Durban — Social, behavioural and policy interventions are needed to support women to succeed in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.
This was suggested in a study by Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) academics, comparing women’s disparity in science research for five years in eight continental regions of the world.
The study has identified four significant factors contributing to gender disparity in STEM fields.
The study, which is titled “Gender parity among researchers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics”, was recently published in the journal “Entrepreneurship and Sustainability Issues” (Volume 9, Number 4).
Authored by MUT academics and researchers Dr Steven Msosa, a lecturer in the Department of Marketing; Dr Bheka Ntshangase, the acting dean of Management Sciences; and Dr Courage Mlambo, a postdoctoral fellow in the Faculty of Management Sciences, the study found gender bias, family life, mentoring and stereotyping to be the main causes of gender disparity in the number of STEM researchers.
“Many women who work in research must combine their careers with caring for their children… Having a solid support structure from their family has been critical for many women,” stated the study.
It also identified stereotypes as the final major determinant of women’s success in STEM careers.
“Stereotypes hamper the test performance of ability-stigmatised groups, and they fail to reach their full potential,” the study noted. “This is an essential channel for explaining why girls perform worse in mathematics when they are assigned to more biased teachers, but it is also broadly relevant because it suggests that exposure to gender stereotypes is at least partially responsible for women’s lower self-confidence in scientific fields.”