Date of Award

Fall 2021

Publication Type


First Advisor

C. Smith

Second Advisor

D. Kao

Third Advisor

G. Zhou


China, Expectancy value theory, Female, Mathematics anxiety, STEM, Stereotype threat




Globally, women have been underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, and this is true in China. The current study seeks to identify factors that shape adolescent girls’ decision-making when deciding whether to pursue STEM studies and the barriers they face. The study likewise seeks to develop recommendations to encourage and empower girls to choose STEM. Data was collected from one-on-one interviews with six Chinese female international students: three in the STEM fields, and three in non-STEM fields at a comprehensive university in southwestern Ontario. The interviews explored the familial, educator, and peer influences that promoted or challenged gender stereotypes related to STEM. The data suggest that girls are less likely to enjoy or enroll in STEM classes if their parents and teachers promote negative stereotypes about STEM, offer disparaging criticisms of the girls’ STEM performance, and have different expectations based on gender. Inversely, girls are more likely to enroll in STEM if they have parents and teachers who prepare them for and encourage them to pursue STEM. This is likewise true in instances where parents objectively discuss and deconstruct sexist views of girls and STEM, and girls who have role models who work in STEM fields, whether those role models are male or female.