important to underline that the girls that applied to the project have been randomly selected in the treatment or in the control group.
Furthermore, I will also analyze the impact of GCIB on the peers of treated and control students in terms of gender norms and educational choices, to assess the presence of eventual spill-overs.
To tackle the second point, I will evaluate the impact of two different role models on the girls' willingness to enrol in coding activities or courses. The treatment is randomly assigned at the classroom level: one group of classes will be presented with the story of a successful female professor, a second group will read information about a peer who did last year GCIB, while a third group will serve as a control. By comparing the willingness to take a coding course across the three groups, I will identify the most effective intervention.