Major Biases: How Gender and Ethnicity Influence College Major Perceptions
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The purpose of this study is to investigate whether college students’ gender and ethnicity affect perceptions of how well they fit into a college major. Previous studies have found that undergraduate major is significantly correlated with job stability and job satisfaction (U.S. Department of Education, 1998; 2001). Previous research has also shown gender-based expectations in hiring decisions (Rudman & Glick, 2001). Men are expected to possess agentic traits (competent, ambitious, independent), whereas women are expected to possess communal traits (helpful, nice, nurturing). The proposed study will use 3 (major description: agentic vs communal vs neutral) X 3 (student ethnicity: White vs Hispanic vs Black) X 2 (student gender: male vs female) mixed experimental design. Participants will be randomly assigned to evaluate either all male or female students from White, Black, and Hispanic ethnic backgrounds. Participants will be given a description of a major that either coincides with stereotypically masculine, stereotypically feminine, or will not align with gender stereotypes. Participants will then complete evaluations of the students’ personality traits and degree of fit in the described major. I hypothesize that participants will rate women as more social and artistic, whereas men will be rated as more realistic and conventional. I also hypothesize that men and women will be rated as equally investigative and enterprising. Regarding evaluations of fit, I predict that perceived fit will be higher for women in communal majors and higher for men in agentic majors. Participants will have the opportunity to receive course credit by participating in SONA. The results of this study may suggest reformation in the process of advising and representation of college majors to increase inclusivity.