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Trapped in the gender stereotype? The image of science among secondary school students and teachers

Elena Makarova (Interdisciplinary Centre for Gender Studies, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland)
Walter Herzog (Department of Educational Psychology, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland)

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

ISSN: 2040-7149

Article publication date: 9 March 2015

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the gender stereotype of science by analysing the semantic attributes of gender in relation to three science subjects – chemistry, mathematics, and physics – among students and their science teachers.

Design/methodology/approach

This cross-sectional study applied a survey of 3,045 students and 123 teachers in secondary schools. The gendered image of science was assessed using a semantic differential consisting of 25 pairs of adjectives with semantically opposite meanings.

Findings

In summary, the results of the study demonstrate that from the female students’ perspective mathematics and physics are negatively related to female gender, whereas chemistry is neither significantly related to the male nor to the female profile. From the male students’ point of view mathematics is negatively related to the female gender, whereas chemistry and physics are positively related to the male gender. In the science teachers’ perception chemistry and physics combine feminine and masculine attributes, whereas the teachers’ perception of mathematics matches only with the male, but not with the female gender.

Originality/value

In contrast to previous research, the study is the first to analyse the gender stereotype of chemistry as well as to assess the gender image of three science subjects from students’ and teachers’ perspectives.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors gratefully acknowledge the Swiss National Science Foundation for financial support of the study “Gender atypical careers of young women”.

Citation

Makarova, E. and Herzog, W. (2015), "Trapped in the gender stereotype? The image of science among secondary school students and teachers", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 34 No. 2, pp. 106-123. https://doi.org/10.1108/EDI-11-2013-0097

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited