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The Gender Gap in STEM Fields: The Impact of the Gender Stereotype of Math and Science on Secondary Students' Career Aspirations

  • Swiss Federal University for Vocational Education and Training

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Studies have repeatedly reported that math and science are perceived as male domains, and scientists as predominantly male. However, the impact of the gender image of school science subjects on young people's career choice has not yet been analyzed. This paper investigates the impact of the masculinity image of three school subjects-chemistry, mathematics, and physics-on secondary students' career aspirations in STEM fields. The data originated from a cross-sectional study among 1'364 Swiss secondary school students who were close to obtaining their matriculation diploma. By means of a standardized survey, data on students' perception of masculinity of science school subjects were collected using semantic differentials. The results indicate that for both sexes, math has the strongest masculinity attribution, followed by physics as second, and, finally, chemistry with the lowest masculinity attribution. With respect to gender differences, our findings have shown that among female students, the attribution of masculinity to the three school subjects does not differ significantly, meaning that female students rated all subjects similarly strongly as masculine. Within the group of male students however, the attribution of masculinity to math compared to chemistry and physics differs significantly, whereas the attribution of masculinity to chemistry and physics does not. Our findings also suggest that gender-science stereotypes of math and science can potentially influence young women's and men's aspirations to enroll in a STEM major at university by showing that a less pronounced masculine image of science has the potential to increase the likelihood of STEM career aspirations. Finally, the paper discusses ways of changing the image of math and science in the context of secondary education in order to overcome the disparities between females and males in STEM.
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published: 10 July 2019
doi: 10.3389/feduc.2019.00060
Frontiers in Education | 1July 2019 | Volume 4 | Article 60
Edited by:
Bernhard Ertl,
Universität der Bundeswehr
München, Germany
Reviewed by:
Bettina Hannover,
Freie Universität Berlin, Germany
Jessica Lauren Degol,
Pennsylvania State University,
United States
Elena Makarova
Specialty section:
This article was submitted to
Educational Psychology,
Frontiers in Education
Received: 28 December 2018
Accepted: 11 June 2019
Published: 10 July 2019
Makarova E, Aeschlimann B and
Herzog W (2019) The Gender Gap in
STEM Fields: The Impact of the
Gender Stereotype of Math and
Science on Secondary Students’
Career Aspirations. Front. Educ. 4:60.
doi: 10.3389/feduc.2019.00060
The Gender Gap in STEM Fields: The
Impact of the Gender Stereotype of
Math and Science on Secondary
Students’ Career Aspirations
Elena Makarova 1
2and Walter Herzog 3
1Institute for Educational Sciences, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland, 2Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education
and Training SFIVET, Bern, Switzerland, 3Institute of Educational Science, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
Studies have repeatedly reported that math and science are perceived as male domains,
and scientists as predominantly male. However, the impact ofthegenderimageofschool
science subjects on young people’s career choice has not yet been analyzed. This paper
investigates the impact of the masculinity image of three school subjects—chemistry,
mathematics, and physics—on secondary students’ career aspirations in STEM fields.
The data originated from a cross-sectional study among 1’364Swisssecondaryschool
students who were close to obtaining their matriculation diploma. By means of a
standardized survey, data on students’ perception of masculinity of science school
subjects were collected using semantic differentials. The results indicate that for both
sexes, math has the strongest masculinity attribution, followed by physics as second,
and, finally, chemistry with the lowest masculinity attribution. With respect to gender
differences, our findings have shown that among female students, the attribution of
masculinity to the three school subjects does not differ significantly, meaning that female
students rated all subjects similarly strongly as masculine. Within the group of male
students however, the attribution of masculinity to math compared to chemistry and
physics differs significantly, whereas the attribution of masculinity to chemistry and
physics does not. Our findings also suggest that gender-science stereotypes of math
and science can potentially influence young women’s and men’saspirationstoenrollina
STEM major at university by showing that a less pronounced masculine image of science
has the potential to increase the likelihood of STEM career aspirations. Finally, the paper
discusses ways of changing the image of math and science in thecontextofsecondary
education in order to overcome the disparities between females and males in STEM.
Keywords: gender, career aspirations, science, mathematics,secondaryschoolstudents
Gender segregation in the vocational orientation of adolescents has been well documented for
decades in most OECD countries (OECD, 2006, 2012). The persistence of gendered paths in
career choices has recently been reflected in the current Global Gender Gap Report of the
World Economic Forum (WEF), which states that on average men are underrepresented in
the fields of education, health and welfare whereas women are underrepresented in the STEM
Makarova et al. The Gender Gap in STEM Fields
fields (WEF, 2017, p. 31). Moreover, on the basis of
the occupational aspirations of 15-year-old adolescents,
the prognosis for change in gender-based disparities in
occupational and academic choices suggests that gender
segregation in the education and labor market will remain
persistent (OECD, 2017).
The persistence of horizontal gender segregation in
educational and occupational fields contributes decisively to the
spread of gender-stereotypic beliefs about a natural fit of women
in careers in more expressive and human-centered fields and
men in technical and math-intensive fields (Charles and Bradley,
2009). Gender stereotypes are part of a broader belief system
that includes attitudes toward female and male family roles,
female and male occupations, and gender-associated perceptions
of the self. As bipolar constructs, gender stereotypes imply that
what is masculine is not feminine and vice versa (Deaux and
LaFrance, 1998; Worell, 2001; Renfrow and Howard, 2013).
The social role theory (Eagly and Wood, 2012)suggeststhat
gender roles and their occupants are highly visible in everyday
contexts and that gender stereotypes emerge in response to the
observation of women and men in dierent social roles and in
role-linked activities related to occupational choices (Koenig
and Eagly, 2014). This theoretical assumption was confirmed
in a study by Miller et al. (2015), which analyzed how women’s
enrollment in science courses relates to the gender-science
stereotype. Based on a survey of about 3,50,000 participants
in 66 nations, this study concluded that explicit and implicit
national gender-science stereotypes were weaker in countries
with a higher female enrollment in tertiary science education.
This study also demonstrated that stereotypes about science were
strongly gendered, even in countries with high overall gender
equity. In addition, a meta-analysis of two major international
data sets—“Trends in International Mathematics and Science
Study” (TIMMS) and the “Programme for International Student
Assessment” (PISA)—has confirmed that gender equity in
education is important not only for girls’ math achievement
but also for girls’ self-confidence and valuing of mathematics
(Else-Quest et al., 2010). Furthermore, a cross-national data
analysis has indicated that gender dierences in math are closely
related to cultural variations in opportunity structures for girls
and women, in particular to gender equity in school enrollment,
women’s share of research jobs, and women’s parliamentary
representation (ibid., p. 103). Accordingly, the low proportion
of women in STEM leads to the spread of a gender stereotypical
image of math and science as a male domain and beliefs about
male supremacy in technical and math-intensive fields. In turn,
such beliefs aect young people’s career choices, leading to a
mutual reinforcement of gender stereotypes, and gender gaps in
career related interests and choices (Nosek et al., 2009, p. 10,596).
In Switzerland gender segregation is also persistent and
is especially noticeable in the STEM field (FSO, 2013). In
educational tracks at the universities of applied science, with
only 21.3% of women enrolled in STEM courses in academic
year 2017–2018. However, some STEM fields are more strongly
gender segregated than others. The lowest proportion of women
is in the fields of informatics (10.4%) and technology (8.5%),
whereas in the fields of chemistry and life-sciences the proportion
of women is considerably higher (43.7%) (FSO, 2019a). In
secondary education, gender is almost balanced in chemistry and
biology (girls 18.4% and boys 20.5%) as a subject of specialization,
whereas considerably more boys (18.4%) than girls (4.4%)
decided to specialize in the subjects math and physics (FSO,
2019b). It is, thus, important to distinguish between dierent
STEM disciplines and subjects when addressing the gender gap
in the STEM field (Rosser, 2012; Ertl et al., 2017).
Following this notion, our study aimed to analyze the gender
stereotype of school science subjects among female and male
students and the impact of gender-science stereotypes on the career
aspirations of young people. The ultimate goal of our study is to
provide a more comprehensive understanding of gender equity
in STEM.
The gender stereotype of math and science has been analyzed
via a variety of quantitative and qualitative methods (review
in Makarova and Herzog, 2015). Among those are the Draw-
A-Scientist Test (DAST) (e.g., Chambers, 1983; Finson, 2002;
Scherz and Oren, 2006), the Implicit Association Test (IAT)
(e.g., Greenwald et al., 1998; Nosek et al., 2002, 2009), explicit
stereotype assessments using attitude questionnaires (e.g., Kessels,
2005), semantic dierential assessments (e.g., Herzog et al., 1998;
Makarova and Herzog, 2015), and individual or group interviews
(e.g., Archer et al., 2010).
Studies that applied the DAST method reported that students
from kindergarten to high school perceive a scientist as a male
person. The children’s drawings contained very few portrayalsof
female scientists and these few drawings were mostly drawn by
female students. For example, in a study among students from
kindergarten through fifth grade there were only 28 pictures
of a female scientist out of 4,807, and all of these 28 drawings
were drawn by girls (Chambers, 1983); in a study surveying
students in grades 2–12 only 135 pictures out of 1,600 displayed
female scientists and only six out of 135 pictures of a female
scientist were drawn by male students (Fort and Varney, 1989);
in a study among students of 9–12 years of age, there were
only 72 pictures of a female scientist out of 223, and of those
72, only 13 pictures were drawn by male students (Huber and
Burton, 1995). The precise way in which a scientist was pictured
by middle school students was reported in a study by Scherz
and Oren (2006, p. 977): “The common image was that of a
scientist as a bespectacled male with unkempt hair in a white
lab-coat.” Moreover, the following quote from a study by Mead
and Metraux (1957) on high-school students’ image of a scientist
highlights how persistent the scientist-stereotype remains over
decades. The image of a scientist is depicted in students’ essays
as “a man who wears a white coat and works in a laboratory.
He is elderly or middle aged and wears glasses .. . He may
wear a beard, may be unshaven and unkempt” (Mead and
Metraux, 1957, p. 386). Finally, the most recent meta-analysis
of five decades of U.S. DAST studies based on 78 studies (N=
20,860) among children grades K-12, shows a growth in children’s
depictions of female scientists in later decades. However, the
more female scientist appeared only in drawings by young
Frontiers in Education | 2July 2019 | Volume 4 | Article 60
Makarova et al. The Gender Gap in STEM Fields
children, but science was still associated with men among older
children (Miller et al., 2018). The authors conclude that despite
the increase of women’s representation in science over the last
decades, children still observe more male than female scientists
in their social environments (Miller et al., 2018, p. 1,943).
Furthermore, research on gender stereotypes has revealed
that science is not only associated with a male person, but
that masculine traits are also attributed to it. A study by
Archer et al. (2010) suggested that although young children
do not have profound knowledge about science subjects, they
attribute masculine traits to science at an early age. In the
same vein, a study by Cvencek et al. (2011) reported that as
early as second grade children perceive that math is a male
domain, demonstrating the American cultural stereotype. In
addition, a study among high school students reported that
better performance in STEM subjects was attributed to boys,
and masculine traits to a person who works as a scientist
(Hand et al., 2017). Another study among school children
and university students by Weinreich-Haste (1981) assessed the
gender image of dierent academic subjects using ratings on
a six-point masculine-feminine scale. The study reported that
math, physics and chemistry had the strongest connotation as
masculine academic subjects. Moreover, it showed that science
subjects were not only rated as masculine but also associatedwith
asetofattributescommonlyassociatedwithmasculinitysuch as
being hard, complex, based on thinking rather than on feelings
(Weinreich-Haste, 1981, p. 220f.). In contrast, a study on gender
perception of school subjects among students aged 11–12 years,
which applied a seven-point masculine-feminine scale, reported
that while physics was rated as significantly more masculine,
chemistry and mathematics were rated as neither masculine nor
feminine (Archer and MacRae, 1991).
To summarize, we can state that the male stereotype of
science and of a scientist is persistent and appears as early as
in kindergarten age, while the association of science with men
is especially persistent among older children. Research has also
shown that students predominantly perceive science subjects
(math, physics, and chemistry) as a male domain, although
findings do not provide a clear picture as to which of these
subjects is more strongly associated with male gender. The reason
is the very broad age-range of students (K-12) across reported
studies, lack of comparison of gender stereotypes of dierent
school subjects within one study, dierent methodology (explicit
and implicit assessment) used to assess gender stereotypes of
science, as well as the time span between findings of dierent
studies. Thus, further research on the perception of masculinity
of chemistry, math, and physics among school students is needed
to gain deeper insight into the impact of the gender stereotypes
of science subjects on STEM-career aspirations.
Research on gender-science stereotypes has illustrated dierences
between female and male youth with respect to the endorsement
of stereotypic beliefs about STEM. A study among primary school
students illustrated that stereotypical beliefs that STEM school
subjects are more suitable for boys than for girls were more
strongly endorsed by boys than by girls. Moreover, this study
has shown that students with stereotype-consistent interest in
STEM-related school subjects were particularly likely to endorse
gender-science stereotypes. Consequently, especially boys who
were highly interested and girls who were relatively uninterested
in STEM-related school subjects were more likely to believe that
STEM school subjects constitute a male domain (BlaŽev et al.,
2017). In line with this, a study among high school students has
shown that girls reported lower self-ecacy in math and science
compared to boys (Hand et al., 2017). Finally, a study among
first-year university students indicated that negative stereotypes
of women’s engineering and mathematical ability were more
strongly endorsed among male students, whereas female students
were more likely to report higher perceptions of their engineering
abilities (Jones et al., 2013).
With respect to the perception of dierent STEM disciplines,
studies among adolescent youth have shown that female students
show a more pronounced gender stereotype for math compared
to male students, who are less likely to exhibit implicit gender-
stereotypic associations (Steens et al., 2010). In line with these
findings, a study by Nosek et al. (2002, p. 44) reported that even
women who had selected math-intensive majors had diculties
in associating math with themselves because they associated
math with the male gender. Also, studies that analyzed the
gender stereotype of physics found that, among high school
students, being interested in physics was associated with the
male gender (Kessels, 2005; Kessels et al., 2006)andthat,
among girls, being interested in physics endangered their self-
identification with the female gender (Kessels et al., 2006).
Furthermore, a typical teacher of mathematics and physics was
imagined to be a man (Kessels and Taconis, 2012). Finally, a
study among secondary school students in Switzerland showed
that, among female students, the semantic profile of math and
physics correlated negatively with the semantic profile of the
female gender, whereas the semantic attributes of chemistry were
significantly related neither to the male nor to the female gender.
From the male students’ point of view the semantic profile
of math correlated negatively with the semantic profile of the
female gender, whereas the semantic attributes of chemistry and
physics were positively related to the semantic profile of the
male gender. Whereas, the female gender was strongly associated
with traits such as soft, playful, soulful, dreamy, lenient, frail,
and flexible, among the semantic traits associated with math
and physics were attributes such as hard, serious, distant, sober,
strict, robust, and rigid. Overall, this study has shown that
among the three school subjects analyzed in the study, math and
physics were either negatively associated with female or positively
associated with male gender. In contrast, chemistry was the least
gender stereotyped because among female students there were no
significant associations of the term chemistry with either gender
term and among male students no negative association with the
term woman (Makarova and Herzog, 2015). These findings are
interesting in light of students’ preference for their subject of
specialization in secondary schools in Switzerland (FSO, 2019b)
Frontiers in Education | 3July 2019 | Volume 4 | Article 60
Makarova et al. The Gender Gap in STEM Fields
showing that chemistry is chosen almost equally often by boys
and girls, whereas math and physics are largely avoided by girls as
subjects of specialization. Accordingly, students’ gender-related
perception of dierent science subjects may dierently impact
their preferences of STEM subjects at school and vice versa.
To summarize, we can state that female and male students
indicate dierent patterns of gender-science stereotype. It seems
that male participants show more endorsement of the gender-
science stereotype by regarding STEM subjects as more suitable
for boys and attributing less abilities in the STEM disciplines
to the female gender compared to the male gender. At the
same time, female participants are more likely to associate math
and science more strongly with the male gender and masculine
traits than with the female gender and feminine traits. Finally,
previous research has shown that school science subjects dier
with respect to their gender-related connotation, and indicating
that chemistry has the least pronounced masculine image among
secondary school students.
The impact of the gender-science stereotype on students’ interest
in STEM subjects and their aspirations to pursue a career in
STEM fields has been addressed from dierent perspectives.
Based on Eccles’ expectancy-value model, which highlights
the impact of culturally based stereotypes and identity-related
constructs on educational and occupational choices (Eccles, 1994;
Eccles and Wigfield, 2002), a number of studies have shown that
academic self-concept and subject interests are among the most
relevant determinants in students’ selection of secondary school
majors (Nagy et al., 2008). Similar mechanisms seem to be crucial
for career choice or choice of a major in higher education (Nagy
et al., 2006). A recent study among female students in STEM
subjects with a low proportion of females revealed that gender
stereotypes have a negative impact on students’ STEM-specific
self-concept even among students with good grades in STEM
(Ertl et al., 2017).
According to the theoretical framework of Gottfredson (2002,
2005), occupational aspirations are incorporated in the individual
self-image developed during socialization from early childhood
through adolescence. The process of developing occupational
aspirations is embedded in the comparison of one’s self-image
with the image of an occupation and one’s judgment about the
match between the two. In this process, the gender image of
an occupation is especially crucial for career choice, because
the “wrong” sex type of an occupation is more fundamental to
self-concept than the prestige of an occupation or individual
interests. Applying Gottfredson’s theory, the significant impact
of the gender image of an occupation on the process of career
choice was confirmed in a number of studies (Ratschinski, 2009;
Bubany and Hansen, 2011). Moreover, research suggests that girls
are more likely to narrow their occupational choices because they
perceive particular occupations as inappropriate for their gender.
Accordingly, girls tend to shift their occupational aspirations to
gender-typical occupational expectations more strongly than do
boys. At the same time, boys’ perceptions of occupations appear
to be more gender-stereotypical (Hartung et al., 2005).
Research focusing on self-to-prototype similarity suggests that
the lack of similarity between the self and an academic subject is
linked to a lower probability of liking this subject or choosingthis
academic subject as a major (Kessels, 2005; Kessels et al., 2006;
Taconi s a n d Kessel s , 2 009). Moreover, the perceived closeness
between the self and a school subject was predictive for youths’
career choice intentions (Hannover and Kessels, 2004; Kessels
et al., 2006). In the same vein, a study among ninth and tenth-
grade students by Neuhaus and Borowski (2018) investigated
whether the greater self-to-prototype similarity impacts students’
interest in coding courses. This study revealed that, under the
condition that course descriptions were related to communal
goals, girls showed greater interest in learning to code compare
to the agentic-goal condition of the course description (Neuhaus
and Borowski, 2018, p. 233).
Likewise, a study among students and faculty reported that
agentic traits are more strongly associated with success in science
than communal traits, discouraging women from pursuing a
science career (Ramsey, 2017). Another study among first-year
undergraduate students illustrated that implicit stereotypesof
science completely accounted for a gap in male and female
students’ interests to pursue science. Especially the academic
aspirations of women who strongly identified as female were
aected by the gender stereotypic image of science (Lane et al.,
2012). In line with this, a study among first-year women
engineering students reported that engineering identification
was a significant predictor of persistence in engineering, and
that this relationship was stronger for women than men (Jones
et al., 2013). Finally, a study among undergraduate science
majors demonstrated that a stronger gender-science stereotype
has a diminishing eect on identification with science and
science career aspirations among women, whereas, among men,
a stronger gender-science stereotype boosts their identification
with science and their career aspirations in science fields (Cundi
et al., 2013).
To summarize, we can state that gender-science stereotyping
has been shown to hinder the self-identification of young women
with STEM academic subjects and fields and also to negatively
aect their self-concept and their subject interests. These, in turn,
hinder female students from opting for a science major and
pursuing a career in science. For male students, gender-science
stereotyping seems to have the opposite eect and, thus, boosts
their career aspirations in STEM.
Given that previous research has often focused on gender-
science stereotypes of science in general or on stereotypical
beliefs about single STEM disciplines, our study contributes
to previous research by simultaneously analyzing the gender
stereotype of dierent school science subjects—chemistry, math,
and physics—among female and male students. These three
science subjects were chosen because females are strongly
underrepresented in math and physics within the educational
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Makarova et al. The Gender Gap in STEM Fields
sector and career fields, whereas chemistry has a more balanced
gender ratio. This allows us to investigate the impact of gender-
science stereotypes of dierent science subjects on students’
aspirations to study STEM. In view of the theoretical and
empirical framework of the study, we define the gender
stereotype of three school subjects as the extent of association
of each school subject with masculine traits (see section
Measurements; masculinity index).
In terms of hypotheses, we firstly expected dierences with
respect to the degree of masculinity which students attributeto
chemistry, math, and physics. We hypothesized that chemistry
would be ascribed the lowest degree of masculinity compared to
math and physics.
Secondly, we expected gender dierences among secondary
school students in the association of chemistry, math, and physics
with male gender. We hypothesized that this association of the
three science subjects with masculine traits would be stronger
among female students.
Thirdly, we expected that the gender stereotype of math
and science would aect female and male secondary school
students’ aspirations to enroll in a STEM major at university.
We hypothesized that to the extent students conceive of STEM-
school subjects as masculine they would be less inclined to aspire
to enroll in a STEM major at university. We further hypothesized
that stereotyping science subjects as masculine would have a
greater negative impact on the STEM aspirations of female than
male students.
The study presented was part of the research project Gender
atypical career choices of young women, a project embedded in
the Swiss National Science Foundation’s Research Program on
“Gender Equality” (NRP 60). The study is based on quantitative
data which originated from a standardized survey of 1,364
students in Swiss-German-speaking secondary schools. The
study was carried out following the ethical principles and codes
of the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Bern, which
are based on international ethics codes (e.g., of the American
Sociological Association and of the American Psychological
Association). Accordingly, approval by an ethics authority was
not required. Students were informed about the research project
and participated in the survey voluntarily. Participants? Informed
consent was implied through survey completion; therefore, they
were not required to provide written consent to participate.
Written parental consent was not necessary either, because all
students had reached legal adulthood and could decide for
themselves. After the survey all data were anonymized.
The surveyed students were close to obtaining their
matriculation diploma (i.e., school leaving certificate), which
in Switzerland permits entry into tertiary education. The
participants were on average 19 years old (SD =1.0). With regard
to sex, the percentage of female students (54.1%) was somewhat
higher than that of male students (45.9%).
Masculinity Index
Data on students’ perception of the gender image of the
school subjects chemistry, math, and physics were collected
using semantic dierentials (Makarova and Herzog, 2015). The
semantic dierential is one of the most popular techniques of
explicit attitude assessment (Millon et al., 2003). An explicit
measurement of the gender stereotype of science subjects was
chosen over an implicit stereotype test, because the study focuses
on the salient gender stereotypes of those subjects (Millon et al.,
2003, p. 356). The semantic dierential uses bipolar scales with
contrasting adjectives at each end to measure people’s reactions
to stimulus words and concepts (Heise, 1970, p. 235). The
methodological advantage of the semantic dierential scale is
that it highly adaptable in assessing respondents’ connotative
association with any concept (Osgood et al., 1957; Heise, 1970).
The basic assumption of the semantic dierential is that attitudes
toward two associated concepts tend to converge and toward two
dissociated (contrasted) constructs tend to diverge (Heise, 1970,
p. 249). In our study attitudes toward gender and science were
measured using semantic dierentials consisting of 25 pairs of
adjectives with semantically opposite meanings (e.g., hard—soft,
strong—weak, robust—frail) to assess the connotations of the
four terms man, chemistry, math, and physics on a seven-point
scale (1 =greatly, 2 =fairly, 3 =somewhat, 4 =neither, 5 =
somewhat, 6 =fairly, 7 =greatly). This instrument is based on
the original scale (Osgood et al., 1957) which was initially adapted
to the German language by Hofstätter (1973) and then validated
in Switzerland in two studies on the gender stereotype of school
subjects (Herzog et al., 1998; Makarova and Herzog, 2015).
The student sample was divided into groups, with each
group completing the semantic dierential for one subject term
and for the man term: chemistry and man (n=406), math
and man (n=512) and physics and man (n=446). In
order to avoid response bias, the semantic dierential of the
subject was introduced at the beginning of the questionnaire
and the semantic dierential of the term man at the end of
the questionnaire. On the basis of these data we calculated
profile from the corresponding items of each subject profile and
summing them up to a sum score for each student. At the end
of this procedure one value for each student was calculated. For
easier interpretation, this value was reversed; a negative value
was transformed into a positive value and a positive value into
a negative value. Accordingly, the masculinity index expresses
the dierentiation between high masculinity (low discrepancy
between the profiles man and subject; max. =+6) and low
masculinity (high discrepancy between the profiles man and
subject; min. =6). For example, a score of 5 on the masculinity
index, indicates that the semantic profile of the respective subject
(chemistry, math, or physics) and the semantic profile of the term
man are very similar, meaning that the discrepancy between the
two semantic profiles is low. Figure 1 illustrates our calculation.
Moreover, the masculinity index is approximately normally
distributed (Kurtosis =2.09, SE =0.13; Skewness =0.47, SD =
0.07) (George and Mallery, 2016).
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Makarova et al. The Gender Gap in STEM Fields
FIGURE 1 | Masculinity index of chemistry, math, and physics.
STEM Field Study Choice
To assess the field of study choice, the secondary school
students were asked about their subject preference for study at a
university or at a university of applied sciences after the successful
completion of secondary school. The answers were coded by the
gender-type of the field of study, based on the gender distribution
of master’s degrees obtained at Swiss universities in the year
2010 (FSO, 2012). A field of study was labeled as female-atypical
(male-typical) when the proportion of women who received a
master’s degree in that field was below 30 per cent. In our sample,
Mathematics, Statistics, IT, the Natural Sciences and Engineering
fall into this category. Since all listed fields of study can be
assigned to the STEM area, the category is henceforth labeled
STEM study choice. All other fields of study were assigned to the
category “non-STEM study choice.” The multivariate analyses
were conducted with the dichotomous variable STEM field study
choice (STEM field study choice =category 1; non-STEM study
choice =reference category 0).
Attribution of Masculinity to Chemistry,
Math, and Physics Among Secondary
School Students
The attribution of masculinity to the three science subjects
among female and male students was subjected to a two-way
ANOVA (school subject and students’ sex). The overall model
yielded an F ratio of F(5, 1,355) =15.83,p0.001. With respect
to the degree of masculinity attributed to the three science
subjects, our analysis of variance indicated significant dierences
F(2, 1,355) =10.76, p0.001. Post-hoc comparisons (Bonferroni)
has shown that the attribution of masculinity diers significantly
between math and chemistry (p0.001) and between math
and physics (p0.05). There were no significant dierences
in the attribution of masculinity to chemistry and physics. The
TAB LE 1 | Descriptive statistics.
All Female Male
Masculinity of
chemistry (min: 2.4,
max: 4.28)
SD =0.71
SD =0.66
SD =0.72
Masculinity of math
(min: 1.76, max: 2.36)
SD =0.64
SD =0.62
SD =0.64
Masculinity of physics
(min: 2.08, max: 3.08)
SD =0.63
SD =0.66
SD =0.55
M=mean, SD =standard deviation.
mean values indicated that math has the strongest attribution of
masculinity, followed by physics as second, and finally chemistry
with the lowest attribution of masculinity (see Tab l e 1 ). With
regard to the sex dierences in the attribution of masculinity, our
analysis of variance yielded significant dierences between female
and male students F(1, 1,355) =63.20, p0.001. The ascription of
masculinity to the three science subjects turned out to be stronger
among female than among male students (see Tab le 1 ).
The interaction eect between two factors school subject
and students’ sex was non-significant F(2, 1,355) =2.34, p=
ns. Nevertheless, to explore the interaction term in more detail
we analyzed the attribution of masculinity to the three science
subjects within the group of female and that of male students.
For this purpose, the confidence intervals for the three science
subjects were calculated. Within the group of female students,
the attribution of masculinity to the three school subjects
does not dier significantly, meaning that female students
rated all subjects similarly as strongly masculine [95% CIs:
chemistry [0.19, 0.36], math [0.30, 0.46], and physics [0.23, 0.39]].
Within the group of male students, however, the attribution of
masculinity to math and chemistry [95% CIs [0.12, 0.27], [0.20,
0.02]] as well as to math and physics [[0.12, 0.27], [0.07, 0.09]]
Frontiers in Education | 6July 2019 | Volume 4 | Article 60
Makarova et al. The Gender Gap in STEM Fields
TAB LE 2 | Study choice.
All Female Male Interaction
of gender ×
study choice
Study choice N=1,618 n=873 n=742 x2=58.26***
STEM choice 16.6% 10.1% 24.3%
NON-STEM choice 83.4% 89.9% 75.7%
The interaction of gender ×study choice is significant at the ***p0.001 level, x2=
x2-value (chi-square-test).
elam elamef
FIGURE 2 | Masculinity index of chemistry and career aspirations.
diers significantly, whereas the attribution of masculinityto
chemistry and physics does not [[0.20, 0.02], [0.07, 0.09]].
Gender Stereotype of Chemistry, Math and
Physics and Students’ Study Aspirations
First, we analyzed career aspirations among the secondary school
students by carrying out x2-test (chi-square test)forthebinomial
dependent variable STEM study choice (see Tab l e 2). Overall, one
sixth of all students aspired to having a STEM major (16.6%).
However, aspirations to study STEM subjects were not equally
distributed between men and women. While among men every
fourth student (24.3%) planned to study STEM, among women
only every tenth student (10.1%) was interested in STEM studies.
Second, we analyzed the attribution of masculinity to school
subjects (chemistry, physics, and math) among secondary school
students who had chosen a STEM compared to those students
who had chosen a non-STEM major (Figures 24).
Our analysis reveals the following findings for each subject:
Chemistry (Figure 2): With respect to career aspirations of
young women, our results show that female students who
opt for a non-STEM study major connotated chemistry
significantly strongly as masculine compared to young women
with a STEM career choice (p0.01). Among young
men there were no significant dierences in the attribution
FIGURE 3 | Masculinity index of math and career aspirations.
FIGURE 4 | Masculinity index of physics and career aspirations.
of masculinity to the subject chemistry between students
who had chosen STEM and those who had chosen another
study field.
Math (Figure 3): Our results show that among female and
male students who had potentially chosen a non-STEM major,
the attribution of masculinity to math was significantly higher
compared to youth with a STEM career choice (female: p
0.05; male: p0.001).
Physics (Figure 4): Considering female students who had
potentially chosen a non-STEM study major, physics was
significantly more highly stereotyped as a masculine subject
compared to young women with a STEM career choice
(p0.001). Among young men there were no significant
dierences in the attribution of masculinity to the subject
physics between male students who had chosen STEM and
those who had chosen another study field.
Frontiers in Education | 7July 2019 | Volume 4 | Article 60
Makarova et al. The Gender Gap in STEM Fields
To sum up, young women who aspire to study a STEM major
stereotype the three subjects as less strongly masculine compared
to young women who aspire to study non-STEM subjects.
Among young men, only math was rated as highly masculine
among those students who had chosen a non-STEM study
program. Thus, for young women as well as for young men
with a non-STEM career choice, math has a highly masculine
image. What is interesting is that even young women who opt
for a STEM field rate the subjects—except physics—as masculine,
though only slightly.
Finally, Generalized Linear Models (GzLM) were estimated
(McCullagh and Nelder, 1989) to shed light on the impact
of the gender image of math and science on the likelihood
that female and male students aspire for a STEM field of
study. The procedure modeled the choice of a STEM study
major as the response category, with all other study fields
as the reference category (non-STEM). We aggregated the
masculinity index for math and the two science subjects
for the model of female students, because separate models
showed nearly the same eect for each individual subject,
and therefore we could increase the power of the model in
terms of cases. The model for male students included only
the masculinity index of math as a predictor, since there
was no significant eect for science subjects between young
men who had chosen STEM and non-STEM ones (see also
Figures 2,4). We report the Exp(β), which indicates the
likelihood of an occurrence of the tested eect. If the value
is below 1, the likelihood decreases; if it is above 1, the
likelihood increases.
Table 3 shows the first model estimated for female students
[Likelihood Ratio x2
(1,739) =17.09, p0.001, Pearson-Chi-
Square 60.95 (88, 739) =0.69]. The findings reveal that a strong
masculine image of math and science decreases the likelihood
of young women choosing a STEM study (Exp(β)=0.44; p
0.001). In other words, if young women do not perceive math and
science as predominantly masculine, they opt significantly more
often for studying a STEM major.
The second model was estimated for male students
[Likelihood Ratio x2
(1,267) =9.22, p0.01, Pearson-Chi-
Square 73.90 (66, 267) =1.12]. The results show that the
masculinity of math is also a predictor of young men’s career
aspirations. The higher the masculinity image, the lower the
likelihood of a STEM study choice (Exp(β)=0.48; p0.01).
To conclude, both models show that the image of chemistry,
math and physics has an impact on students’ career intentions.
If the image of the three subjects has strong masculine
connotations, career choice is unlikely to be within the
STEM field.
This study contributes to the line of research on the gender
stereotype of science by analyzing the gender-related image
of three school subjects. It provides, moreover, more refined
knowledge on the impact of gender stereotypical perception of
TAB LE 3 | Impact of the masculine image of math and science on secondary
students’ career aspirations.
Parameter βSE Wald-Chi-
Math and science model for female students
(Intercept) 1.98*** 0.12 253.81 0.14
Masculinity of math and
0.82*** 0.17 24.30 0.44
(Scale) 1a
Math model for male students
(Intercept) 1.17*** 0.15 59.88 0.31
Masculinity of math 0.73** 0.23 9.91 0.48
(Scale) 1a
Generalized Linear Model (binomial/logit). Dependent variable: STEM career (response) vs.
Non-STEM Career (reference); aFixed at the displayed value; β=regression coefficient;
SE =standard error; ***p0.001, **p0.01.
math and science on female and male secondary school students’
choice to enroll in a STEM university degree program.
In line with the findings of a study by Weinreich-Haste
(1981), our results reveal that students not only perceive
chemistry, math and physics as masculine, but also that there
is a considerable dierence in the strength of the association
of each subject with the male gender. According to our
findings, math is most strongly perceived as a masculine
subject among female and male secondary school students,
followed by physics and then chemistry, which has the weakest
masculine connotations. The weak masculine connotations of
chemistry have also been reported by other studies (Archer
and MacRae, 1991; Makarova and Herzog, 2015). Consequently,
we could confirm the first hypothesis stating that chemistry is
accorded the lowest degree of masculinity compared to math
and physics.
With respect to dierences between female and male students
in the gender-stereotypical connotations of science, our findings
illustrate that female secondary school students perceive all three
subjects considerably more strongly as a male domain than do
male students. These findings are consonant with findings of
previous studies on strong associations of math and physics
with the male gender among female adolescents (Nosek et al.,
2002; Kessels, 2005; Kessels et al., 2006; Steens et al., 2010).
In addition, our results illustrate that male students regardonly
math as strongly masculine, whereas physics and chemistry have
a comparably low score on the masculinity index. Thus, our
findings confirm our second hypothesis by showing that the
association of the three science subjects with masculine traits are
stronger among female students.
With regard to the impact of the masculinity image of
math and science on secondary students’ career aspirations,the
findings of our study show that young women who potentially
chose STEM as a field of study at university perceived all
three school subjects—math, physics, and chemistry—as less
masculine than did those young women who chose other majors.
Moreover, our results suggest that among female students a
strong masculine image of math and science decreases the
likelihood of choosing a STEM major at university. These
Frontiers in Education | 8July 2019 | Volume 4 | Article 60
Makarova et al. The Gender Gap in STEM Fields
findings propose that masculine traits associated with science
subjects at school constitute a major obstacle, particularly
for young women’s self-identification with science (Nosek
et al., 2002; Cundiet al., 2013) and for their aspirations to
become researchers (Šorgo et al., 2018). Regarding the career
aspirations of young women, our study supports the notion
that stereotypical beliefs about math and science prevent young
women from entering a STEM career (Lane et al., 2012;
Ramsey, 2017).
Finally, our results on the career aspirations of young men
in relation to the stereotypical gender connotations of school
subjects show that young men with non-STEM career aspirations
perceived only math but not science subjects as significantly
more strongly masculine than did young men who chose
with masculine traits negatively aected male students’ STEM
career aspirations. These findings suggest that young men
who opted for non-STEM majors do not fit the masculinity
stereotype and therefore the strong masculine connotations
of math may have an inhibiting impact on their career
aspirations similar to that on the STEM career aspirations
of young women. A possible interpretation of these findings
is that, among young women as well as among young
men, the lack of similarity between their self-image and the
image of an academic subject not only aects their choice
of specialization in secondary school (Kessels, 2005; Kessels
et al., 2006; Taconis and Kessels, 2009)butalsoleadstoa
lower probability of choosing those subjects in their further
educational career.
Overall, the findings of our study confirm our third hypothesis
by illustrating that the higher the extent of association of STEM-
school subjects with masculine traits, the lower is the likelihood
to enroll in a STEM major at university—both for female and
male students. However, our findings also suggest that gender-
science stereotypes have a stronger negative impact on the
STEM aspirations of female than male students because a strong
masculine image of math and science significantly decrease the
likelihood of choosing a STEM major among female students,
whereas only a strong masculine image of math significantly
decrease the likelihood of enrollment in a STEM major among
male students.
Our findings have some implications for overcoming the
gender disparities in STEM. As the gender-related image of an
academic discipline has a considerable eect on young people’s
career aspirations, a critical evaluation of the school subjects’
image might be one way to break through the gender-image-
driven limitations of the career horizons of female and male
students. For example, a study in Computer Science has shown
that women’s interest in studying Computer Science can be
increased through a change of image of this academic discipline
(Cheryan et al., 2013). The image of a school subject can, for
example, be depicted in school textbooks. An empirical analysis
of science textbooks in secondary education not only illustrated
the overrepresentation of male protagonists but also revealed
stereotypical portrayals of science and scientists (Makarova
et al., 2016a). Since stereotypic representations in textbooks
have an eect on male and female secondary school students’
understanding of and anxiety about science (Good et al., 2010),
an eort needs to be made to overcome stereotypical gender
representations in textbooks at all educational levels. Especially
since decisions to enroll in a field of study or choose a field of
work in vocational education are made relatively late, and since
gender images of school subjects have most likely by then been
internalized and settled, reflections about gender stereotypical
images of math and science subjects should preferably be
encouraged in early childhood. For example, a study by Archer
et al. (2010) suggested that although young children do not
have profound knowledge about science subjects, they attribute
masculine traits to science at an early age. Moreover, gender
stereotypical beliefs should be also tackled among teachers and
other gatekeepers who are potentially involved in the development
of vocational interests among children and secondary students.
As the study of Thomas (2017) showed, a teacher’s implicit
science-is-male stereotype can contribute to gender dierences
in female students’ motivational beliefs and probably also their
gendered educational choices. Finally, Else-Quest et al. (2010)
suggest that proximal factors such as quality of teaching mediate
the eect of gender inequality on math achievement. Thus,
rise in gender equity in education can also promote boys’
academic development.
Our study is subject to a few limitations.Firstly,ourstudyhas
and youth career aspirations. Secondly,ourstudyassessesthe
career aspirations of secondary school students and not their
actual enrollment in particular majors at the university. Although
this operationalization of career choice has been applied by
other studies (Nagy et al., 2006; Watt, 2006), it does not exclude
the possibility that the anticipated choice of a study major
does not necessarily lead to the actual choice of the same
major after enrollment at university. Thirdly,weshouldnote
that our study applies an explicit assessment of masculinity
connotations of school subjects by using a semantic dierential
with 25 opposite semantic meanings. Thus, we cannot rule out
that an open-ended questionnaire on masculinity image would
yield dierent results on the semantic connotations and the
strength of masculinity of the target school subjects. Moreover,
we calculated the masculinity index based on the similarity of
the semantic profiles of the term man and the corresponding
subject term. As the present study does not include measures
of the semantic ratings of the term woman we cannot compare
the attribution of the feminine traits to chemistry, math and
physics and its impact on the STEM study choice. Finally,the
gender-related image of school subjects and their implications
are one of several determinants that aect the career aspirations
of male and female secondary school students. Since we did
not control for other potential determinants in the explanatory
models (e.g., self-image of students, their abilities, or interest
in science), our results are limited to the investigation of the
impact of gender-science stereotype on students’ aspirations.
It has been demonstrated that further school-related factors,
such as the instructional design of science classes (Aeschlimann
et al., 2016), teachers’ support and encouragement (Aeschlimann
et al., 2015) as well as family-related factors, and also peers
can considerably influence the career-choice decisions of young
people (Makarova et al., 2016b).
Frontiers in Education | 9July 2019 | Volume 4 | Article 60
Makarova et al. The Gender Gap in STEM Fields
All authors listed have made a substantial, direct and
intellectual contribution to the work, and approved it
for publication.
The authors gratefully acknowledge the Swiss National Science
Foundation for financial support of the study Gender atypical
careers of young women (Grant no. 4060-129279).
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conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could
be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
Copyright © 2019 Makarova, Aeschlimann and Herzog. Thisis an open-access article
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Frontiers in Education | 11 July 2019 | Volume 4 | Article 60
... Recognition from others, however, is often shaped by sociohistorical norms and stereotypes, such as those that position men as more suitable to the field of physics than women [3,7,9,[17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24][25][26]. Perhaps as a result of such stereotypes, a handful of research studies demonstrate that men report higher perceived recognition (the extent to which they feel recognized by others) in their physics classes than women [2,7,11,12]. ...
... One study, for example, found that students associate men more than women with having a natural ability for learning physics and associate women more than men with asking questions [38]. If our observed gender bias in the lecture course is instead due to who gets recognized, rather than what gets recognized, then the observed bias may be due to gender stereotypes more broadly (i.e., students generally associating men more than women with being strong in physics) [3,7,9,[17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24][25][26]. Alternatively, this gender bias may be related to prior literature's suggestion that students' social networks exhibit strong gender homophily [34,35,66]. ...
In this study, we draw on methods from social network analysis and find a consistent gender bias in which men disproportionately under-nominate women as strong in their physics course in both a lecture course and a distinct lab course. We also find a gender bias in the lecture course in which women disproportionately under-nominate men. We expand on prior work by probing two data sources related to who and what gets recognized in peer recognition: students' interactions with their peers (who gets recognized) and students' written explanations of their nominations of strong peers (what gets recognized). We find that students determine who gets recognized in two different ways, each with a similar frequency: selecting the strongest of the peers with whom they directly interact (and "dropping" their other interaction ties) and indirectly observing peers with whom they do not interact. Results also suggest that the nature of the observed gender bias in peer recognition varies between the instructional contexts of lecture and lab. In the lecture course, the gender bias is related to who gets recognized: men and women nominate men and women for similar skill sets, but disproportionately drop more of their interaction ties to students of the other gender when forming nominations. In the lab course, in contrast, the gender bias is also related to what gets recognized: men nominate men more than women because of the ways they interacted, such as being helpful. These findings illuminate the different ways in which students form perceptions of their peers and add nuance to our understanding of the nature of gender bias in peer recognition.
... Eccles and Wigfield's expectancy value theory is increasingly being used as a framework to examine students' career interests and aspirations (Jones et al., 2020(Jones et al., , 2022Beier et al., 2019;Eccles & Wigfield, 2020;Makarova et al., 2019). A component of expectancy value theory is the way an individual's choices, persistence, and performance on a task are influenced by their values and expectations for future outcomes (Eccles & Wigfield, 2002). ...
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Emerging research is documenting the critical role of a family’s resources, beliefs, and behaviours related to science as factors that influence the career choices of youth. This exploratory study examined elementary aged youth participants’ perceptions of the value of science in their future after participating in a year-long, museum-based, family science program. Treatment (n = 41) and control (n = 40) participants completed a pre- and post-survey designed to measure Science Achievement Value (related to self-efficacy and self-concept), Science Experiences, Future Science Task Value (perceived usefulness of science in the future), and Perceived Family Science Achievement Value (related to parents’ beliefs about science). There were no statistically significant differences in survey responses pre to post for the control group. However, the results showed that participation in the program may have valuable impacts on the Science Achievement Value and Science Experiences of the youth participants in the treatment group. Additionally, the program sustained the treatment group’s levels of Future Science Task Value whereas the control group saw a decline. These results suggest family science programs have the potential to positively influence the Science Achievement Value and Science Experiences of youth, factors that are associated with career aspirations.
... Previous research examining the lack of racial and gender diversity in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields has delineated the effects of opportunity gaps on underrepresented students in STEM (Akiba et al., 2007;Flores, 2007;Pitre, 2014;Tsoi-A & Bryant, 2015) and has concluded that students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, and white women have had fewer opportunities in high schools to explore STEM and develop knowledge and skills (Saw et al., 2018;Tyson et al., 2007). Studies have also examined the stereotypes and discrimination faced by these groups of students in STEM classes, departments, and fields (Beasley & Fischer, 2012;Hall 2017;Makarova et al., 2019;Smeding, 2012). In this article, we examine data from a qualitative study, conducted in 2015-2017, about student experiences in STEM departments at a small, liberal arts college. ...
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This study examines data from a participatory research action study on the experiences of underrepresented students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields at a small liberal arts college in the United States. Our analysis aims to move away from the framework that students needed to be taught how to cope with and overcome the challenges they faced in their STEM experiences, including racism and sexism. Instead, we propose a stronger focus on how to end racist, sexist, and other forms of discrimination. We draw on the concept of “cultural humility” as a concrete framework that professors, departments, and institutions can use to approach their work of changing practices, policies, and systems. Results discuss specific strategies that educators and institutions can use to promote a cultural humility framework as one way to create anti-oppressive and equitable classrooms, departments, and institutions.
... Interestingly, students who were studying in non-STEM subjects showed greater masculinity attribution to these science subjects. Moreover, these attributions as male dominated subjects have potential impacts on STEM major career aspirations among these students-the more pronounced the masculine image attributed to a subject; the less likely would be the aspirations to major in that subject, particularly among female students [26]. ...
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Previous studies have shown STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) disciplines to have low representation by women and certain minorities (i.e. gender, race and ethnic minorities). Higher up the academic ladder, the higher the gap in parity between the majority and minority groups in STEM suggesting a leaky pipeline caused due to higher attrition of women and minorities. Prevailing conscious as well as subconscious gender-science stereotypes, lack of sense of belonging towards male-dominated STEM disciplines, hostile campus environments and negative student-faculty interactions, lack of diversity in the academic hiring process and in journal editorial committees and understanding of academic metrics are to be considered when hiring minorities play a role in establishing and maintaining the leaky academic pipeline. Women & URMs tend to possess significant homophily in academic networks and collaborations impacting scientific productivity and quality recently exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 lead to lower initiation of new projects—particularly faced by minorities groups in STEM—thereby possibly impacting productivity for years to come. Proposals for making STEM education and jobs more equitable need to be formulated and taken up as a priority if science and its wide-reaching impacts have to truly serve all people.
... Werden Jugendliche der 9. Klasse (N = 631) in Deutschland gefragt, bei welchen Schulfächern es sich um "Jungenfächer" oder "Mädchenfächer" (oder "weder-noch") handelt, ist Physik nach Sport das am deutlichsten stereotypisierte "Jungenfach" (Hannover und Kessels 2002). Studien in der Schweiz und in Deutschland zum Image des Fachs Physik zeigen, dass Jugendliche ein implizites Stereotyp von Physik als männlich aufweisen Makarova et al. 2019). Auch auf der gymnasialen Stufe wird diese Asymmetrie deutlich. ...
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Gender-sensitive teaching is a challenging task, especially in subjects with a male connotation such as physics. Teachers are challenged to counteract prevailing gender stereotypes and gender inequalities and to design lessons in a way that appeals to and promotes all students. In addition, teachers should also be aware of critical gender-relevant aspects in the classroom and respond to them adequately. These situation-specific skills are considered an important component of teachers’ gender competence. They are of particular interest in the context of overcoming gender disparities in physics education. To date, however, there is a lack of appropriate instruments to investigate these skills in (pre-service) teachers. Therefore, in the present study, a text-based vignette test with critical gender-relevant aspects in physics education was developed. The 16 critical aspects are theory-based and focus on four facets of gender-sensitive physics teaching: (1) gender-sensitive forms of instruction, (2) gender-sensitive teaching of physics content, (3) gender-sensitive teaching materials, and (4) gender-sensitive feedback and interactions. With the help of experts (N = 6), a survey was conducted to ensure the content validity of the vignette test. In addition, the vignette test was tested with pre-service teachers (N = 41). Content validity was calculated using the Content Validity Index (CVI) both at the item (I-CVI) and scale (S-CVI) levels, as well as including the modified kappa coefficient (k*). Overall, the presented vignette test can be assumed to have very good content validity in terms of high relevance and representativeness of the gender-relevant aspects. This instrument contributes to the further development of teacher training by enabling the exploration of gender-relevant aspects in science education.
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[Objective] The current study explored the correlation and contribution of critical thinking and metacognitive skills toward female and male students' retention in senior high school. [Methodology] This study used a descriptive correlational design, where critical thinking and metacognitive skills served as the predictor, during retention as the criterion. A total of 230 students participated in this study. The participants comprised 112 (48.70%) male students and 118 (51.30%) female students. An essay test and a scoring rubric were used to collect data on participants' critical thinking and metacognitive skills. The research data were analyzed using a multiple regression analysis at a 5% significance level, followed by ANOVA to examine the contribution of critical thinking and metacognitive skills toward male and female students' retention. [Results] The statistical analysis revealed that the simultaneous contribution of critical thinking and metacognitive skills toward female students' retention was higher than that toward male students' retention. The effective contribution values of critical thinking and metacognitive skills toward male students' retention were 2.44% and 10.06%, respectively. Meanwhile, critical thinking and metacognitive skills contributed 7.89% and 12.81% toward female students' retention. [Conclusions] There was a simultaneous correlation between critical thinking, metacognitive skills, and retention of male and female high school students. The effective contribution of critical thinking and metacognitive skills toward female students' retention was more significant than that toward male students' retention. The findings of this study suggest that high school teachers need to consider gender equality when implementing learning strategies to improve critical thinking and metacognitive skills.
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Este capítulo se orienta a presentar iniciativas de un grupo de docentes nvestigadores de la Facultad de Ingeniería de la Universidad Andrés Bello en Chile, con el propósito ayudar a reducir la brecha de género que existe en las carreras STEM, especialmente en ingeniería. El trabajo se divide en tres etapas: 1) un reporte sobre la incorporación de mujeres en carreras STEM; 2) estrategias de gestión y aprendizaje para mejorar la percepción de estudiantes mujeres hacia su programa de estudios y su autoconcepto, y 3) una investigación de integración curricular de estudiantes de último año, para promover y sensibilizar a los/as estudiantes respecto a la discriminación mediante conceptos de sostenibilidad. Los resultados y principales hallazgos presentados son congruentes con la literatura. Es necesario crear planes y políticas de igualdad de género, educar y sensibilizar a estudiantes de ingeniería, no solo dentro de la Facultad, sino también en el futuro lugar de trabajo, al incluir la perspectiva de género en los programas de estudio.
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This paper examines the film Hidden Figures from a critical perspective which combines concepts of intersectionality, gatekeeping, and spatial analysis. Through its depiction of the space race in 1960s America, the film superficially focuses on outer space. Nevertheless, much can be gleaned about the inclusion and exclusion of groups and individuals within the inner space of the NASA campus. The analysis thus centers around two questions; the question of who cannot access spaces, privileges, and knowledge, as well as the question of who can. In emphasizing the role of gatekeeper, more attention is afforded to the male characters in the film, which have received little previous regard in comparison to the three Black female leads. In this paper, I argue that the White men’s range of movement and their degree of belonging at NASA stand in crucial relation and opposition to the Black heroines. Three characters have been chosen to exemplify this point; Katherine Johnson, Al Harrison, and Paul Stafford, who interact with one another in a triangular relation of inclusions and exclusions. Five locations have been selected to illustrate their interplay in terms of power and space; the West Computing Group, the Space Task Group, the bathroom, the hallway, and the home.
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There is scarcely any other field in which women are so underrepresented as they are in computer sciences. Socio-psychological literature suggests that students are more likely to engage in domains they perceive as fitting their identity (Kessels, Heyder, Latsch & Hannover, 2014). As the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) prototype (e.g. a typical student interested in computer sciences) is linked with agentic-masculine traits (e.g. competitiveness) and not with communal-feminine traits (e.g. helping others), most girls regard STEM subjects as incompatible with their self-view. We investigated whether coding courses for students linked with communal goals were more attractive to girls compared to coding courses associated with agentic goals. We assumed greater self-to-prototype similarity would mediate the link between the students' gender and their interest in learning to code. Based on structural equation modeling with 459 German ninth-and tenth-grade students, our results confirm our hypothesis: girls showed greater interest in learning to code if course descriptions were focused on communal goals, while boys showed greater interest under the agentic-goal condition. As expected, self-to-prototype similarity mediated the relationship between gender and interest in the communal coding course. With regard to the agentic coding course, we found only a partial mediating effect. Our results provide recommendations for the development of STEM interventions that encourage the inclusion of female students.
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This meta-analysis, spanning 5 decades of Draw-A-Scientist studies, examined U.S. children's gender-science stereotypes linking science with men. These stereotypes should have weakened over time because women's representation in science has risen substantially in the United States, and mass media increasingly depict female scientists. Based on 78 studies (N = 20,860; grades K-12), children's drawings of scientists depicted female scientists more often in later decades, but less often among older children. Children's depictions of scientists therefore have become more gender diverse over time, but children still associate science with men as they grow older. These results may reflect that children observe more male than female scientists in their environments, even though women's representation in science has increased over time.
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There is a shortfall of girls and women pursuing STEM disciplines, a deficit that may be partially attributed to subtle forms of bias that are tied to traditional gender role stereotypes. The current study examined these subtle biases in high school teachers and students in two ways: by asking teachers and students to attribute masculine and feminine traits to the typical scientist or humanities professional, and by inquiring about the academic performance assumed of boys and girls. In addition, students were surveyed about their own self-efficacy in math and science courses and gender-balanced teaching initiatives present in the classroom. Results showed that teachers and students exhibited subtle bias by attributing more masculine characteristics to a scientist and feminine characteristics to the humanities. Teachers and students also reported their belief that boys tend to perform better than girls in STEM disciplines. Finally, our results echoed previous literature examining self-efficacy discrepancies for girls in math and science classes, and indicated a lack of gender-balanced teaching initiatives in math and science classes. These results have broad implications for the lack of women in STEM disciplines, and they also reveal a potential means of classroom intervention to help counteract these subtle forms of bias.
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The aim of the present study was to examine, for the first time, the level of gender-stereotyped beliefs about STEM-related school subjects among Croatian primary school students and to explore how stereotyped beliefs can be predicted from prior achievement in STEM school subjects and students’ STEM interests. Eight hundred and eighty primary school students (442 girls and 438 boys) completed a paper-and-pencil questionnaire in their own classrooms (data used in the study are extracted from a larger STEM research project). The measures of interest in this study were stereotype endorsement, interest in STEM-related school subjects, and school marks in these subjects. Results suggest that regardless of prior school achievement, students who have stereotype-consistent interests in school subjects tend to show stronger stereotype endorsement than others. Male gender and prior achievement in STEM-related school subjects were also positively related to stereotype endorsement. These results are discussed in light of the existing literature and some practical implications are considered.
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It's possible to assume that women who study STEM topics with a low proportion of females have successfully overcome barriers in school and the family, making them less prone to stereotypic views, and influences. The present study focuses on these kinds of factors and analyzes to which degree family factors, school-related factors, and individual stereotypes may influence a woman's academic self-concept. The following study presents a latent regression model which is based on a survey of 296 women from different German universities, all of whom are part of STEM programs of study that have <30% females. It was investigated to which degree individual stereotypes, support in school, and family support contribute to the self-concept in STEM. Gender stereotypes were negatively related to students' STEM-specific self-concept in the selected sample. This study also reveals negative family-related influences that lower a woman's self-concept. Positive predictors on the other hand included school aspects that are found in the students' favorite subjects at school. The results of the study provide important aspects for STEM education. Even though the students participating in the study presumably had good grades in STEM, stereotypes still corrupted their self-concept. One of the reasons for this might lie in stereotypes that attribute girls' achievements to diligence instead of talent. The results also point out that direct support, particularly by parents, can have a negative impact on female students' self-concept. Activities that are meant to support pupils directly may actually backfire and transport stereotypes instead. This stresses the need for indirect support during socialization, e.g., by providing opportunities for children to have positive experiences or by giving them the chance to meet role models that are enthusiastic about their STEM professions. These kinds of measures have the potential to spur students' interest in STEM subjects—something that in the present study proved to be especially beneficial for women's positive self-concept when studying STEM topics.
Gender inequalities persist in all areas of social and economic life and across countries. Young women in OECD countries generally obtain more years of schooling than young men, but women are less likely than men to engage in paid work. Gaps widen with age, as motherhood typically has marked negative effects on gender pay gaps and career advancement. Women are also less likely to be entrepreneurs, and are underrepresented in private and public leadership positions.The 2013 and 2015 OECD Gender Recommendations provide guidance on how to advance gender equality in education, employment, entrepreneurship and public life; this book discusses recent developments in these areas in one overview chapter and 24 short chapters which each include key findings and policy recommendations. Topics include violence against women, gender budgeting, the unequal sharing of unpaid work, labour market outcomes and migration. The book presents a range of indicators illustrating gender gaps. It also discusses recent policy initiatives, such as pay transparency measures to reduce gender wage gaps and policy reform aimed at fathers taking parental leave. Overall, progress has been slow and there is a strong need for further policy action to close gender gaps in education, employment, entrepreneurship and public life.
The shortage of qualified STEM teachers and researchers in these fields can be recognized as an existing and forthcoming problem. The aim of the present study was to explore the influence of the content of STEM subjects Biology, Chemistry, Informatics, Mathematics, Physics, and Technics and Technology and corresponding classroom experiences, as perceived by students, in elementary and general secondary schools on student's career aspirations and ambition to work as researchers or educators as their career choice. The sample comprised 552 upper general school students (ages 17 to 19) in their last two years before entering University. We hypothesized that a combination of general interest in each of the six listed disciplines, together with the content taught in elementary and upper secondary school, together with respective classroom experiences, will influence career aspirations expressed by ranking their wish to work as educators or researchers. With the use of Structural Equation Modeling, we revealed that Biology, Chemistry, and Physics can statistically significantly explain career aspirations to become a researcher. However, Informatics, Mathematics, and Technics and Technology cannot. None of the listed disciplines positively predicts career aspirations to become an educator. From the correlation between ranked aspirations toward a research and an educational career (r = –.03; p = .964), we can conclude that most of those who considered a career as a researcher as a plausible option do not share the same opinion about a career in education.