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Does ethnicity count when contextualizing the low proportion of women in STEM in Serbia?

Karolina Lendák-Kabók (Faculty of Philosophy, University of Novi Sad, Novi Sad, Serbia)

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

ISSN: 2040-7149

Article publication date: 4 January 2021

Issue publication date: 8 June 2021

270

Abstract

Purpose

The aim of this article is to explore the perceptions of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields in two ethnic groups (majority Serb and minority Hungarian) in a multiethnic region – Vojvodina, in Serbia – from an intersectional perspective.

Design/methodology/approach

A qualitative study was implemented, capitalizing on in-depth, semi-structured interviews with university faculty members from two ethnic groups working in a multiethnic region of Serbia (Vojvodina) in the STEM field of studies. Intersectionality as a theoretical approach was applied to reveal the interconnectedness between gender, ethnicity and field of studies.

Findings

The intersectional analysis indicates that minority Hungarian women are more conservative and less inclusive toward other women in STEM, thus they continue to build and enforce gender-based stereotypes. Their lack of inclusiveness is due to having had to overcome a situation of “double jeopardy” (Almquist, 1975) when building a career in STEM, being both members of an ethnic minority and women in STEM. Majority Serb women have adopted masculine patterns of behavior, try to blend in, and become “one of the boys” (Powell and Sang, 2015) in order to diminish the gender penalty and be seen as equal to men. Both minority and majority women agreed that deeply rooted gender stereotypes prevent women from choosing a career in STEM and identified the need for more inclusive education programs at all levels and for more female role models in STEM.

Originality/value

The study contributes by increasing understanding of ethnic minority and majority women's issues in STEM studies in Serbia from an intersectional perspective. It may be relevant to policy makers and contribute to the development of policy recommendations that steer more women in general and ethnic minority women specifically toward STEM, with the ultimate goal of enabling Serbia to develop not only socially but also economically. The paper contributes to the limited research on the STEM-related career experiences of ethnic minority Hungarian women and majority Serb women in Serbia and in the Western Balkans in general.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The author would like to thank Christina Stamper, associate editor of the Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion: An International Journal, who invested a great deal of her time and expertise to improve the paper. The author would also like to thank the two anonymous reviewers of this article, whose meticulous work and detailed comments led to substantial improvements.

Citation

Lendák-Kabók, K. (2021), "Does ethnicity count when contextualizing the low proportion of women in STEM in Serbia?", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 40 No. 5, pp. 525-541. https://doi.org/10.1108/EDI-08-2020-0236

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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