STEP UP for Women

Supporting Teachers to Encourage the Pursuit of Undergraduate Physics for Women

The percentage of women earning bachelor's degrees in physics is declining and continues to lag behind the other sciences (Figure 1). The STEP UP for Women project is tackling the issue by designing research-based curriculum/classroom strategies for high school teachers to encourage women to study undergraduate physics.

Broad Goal

STEP UP for Women seeks to increase the number of women earning degrees in physics by dramatically increasing the number of women majoring in physics in college, closing the gap between the those that take physics in high school (~50%) and those that enter college intending to declare a physics major (~20%) (Figure 2). Unlike other sciences, post-secondary participation in physics falls dramatically, with high school, in most cases, being the last time we can inform and recruit large numbers of women into the field.

If a third of high school physics teachers recruit one additional female student to a physics major, the incoming college gap will be closed.

STEP UP 4 Women

We are looking for volunteers to take part in pilot activities for STEP UP for Women. Register now:

High School Teachers




Bachelor's Degrees Earned by Women

Figure 1. Percentage of bachelor's degrees in physics, chemistry, and biology earned by women.

Source: IPEDS

Various Academic Stages

Figure 2. Percentage of students in physics, chemistry, and biology who are women at various academic stages. College entrance refers to first-year students' intent to major.

Source: AIPHERI, and IPEDS

Why High School?

High school is likely the most strategic time point since: (see Hodapp & Hazari, 2015 for more details):

  • Most women physicists and physics undergraduates become interested at that time
  • Compared to elementary school, teachers have more content knowledge, confidence, and are more vested in physics
  • Compared to elementary/middle school, students are closer to decision-making time for majors
  • Compared to college, there are smaller classes and more time to build relationships

Research-Based Interventions &
Classroom Strategies

Teachers will be provided research-based resources to help recruit women to physics including:

  • Career Exploration Lesson
  • Underrepresentation Discussion Lesson
  • General Classroom Strategies

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Nos. 1720810, 1720869, 1720917, and 1721021. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.