Women's persistence in undergraduate majors: The Effects of Gender-Disproportionate Representation

Stacy J. Rogers, Elizabeth G. Menaghan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Women's lack of participation in science and technology careers is foreshadowed by their low participation in these undergraduate majors. Kanter's theory of tokenism suggests that the effects of being in the numerical minority are responsible for women's absence from the science and technology pipeline. This article uses data from a sample of undergraduate women at a large state university to consider the effects of gender-disproportionate enrollment on women's persistence in majors. Many of the male-dominated majors were in science and technology fields. The authors tested Kanter's theory of tokenism, including the effects of sex ratio in the major, performance pressure, and role entrapment on undergraduate women's likelihood of persistence. In support of Kanter's model, the authors found that performance pressure has a significant, negative effect on likelihood of persistence. However, contrary to Kanter's argument, women in more gender-balanced majors were most likely to be contemplating a change in major.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)549-564
Number of pages16
JournalGender & Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1991

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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