A social cognitive perspective on gender disparities in self-efficacy, interest, and aspirations in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM): The influence of cultural and gender norms

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Abstract

Background: The underrepresentation of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields is well documented in developed countries, and yet public discussion of gender disparities in STEM in China is still in its nascent stage. Endorsement of traditional gender role beliefs and conformity to social norms are pertinent to Chinese culture, which may even exacerbate the gender disparities in STEM engagement. Grounded in social cognitive career theory, the present study drew on a national sample of secondary school students (N = 3020) in China to estimate gender disparities in self-efficacy, interest, and aspirations in STEM and examine how cultural and gender norms influence STEM engagement.

Results: The proposed sequential mediation model was supported, in which girls were more likely to show lower levels of self-efficacy than boys; this was associated with lower interest in STEM and lower motivation to pursue STEM careers. The results also supported the moderating effect of traditional gender role beliefs and found that gender differences in self-efficacy, interest, and aspirations in STEM were more apparent among students who strongly endorsed stereotypical views of male and female roles.

Conclusions: The findings provide important implications for efforts to improve girls’ access to STEM education through curriculum enrichment and out-of-school time programs to bridge the gender gap in STEM. Access to female role models and gender-responsive pedagogy is also essential to boost girls’ self-efficacy in STEM and eradicate traditional gender role beliefs among all students. Copyright © 2022 The Author(s).
Original languageEnglish
Article number37
JournalInternational Journal of STEM Education
Volume9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2022

Citation

Chan, R. C. H. (2022). A social cognitive perspective on gender disparities in self-efficacy, interest, and aspirations in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM): The influence of cultural and gender norms. International Journal of STEM Education, 9. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1186/s40594-022-00352-0

Keywords

  • STEM
  • Self-efficacy
  • Interest
  • Academic and career aspirations
  • Traditional gender role beliefs
  • Conformity to social norms

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