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Title: Dissecting the Root Causes of Female Underrepresentaion in STEM
Authors: Koh Huey Yee
Issue Date: 6-Apr-2018
Citation: Koh Huey Yee (2018-04-06). Dissecting the Root Causes of Female Underrepresentaion in STEM. ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: Two puzzling phenomena motivate this thesis. First, sex segregation in STEM is more pronounced, not less in some of the world’s most affluent, developed and purportedly gender-equal countries, such as Norway, Sweden and Finland. The observation is counterintuitive, since it is easy to expect lower levels of sex-segregation in education and labor markets, when more progress towards gender parity is attained. Yet, women’s STEM participation levels are unexpectedly highest in developing and gender-traditional countries such as Oman, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia. Second, while gender-essentialist ideologies (beliefs about innate gender differences) largely characterize STEM as “masculine” in many Western developed societies, the gender of STEM, contrary to popular belief, is far more inconsistent in other parts of the world. For example, specific sub-fields in STEM such as computer sciences and engineering is perceived to be gender-neutral, or even female-friendly, in countries such as India and Malaysia. In turn, this thesis aims to identify key distal factors in developed and developing economies that account for girls’ seemingly contrasting attitudes (or proximal factors) towards STEM. It chiefly illustrates that the level of a country’s economic development inadvertently affects the associated costs and benefits of more financially rewarding STEM careers. The paper further exemplifies the importance of situating the issue within local, idiosyncratic contexts, as gender is inherently an intrinsic property of society, beyond the individual. It finally incorporates insights from earlier sections into a Singapore case study, to accentuate how global-local dynamics both shape and enrich our understanding of the issue.
Appears in Collections:Bachelor's Theses

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