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Gendered cultures in STEM education: Nuancing the picture
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Physics, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Physics Didactics. Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Centre for Gender Research.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-8180-5369
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Physics, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Physics Didactics.
2016 (English)Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Discussions about gender equality in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education often focus on the lack of women. Researchers and teachers approach the issue by exploring obstacles facing women, as a minority, in the often masculinely coded cultures of STEM. However, a more nuanced picture of what happens in STEM programmes is of vital importance for increasing equality in STEM education.

Our mixed-methods study on engineering students’ approaches to learning electromagnetism was motivated by an apparent gender gap in grades perceived by teachers. We found that students related their experiences of and approaches to the course to their identification as certain types of engineering students, rather than gender. However, gender plays an important role on the level of recruitment to different engineering programmes, where the different programmes in our study recruited from 15-70% women.

Our findings illustrate how nuancing the picture of STEM participation involves taking different dimensions of gender into account; for instance, the association of certain concepts, like “nature” or “environment”, with femininity and how this might structure the gendered “market” of higher education STEM. Different programmes appeal to different, and partly gendered, student populations. However, as our study illustrates, these programmes are made up of courses that sometimes limit the possibilities for identification, not necessarily along gendered lines. This shows the importance of discussing gender issues in STEM in a nuanced way, analysing the specific discourses around STEM subjects and gender that students relate to.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
STEM education, identity, engineering education, student recruitment
National Category
Physical Sciences Gender Studies Educational Sciences Didactics
Research subject
Physics with specialization in Physics Education
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-296667OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-296667DiVA: diva2:939346
Gender and Education Association Interim Conference, Linköping, Sweden, 15–17 June 2016
Available from: 2016-06-19 Created: 2016-06-19 Last updated: 2016-06-19

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Johansson, AndersAndersson, Staffan
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