The society in which we live is diverse and as such it is necessary to meet the educational needs of all groups and ensure that everyone feels included. It is necessary to train all citizens to be competent for the development of an adequate professional and personal life. This entails working on equity and diversity in our educational centers and is one of the principles of the educational law in Spain (BOE, 2020). In addition, this same law also considers gender equality as one of the objectives in all educational stages. UNESCO has defined a series of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (UNESCO, 2021a) the fourth being for education. Within this objective, two of the goals seek equity, access, and democratization of higher education; the third and five targets are linked with gender equality, guaranteeing an inclusive and equitable quality education, and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all. Specifically, gender equality is a cross-cutting objective present in most of the SDGs. The data compiled by UNESCO, through its Institute of Statistics (UNESCO, 2021b) shows a gender gap in professional careers related to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), both in an educational and professional context, therefore achieving work to reduce these differences is a great social challenge. These SDGs targets (UNESCO, 2021c) are as follows:
“Target 4.3: By 2030, ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable quality technical, vocational, and tertiary education, including university” (p. 1).
“Target 4.5: By 2030, eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous people, and children in vulnerable situations” (p. 1).
An example of this need and challenge, regarding STEM and gender, is shown in compass brief number 13 published by the IEA in April 2021 on female science and mathematics teachers (Hastedt et al., 2021). This publication points out the need to make STEM teachers aware of their strengths and develop their self-efficacy based on the following findings:
“There is no direct relationship between the gender of the teacher and students’ performance in science and mathematics. Grade 4 and 8 students taught by female teachers perform just as well in science and mathematics than their peers taught by male teachers. Yet, results show that female science and mathematics teachers have less self-efficacy than their male counterparts” (p. 1).
The European Union also works to achieve the SDGs and has among its goals the improvement of education, achieving greater equity, and attention to diversity. To this end, among other things, it promotes the implementation of European educational projects with funding aimed at improving teaching–learning systems (UE, 2021a), the Erasmus+ Programme (UE, 2021b) stands out in this area. This program finances educational projects at all levels, including higher education, so that institutions implement and explore new educational methodologies with projects that have among their priorities: inclusion and diversity, digital transformation, the environment and the fight against climate change and participation in democratic life.
In the Erasmus+ programme there is a database, known as Erasmus+ Project Results Platform (E+PRP) (UE, 2021c), in which a compilation of all the funded projects is available, identifying those that have been classified as good practice or success story. Therefore, reviewing successful projects in any field, and specifically in STEM and gender, can be of great help to see what practices are helping to reduce the gap in this educational and professional field.
Knowledge of successful projects can serve as a beacon to achieve, on the one hand, what is working well in other institutions and, on the other, detect possible needs to expand the scope of research.
For the revision of the projects in E+PRP, the methodology of systematic reviews of research projects (García Holgado et al., 2019b, 2020c) is really useful because it provides a perfect approach to analyze projects because it gives an overview of current trends, allowing the identification of gaps and opportunities. This methodology is the one that is being used in the research on “Methodological guide for the successful use of digital technologies in education: Improving learning through European educational projects” (Alonso de Castro & García-Peñalvo, 2020a, 2020b, 2021) in order to collect information on successful projects within the framework of Erasmus+ related to eLearning and the same technique is applied for the sample of projects that are presented in this chapter.
Within the framework of the GRIAL research group, in which the development of this chapter is carried out, some contributions that seek to understand the gender gap in higher STEM studies both in Spain and in Europe stand out (García-Holgado et al., 2019a, 2020a, 2020b; Verdugo-Castro et al., 2019, 2020a, 2020b, 2020c). There are several analyses that include intervention proposals, interviews, and case studies that give an idea of the importance of this topic for the group. Therefore, it is considered a topic of great relevance in the group, and this justifies analyzing practical examples of projects that have been considered good practice. For this reason, this chapter provides specific cases of projects classified as good practice in Erasmus+ Projects Platform and that have worked on STEM and gender in higher education so that we can take note of the factors that have been useful in the institutions involved. At the same time, the situation of projects of this type within the framework of Erasmus+ and the possibilities of future work will be analyzed.
In the analysis of projects that meet the established criteria (Erasmus+ , Good Practice, higher education, STEM, and gender), at this moment, a total of 5 projects have been found out of the total of 19 existing linked to STEM and gender and the more than 35.500 of higher education projects in Erasmus+ . In addition, there is another project labeled as good practice in higher education, which also works to improve the attraction to STEM careers, which although it is not focused on women, can be considered useful for them as well. Therefore, below we are going to see these six projects with the information gathered from E+PRP and the projects websites, followed with the main conclusions.