Individuals’ choice to pursue one academic or professional path over another may feel like a free choice but it is often constrained by subtle cues in achievement environments that signal who naturally belong there and who don’t. What factors release these constraints and enhance individuals’ real freedom to pursue academic and professional paths despite stereotypes to the contrary? Nilanjana Dasgupta will present a decade-long program of research addressing this question in the context of young women’s confidence, persistence, and career aspirations in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in the face of subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle stereotypes casting doubt on their ability. Dasgupta’s research identifies people and environments that enhance social connections and function as “social vaccines” to protect women’s confidence and success in STEM despite negative stereotypes. Using these data, she will propose remedies that promise to enhance the recruitment and retention of diverse groups in STEM majors and professions.