How Effective are Female Role Models in Steering Girls Towards STEM? Evidence from French High Schools

We show in a large-scale field experiment that a brief exposure to female role models working in scientific fields affects high school students’ perceptions and choices of undergraduate major. The classroom interventions reduced the prevalence of stereotypical views on jobs in science and gender differences in abilities. They also made high-achieving girls in grade 12 more likely to enrol in selective and male-dominated science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs in college. Comparing treatment effects across the 56 role model participants, we find that the most effective interventions are those that improved students’ perceptions of science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers without overemphasising women’s under-representation in science.