Program Overview

STEP UP Project Goals:

  • mobilize thousands of high school physics teachers to help engage young women in physics
  • change deep-seated cultural views about physicists
  • Inspire young women to pursue physics in college

We will achieve this if each of the high school physics teachers in our community inspires at least one young woman into physics each year.

Project Goals bar graph

Importance of High School Interventions:

Most women physics majors report that they became interested in physics careers in high school (Hazari, Brewe, Goertzen, & Hodapp, 2017). A high school physics teacher’s recognition of a young woman as being a “physics person” is a significant predictor for choosing a physics career. Furthermore, most female career physicists also report becoming interested in physics careers in high school (Ivie & Guo, 2006). High school may be a critical period, particularly in the US, since physics is delineated as a separate science course at that time and students are getting close to deciding on their majors.

There are more than 1.3 million students who take high school physics every year (not including Physics First), of whom more than 600,000 are women (White & Tesfaye, 2011; White & Tesfaye, 2014). Furthermore, there are approximately 27,000 high school physics teachers in the nation (White & Tyler, 2014). If these teachers recruited 13,500 more young women to a physics major, the representation of women will reach 50%.

Resources Available:

Evidence-based teaching resources to facilitate female students seeing themselves as a “physics person,” and becoming interested in physics careers are available including:

  • Careers in Physics - a lesson on careers in physics, particularly those that help solve societal problems
  • Women in Physics - a lesson on the underrepresentation of women in physics and the role of implicit bias and cultural stereotypes.
  • Everyday Actions - strategies for reducing marginalization in the classroom and recognizing students as physics people

These are NGSS-supported reflective activities that engage student discussion.

Ways to Help Further:

Teachers, faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students can register to be a part of the STEP UP community here to access to the community discussion boards.

Together as a community, we have the capability to ignite the future of physics, a future in which women play an integral role.