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Gender differences in tertiary education: what explains STEM participation

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  • Mcnally, Sandra

Abstract

The share of women achieving tertiary education has increased rapidly over time and now exceeds that of men in most OECD countries. However, women are severely under-represented in mathsintensive science fields, which are generally referred to as STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths). The under-representation of women in these subject areas has received a great deal of attention. This is because these fields are seen to be especially important for productivity and economic growth and are associated with occupations that have higher earnings. Subject of degree is an important part of the explanation for the gender wage gap. The aim of this paper is to review evidence on explanations for the STEM gap in tertiary education. This starts with statistics about background context and evidence on how well-prepared male and female students may be for studying STEM at a later stage. I then discuss what the literature has to say about the role of personal attributes: namely confidence, self-efficacy and competitiveness and the role of preferences and expectations. I go on to discuss features of the educational context thought to be important for influencing attributes and preferences (or mediating their effects): peers; teachers; role models; and curriculum. I then briefly discuss broader cultural influences. I use the literature reviewed to discuss policy implications.

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  • Mcnally, Sandra, 2020. "Gender differences in tertiary education: what explains STEM participation," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 108232, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:108232
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    Cited by:

    1. Bruna Bruno & Marisa Faggini, 2021. "To be a STEM or not to be a STEM: Why do countries differ?," Growth and Change, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(3), pages 1535-1551, September.
    2. Judith M. Delaney & Paul J. Devereux, 2022. "Gender Differences in STEM Persistence after Graduation," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 89(356), pages 862-883, October.
    3. Grosch, Kerstin & Häckl, Simone & Kocher, Martin G., 2022. "Closing the gender STEM gap," Department of Economics Working Paper Series 329, WU Vienna University of Economics and Business.
    4. Yanqing Ding & Wei Li & Xin Li & Yinduo Wu & Jin Yang & Xiaoyang Ye, 2021. "Heterogeneous Major Preferences for Extrinsic Incentives: The Effects of Wage Information on the Gender Gap in STEM Major Choice," Research in Higher Education, Springer;Association for Institutional Research, vol. 62(8), pages 1113-1145, December.
    5. Delaney, Judith M. & Devereux, Paul J., 2023. "Gender Differences in Teacher Judgement of Comparative Advantage," IZA Discussion Papers 16635, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    6. Devereux, Paul J. & Delaney, Judith, 2021. "Gender and Educational Achievement: Stylized Facts and Causal Evidence," CEPR Discussion Papers 15753, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    7. Kerstin Grosch & Simone Haeckl & Martin G. Kocher, 2022. "Closing the Gender STEM Gap - A Large-Scale Randomized-Controlled Trial in Elementary Schools," CESifo Working Paper Series 9907, CESifo.
    8. Rodrigo Sánchez-Jiménez & Iuliana Botezan & Jesús Barrasa-Rodríguez & Mari Carmen Suárez-Figueroa & Manuel Blázquez-Ochando, 2023. "Gender imbalance in doctoral education: an analysis of the Spanish university system (1977–2021)," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 128(4), pages 2577-2599, April.
    9. Martina Zanella, 2024. "Stereotypical Selection," Trinity Economics Papers tep0224, Trinity College Dublin, Department of Economics.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    STEM; gender gap; tertiary education;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination

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