Higher Education

, Volume 55, Issue 2, pp 189–202 | Cite as

Educational choice and persistence in male- and female-dominated fields

Original Paper

Abstract

Even though female students now make up more than half of all higher education students in many countries, the distribution of women across fields of study is still very uneven. This study examines the gendered nature of recruitment and dropout in higher education. Our results show that students who made gender traditional choices more often had an early preference for the study programme they enrolled in. Moreover, female students reported more often than male students that they had been encouraged by their parents and friends. However, unlike what we expected, there are no differences between students in gender traditional and non-traditional programmes with regard to encouragement from parents and students’ confidence that they had made the right choice. While male students’ dropout is unrelated to the gender composition of educational programmes, women drop out of female-dominated programmes to a lesser extent.

Keywords

Attrition Educational choice Gender segregation Higher education Persistence Student dropout 

References

  1. Astin, A. W. (1993). What matters in college: Four critical years revisited. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  2. Baker, D. P., & Jones, D. P. (1993). Creating gender equality—cross-national gender stratification and mathematical performance. Sociology of Education, 66(2), 91–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Blalock, H. M. (1967). Toward a theory of minority-group relations. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  4. Bradley, K. (2000). The incorporation of women higher education: Paradoxical outcomes? Sociology of Education, 73(1), 1–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Braxton, J. M., Sullivan, A. S., & Johnson R. M. Jr. (1997). Appraising Tinto’s theory of college student departure. In J. C. Smart, & W. G. Tierney (Eds.), Higher education handbook of theory and research (Vol. 12, pp. 107–164). New York: Agathon Press.Google Scholar
  6. Brooks, R. (2002). “Edinburgh, Exeter, East London – or employment?” A review of research on young people’s higher education choices. Educational Research, 44(2), 217–227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Carrington, B., & Skelton, C. (2003). Re-thinking “role models”: Equal opportunities in teacher recruitment in England and Wales. Journal of Education Policy, 18(3), 253–265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Charles, M., & Bradley, K. (2002). Equal but separate? A cross-national study of sex segregation in higher education. American Sociological Review, 67(4), 573–599.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chatman, J. A., & O’Reilly, C. A. (2004). Asymmetric reactions to work group sex diversity among men and women. Academy of Management Journal, 47(2), 193–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Correll, S. J. (2001). Gender and the career choice process: The role of biased self-assessments. American Journal of Sociology, 106(6), 1691–1730.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. David, M. E., Ball, S. J., Davies, J., & Reay, D. (2003). Gender issues in parental involvement in student choices of higher education. Gender and Education, 15(1), 21–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. DesJardins, S. L., Ahlburg, D. A., & McCall, B. P. (1999). An event history model of student departure. Economics of Education Review, 18(3), 375–390.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Eagly, A. H. (2000). Social role theory of sex differences and similarities: A current appraisal. In T. Eckes, & H. M. Trautner (Eds.), The developmental social psychology of gender (pp. 123–174). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  14. Esping-Andersen, G. (1990). The three worlds of welfare capitalism. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  15. Finn, J. (1980). Sex differences in educational outcomes: A cross-national study. Sex Roles, 6(1), 6–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hansen, M. N., & Mastekaasa, A. (2003). Utdanning. In I. Frønes, & L. Kjølsrød (Eds.), Det norske samfunn (pp. 69–96). Oslo: Gyldendal.Google Scholar
  17. Hyde, J. S., Fennema, E., Ryan, M., Frost, L. A., & Hopp, C. (1990). Gender comparisons of mathematics attitudes and affect—a meta-analysis. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 14(3), 299–324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Høgsnes, G. (1999). Krone for krone: lønnsforhandlinger og -fordelinger. Oslo: Ad notam Gyldendal.Google Scholar
  19. Ishitani, T. T. (2003). A longitudinal approach to assessing attrition behavior among first-generation students: Time-varying effects of pre-college characteristics. Research in Higher Education, 44(4), 433–449.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Jacobs, J. A. (1989). Revolving doors. Sex segregation and women’s careers. Stanford, CA.: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Jacobs, J. A. (1996). Gender inequality and higher education. Annual Review of Sociology, 22(August), 153–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Jacobs, J. A. (2003). Detours on the road to equality: Women, work and higher education. Contexts, 2(1), 32–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Johnes, G., & McNabb, R. (2004). Never give up on the good times: Student attrition in the UK. Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, 66(1), 23–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kanter, R. M. (1977a). Men and women of the corporation. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  25. Kanter, R. M. (1977b). Some effects of proportions of group life: Skewed sex ratios and responses to token women. American Journal of Sociology, 82(5), 965–990.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Liljander, J.-P. (1998). Gains and losses on academic transfer markets: Dropping out and course-switching in higher education. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 19(4), 479–495.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Ma, X. (1999). Dropping out of advanced mathematics: How much do students and schools contribute to the problem? Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 21(4), 365–383.Google Scholar
  28. Mills, M., Martino, W., & Lingard, B. (2004). Attracting, recruiting and retaining male teachers: Policy issues in the male teacher debate. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 25(3), 355–369.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Montmarquette, C., Mahseredjian, S., & Houle, R. (2001). The determinants of university dropouts: A bivariate probability model with sample selection. Economics of Education Review, 20(5), 475–484.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Moogan, Y. J., Baron, S., & Harris, K. (1999). Decision-making behaviour of potential higher education students. Higher Education Quarterly, 53(3), 211–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Murtaugh, P. A., Burns, L. D., & Schuster, J. (1999). Predicting the retention of university students. Research in Higher Education, 40(3), 355–371.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Oakes, J. (1990). Opportunities, achievement, and choice—women and minority-students in science and mathematics. Review of Research in Education, 16, 153–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Polachek, S. (1981). Occupational self-selection: A human capital approach to sex differences in occupational structure. Review of Economics and Statistics, 63(1), 60–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Read, B., Archer, L., & Leathwood, C. (2003). Challenging cultures? Student conceptions of “belonging” and “isolation” at a post-1992 university. Studies in Higher Education, 28(3), 261–277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Reay, D. (1998). “Always knowing” and “never being sure”: familial and institutional habitus in higher education choice. Journal of Education Policy, 13, 519–529.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Robst, J., Keil, J., & Russo, D. (1998). The effect of gender composition of faculty on student retention. Economics of Education Review, 17(4), 429–439.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Rogers, S. J., & Menaghan, E. G. (1991). Women’s persistence in undergraduate majors—the effects of gender-disproportionate representation. Gender & Society, 5(4), 549–564.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Sax, L. J. (1996). The dynamics of “tokenism’”: How college students are affected by the proportion of women in their major. Research in Higher Education, 37(4), 389–425.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Seymour, E., & Hewitt, N. M. (1997). Talking about leaving: Why undergraduates leave the sciences. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  40. Smith, J. P., & Naylor, R. A. (2001). Dropping out of university: A statistical analysis of the probability of withdrawal for UK university students. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A – Statistics in Society, 164(Part 2), 389–405.Google Scholar
  41. Snijders, T. A. B., & Bosker, R. J. (1999). Multilevel analysis. An introduction to basic and advanced multilevel modelling. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  42. Somers, P., Cofer, J., & VanderPutten, J. (2002). The early bird goes to college: The link between early college aspirations and postsecondary matriculation. Journal of College Student Development, 43(1), 93–107.Google Scholar
  43. Støren, L. A., & Arnesen, C. A. (2003). Et kjønnsdelt utdanningssystem. In Statistics Norway, Utdanning 2003 – ressurser, rekruttering og resultater (pp. 135–160). Oslo: Statistics Norway.Google Scholar
  44. Teigen, M. (1999). Documenting discrimination: A study of recruitment cases brought to the Norwegian Gender Equality Ombud. Gender, Work and Organization, 6(2), 91–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Thomas, K. (1990). Gender and subject in higher education. Buckingham: Society for Research into Higher Education & Open University Press.Google Scholar
  46. Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving college. Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  47. Tinto, V. (1997). Colleges as communities: Exploring the educational character of student persistence. Journal of Higher Education, 68(6), 599–623.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Wagner, D. G., & Berger, J. (1997). Gender and interpersonal task behaviors: Status expectation accounts. Sociological Perspectives, 40(1), 1–32.Google Scholar
  49. Yorke, M. (1999). Leaving early. Undergraduate non-completion in higher education. London: Falmer.Google Scholar
  50. Zimmer, L. (1988). Tokenism and women in the workplace: The limits of gender-neutral theory. Social Problems, 35(1), 64–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for the Study of ProfessionsOslo University CollegeOsloNorway
  2. 2.University of OsloOsloNorway

Personalised recommendations