Vocational subjects chosen at 14 are clearly stereotyped with girls choosing hairdressing and boys choosing engineering. Subjects studied at A / higher level and at university continue to exhibit clear gender differences with social studies being dominated by women and engineering and technology dominated by men. For women and girls to be successfully recruited and retained in SET, they need to be supported, coached and encouraged. A report by the Government Adult Learning Inspectorate showed that half the training provision in construction inspected in 2001/2 was inadequate, with many organizations failing on trainee support and equal opportunities. Lecturers and trainers are often more used to dealing with groups of male students and can feel ill equipped to deal with issues which arise when girls and women enter the learning environment.
This section will include the answers to frequently asked questions and offer links to those working in education and training to ensure a gender inclusive learning and training environment.
Frequently Asked Questions At colleges and universities
Q. If we could attract more girls and women by offering taster courses and having pictures of women doing science, wouldn’t we have it sorted?
A. Although recruitment is vitally important, it is not enough on its own. Without a positive learning environment which welcomes and encourages women, and is supportive and responsive, very few women will stay on courses and numbers will remain low.
Q. Women aren’t interested are they?
A. For a long time the focus has been on women. Their absence from SET courses was interpreted by the mainstream as lack of interest. However, positive action courses and initiatives have demonstrated over and over again that this isn’t the case. The focus needs to be on the learning environment, the culture and the lecturer whose responsibility it is to create a conducive and inclusive learning environment for women.
Q. How do I get women to join my courses?
A. Colleges and universities need to take a pro-active approach to recruitment. Outreach and taster courses can be a good way of promoting non-traditional courses.
The Greenfield Report SETFAIR identified a range of issues that occur with SET University and College education:
Women have low self confidence and low skills awareness
mentoring and support schemes for female students can assist in building confidence. See the links pages for details.
Pedagogy and gender bias in examples used in class / modifying behaviour to ‘fit in’ with male expectation.
Avoid language that ignores female students e.g. ‘morning lads’. Ensure that examples draw on diverse range of sources and show gender balance. There are many ways to ensure all students feel included and the tutor’s role is essential to provide a positive learning experience.
Work experience and placements can be off-putting.
Learning providers have a responsibility to all students to ensure they experience a safe and healthy workplace. Liaison with employers is essential to ensure placement situations are suitable.
The teaching of SET to all schoolchildren is receiving attention from many stakeholders including Government. The UKRC is working closely with the Centre for Science Education and other stakeholders to provide an awareness of issues that affect girls’ education in SET.