Gender Differences In Stem Courses: Analysis Of Italian Students' Performance

Risultato della ricerca: Conference contribution

Abstract

Gender gap in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) courses is a prevalent topic in therecent literature, and quantitative studies on this relationship are essential to understand better thediscussion and issues claimed by the arguments and the theories on this topic.In Italy, since 1989, the overall share of females enrolling at university is larger than the males' one, butfemales are still underrepresented in almost all the STEM fields, while overrepresented in nursing,humanities, and law schools.Our paper aims to investigate the gender differences in terms of university performance in STEM courses inItaly. This is done via segmented regression models, representing a novel application in higher educationliterature.Data are provided by the Italian Ministry of University and Research (MIUR). The analysis concernsfreshmen enrolled at a 3-year STEM degree course in the Italian universities in the last decade. We focus onthe relationship between the number of university credits (CUs) earned during the first year (a goodpredictor of the regularity of the career) and the probability of getting the Bachelor degree within fouryears. Furthermore, we account for other relevant covariates regarding students' high school career andsome of their demographic characteristics.The novelty of our work consists of a straightforward representation of the relationship between CUs andthe completion of the degree course. Segmented models allow identifying the relevant changepoints in theCUs accumulation during the students' careers.Our analysis confirms the first-year performance is strongly related to obtaining the Bachelor degree withinfour years. This relation often varies between males and females and is in line with the divide between the(female) care-oriented and the (male) technical-oriented courses. That relationship varies also among theSTEM courses: the probability of getting the degree is higher for males in computer science, mathematics,and slightly higher in natural sciences and biotechnology.Those results show that the care/technical divide is consistent but in mathematics, where malesoutperform females. Though we initially included mathematics in the (female) care-oriented group,because it was considered a teaching-oriented course in the past, mathematicians’ job placement hassignificantly changed with many technical and computer science jobs. Therefore, nowadays, math could beconsidered both a care and a technical oriented course.We also highlight an interesting pattern in engineering, which is one of the most “masculinised” courses. Itlooks like female performance follows the male stream, which is an encouraging result, even if the limitedfemale component is still an issue.Both the lower presence and the worse performance of females can be explained by the “chilly climate”theory, that is, the presence of university environments in which females face stronger difficulties in furthersucceeding in some specific STEM careers.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteBook of Abstracts of the International Conference of the journal Scuola Democratica. Reinventing Education, Rome, Associazione “Per Scuola Democratica”
Numero di pagine2
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2021

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