• A research analyzes why women do not choose scientific-technical studies

    January 16, 2014

    Researchers from the University of Oviedo prove that beliefs of self-efficiency condition the choices of women when deciding between Engineering and Architecture

    From left to right, Mercedes Inda, Sara Rodríguez, Vicente Peña, Jesús Hernández, Carmen Rodríguez, Carmen María Fernández, Omar García.

    Women are a noticeable majority in the classrooms of the universities. Nevertheless, their numbers turn upside down when it comes to students of Engineering or technical Degrees like Architecture. The Group of Sociological and Cultural Analysis of School and Educational Processes (ASOCED) focus its latest research on explaining the reasons why women tend to not choose technological studies.

    The experts from the Department of Education Sciences have surveyed more than 5,000 secondary education and university students and have tested the reactions of parents and teachers.

    Gender in education is one of the lines of research that has been developed for some years now by this team of the Department of Education Sciences of the University of Oviedo. Its current objective is to determine if gender plays a role in the choice of technological studies. To achieve this goal, the project titled Influencia de la autoeficacia en el rendimiento académico y en la elección de estudios científicos en Secundaria y Universidad, funded by the Ministry of Economics and Competitiveness, has surveyed more than 5,000 Asturian students and has tested the opinions of parents and teachers.

    Currently, women compose the clear majority of students in the Humanities, Social and Legal Sciences and also in bio-medical Degrees , but their presence in Engineering is noteworthy lower.

    The first conclusions provided by the research reveal that beliefs of self-efficiency seem to greatly condition the decisions of women of not choosing a purely technical Degree. "For some reason, they think that they will not able to perform well in those subjects, although the results from the PAU examinations confirm that boys and girls have a similar performance in this field", explains Carmen Rodríguez, one of the researchers of the group. This feeling of being less competent in these areas influences the interest that female students show for these Degrees, and, therefore, their choices. In fact, female students already enrolled in Engineering Degrees still show these beliefs of lower self-esteem if compared to their male colleagues.

    Alongside these factors of self-efficiency, the researchers from the Department of Education Sciences of the University of Oviedo have proven that the expectations of results also play an important role when deciding what kind of studies will be chosen. The expectation of males tend to be higher in terms of salaries or relevance of their working position, while women also take into account other matters and value other factors when thinking about what job they would like to have.

    Deep international repercussions

    The sample of the research, which took place during the past three years, includes more than 4,000 students of the fourth year of Secondary Education and first year of the Baccalaureate of 74 centers of the Principality of Asturias and around a thousand university students. Moreover, the group created discussion groups with parents, students and teachers to try to discover the reasons that condition the choice of the young students. In fact, one of the approaches used by the research, although the data is no final yet, is to analyze the weight that the formation received by parents has on the choices made by their sons and daughters.

    The establishment of career councelling in schools may be a way to erase the importance of gender when choosing a Degree. "It should start being offered during the first years of Secondary Education, because otherwise the patterns will be too rooted to be uplifted later on", remarks Carmen Rodríguez.

    The research conducted by the ASOCED follows the principles of the Social Cognitive Theory of the Development of the Vocational Career, an approach that is not usually applied to the field of education in Spain. The relevance of the data and the conclusions obtained have resulted, in just a few months, in a dozen of publications of impact that have already accepted, or even published, articles related to the project.

    Research Team

    • José Vicente Peña Calvo
    • Susana Torío López
    • María del Carmen Rodríguez Menéndez
    • Carmen María Fernández García
    • Jesús Hernández García
    • Mercedes Inda Caro
    • Omar García Pérez
    • Sara Rodríguez Pérez