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This one’s for the girls: designing educational opportunities that promote gender equality

Tue, April 16, 1:30 to 3:00pm, Hyatt Regency, Floor: Bay (Level 1), Bayview B

Group Submission Type: Refereed Round-Table Session


This panel seeks to understand the significant gender gaps that still remain in both the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields and in the workplace despite global efforts to improve gender equality. This panel focuses specifically on issues of gender inequality and education in Japan, the US, and Brazil.

Japan is a highly developed country with one of the world’s largest economies. While it has a high Human Development Index it performs poorly on standards of gender equality, particularly with regard to the number of women who pursue a degree and/ or career in the STEM fields. Research shows that Japanese women are affected by gender stereotypes that say women are not as good as men in math and science and that women are expected to do a much larger share of work in the household, thereby limiting their career opportunities (OECD, 2016).

While the US has achieved great gender parity in educational attainment, there are still significant gaps that appear as a result of gender biases in the STEM fields. Gender biases have been shown to impact how women perceive, evaluate, and interact with others within STEM courses and career paths.

Brazil faces similar challenges. While gender parity in educational attainment has improved significantly, these gains have not been sufficient to close the gender gap in the labor market. Many Brazilian women seek greater educational attainment and qualifications in order to overcome gendered barriers in a labor market that continues to give men, even those with fewer years of education, more opportunities to progress (Beltrão and Alves 2009).

The first paper outlines the development of a unique three-day curriculum in design thinking aimed to raise girls’ interest levels in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) and to provide them with important non-cognitive skills needed to be successful in these fields. These skills include collaboration, empathy, and creative confidence. The second paper examines girls’ perceptions of the STEAM fields and in what ways these perceptions change after going through the three-day design thinking curriculum. The third paper explores long term trends in the achievement scores of girls on the science and math sections of the TIMSS and PISA. The fourth paper takes a look at the VMware Women's Leadership Innovation Lab at Stanford University which provides leadership training to women in STEM. The fifth and final paper uses data from the National Household Sample Survey (PNAD) in Brazil to examine the relationship between gender equity in educational attainment, women’s self-perceived levels of empowerment, and wage disparities between men and women in the workplace.

The papers use a variety of theoretical and methodological frameworks for their analyses. They include quantitative data from pre and post student surveys, parent surveys, TIMSS and PISA data, National Household Sample Survey (PNAD) data from the Brazilian Census, as well as qualitative data from semi-structured interviews conducted with participants of the design thinking program. Additionally, the papers analyze national policies that have influenced gender equity and STEM education over the years, examine key stakeholders which have been involved in those processes, and explore the motivation behind the development of educational programs intended to promote gender equality; these programs include a design thinking workshop for middle and high school students and a leadership training program for undergraduates to address the gender gap in STEM.

This panel is driven by a desire to understand the factors and gender biases that influence young women’s experience in education and the workplace, with a focus on the STEM fields, and how these experiences have shaped their mindsets and goals for the future. Identifying the factors that play into perpetuating the gender gap can provide critical insight into how educational interventions and policy reform can lead to a more inclusive environment for young women in education and the workplace.

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