The Relations between Agentic and Communal Caring, Gender, and STEM Interest for Undergraduates at an HBCU

Lillian M Audette, Tennessee State University


Women and African Americans are disproportionately underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, starting in high school and continuing through selection of college majors and eventual participation as workers (Upton & Tanenbaum, 2014). Diekman’s Goal Congruity Model, in particular, offers a brief and cogent explanation of how this differential filtration might occur (Diekman, Steinberg, Brown, Belanger, & Clark, 2017). Per the Goal Congruity Model’s Phase I, perceptions of STEM roles’ agentic/communal goal affordances – roles’ ability to impede or support individuals from fulfilling their agentic or communal values – might lead individuals to perceive STEM fields as inhospitable to their personal agentic/communal values, and not choose STEM fields during undergraduate study (Diekman et al., 2017). The Goal Congruity Model’s Phase I (Diekman et al., 2017) has not been examined with a majority African American undergraduate sample, nor with an HBCU sample. This study examined the relevance of the Goal Congruity Model’s Phase I (Diekman et al., 2017) for a majority-African American sample, and found it broadly held and helped understand students’ interest in STEM majors. Both agentic affordance perceptions and communal affordance perceptions had a significant, positive relationship with interest in STEM. Communal values endorsement had a direct negative relationship with undergraduates’ interest in STEM. Race/ethnicity and individualism-communalism values also had slight relationships with communal values and agentic values; STEM/non-STEM major did not have a relationship with communal nor agentic values, and gender had mixed evidence for a relationship with communal values. The present study suggests that both agentic and communal affordance perceptions can be leveraged to increase African American undergraduates’ interest in STEM which per the Goal Congruity Model will increase selection of STEM majors and entry to STEM fields. This is important given African Americans underrepresentation in STEM fields, and the high-paying nature of STEM careers. Future studies may wish to examine if Afrocentric values affordance perceptions impact interest in STEM, whether Phases II and III of the model hold with African American undergraduates, and whether the findings of the present study hold with other African American or other HBCU populations.

Subject Area

Counseling Psychology|African American Studies|Educational psychology|Science education

Recommended Citation

Lillian M Audette, "The Relations between Agentic and Communal Caring, Gender, and STEM Interest for Undergraduates at an HBCU" (2020). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI28002576.