, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 343-364
Date: 19 Jul 2012

Gendered education in a gendered world: looking beyond cosmetic solutions to the gender gap in science

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Abstract

Young people in countries considered to be at the forefront of gender equity still tend to choose very traditional science subjects and careers. This is particularly the case in science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects (STEM), which are largely male dominated. This article uses feminist critiques of science and science education to explore the underlying gendered assumptions of a research project aiming to contribute to improving recruitment, retention and gender equity patterns in STEM educations and careers. Much research has been carried out to understand this gender gap phenomenon as well as to suggest measures to reduce its occurrence. A significant portion of this research has focused on detecting the typical “female” and “male” interest in science and has consequently suggested that adjustments be made to science education to cater for these interests. This article argues that adjusting science subjects to match perceived typical girls’ and boys’ interests risks being ineffective, as it contributes to the imposition of stereotyped gender identity formation thereby also imposing the gender differences that these adjustments were intended to overcome. This article also argues that different ways of addressing gender issues in science education themselves reflects different notions of gender and science. Thus in order to reduce gender inequities in science these implicit notions of gender and science have to be made explicit. The article begins with an overview of the current situation regarding gender equity in some so- called gender equal countries. We then present three perspectives from feminist critiques of science on how gender can be seen to impact on science and science education. Thereafter we analyze recommendations from a contemporary research project to explore which of these perspectives is most prevalent.

Lead editors: K. Scantlebury and A. Hussenius.