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#EachforEqual: Does Gender Equality Turn Women Away From STEM?

By Nikki Borgel on Mar 4, 2020

Editor Note: Understanding the importance of this timely topic and to ensure that research is made available to the wider academic community, IGI Global has made a sample of related articles and chapters complimentary to access. View the end of this article to freely access this critical research.

A recent article from Inside Higher Ed highlights the ongoing STEM debate about whether or not men are better suited and inclined toward STEM degrees and careers. A controversial study claims the existence of a more “equal” men and women are in a society, the less women are inclined to enter the STEM fields. This implies that women are less interested in and capable of succeeding in STEM. However, opposing researchers claim the data in the study is skewed toward the specific purpose of focusing on biological differences between genders rather than social inequalities. Many new studies claim that these social inequalities—workplace barriers and the insinuation that women can’t succeed in STEM—among others, have a bigger impact on the gender gap in STEM careers and majors than physical biology.

The case of gender inequality in STEM is a hot topic for discussion this time of year, especially with International Women’s Day being celebrated on March 8th. International Women’s Day strives to highlight areas of gender discrimination and bring attention to the latest research surrounding causes for and advancements in closing the gender gap while also celebrating women and girls in their achievements. In support of International Women’s Day, IGI Global publishes the latest research content on gender inequality and gender issues, from STEM disciplines and beyond, including Gender Gaps and the Social Inclusion Movement in ICT, edited by Prof. Idongesit Williams, from Aalborg University, Denmark, et al. This publication provides emerging research exploring gender and policy, and covers a variety of topics like digital identity, human rights, and social inclusion. Below, IGI Global explores the factors preventing women from seeking out careers and succeeding in typically male-dominated spaces.

Gender Gaps and the Social Inclusion Movement in ICT
Edited by Prof. Idongesit Williams (Aalborg University, Denmark)
Copyright: © 2019 | Pages: 325 | ISBN: 9781522570684 | EISBN: 9781522570691

This publication provides emerging research exploring the theoretical and practical aspects of gender and policy from developed and developing country perspectives and its applications...Learn More.

The Two Sides of the Paradox

According to the article, the gender-equality paradox appears when societies reach greater levels of overall gender equality. The controversial 2018 study claims that as countries become more equal, less women choose STEM for their careers. In support of this, the study points to Finland, a country with one of the highest levels of gender equality, and notes that they have one of the largest gender gaps in STEM graduates. The study also points out that in two-thirds of countries, girls perform better than boys in STEM subjects during adolescence, meaning more girls are capable of handling collegiate-level STEM courses than actually enroll.  

The reasoning for the gaps provided by the study appears to be that when the genders are equal enough to have a choice in the field they pursue, women will be more inclined to explore topics outside of STEM, while their counterparts in less gender equal countries pursue STEM careers in an effort to advance equality.

Those in opposition to the study say there is nothing about gender that makes someone innately inclined toward or opposed to STEM subjects. The issue runs deeper than interest in an academic subject, and lies within subliminal messaging about gender and careers, institutional norms, and predatory hiring practices that lead women into areas away from STEM. 

The Reality of Inequality

According to Profs. Andrea Soledad Diaz Aranda and Marjorie A. Jerrard, from Monash University, Australia, in their chapter, “A Comparison Between Australia and Chile of Factors Facing Women Engineers and ICT Professionals in Their Careers” from the publication Gender Gaps and the Social Inclusion Movement in ICT, “Even if the company wants to include women it is not possible because the company perceives women as regarding their family responsibilities as more important than their careers (Mauro, 2004). However, women in the same study identified that flexibility and support during pregnancy and afterwards would assist them to cope with pressures of work and family responsibilities (Mauro, 2004).”1

This indicates women are challenged at all stages of their careers based on their gender. Women are less likely to be hired in some circumstances because of the assumption that they will one day take time off or lose focus because of starting or raising a family. Additionally, women are treated differently within the workplace than their male counterparts and believed to be less capable in STEM and more focused in other areas, but the same women who are believed to be incapable could easily succeed in an environment built to help them rather than exclude them. Providing women with proper support during pregnancy, supportive maternity leave, and access to affordable childcare will allow more women to gain access into the challenging and fast paced careers in STEM.

This struggle to balance work and familial responsibilities is highlighted again by Prof. Md. Mynul Islam and Prof. Gulay Jannat, from the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh in their chapter, “Care Work vs. Career: Crisis of Middle Class Working Women” from the publication Handbook of Research on Women’s Issues and Rights in the Developing World, “Therefore, gender division of labor operates discrimination not only in reproductive activities within the household but also in productive and community activities for women to achieve targeted position. Besides, to get the desired position, women have to face unequal hiring standards, unequal opportunities for training, unequal pay for equal work, unequal access to productive resources, segregation and concentration in female sectors and occupations, different physical and mental working conditions, unequal participation in economic decision-making and unequal promotion prospects compared with men (Ostin, 2002).” 2

Handbook of Research on Women's Issues and Rights in the Developing World
Edited by Nazmunnessa Mahtab (University of Dhaka, Bangladesh), et al.
Copyright: © 2018 | Pages: 452 | ISBN: 9781522530183 | EISBN: 9781522530190

This publication is a pivotal scholarly resource that discusses the current issues facing women’s rights in developing nations, as well as suggestions for improvements on these problems....Learn More.

With these factors in mind, it’s easy to see why pursuing a career in STEM might seem difficult or discouraging for women, as they are often conditioned to see themselves as fit for “women’s work.” Things like cooking, cleaning, childcare, teaching, and being a secretary all fit the mold of being what is often considered a “good woman.” When women step outside these typically feminine careers, they face more discrimination in a system that might pay them less than men, train them less than men, or overlook them for career advancement opportunities.

Despite the setbacks, progress in gender equality is gaining momentum. According to Pew Research, the gender pay gap in the US decreased 5% between 2017 and 2018, but that does not necessarily signify full equality has been achieved. With days like International Women’s Day celebrating women and their accomplishments, it gets easier to see a future where women and girls are encouraged to succeed in STEM, and able to do so in a system that is designed to help them thrive.

The publications featured in this article, Gender Gaps and the Social Inclusion Movement in ICT,  (ISBN: 9781522570684 | EISBN: 9781522570691)edited by Prof. Idongesit Williams, from Aalborg University, Denmark, et al.and the Handbook of Research on Women's Issues and Rights in the Developing World (ISBN: 9781522530183 | EISBN: 9781522530190), edited by Prof. Nazmunnessa Mahtab, from the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh, et al., are currently available both in print and electronic format through IGI Global’s Online Bookstore at a 20% discount, and are featured in IGI Global’s InfoSci®-Books database (5,300+ e-books). Recommend these publications, the InfoSci-Books database, and the InfoSci-Journals database (185+ e-journals) to your library to have access to this critical research as well as thousands of other research resources, including the chapters and articles below.

Complimentary Research Articles and Chapters on Women in STEM and Gender Discrimination

In response to the timeliness and importance of this topic, we have made all of the below articles and chapters complimentary to access. As such, please feel free to integrate these resources into your research and share them across your network.


Featured Publications Surrounding Women in STEM and Gender Discrimination


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Recommend to Library
Gender Gaps and the Social Inclusion Movement in ICT
Prof. Idongesit Williams (Aalborg University, Denmark), et al.

Copyright: © 2019 | Pages: 325 | ISBN: 9781522570684 | EISBN: 9781522570691

This scholarly publication provides emerging research exploring the theoretical and practical aspects of gender and policy from developed and developing country perspectives and its applications within ICT through various forms of research including case studies. Featuring coverage on a broad range of topics such as digital identity, human rights, and social inclusion, this book is ideally designed for policymakers, academicians, researchers, students, and technology developers seeking current research on gender inequality in ICT environments.

About the Editor: Dr. Idongesit Williams is a lecturer with the Center for Communication, Media and Information Technologies (CMI) located at Aalborg University Copenhagen. He holds a Bachelor’s in Physics, a Master’s degree in Information and Communications Technologies and a Ph.D...Learn More.

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Gender Equity in the Medical Profession
Prof. Maria Irene Bellini (Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, UK) and Prof. Vassilios E. Papalois (Imperial College London, UK)

Copyright: © 2019 | Pages: 339 | ISBN: 9781522595991 | EISBN: 9781522596004

This scholarly publication delivers essential discourse on strategically handling discrimination within medical school, training programs, and consultancy positions in order to eradicate sexism from the workplace. Featuring research on topics such as gender diversity, leadership roles, and imposter syndrome, this book is ideally designed for health professionals, doctors, nurses, hospital staff, hospital directors, board members, activists, instructors, researchers, academicians, and students seeking coverage on strategies that tackle gender equity in medical education.


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Gender Inequality and the Potential for Change in Technology Fields
Prof. Sonja Bernhardt (ThoughtWare, Australia), et al.

Copyright: © 2019 | Pages: 366 | ISBN: 9781522579755 | EISBN: 9781522579762

This scholarly publication provides innovative insights into diversity creation through potential solutions, including the attraction of more women to study technology and to enter technology careers, the navigation of suitable promotional pathways, and the retention of women in these industries. This publication examines women in IT professions, artificial intelligence, and social media. It is designed for gender theorists, government officials, policymakers, educators, individual activists and advocates, recruiters, content developers, managers, women and men in technology fields, academicians, researchers, and students.


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Challenges and Opportunities for Women in Higher Education Leadership
Prof. Heidi L. Schnackenberg (State University of New York at Plattsburgh, USA) and Prof. Denise A. Simard (State University of New York at Plattsburgh, USA)

Copyright: © 2019 | Pages: 353 | ISBN: 9781522570561 | EISBN: 9781522570578

This scholarly publication is a pivotal reference source that provides vital research on the specific challenges, issues, strategies, and solutions that are associated with diverse leadership in higher education. While highlighting topics such as educational administration, leader mentorship, and professional promotion, this publication explores evidence-based professional practice for women in higher education who are currently in or are seeking positions of leadership, as well as the methods of nurturing women in administrative positions. This book is ideally designed for educators, researchers, academicians, scholars, policymakers, educational administrators, graduate-level students, and pre-service teachers seeking current research on the state of educational leadership in regard to gender.


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Navigating Micro-Aggressions Toward Women in Higher Education
Prof. Ursula Thomas (Georgia Perimeter College, USA)

Copyright: © 2019 | Pages: 304 | ISBN: 9781522559429 | EISBN: 9781522559436

This scholarly publication provides innovative insights into the institutionalized racism against women of color in higher education institutions. The content within this publication offers information on the historical vestiges of racist and sexist ideologies and why women of color are underrepresented in various levels of higher education leadership. It is a vital reference source for educational administrators, professors, higher education professionals, academicians, and researchers seeking information on gender studies and women’s roles in higher education.


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Women Entrepreneurs and Strategic Decision Making in the Global Economy
Prof. Florica Tomos (University of South Wales, UK), et al.

Copyright: © 2019 | Pages: 411 | ISBN: 9781522574798 | EISBN: 9781522574804

This scholarly publication is a pivotal reference source that provides vital research on understanding the value of women entrepreneurs and the strategies they can use on the economy and examines gender impact on strategic management and entrepreneurship. While highlighting topics such as emotional intelligence, global economy, and strategic leadership, this book is ideally designed for managers, entrepreneurs, policymakers, academicians, and students.


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Examining the Role of Women Entrepreneurs in Emerging Economies
Prof. David Chitakunye (London School of Commerce, UK) and Prof. Amandeep Takhar (University of Northampton, UK)

Copyright: © 2018 | Pages: 375 | ISBN: 9781522551126 | EISBN: 9781522551133

This scholarly publication is a critical scholarly resource that examines the influence and impact of women entrepreneurs in emerging economies. Featuring coverage on a broad range of topics such as women empowerment, financial management strategies, and discriminatory practices, this book is a vital resource for business managers, organizational leaders, professionals, and researchers seeking current research on women-related issues in different types of work communities and environments.


View All Publications With Content Related to This Topic

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of IGI Global.


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1Layton, R. (2019). The Conundrum of Falling Participation of Women in Math and Computing Jobs: Observations From the USA and Denmark. In I. Williams, O. Millward, & R. Layton (Eds.), Gender Gaps and the Social Inclusion Movement in ICT (pp. 45-62). Hershey, PA: IGI Global. doi:10.4018/978-1-5225-7068-4.ch003

2Ostin, P. (2002). Examining Work and Its Effect on Health in Gita. In Engendering International Health: The Challenge of Equity. The MIT Press.

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