Science is one of fields which are overwhelmed by prejudice and bias especially when it comes to African American females. There are numerous barriers this group of US population has to face. Breaking Barriers: African American Women in Science is aimed at helping these females to pursue scientific careers through inspiration and raising awareness.
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This paper provides an evaluation program to assess effectiveness of Breaking Barriers: African American Women in Science. It also contains a brief account of the program effectiveness with suggestions on its improvement. It is concluded that the program lacks for precision and it is hard to evaluate it. However, the program does affect participants’ opinion and contributes to development of a lasting debate on the issue.
The US society is regarded as an exemplary democratic society as it is governed by truly democratic values. Nonetheless, different kinds of discrimination, prejudice and bias still persist in the country. Numerous programs and initiatives are aimed at assisting vulnerable groups to cope with certain trends existing in the American society. For instance, Fouad et al. (2010) stress that young people face numerous obstacles when graduating from educational establishments and women are especially vulnerable in this process.
The researchers also note that ethnicity also has an impact on young people’s choices. Pinholster (2010) emphasizes that women who want to move forward in science are unable to achieve their goals due to numerous obstacles including socioeconomic factors, prejudice and bias. When it comes to women of color, situation is even worse as barriers associated with race appear (Bock, Taylor, Phillips & Sun, 2013). This part of the US population is especially vulnerable since African American females often pertain to less well-off families and share the viewpoint that science is not for women but for males.
Notably, people’s perceptions towards gender and ethnicity in science play an important role in the process and contribute to development of obstacles for African American women. Breaking Barriers: African American Women in Science is a program which addresses needs of women of color who seek for careers in science. The program is aimed at young African American females who choose to pursue their career in science.
The program includes discussion of success stories of representatives of this group of US population. Some students are able to have professional feedback on their projects and implement some experiments. Nonetheless, it is necessary to make sure that the program is effective and that it meets stakeholder’s needs and achieves its aims. This paper focuses on evaluation of the program aimed at monitoring and measuring program’s outcomes with the use of effective methods and techniques.
Before developing an assessment strategy, it is crucial to outline program’s goals and aims. It is necessary to note that the program is not well-defined and there are no particular goals outlined. The aims of the program are rather general, which makes it more difficult to assess. However, it is possible to identify major objectives of the program in question. The major goal of the program is to inspire young African American women to pursue careers in science through sharing success stories (Breaking barriers: Women in science, 2012). Another goal was to help students integrate into a scholarly discourse and be able to present their projects with further discussion.
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The major short-term goal of the program is to encourage young African American women to pursue their studies. The program also aimed at raising awareness about opportunities in the field. Among long-term goals of the program it is possible to single out the following: to inspire African American females to continue their studies and strive for high results in their careers, raise awareness about success stories among the target group of the program.
It is possible to note that one of possible outcomes of the program can be a change in people’s (especially females’) attitude towards the issue. Clearly, the program also aims at a broader context and strives for diminishing discrimination and prejudice in the US society. The final objective may be outlined as follows: African American females enjoy equality with other groups of people in scientific terrain and the US society benefits from diversity in this area.
Participants of the Program Evaluation
To evaluate the program in question, it is possible to exploit experimental research method. This will help obtain accurate results and data which, in their turn, will enable evaluators assess effectiveness of the program and reveal its downsides as well as offer corrections if necessary (Rossi, Lipsey & Freeman, 2004). It is essential to make sure that the evaluation program includes three basic elements, identical composition, identical predispositions and identical experiences (Rossi et al., 2004). The program will contain two equally mixed groups of participants. The participants will be equally exposed to certain factors and they will experience similar processes.
Two groups of participants will be created, control group and intervention group. Since the aim of the program is to address African American women, it is clear that this category of population will become participants of the research. Of course, research may involve outcomes for the community in general (Rossi et al., 2004). Nonetheless, this program has a particular goal to inspire women as well as change their attitude towards the issue and, hence, it is crucial to focus on individuals rather than the community.
Importantly, to ensure identical composition two groups will consist of students with high and medium academic performance. Those who underperform will be excluded as a number of factors may interfere. For instance, such students may find it difficult to study science and try to change their major due to their personal evaluation of their abilities. Underperformance is often associated with personal issues which can also affect females’ decision and they can decide to change their major or even stop their studies.
Furthermore, to implement the research, the intervention group will consist of African American female students majoring in science who participated in the program whereas control group will include college (and university) African American female students majoring in science who did not take part in the program (though, they may have heard of it).
Randomized sampling will be used to enhance relevance of the evaluation program. Statistical approach will be utilized to make sure participants are chosen randomly (Rossi et al., 2004). There are odds that some people will refuse to participate due to ethical considerations or personal reasons. It is necessary to address 200 people to participate in the research (100 for each group). Admittedly, all ethical norms of survey implementation will be followed and written consent will be obtained.
Admittedly, it is more preferable to make multiple measurements but in this case it is impossible. However, since the aim of the program is to inspire African American females, it is possible to collect data after the program and assess whether females got inspired and became more committed to pursue academic paths. To assess the program, it is necessary to analyze the rate of women who have obtained (or study to obtain) doctoral degree in science and are employed in the corresponding sphere.
Apart from this, qualitative research will be implemented to understand whether females’ attitude towards their future and future of African American women has changed. This complex approach will enable measure the program’s outcomes effectively (Rossi et al., 2004). Finally, it is important to understand whether the program under analysis has enhanced women’s awareness on the issue.
Program Design Assessment
Evaluation of the program will include analysis of its design effectiveness. It is necessary to mention certain challenge to evaluation of the program. The program is not ‘mature’ and can be changed overtime which adds additional complications for evaluation (Rossi et al., 2004). Thus, evaluators will take into account possibility of changes which may take place. Admittedly, addressing the right people and setting the right aims does not guarantee effectiveness of the program as design of the program (ability to engage audience and reach aims) is essential.
Launching discussion can be regarded as an effective way to start a lasting debate on an issue (Rossi et al., 2004). Thus, this method leads to significant long-term outcomes. One of these outcomes is tied to one of the program’s goals, raising awareness and, hence, the format of a discussion is appropriate.
Females’ awareness on the issue can be checked right after the program and it can be assessed in a year or several years. Another objective concerning females’ attitude towards the issue is also possible to evaluate after the program implementation. It will be possible to check whether women’s attitude towards their future has changed due to participation in the program. These are particular long- and short-term goals which are measurable.
At the same time, this design will make it hard to assess short-term and long-term outcomes as well as effectiveness of the program with regards to such goals as inspiring women to pursue their studies and careers in science. The program started in 2012 and it is difficult to estimate whether the outcomes will be long-term as discussion can terminate soon (Breaking barriers: Women in science, 2012). This issue can be put aside because of a debate on a new social issue.
Besides, numerous factors (including family issues, development of the field and so on) will affect females’ decisions and this adds certain approximation to the evaluation program. As for short-term outcomes, they are also hard to evaluate as those who participated in the debate are likely to continue their studies irrespective of any program. At the same time, inspiration is difficult to measure due to complexity of the concept. It is possible to focus on participants’ opinion rather than the degree of their inspiration.
Effectiveness of the program
Particular Need in the Program
Before looking into effectiveness of the program, it is crucial to understand particular reasons why the program is needed. First, it is important to view the issue from a broader context. Science is one of fields which help societies develop. It is clear that this field requires dedicated researchers to pursue their academic and career aspirations which are associated with new discoveries and advances in the field. Researchers note that diversity which results in higher competitiveness in science positively affects development of this sphere (Pinholster, 2010). Therefore, scientists have to pertain to different groups of population in respect of gender, ethnicity and social status.
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However, gender diversity is not a characteristic feature of science. Only 11% of people involved in engineering are women and 27% of science and engineering occupations are females (Fouad et al., 2010). It is also noteworthy that the number of women obtaining bachelor degrees in science has increased recently but the number of females obtaining doctoral degrees has decreased (Pinholster, 2010).
When it comes to African American females, the figures are even lower. There are numerous reasons for this trend. Clearly, socioeconomic factors affect this group’s decisions and lots of African American women choose to start work or study another discipline. Remarkably, the terrain is subjected to numerous prejudice and bias. For instance, Bock et al. (2013) stress that lots of people (especially women) consider science to be a field suitable for men or nerds.
It follows that there are two major barriers preventing females from obtaining degrees and pursuing careers in science, socioeconomic reasons and prejudice. The program in question does not address needs of African American women but focuses on experience of successful females. Changing socioeconomic factors is not a goal and it will not be achieved through the program as it does not involve broad governmental incentives and extensive funding of vulnerable groups of population.
At the same time, the program under analysis can address another barrier, prejudice. Sharing experiences and listening to success stories can inspire women to pursue scientific careers. It can also help destroy the myth about male’s ‘rule’ in the field. Nonetheless, this is hardly enough to change the trend as the program involves limited number of participants. For instance, it has not been implemented nationwide.
The program’s design is also quite ineffective to significantly affect the situation. Thus, the program involved discussions only but it could be more effective to make a larger contribution to young female scientists’ development. It is possible to give certain grants to the most promising students who will be able to pursue scientific careers. The program can also include workshops.
Participants of the program could get useful information on existing funds and other programs, on employers looking for young specialists. It could also be helpful to launch workshops on creating resumes, applying for jobs, participation in interviews and so on. It is possible to state that the program is not very effective as it does not have specific and well-established goals. The aims of the program are quite general, which makes it less effective.
Clearly, public administrators have to develop (and/or support) cost-effective programs which set specific goals and achieve them. It is a good incentive to discuss issues and share successful experiences, but this can hardly be an effective program as it reaches limited groups and achieves limited goals. The program’s design can become a basis for development of a more comprehensive incentive.
The discussion (in the format presented) can be a part of a larger program to ensure its cost-effectiveness. As has been mentioned above, it is crucial to add a variety of workshops. Admittedly, the new program will be evaluated as well and if it proves to be effective, it will be possible to develop a nationwide program. It is also necessary to consider involving high school students to diminish negative effects of existing prejudice. This improved program will reach more people and it will be able to change existing trends.
To sum up, it is possible to note that the program Breaking Barriers: African American Women in Science can be evaluated using experimental approach. The evaluation program will include African American female students majoring in science. Notably, it is quite difficult to evaluate the program due to vagueness of its aims which are not outlined in detail. Major goal of the program is to raise awareness about the issue, change their attitude towards the field and inspire African American women to pursue scientific careers.
It is hard to assess short- and long-term outcomes of the program as to females’ inspiration. However, it is possible to evaluate outcomes in point of women’s awareness and opinion on the matter. This evaluation will lead to the following conclusions. The program lacks for precision and is unlikely to reach its broad goals. The program will raise awareness and change female’s attitude towards the issue if it will embrace more people. However, it is important to consider cost-effectiveness of the program with such goals as it is possible to achieve similar (or even better) results with a modified program.
Bock, S.J., Taylor, L.J., Phillips, Z.E., & Sun, W. (2013). Women and minorities in computer science majors: Results on barriers from interviews and a survey. Issues in Information Systems, 14(1), 143-152.
Breaking barriers: Women in science. (2012). The History Makers. Web.
Fouad, N.A., Hackett, G., Smith, P.L., Kantamneni, N., Fitzpatrick, M., Haag, S., & Spencer, D. (2010). Barriers and supports for continuing in mathematics and science: Gender and educational level differences. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 77(1), 361-373.
Pinholster, G. (2010). National survey conducted by AAAS and science confirms continuing obstacles to women in science. Web.
Rossi, P.H., Lipsey, M.W., & Freeman, H.E. (2004). Evaluation: A systematic approach. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.