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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
... Győrffy és mtsainak felmérésében az orvostanhallgatók több mint fele (61%) a középiskolás évei alatt döntött arról, hogy orvosi pályára megy tovább, főként a férfiak esetében (75%), amiben jelentős szerepet játszik, hogy esetükben ebben a korban a legfőbb motivációnak a természettudományos tárgyakat és az azokat oktató tanárokat tekinthetjük [17]. A tudásvágy általában a középiskolában, sokszor a jó tanárok hatására kialakult természettudományos érdeklődésként manifesztálódik [17][18][19][20] és nagy szükség is van rá, hiszen az orvosi képzési idő rendkívül hosszú, erre pedig még a rezidensi éveket is rá kell számolni mire valaki szakorvosnak mondhatja magát [13]. ...
... A nemek arányának eltolódásával nincs egyedül az állatorvosi hivatás: a humán orvoslás is az elnőiesedő foglalkozások között van [17]. Ennek többek között oka lehet, hogy a nők tudatosabbak, hangsúlyosabbak náluk a belső motivációs tényezők, viszont általában nehezebb számukra a szakmai előrejutás, emiatt pedig gyakrabban szoronganak és kevésbé elégedettek [8,19,34]. ...
... Mindezek mellett a nőknek inkább szokásuk érzelmi alapon dönteni, kifejezettebbek az [5,34] és többször céljuk, hogy az "álommunkájukat" szeretnék végezni, vagy azt remélik, hogy a szakmájuk a szenvedélyükké válik [2]. A belső motivációs tényezők túlsúlyával összhangban, a nők általában korábban elköteleződnek, jobban tudják, mit szeretnének csinálni, így általában kizárólagosabban választják az állatorvosi szakmát (ritkábban jelölnek meg más képzéseket a felvételi eljárás során), mint a férfiak [11,19]. Az állatszeretet és a saját állat is jellemzően inkább a nőket orientálja az állatorvoslás felé [11,19,22]. ...
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SUMMARY Background: Over the last few decades students’ expectations towards higher education, including the veterinary studies, have changed significantly. Understanding students’ motivations is a prerequisite for adapting to these changes and helping them with career orientation, especially with the alarming shortages in certain veterinary fields. Objectives: The aim of our research was to survey the motivational factors of veterinary students' career choice. Materials and Methods: The present study is based on a questionnaire which was completed by 548 first-year students being enrolled into the Hungarian veterinary medicine course of the University of Veterinary Medicine Budapest (UVMB) between 2016 and 2020. Results and Discussion: All vet students applied for admission to UVMB as their first choice. The gender ratio did not change significantly over the surveyed years and 73.9% of the respondents were women. Most students started the university within 1-2 years after high school graduation, with an average age of 19.8 years, and came from Budapest and Pest County (altogether 41.8%). Vast majority of the enrolled students was from different urban areas (33.8% from smaller towns, 24.5% from Budapest and 20.8% from county seats) and only 20.8% came from rural circumstances. The most important motivational factors for veterinary education were job prospects, the prestige of profession and the practice-oriented courses, but student life and the good reputation of UVMB were also important. The motivational factors slightly differed between men and women. As regards to the information channels about the vet education and the admission process, almost all vet students visited the governmental and university websites, and they were mostly satisfied with their information content. The university publications, the UVMB Open Day and the educational exhibition were also preferred, but less than half of the respondents visited the latter two. Communication via landline telephone and high school career days were the least preferred ways of information collection. ÖSSZEFOGLALÁS A szerzők kutatásának célja az volt, hogy felmérjék az állatorvostan-hallgatók pályaválasztásának motivációs tényezőit, így nagyobb eséllyel tudjuk feltölteni a szakterületi hiányokat is. A felmérés alapját képző kérdőívet a 2016 és 2020 között az Állatorvostudományi Egyetem állatorvos szakára, magyar nyelvű képzésre beiratkozó 548 hallgató töltötte ki. Az állatorvosdoktor szakot mindegyik hallgató első helyen jelölte meg, 73,9%-uk nő volt és a többségük kisebb városokból és Budapestről származott. A pályaválasztásnál a legtöbbet az elhelyezkedési esélyek, a szakma presztízse és a gyakorlatorientált képzések számítottak, de szintén fontos volt a hallgatói élet és az intézmény hírneve.
... The OECD (2017) states that 'while young women in OECD countries now obtain more years of schooling than young men, on average, girls are much less likely to study in the lucrative science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields' (OECD, 2017, p. 3). Women are severely underrepresented in engineering and IT, while there is a general overrepresentation of women in health (Holman et al., 2018;Makarova et al., 2019;WEF, 2017). Hinting at biological difference, Wang and Degol (2017) document six reasons for underrepresentation of women in STEM, citing cognitive ability, relative cognitive strengths, occupational interests or preferences, lifestyle values or work-family balance preferences, fieldspecific ability beliefs, and gender-related stereotypes and biases (also see Makarova et al., 2019). ...
... Women are severely underrepresented in engineering and IT, while there is a general overrepresentation of women in health (Holman et al., 2018;Makarova et al., 2019;WEF, 2017). Hinting at biological difference, Wang and Degol (2017) document six reasons for underrepresentation of women in STEM, citing cognitive ability, relative cognitive strengths, occupational interests or preferences, lifestyle values or work-family balance preferences, fieldspecific ability beliefs, and gender-related stereotypes and biases (also see Makarova et al., 2019). Gender stereotypes remain prevalent in many countries despite high gender equity (Miller et al., 2015). ...
... Gender stereotypes provide generalisations about individuals based on their gender. These are the beliefs and attitudes towards behaviours of men and women and their roles in families and careers (Makarova et al., 2019;Renfrow & Howard, 2013). Gender stereotypes from early influencers including parents and teachers can inhibit girls' performance and adversely affect their career choices (Ertl et al., 2017). ...
... While studies offer varying explanations (see Kelly, 2016, for a comprehensive review), a recurring theme is the lack of personal relevance of physics perceived by females. Traditionally, physics has been regarded as a difficult subject demanding high mathematical skills and abstract thinking, and hence is considered a prestigious school subject with high strategic value for future study and career plans (Lyons, 2006;Makarova et al., 2019). However, a growing body of literature suggests that females assign lower career value to physics compared to their male counterparts (Barnes et al., 2005;Hazari et al., 2013;Jugović, 2017;Makarova et al., 2019). ...
... Traditionally, physics has been regarded as a difficult subject demanding high mathematical skills and abstract thinking, and hence is considered a prestigious school subject with high strategic value for future study and career plans (Lyons, 2006;Makarova et al., 2019). However, a growing body of literature suggests that females assign lower career value to physics compared to their male counterparts (Barnes et al., 2005;Hazari et al., 2013;Jugović, 2017;Makarova et al., 2019). ...
... Females' interest in physics is also reported to be significantly lower than that reported by males (Baram-Tsabari & Yarden, 2008). They also perceive physics to be more difficult (Angell et al., 2004;Makarova et al., 2019;Stadler et al., 2000), and show lower levels of self-efficacy and motivation (Kalender et al., 2019) irrespective of their academic performance in the subject. Other social and contextual factors suggested as prominent influences on females' alienation from physics include lack of female role models, gender stereotyped cultural expectations, male-dominated classrooms, gendered experiences and male-friendly learning styles in physics classrooms, disengaging pedagogy, and negative perceptions perpetuated by socialisers and family (see Kalender et al., 2019;Wheeler & Blanchard, 2019, for comprehensive reviews). ...
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In recent decades, several countries have made efforts to close the historic gender gap in physics through curricular reforms. Research indicates that while the acute underrepresentation of females in physics courses and related careers is linked to a number of interlaced social, contextual and motivational factors, the personal relevance of physics curricula is important. Some researchers argue that physics has been historically perceived as a “masculine” domain which operates through contexts that are unfamiliar to females. Introduction of a “girl-friendly” physics curriculum is one of the prominent measures employed to mitigate this concern, with researchers arguing that a context-based/humanistic physics curriculum will improve gender inclusivity and thereby increase females’ motivation to learn physics. However, this approach has been criticised as a “feminisation” of the physics curriculum. This paper uses a mixed-methods approach underpinned by expectancy-value theory, to analyse 247 students’ perceptions of an Australian senior secondary physics curriculum and investigates the claim that including “female-friendly” topics will make physics more appealing to females. Findings suggest that while most students found their physics curriculum interesting and personally relevant, neither females nor males found the “feminine” topics particularly appealing. Both male and female students also found there was a lack of mathematical applications, and they identified descriptive topics, such as those addressing social and historical contexts, as uninteresting and irrelevant in a physics curriculum. This paper concludes that gender was non-significant in student perceptions of a senior secondary physics curriculum.
... These principles are made effective through practices or activities that use technological resources to solve problems that motivate girls to solve real-world problems that are of direct interest because they are related to the needs of their context, such as protection. and community service [37]; developing these experiences from an early age in girls are of vital importance to instill in STEM disciplines, as professional women scientists point out, indicating that 66% of women generated interests in science and technology before starting secondary education [38,39]. ...
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In the article, the authors evaluate the computational thinking skills according to gender of a group of male and female students of industrial engineering and systems engineering from universities located in the Andean region of Peru; the five key skills were evaluated: abstraction, decomposition, generalization, algorithmic design, and evaluation. To strengthen computational thinking, activities related to agriculture, livestock, the environment, safety, and education were proposed, which are of interest to the community where the students live. The research methodology followed is quasi-experimental of the post-test type with intentional non-probabilistic sampling. During the development of the activities, the students used microcontrollers, sensors, and actuators; thus, they also used block-based programming to implement hardware and software prototypes. The results have shown, according to the inferential analysis, that there are no significant differences between male and female students in any of the computational thinking skills. These results were due to the educational strategy applied in the development of STEM activities, which focused on solving real problems in the student community and generated the same enthusiasm in female and male students compared to other activities that only generated motivation in male students.
... In terms of the participants' educational training, our Chaid Tree analyses revealed that there are some gender disparities in STEM disciplines among preservice teachers that we may consider. In line with previous studies by Makarova and Herzog (2015), Makarova et al. (2019), Gillooly et al. (2021), Gecu-Parmaksiz et al. (2021), and Schmader (2023, the results of this research suggest that gender differences when choosing a career seem to persist despite efforts to eliminate barriers and inequalities. According to Fox-Turnbull et al. (2022), girls and women still need to receive messages that encourage them to choose and stay in STEM-related fields, as well as those that dispel any misconceptions about their abilities or the skills required in certain fields that might deter them from pursuing STEM-related career paths. ...
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The decision to pursue a career in teaching is usually driven by vocational interests, with the social image of teachers playing a pivotal role in this choice. This study endeavors to explore the influence of gender on the perception of teaching and its impact on the inclination of preservice teachers towards vocational training. The research, based on a sample of 1469 participants, aims to evaluate attributive factors related to the decision to become a secondary school teacher, perceptions of the training received during the master’s degree, and gender disparities when recalling their previous teachers. To achieve this, an ad hoc questionnaire was employed. The data obtained were analyzed using Student’s t test, Chi-square, Somers’ D, and Chaid Tree. The results reveal gender differences by age and academic specialization, as well as a more negative evaluation of former high school teachers by female participants compared to their male counterparts. Overall, the study suggests that female students tend to retain more negative memories of secondary school instructors, a phenomenon that could be influenced by the prevailing unfavorable social image of teachers and their perceived struggle to compensate for past educational deficiencies upon embarking on a teaching career. Given that gender proves to be a relevant factor in the work of secondary school teachers, it is strongly recommended that the training of future educators address this issue with utmost diligence and depth. By sensitizing aspiring teachers to the potential challenges related to gender perceptions, teacher preparation programs can better equip them to navigate these complexities in the classroom and foster an inclusive learning environment.
This paper attends to the burnout recovery experiences of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and qualitatively explores how these individuals renegotiate, reorient, and recalibrate their work trajectories after burnout; an ambiguous and shocking event that has been shown to cause lingering disruption for both individuals and organizations (Salvagioni et al., 2017). We bring together conservation of resources (COR) theory and a sensemaking approach, illustrating how attention to sensemaking reveals the dynamics of resource allocation during times of disruption and loss; that is, the relational negotiation of protecting, investing, and fostering resources, including and importantly to burnout, a recognizable sense of recovery. Our rich qualitative analysis and findings reveal three sensemaking plotlines (Combative, Regenerative, and Promissory) through which rituals of resource management take place. Insights from this study provide a theoretical exposition for the post‐burnout experience, illuminating the black box between burnout and recovery. We present a number of theoretical and practical contributions in developing the scholarly vistas surrounding (post‐)burnout studies and STEM careers that better conceptualize (i) how marginalized members in highly instituted settings experience the aftermath of burnout and (ii) the broader implications this has for the sustainability of workforces.
Background: Eating patterns such as breakfast consumption and fruit and vegetable intake have been associated with academic achievement and cognitive function. Method: The purpose of this study was to learn more about psychological (emotion-driven eating) and behavioral (over-eating) eating patterns and motives, and the roles of body image, academic achievement (reading and math), and social supports (peer acceptance and school attachment), among 378 fourth-grade students (55% boys) from 14 classrooms across 6 schools within a large Midwestern urban area. Results: Results were analyzed through a 2-group (male and female) path analysis. Boys' overeating (R2 = 9%) was not significantly predicted. Their emotional eating (R2 = 22.2%) was negatively, significantly predicted by peer acceptance and interaction of peer acceptance and school attachment. Girls' overeating (R2 = 13.6%) was negatively, significantly predicted by positive body image. Girls' emotional eating (R2 = 24.1%) was negatively significantly predicted by positive body image, math scores, and peer acceptance. Conclusions: Boys' and girls' eating patterns are differentially affected by their school experiences.
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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.