Addressing Gender Barriers in STEM through Theatre of Social Engagement

September 15th, 2010 - August 31st, 2013 | PROJECT

The Addressing Gender Barriers in STEM through Theatre of Social Engagement project responds to the need to educate the public about the careers in computer and information science and engineering (CISE) fields by educating high school students, parents, teachers and counselors about the barriers to participation that confront women and other underrepresented groups. In this Communicating Research to Public Audiences (CRPA) project, a dramatic play is used to communicate the findings from the PI's work which resulted in a theory about gender and IT to explain and predict gender (under)representation in IT fields. The play dramatizes constructs of the theory, particularly the ways in which gender, ethnicity, and class affect identity and career and life decisions. Drawing from life history interviews conducted as a part of the research, the storyline of the dramatic play centers on three young women who are graduating from high school and making decisions about their futures and possible careers in IT. Situated squarely in the realm and literature of "theatre of social engagement," this play, and its staged readings and ancillary website, extend access beyond the scientific community to new scientific research on gender barriers in CISE. Learning goals for the project include: 1. Awareness and knowledge about possible computer and information science and engineering careers; barriers and stereotypes that affect CISE career choice among women; and "significant others" such as partners, family members, mentors and teachers who can make a difference at key inflection points in career decision making. 2. Attitude change about the CISE fields being open to everyone regardless of gender, ethnicity, race or class; how one's individual characteristics can be used to resist barriers to inclusion in CISE careers. 3. Intended behavior about learning more about CISE careers and educational opportunities; and responding to negative stereotypes related to CISE. Evaluation of the proposed project will include observations, talk-back sessions (focus groups) after readings of the play, pre-post surveys administered at the showings, and a second post-performance survey to be administered a certain amount of time after the showing. Dissemination will be through readings of the play for audiences in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, with partnering informal learning venues, and through an associated website which will allow visitors to download and stage the play themselves. Advertisement for the play and the website will take place through websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and websites that promote diversity in computing. In addition, the PI intends to contribute to the scholarly literature on theatre as an informal learning approach and on the findings of how audiences respond to the play itself.

Project Website(s)

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Project Products

Team Members

Eileen Trauth, Principal Investigator, Pennsylvania State University


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: ISE/AISL
Award Number: 1039546
Funding Amount: 149999


Access and Inclusion: Women and Girls
Audience: Educators | Teachers | Evaluators | Museum | ISE Professionals | Parents | Caregivers | Youth | Teen (up to 17)
Discipline: Art | music | theater | Computing and information science | Engineering | Nature of science | Social science and psychology
Resource Type: Project Descriptions
Environment Type: Public Programs | Theater Programs