Exploring the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Polytechnic STEM

Report
To do with STEM
Author: Unkemetsi Sebata
Co- authors: Patrick Senderayi and Dr. Starlin Musingarabwi
Theme: Enhancing Science, Technology,
Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
Instruction
• Sub theme: Enhancing the employability skills of STEM graduates
• Study topic: Exploring the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Polytechnic STEM
students’ perceptions of the influence of gender stereotypes on
choice of an engineering trade and employers’ decisions about the
students’ employment opportunities.
Introduction/Background
• Despite the universal call for gender parity and the legislation for empowering
the girl-child and women through creating opportunities for females in all fields
of endeavour in most countries of the world, there is an underrepresentation of
females in the Science, Technology and Mathematics (STEM ) fields.
• Reporting that women made up less than 25% of the workers in the engineering
field in 2009 in Canada, Fisk (2011) observes that the dearth of women in the
STEM fields is attributed to several factors.
• The under-representation of females in the STEM programmes at Joshua
Mqabuko Nkomo Polytechnic prompted us to probe the students Motor Mech
and Electrical Power) to glean some insights into the gender issues regarding
their choice of an engineering trade and employment opportunities.
Enrolment in Engineering trades at JMN Poly
by sex( Electrical Power and Motor Mech)
• Enrolment statistics spanning 2010 to 2014 as follows: (1) Electrical
Power; 2010, males = 9, females = 1; 2011, males = 7, females = 1;
2012, males = 10, females = 2; 2013, males = 15, females = 1 and
2014, males = 16, females = 5. For all these years there are 0 female
students in the Mechanical Engineering course at this college.
•
Enrolment in Engineering trades at JMN Poly
by sex( Electrical Power and Motor Mech)
EP
Total
Year
Male
Female
2010
9
2011
MM
Year
Male
Female
1
2010
11
0
7
1
2011
6
0
2012
10
1
2012
5
0
2013
15
2
2013
5
0
2014
16
5
2014
7
0
57
10
34
0
The biological/physiological perspective of gender
in relation to the STEM field
• Scholarly accounts that apply this perspective to the engagement of
women in the STEM fields have detailed the notion that men are
naturally better at studying these disciplines than women (The
Varsity, 2014)
• The Varsity (2014) further writes that some critics still claim that men
have superior 3D spatial and visualisation skills which most women
lack, and yet these are crucial in STEM fields.
• According to Huhman (2012) those who subscribe to this perspective
ascribe the gender differences in relation to STEM fields to the notion
that biologically, Science and Mathematics are typically male fields,
while humanities and arts are primarily female fields. Fisk (2011)
Perspectives (cont)
• According to Huhman (2012) those who subscribe to this perspective
ascribe the gender differences in relation to STEM fields to the notion
that biologically, Science and Mathematics are typically male fields,
while humanities and arts are primarily female fields. Fisk (2011)
Socially constructed stereotypes scare away
females from STEM programmes
• Referring to “the stereotype threat phenomenon, Powell (2012)
argues that if a person is exposed to negative stereotypes about a
group to which they belong, they will then perform worse on tasks
related to that stereotype.
• Scholars observe that negative stereotypes about women lacking
strong mathematical abilities and about men making better engineers
/scientists have influenced women’s aspirations and career decisions,
thereby funneling them away from in male-dominated subjects
(Huhman, 2012; Powell, 2012)
Stereotypes(cont)
• While there exists some empirical evidence that refutes the foregoing
claims by way of some studies that have revealed a rapidly shrinking
and even non-existent gap in the general performance levels between
men and women in STEM fields (The Varsity, 2014)
• the underrepresentation in this area still persists.
Exposure to STEM- related activities
• According to Opsal, Perez, Gibson and Lynch (2011) studies indicate that women’s
lack of experiences is traceable to experiences in and out classroom, which in
most cases are more available to men. The Varsity (2012) states that women
seldom avail themselves to certain masculine activities.
• Male students improve their spatial/visualisation skills through playing with
erector sets and 3D computer games, which exposure could also enhance the
females’ abilities (The Varsity, 2014).
• This environmentalist conception of gender stereotyping in relation to STEM
seems to suggest that if women’s skills can easily be improved over time by a
supportive practising environment, then the claim that their innate abilities
matter most becomes irrelevant
• The gender differences are therefore more probably a function of gender
stereotyping than physiology (The Varsity, 2014).
Statement of the problem
• With
the
under-representation
of
females
in
STEM
programmes(Motor Mech and Electrical Power Engineering)
respectively, at Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Polytechnic, we felt that not
much is known about what students think about gender issues in
relation to STEM programmes.
• The purpose of this study is to interrogate the STEM students to elicit
their views on how they think gender stereotypes frame and shape
their choice of an engineering trade and employment
opportunities(see slide 3 and 4 for enrollment span from 2010 to
2014).
Goals of the study
• To identify and describe gender stereotypes that STEM students
know concerning the trades for which they are training?
• To establish whether or not students ascribe their choice of the
Engineering trade to gender and their reasons for the choices
• To determine whether or not STEM students ascribe the availability
of employment opportunities for the trades they are training to
gender.
Research methodology
• Qualitative case study that employed slight quantitative data
analysis.
• Instruments
Questionnaires
Interviews
FGDs
• Sampling
• The study employed purposeful sampling.
• Respondents were NC 3 students(n=20)(Motor Mech and Electrical
Power) respectively who returned from Industrial Attachment (IA)
and comprised of15 males and 5 (all) females.
Ethical considerations
• Permission from the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Polytechnic
administration and Research Group
• Informed verbal consent was obtained from the participants prior to
participation in the research
• Data were coded to remove any identification of participants
• Participants were notified of their right to withdraw
• Participants assured that no harm would come their way
• No incentives would be offered.
Results and discussion
• FGD with six (n=6) participants, (3 males and 3 females) to collect shared
understandings of the focal issue based on a variety of unique perspectives
of the participants (Hennink, et al., 2011).
• This resulted in some key themes depicting the gender stereotypes that
students commonly know in relation to STEM issues. The themes are
presented hereunder:
• Theme: Science and Mathematics are for boys
• Theme: Boys perform better than girls in Mathematics and Science
• Theme: Females are scared of Mathematics and Science-related jobs
• Theme: Males are better than females in engineering jobs
• The results above show that students in this study have an awareness of
the presence of gender stereotypes in relation to the STEM programmes
Table 1 shows that the majority of students (70%) did not attribute the choice of their engineering trade to their sex. In the interviews, some of them said they chose their trade on the basis of an awa
Data c
Table 1: Data on students’ perceptions of their
choice of the engineering trade (n = 20)
Item
Yes
No
Frequency
N
%
N
%
1.Was the choice of your trade influenced by your sex?
7
35
13
65
2. Would you say your course/trade gives you any challenges
8
40
12
60
18
90
2
10
19
95
1
5
that are related to your sex?
3. From your experience in Industrial attachment, do you
think you are comfortable to get employed in the trade that
you trained for?
4. Would you choose to take up the job for which you
trained in a leadership position?
Results and Discussion
• Table 1 shows that the majority of students (70%) did not attribute the
choice of their engineering trade to their sex.
• In the interviews, some of them said they chose their trade on the basis of
an awareness of gender equality, interest in the trade, intellectual
capability and self-confidence.
• Interestingly, a sizeable number of them (35%) confirmed that they took
into account their sex in choosing this trade.
• They cited their reasons for considering their sex as: (a) the fact that the
job is menial and manual, demanding physical strength (b) the idea that
men are well-versed and more exposed to the field.
• This finding resonates with the literature which underscores the
importance of gender differences regarding exposure to STEM activities
that have been traditionally known to be masculine (The Varsity, 2014).
Results and Discussion
• Data collected through a closed questionnaire presented in Table 2
below confirms that the majority of students in this study (80%)
dissociate themselves from the belief that the engineering trade is for
men.
• Coversely, 100% of the participants agreed to the view that both men
and women can equally competently train and master the
engineering trade, while 65% agreed that female engineers are as
equally competent as their male counterparts, disconfirming the
patriarchal view most societies hold that STEM fields are naturally
and typically for males (Powell, 2012).
Results and Discussion
• A majority of the students (60%); ( 90%); and (95%) felt that the engineering
trade did not present challenges related to their sex, and that they were
comfortable to get employed for their trade and could confidently choose
leadership positions in these jobs, respectively.
• All the females confirmed their readiness to lead others in this trade.
• These findings suggest that although most of these students were aware of
gender stereotypes that society often attach to participation in STEM fields, they
did not hold negative gender stereotypes in relation to their trade.
• Interestingly, even the male participants who constituted the majority in this
sample held positive perceptions about their female counterparts whom they
believed had the potential to engage competently in the engineering trade,
despite the fact that they could face challenges related to tasks that demand
physical exertion.
Results and Discussion
• Interview data confirm the little effect that gender stereotypes seemed to have
on most students’ perceptions of gender issues in relation to the STEM
programmes in this study at this college. The following interview themes illustrate
this point:
• Theme: Enrolment at the college is based on merit.
• Theme: Ability counts in the choice of this trade.
• Theme: Some women perform better than men. This finding concurs with
literature which acknowledges a rapidly shrinking and even a non-existent gap in
the general performance levels in STEM tasks (The Varsity, 2014), suggesting that
for as long as people stop stereotyping, females are well competent and likely to
develop interest in STEM tasks.
• In contrast to the positive perceptions that most students held about female
participation in the STEM fields, 20% (See Table 2 below) of the participants
confirmed the stereotype that the engineering trade is for men
Results and Discussion
• This questionnaire finding is triangulated by interview data themes
developed from the participants’ views that we present hereunder:
• Theme: Some ladies still think that engineering is for men.
• Theme: Women lack confidence in the trade.
• Theme: Society still underestimates the potential of women in this
area. This finding resonates with literature which attributes women’s
lack of technical confidence to the stereotype threat whereby women
tend to perform worse on tasks related to the negative stereotypical
judgments that society makes of them (Fisk, 2011; Powell; 2012).
•
Results and Discussion
• This questionnaire finding is triangulated by interview data themes
developed from the participants’ views that we present hereunder:
• Theme: Some female students still think that engineering is for men.
• Theme: Some females lack confidence in the trade.
• Theme: Society still underestimates the potential of women in this
area. This finding resonates with literature which attributes women’s
lack of technical confidence to the stereotype threat whereby women
tend to perform worse on tasks related to the negative stereotypical
judgments that society makes of them (Fisk, 2011; Powell; 2012).
Finally
Table 2 : Data on students’ perceptions (n =
20)
Item
5.The engineering trade is for men and not for
Strongly disagree
Disagee
Not sure
Agree
Strongly agree
N
%
N
%
N
%
N
%
N
%
12
60
4
20
2
10
2
10
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
11
55
9
45
0
0
7
35
2
10
9
45
2
10
2
10
7
35
3
15
3
15
1
5
1
5
4
20
2
10
7
35
6
30
women
6.Both men and women can competently train and
master the engineering trade
7. Zimbabwean employers are willing to offer jobs
to engineers regardless of their sex
8. There are equal employment opportunities for
both men and women in Zimbabwe’s engineering
job market
9.Zimbabwe’s female engineers are as competent as
male engineers and can be employed for the same
jobs.
Results and Discussion
• Finally, findings in Table 2 above indicate that a majority of the students (55%) believed
that Zimbabwean employers are willing to offer jobs to engineers regardless of the sex of
these engineers.
• This means that these students believed that employers did not consider the sex of a
STEM graduate and therefore employment opportunities in the engineering trade was
not necessarily linked to gender.
• In the interviews some students opined that that the main criterion employers use to
engage engineers is not so much of gender as it is the individual’s competency in the job.
• While 20% believed that there are equal employment opportunities for both men and
women in Zimbabwe’s engineering job market, a sizeable number of the participants
(45%) believed that this was not the case.
• Some students argued that men enjoyed more of these opportunities than women as
employers preferred them for being more “physically and technically competent.”
Results and Discussion
• The mixed feelings that participants expressed about the gender
issues thus underline the complexity that is attendant to the
explanation of this subject.
• The fact that a majority of participants seemed not to harbour
negative perceptions about women’s participation in STEM activities
while others did so suggests persistent stereotypical thinking among
some young people.
• The implication of this scenario to the teaching and learning of STEM
programmes at this college is that in the absence of conscientisation
of students of the need to transcend stereotypes in relation to this
area, women may continue to shun this field.
Conclusions
• The fact that most participants in this study did not perceive gender stereotypes as a key
determinant of their career choices seems to suggest that gender has no impact on the
process that some males and females (in this study) go through when they choose an
engineering career.
• Although most participants displayed a clear knowledge of gender stereotypes in
relation to STEM career choices, some participants still held negative stereotypes
towards women.
• Some students attributed employment opportunities to a person’s sex in favour of men
indicates the stereotypical traits that still prevail among some STEM youth and probably
employers and the general community.
• Participating in this study were aware of the role played by various other factors in
defining their career decision and explaining employment opportunities besides gender.
• Students portrayed gender stereotypes in a positively in the light of the global
transformation on women’s rights and affirmative action in Zimbabwe, where both men
and women can compete for and occupy the same jobs.
Recommendations
• Girls should be encouraged to develop nontraditional skills such as building and wiring and the
use of technological tools at an early age or at ECD.
• Female students exposed to successful female engineers as role models who talk to them about
the STEM professions.
• . Society should disabuse both males and females of the gender stereotypes by impressing upon
them that all human fields of endeavour, including STEM are meant for both the sexes.
• Perceptions of Employers on gender stereotypes on this subject could also be further
investigated.
• While this baseline study provides a comprehensive understanding of the perceptions of STEM
students regarding how gender issues shape and frame their choice of a trade and the decisions
of employers about the students’ employment opportunities, the findings can not be generalized
to all colleges
• We recommend that a larger and more balanced sample in terms of gender could enable a more
systematic investigation of gender differences in career decision-making using the Study Choice
Task Inventory (SCTI).
References
•
Creswell, J. W. (2005) Educational Research: Planning, Conducting and Evaluating Quantitative and Qualitative Research. New Jersey: Pearson.
•
Creswell, J. W. (2007) Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing Among Five Approaches. London: Sage Publishers.
•
Fisk, S. (2011) Gender Beliefs Funnel Women Away from Science and Engineering. Available at:
web.stanford.edu/group/knowledgebase/cgi_bm/2011/02/25/gender_beliefs_funnel_women_away_from_science_and_engineering. [accessed 29 July 2014].
•
Hartas, D. (2010) (ed.) Educational Research and Inquiry: Key Issues and Debates. London: Continuum International Publishing Group.
•
Hennink, M., Hutter, I. & Bailey, A. (2011) Qualitative Research Methods. London: Sage Publications.
•
Huhman, H.R. (2012) STEM Fields And The Gender Gap: Where are the women? Available at: www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2012/06/20/stem-fields-where-are-thewomen/ [accessed 30 July 2014].
•
Hobson, A.J. & Townsend, A. (2010) Interviewing as Educational Research Method(s). In D. Hartas, ed. Educational Research and Inquiry: Key Issues and Debates. London:
Continuum International Publishing Group, pp. 223-235.
•
Leedy, P.D. & Ormrod, J. E. (2010) Practical Research: Planning and Design. New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc.
•
Opsal, S.C, Perez, D., Gibson, J. & Lynch, R.M. (2011) Gender Stereotypes Persist in Middle School Students Engaged in Technical Activity
•
•
Powell, A. (2012) Gender Stereotypes among Women Engineering and Technology Students in the UK: Lessons from Career Choice Narratives. Available at:
http//:eric.ed.gov/id=EJ 986592 [accessed 1 August 2014].
•
Punch, K. F. (2009) Introduction to Research Methods in Education. London: Sage Publications.
•
Taylor, P. & Wallace, J. (2007) Contemporary qualitative research. [online]. Available at: books.google.co.zw/books?isbn= 1402059191[accessed 20 April 2009].
•
The Varsity (2014) Stem programs gender gap needs closing. Available at: the varsityca/2014/02/10/stem_programs_gendergap_needs_closing [accessed 24 July 2014].
•
• REABOKA
• ROLEVHUWA
• SIYABONGA
• TABOKA
• TATENDA
• THANK YOU

similar documents