Although women graduate from college at higher rates than men, they remain underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. This study examines whether women react to failing a STEM weed-out course by switching to a non-STEM major and graduating with a bachelor’s degree in a non-STEM field. While competitive courses designed to weed out potential STEM majors are often invoked in discussions around why students exit the STEM pipeline, relatively little is known about how women and men react to failing these courses. We use detailed individual-level data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study (NELS) Postsecondary Transcript Study (PETS): 1988–2000 to show that women who failed an introductory calculus course are substantially less likely to earn a bachelor’s degree in STEM. In doing so, we provide evidence that weed-out course failure might help us to better understand why women are less likely to earn degrees.
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