To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below:

Gender gap in STEM education and career choices: what matters?

Verena Tandrayen-Ragoobur (Department of Economics and Statistics, University of Mauritius, Reduit, Mauritius)
Deepa Gokulsing (Department of Social Studies, University of Mauritius, Reduit, Mauritius)

Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education

ISSN: 2050-7003

Article publication date: 25 May 2021

Issue publication date: 31 May 2022

338

Abstract

Purpose

The paper innovates on the existing literature by assessing the gender gap in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) tertiary education enrolment and career choice in a small country setting and by extending on Master and Meltzoff (2016) theoretical framework to provide a holistic explanation of the gender disparity through a mix of personal, environmental and behavioural factors. The study first probes into the existence of potential gender disparity in STEM tertiary enrolment in Mauritius. Second, in contrast with existing studies where selective factors are used to measure the gender gap in STEM education, this paper investigates into a combination of personal, environmental and behavioural factors that may influence participation in STEM education and career.

Design/methodology/approach

The study uses a survey of 209 undergraduates enroled in the main public university and investigates into the existence of a gender gap in STEM tertiary education enrolment and the reasons behind this disparity. Consistent with the theoretical model, the empirical analysis also investigates into the work environment (which cannot be measured from the survey), via semi-structured interviews of 15 women in STEM professions.

Findings

The logit regression results first reveal the existence of a gender disparity in the choice of STEM-related degrees. The probability of a female student to enrol in a STEM degree is lower than that of a male student, after controlling for all the personal, environmental and behavioural factors. The most important set of reasons influencing the student's STEM degree choice are self-efficacy and the student's academic performance in STEM subjects at secondary school level. The findings also demonstrate that young women are relatively more likely to choose STEM degrees than their male counterparts when they are supported by their family, school and teachers. There is further evidence of lower participation of women in STEM professions as well as significant challenges which women in STEM careers face compared to their male colleagues.

Originality/value

This study adopts a holistic framework to assess the factors that hinder women's participation in STEM tertiary education and career in Mauritius.

Keywords

Citation

Tandrayen-Ragoobur, V. and Gokulsing, D. (2022), "Gender gap in STEM education and career choices: what matters?", Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education, Vol. 14 No. 3, pp. 1021-1040. https://doi.org/10.1108/JARHE-09-2019-0235

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles