Stereotypes seen as primary cause of gender gap in science, technology: Survey

Lack of female role models also deterrent
||Last Updated: 03/13/2012

Seven in 10 Canadians perceive a gender gap in the science, technology and engineering employment sectors, according to a recent survey by the DeVry Institute of Technology.

Social influence and gender stereotypes are seen as the main factors that prevent women from entering science, technology and engineering fields. Fifty-four per cent of respondents believe these influences and stereotypes act as detriments. Fifty per cent also believe that a lack of female role models deters women from entering these fields, found the survey which polled 500 people in Calgary.

According to survey respondents, women are most likely to pursue only two careers in science fields: medicine (55 per cent) and biology (28 per cent). Fields such as computer science, information technology, geology, engineering and mathematics each received less than five per cent of the responses.

The same gender gap is also perceived in the post-secondary programs providing training for these careers. And various statistics at the national and provincial levels support these local opinions.

Women make up 58 per cent of the total students enrolled in Canadian universities at the bachelor's level, but only 37 per cent of the total students enrolled in science and engineering programs are women, according to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

Despite the gender gap — both perceived and real — 57 per cent of respondents believe post-secondary institutions are doing enough to promote science, technology and engineering careers among young women, found the survey.

"While Calgarians generally believe post-secondary institutions are doing enough to encourage women to enter these fields, the fact that a gender gap exists shows that we have further work to do," said Anila Umar, director of career services at DeVry Institute of Technology.

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