Please send this Newsletter to research colleagues you might know who can also contribute to the Network aims.
Welcome conference delegates, new Network members – and, of course 'old' ones! This final Newsletter for 2014 presents highlights from our 2nd Network Conference, sets the dates for our 3rd conference July 21—23 in Newcastle, UK, and other points of interest including a short interview with Janet Hyde, one of the Keynote speakers at our 2014 conference this year. We will introduce our new facebook page that will hopefully lead to more exchange of relevant information and the development of activities.
An important report just published by the World Economic Forum suggests that we may have to wait until 2095 (81 years!) to close the gender gap 'Global Gender Gap 2014'. The report measures the relative gaps between women and men across four key areas: health, education, economy and politics, across 142 countries. Read the report in full plus the implications of the continuing gender gap here
. The development of talents, where and how many hours we work and how much we earn still strongly depends on our gender. 'Only those economies that have full access to their talent could stay competitive', says Chairman of WEF. Time for action!
The International Network 'Gender & STEM: Educational and Occupational Pathways and Participation' supports this aim. It was originally formed because both researchers and policy makers concerned with the subject of Gender & STEM felt the need to interrelate research results and gain more insight into the various, closely connected aspects of career choices and professional careers of girls/women (and boys/men) in STEM. The second aim was to detect new approaches to actually improve the underrepresentation of girls/women in STEM.
Since 2007, the International Network of Gender & STEM has gained more than 80 members, most of them researchers in the field of Gender & STEM, set up a website, sent out newsletters and organized two conferences. The first conference was held in September 2012 in Haarlem, the Netherlands. The conference was opened by the Network’s patron Professor Jacquelynne Eccles and focused on individual pathways towards (and away from) STEM fields. This conference marked the beginning of a more coherent way of exchanging information. Collectively we tried to find new ways to implement research findings into policy and activities. The conference resulted in a Special Issue of the International Journal of Gender Science and Technology
(Vol. 5, No. 3) in 2013.
We trust you find this Newsletter interesting reading, and wish you compliments of the Season,
Noortje Jansen (VHTO, The Netherlands)
Helen Watt (Monash University, Australia)
Save the date: Third Gender & STEM Network Conference
In 2016 will be our 3rd biennial international Gender & STEM conference, held July 21-23, 2016 in Newcastle, UK. The working theme is ‘Promoting girls' and women's participation in STEM advancement and innovation: Connecting research with global policy and practice'.
The conference will be organised by Pooran Wynarczyk, Professor and Director of Small Enterprise Research Unit (SERU) at Newcastle University Business School, UK and Helen Watt, Associate professor at Monash University, Australia, supported by VHTO, (Dutch) National Expertise Center on girls/women & STEM.
Looking back at the second Gender & STEM Network conference
The second Gender & STEM Network Conference, with the theme “Gender and STEM: What schools, families, and workplaces can do”, was held 3-5 July 2014 at the Technische Universität Berlin, Germany. The conference was organized by Professor Angela Ittel and Dr. Rebecca Lazarides (Technische Universität Berlin) and Associate Professor Helen Watt (Monash University, Australia), and again supported by the VHTO secretariat.
In the second network conference, the roles of schools, families and workplaces were highlighted, for supporting or constraining girls/women and boys/men to choose and persist in STEM versus other pathways. The aim was to present empirical research and educational policies, concerning how individual and social aspects impact individuals’ motivation, attitudes, performance, educational and career choices and pathways into STEM fields. Complementary perspectives were addressed on how such pathways can be facilitated at various points along students’ and young adults’ educational and occupational development.
Jacquelynne Eccles (University of California – Irvine), the patron of the Network Gender & STEM, opened the conference with an inspiring speech entitled:'Gendered socialization of STEM interests in the family'. Lynn Liben (Pennsylvania State University), Janet Hyde (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Petra Stanat (Institute for Educational Quality Improvement, Germany) and Sheri Berenbaum (Pennsylvania State University) offered inspiring keynote addresses. Although it is hardly possible, we will make an attempt to summarize the themes from across these presentations together:
Innate or not?
There are natural/biological differences between boys and girls that occur in the womb under the influence of sex hormones (mainly testosterone). After birth, the brain keeps on developing under the influence of the child’s experiences. Which experiences matter is highly dependent on the environment and the persons in that environment. Parents / guardians are highly influential because they are usually the only ones who are constantly present during the first years of a child's life. The parents’ stereotypical beliefs and attitudes toward the gender of their child also play an important role in the type and extent of activities they offer their children.
Teachers (elementary school, high school) are influential as well, but less than the parents. Parents form a more constant factor. Teachers are can be reached more easily for interventions and are consequently often the main subject of study. STEM teachers are important for adolescents’ career choices directed towards or away from science and technology.
Various studies again showed that girls have less confidence in the fields of science and mathematics and also experience more stress in this area.
Competitiveness and aspirations also develop under the influence of gender stereotypes and structural conditions, such as the school system and family circumstances. Girls are expected to differ from boys, and gender differences in expectation are already visible among pre-school children. Small imbalances can accumulate and continue to increase over the course of time.
To involve more girls in STEM it is not enough to take measures aimed only at increasing the content area skills, specifically mathematics and spatial awareness, or to boost girls’ confidence. It is also important to break down gender stereotypes, including psychological as well as socio-cultural factors.
Some of the keynote presentations mentioned measures including:
• Create awareness of inequality in behavior towards boys and girls as early as possible.
• Provide more information on science / technical professions and positions to children, parents and teachers.
• Address targeted messages to families concerning values and expectations towards gender and STEM.
• Ensure industry, companies and institutions adopt policy to promote gender equality, and prevent gender discrimination.
Although the conference was successful for many attendees, there were constructive criticisms as well. Some thought too much attention was paid to bio-psychological research, some asked for more attention to sociological and economic perspectives and employment. More integration of policy, practice and research was requested, and the implementation into policy and research.
These focus areas will be taken on by the organisation of the next conference in 2016.
Also this conference will result in a 2015 Special Issue of the International Journal of Gender, Science and Technology, edited by Lazarides & Ittel, titled ‘Gendered motivation and choice in STEM - individual and contextual factors’.
Five questions for Professor Janet S. Hyde
1. What is your main interest in your actual research concerning gender & STEM?
My main interest is in closing gender gaps in STEM participation, particularly gaps in earning PhDs, in people committing to STEM research careers, and in university faculty in STEM. At least in the U.S., the gap in Biology is gone, so we need to focus on chemistry, physics, math, engineering, and computer science. In my meta-analyses, the goal is to develop accurate information about gender differences and similarities, and then disseminate that information to the general public.
2. Could you provide us with three of your recent research results that you think are worth considering and tell us why?
In a 2010 meta-analysis, we found that, overall, the gender gap in math performance is tiny, but also that the size of the gender gap varies across nations. The gender gap in math performance is larger in nations characterized by gender inequality. These findings point to the important role of culture – not biology – in shaping girls’ and women’s math performance.
In that same meta-analysis, gender gaps remained in variables such as math self-confidence, despite the fact that girls were performing as well as boys. For variables such as self-confidence, the gender gap is actually larger in more gender-equitable nations. It may be that math anxiety and lack of math confidence are luxuries that one can afford in affluent nations, whereas in nations with few economic resources, the goal is to get a high-paying job, math skills are an asset in that effort, and one does not have the luxury of disliking math.
3. What do you think we still know too little about concerning the subject of Gender & STEM?
We lack sufficient knowledge about effective interventions: (1) what are the most effective interventions for encouraging girls and women to pursue STEM courses and careers, and (2) at what ages are interventions most effective? Researchers have tried dozens and dozens of interventions, but the overall effort is disconnected. We need to figure out best practices. Likewise, people argue for many different ages at which interventions should be most effective, but we don’t systematically know what the best age(s) is.
4. Based on your research what is the best advice you can give to attract and keep more girls/women in the STEM/IT area?
Two points – First, women need to be able to earn a living. STEM jobs pay well and there is much demand for people with that training. Second, STEM/IT jobs help people, although that may not be obvious. For example, if you become an IT expert, you can help a lot of people with their IT problems. If you’re in engineering, you could go into biomechanical engineering and design better prostheses for people injured in combat.
5. What should we do to make researchers and policy makers and practitioners connect to make a collective endeavor?
This is a tough one. First, we have to convince policy makers and practitioners about the importance of using evidence-based practices. We should do this, for example, in teacher training programs. Otherwise, they tend to proceed based on their intuitions about what might work. Then we need researchers who are willing to disseminate their findings to policy makers and practitioners, an effort that takes quite a bit of time.
Janet Shibley Hyde
is Helen Thompson Woolley Professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies at the University of Wisconsin, USA. She is perhaps best known for her meta-analyses of research on gender differences, including gender differences in mathematics performance (Science, 2008; Psychological Bulletin, 2010). Based on these and other meta-analyses, she proposed the Gender Similarities Hypothesis in 2005. Current work focuses on interventions to increase students’ science course-taking. Since 1990 she has been co-director of the Wisconsin Study of Families and Work, www.wsfw.us
. A fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, she has won numerous awards, including the Heritage Award from the Society for the Psychology of Women for her career contributions to research on the psychology of gender.
Call for revenues and exchange of relevant research information
As was stated in the last newsletter, VHTO still needs ‘revenues’ from the Network, in order to be able to continue the secretariat, website and newsletter; they are not subsidised! So, please, inform us about relevant research results (own research or research of fellow researchers), and/or look out for grants, possible participation of VHTO as a Network member in international programs and projects etc.
To fulfill this aim we will include a section in which one of the network members reflects briefly on the current state of affairs in his/her research, briefly showing some results and address the questions that this study calls for practice and opportunities for policy makers.
And second, we the network will open an ‘only for members’ Facebook group
where network members can exchange relevant research results and discuss them among each other. In this way we hope the exchange of information will become more ‘dynamic’ and that it will open discussion on how research results could be integrated in new approaches to improve the underrepresentation of girls/women in STEM. Members of the network are invited to join
Network Gender & STEM on Facebook
• 19-21 March 2015 SRCD Biennial Meeting Philadelphia
• 16-20 April 2015 AERA Annual Meeting Chicago
• 29 June - 2 July 2015 Annual Conference of the European Society for Engineering Education
• 21-23 July 2016 3rd Network Gender & STEM Conference