Walton, Logel, et al., 2015-Social Belonging: Reflecting on stories about common challenges to belonging in the transition to engineering raised first-year GPA and improved academic attitudes and daily functioning among women in male-dominated engineering majors over an academic year
A version of the social-belonging intervention (Walton & Cohen, 2011) adapted for women in engineering was delivered in small-group sessions in the fall of students’ first year in a selective engineering program. Students read stories from male and female senior engineering students describing how it is normal to worry at first about whether you belong in engineering and this improves with time. The stories were redeveloped from Walton and Cohen (2011) following extensive interviews with senior female engineering students. Students watched a slideshow presentation of the stories and heard them read aloud by senior engineering students. They then wrote an essay about their experience in engineering so far reflected the process described, and a letter to a future first-year student describing the transition. As compared to a randomized control condition, this exercise, along with a novel “affirmation-training” intervention, raised women’s GPA in male-dominated engineering majors over the first year, eliminating the gender gap in achievement. It also caused women in male-dominated majors to view daily adversities as less threatening over the next two weeks, immediately and in the second semester, improved women’s evaluation of their experience in engineering, and, in the second semester, improved their perceived prospects of succeeding in the field. Additionally, the social-belonging intervention led women to develop more friendships with male engineers.