A new UMass study finds women are more likely to be confident in the sciences if they are grouped with other women.
Psychologist Nilanjana Dasgupta says she wanted to go deeper into the common argument women are more comfortable around other women.
In her experiment, 140 women engineering students were assigned to three different problem-solving teams: one team had mostly men, one mostly women, and one had equal numbers of each.
She found women were most anxious in the male team, more relaxed in the team with equal men and women, but most likely to speak up when the majority were women.
Since only one fifth of U.S. engineers are female, Dasgupta says, most women in schools or the workplace end up on male-dominated teams.
“Put three women in a team of five, so there’s less worry how they’ll be perceived by their teammates, and there’s more subtle incentive to be engaged,” she says.
Women’s colleges have made this claim for years, but Dasgupta says her study shows the effect goes beyond that population.