Identifying why so few pre-university female students who choose science subjects pursue scientific studies
MetadataShow full item record
Females are underrepresented in STEM majors and careers. The Netherlands lags behind other European countries when it comes to female students opting for the STEM field. Measures have been taken to reduce the gender gap and make STEM less male-dominated. Subsequently, the percentage of female secondary school students choosing science or technology subjects has increased, however the percentage increase of female students opting for STEM remains small. This study investigates the reasons why so few female students with science or technology subjects in secondary school pursue STEM studies. Non- anonymous questionnaires were conducted to examine whether fifth and sixth year pre- university students have considered STEM. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with both male and female students separately. The groups were further divided into students that did consider STEM and students that did not and finally divided into the highest and lowest achieving students. The analysis of the obtained data showed that there was indeed a large gender gap for all students scoring lower than an average of 8, with less female students choosing STEM. In interviews, the main factors that female students attributed to influence their choices to pursue or not pursue the STEM field were: stereotypes about the study, about the people that belong there and the lack of information on what can be achieved as a STEM professional. Female students scoring relatively low on STEM subjects extended stereotyping to include low interest and low capability. As such, appropriate advice can be construed for secondary schools in the Netherlands to create gender awareness and decrease this gender gap.