STEP UP 4 Women

Supporting Teachers to Encourage the Pursuit of Undergraduate Physics for Women

Drawing on research evidence, STEP UP 4 Women will mobilize thousands of high school physics teachers to reduce barriers and inspire young women to pursue physics degrees in college. The goal is to increase the representation of women amongst physics bachelor’s degrees (Figure 1) and begin to shift deep-seated cultural views about who does physics.

If half of the high school physics teachers encourage just one more female student to pursue physics as a major, a historic shift will be initiated – female students will make up 50% of incoming physics majors.

Join the movement and share with others. Be a part of a historic change in the culture of physics.

Ambassador Program

Current and former high school teachers can apply to become STEP UP 4 Women Ambassadors to learn how to train others on how to effectively reduce barriers for women in physics by using STEP UP 4 Women lesson materials in their classroom.

The 2019-2020 Cohort has been selected, meet the Ambassadors!


Figure 1. Percentage of physics bachelor's degrees earned by women (purple) with the goal of STEP UP 4 Women to reach equal representation in the future (gold).

Source: IPEDS

SU4W Graph

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?

Women participate in physics majors at about 20% from the time they start undergraduate studies (Figure 2), so we realized that if we wanted to change things for the country, we need to look earlier. Enrollment in high school physics courses is nearly 50% women. Unlike other sciences, post-secondary participation in physics falls dramatically after high school. Thus, high school is one of the last times we can inspire large numbers of women to consider physics-related careers.

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 Materials &
Classroom Strategies

After registration, teachers will be provided research-based resources to help reduce barriers and inspire women to major in physics including:

  1. Everyday Actions guide, which focuses on explicit encouragement, reducing marginalization, and promoting recognition throughout the year.
    • Sneak Peak: Self-reflection instrument to assess your use of these strategies.
  2. Careers in Physics lesson, which helps students assess their personal values in relation to a career in physics, examine profiles of professionals with physics degrees, and envision themselves in a physics career.
  3. Women in Physics lesson, in which students examine the conditions for women in physics and discuss gender issues with respect to famous physicists, gendered professions, and personal experience to neutralize the effect of stereotypes and bias, and make a classroom commitment to support one another.

Publications & Presentations

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Classroom Guidelines Poster

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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.