In this convergent mixed methods research project, I address the question of why large numbers of college students take women’s studies courses yet are reluctant to major in the field. Using availability bias and intersectionality as my theoretical framework I hypothesized that the reluctance to declare women and gender studies as a major stems from 1) the failure to see the applicability of the major to career goals and aspirations, 2) social stigma associated with feminism, 3) social location. As a part of my intervention I designed and tested two 10-minute video modules; one on job applicability featuring women studies alumni discussing their career paths and their decision to major in the field, and a second on deconstructing stereotypes about feminism. The control group was shown a generic video on cinematic representations. Students were randomly assigned to one of the three groups and administered a pretest and posttest survey designed to measure job applicability, social attitudes about feminism and social location. Interviews were conducted with 6 students. My goal was to better understand perceived practicality of the women’s studies degree, social attitudes about feminism and the
impact of these perceptions as they relate to a student's selection of the major.
My research questions include:
RQ 1) Among students taking a course in women’s studies, how and to what extent does participation in a module on job applicability influence a student's perceptions of the potential career applicability of the women’s studies degree?
RQ 2) Among students taking a course in women’s studies, how and to what extent does participation in the module regarding feminism impact a student's perceptions of the value of the women’s studies degree?
RQ 3) How does one’s social location interact with the findings of RQ’s 1 & 2?
My sample (n=115) was drawn from students enrolled in online and hybrid courses I taught in the WST program at Arizona State University, the largest such program in the country, drawing over 6,000 students annually. However, the number of majors at 84 students is not commensurate with the growth we are experiencing in terms of enrollment or the popularity of the courses. These research addresses these
My findings showed that the job applicability module increased student knowledge about the applicability of the women and gender studies major and that students had a better overall understanding of the degree in relation to career applicability, while the module about feminism did not have an effect on the choice of major. My findings suggest that students lack of previous career knowledge in terms of job paths available to WST graduates proved to be an obstacle for our program and intervening may allow for the increase of majors.