Gender Roles in Academic disciplines

Apart from implementing 6 Gender Equality Plans (GEPs) in 6 European Institutions, the GEARING ROLES project also builds on the premise that structural gender inequality is perpetuated by attitudes, beliefs, and practices that implicitly assign stereotyped roles to men and women in organizations, universities, and society at large. Our project delves deep into the sociology and psychology of gender roles to help us explain and challenge gendered career choices, the unequal representation of women and men in scientific careers, and the favoured position of men in leadership and decision-making.

GEARING-Roles will specifically look into men and women’s internalized understanding of gender roles, the social and cultural factors that shape these roles, how they affect their study and work choices, and how these choices relate in turn to the conferred status of scientific careers. GEARING-Roles considers that a viable approach to implicit bias is to understand the sociology and psychology of gender roles, challenge them, and discursively explicate its effects in the structural construction of inequality. A gender role, also known as a sex role (Levesque, 2011), is a social role encompassing a range of behaviours and attitudes that are generally considered acceptable, appropriate, or desirable for people based on their actual or perceived sex or sexuality (Alters, 2009; Gochman, 2018). As such, gender roles are closely related to how we construct our gender identities and the unequal importance attributed to feminine and masculine values. (Bourdieu, 1999; Connell, 1995; De Beauvoir, 1949; Firestone, 1976; Giddens, 1992; Gil, 2008; Lagarde, 1990; Martínez & Bonilla, 2000; Woolf, 1929).

Conventional masculine and feminine codes have constrained the pursuit of desires and personal expressions that are not aligned with gender roles and stereotypes. While boys are increasingly accessing university in smaller numbers than girls, choosing certificate and vocational courses due to their internalised roles for practical work (Rubio, 2009), they also make up a significant share of people in STEM careers, which often enjoy a higher socially and economic recognition (López, 2003; Sarsaneda, 2012). This has resulted in a gap in representation and participation of women and men in certain sectors.

This podcast is the opening episode of a series of disciplinary reflections in which we will invite guest speakers to reflect around the gender roles that operate in their academic discipline.

Gender Roles in Maths

Although in general, girls’ academic achievement outperforms that of boys, in many countries boys continue to have an advantage in STEM fields. One of the most persistent, sexist stereotypes has been that boys are better at math. In a paper published in Science (Vol. 321, No. 5888), Janet Hyde and her colleagues dismissed the perceived gender gap in math performance by analyzing math test scores from 7 million students, second grade through to grade 11. The team collected standardized math assessments from 10 states and analyzed the scores of male and female students. They found no difference in average performance. Looking at the higher and lower ends of the distribution, Hyde and her colleagues again found no meaningful differences between the genders. But the long-standing debate over gender differences in mathematics is alive and well, and continues to be a lively topic within psychology.

 According to Zerrin Salikutluk and Stefanie Heyne, one possible explanation for the female disadvantage in maths and their under-representation in technical professions is culturally embedded beliefs about female inferiority and male superiority in maths and related disciplines.

In this podcast we discuss this issue with two outstanding experts: : Prof. Enrique Zuazua and  Prof. Marta Macho.

Marta Macho Stadler is a Spanish mathematician. She earned her Phd from Université Claude Bernard in Lyon. She is a professor of Geometry and Topology at the University of the Basque Country and a specialist in Geometric Theory of Foliations and non-commutative Geometry. She is also the editor of the Women with Science digital space of the Chair of Scientific Culture for which she has received several awards, including the 2016 Emakunde Equality Award.

Enrique Zuazua Iriondo holds a Chair in Applied Analysis – Alexander von Humboldt Professorship at FAU- Friedrich–Alexander University, Erlangen–Nürnberg (Germany). He is the Director of CCM – Chair of Computational Mathematics at Deusto Foundation, University of Deusto in Bilbao in the Basque Country in Spain, where he leads the “DyCon: Dynamic Control” funded by the ERC – European Research. He has been a Professor of Applied Mathematics of the Department of Mathematics at UAM – Autonomous University since 2001.

His fields of expertise include Applied Mathematics cover topics related with Partial Differential Equations, Systems Control. He has collaborated in different industrial sectors such as the optimal shape design in aeronautics and the management of electrical and water distribution networks.

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