A study on boosting gender equality in science and technology, along with challenges for TVET programs and careers, was published by UNESCO-UNEVOC with the support of BIBB. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-related technical and vocational education and training (TVET) has a potentially significant role to play in providing the skills and competencies required to support innovation, productivity, and international competitiveness as well as areas of social development, including health and education. Even as STEM subjects and skills are becoming more essential in today’s world, gender disparities are prevalent in these fields. Recognizing the gap in TVET-specific data and literature, UNESCO-UNEVOC conducted the study on boosting gender equality in science and technology. (BIBB)
The ten case studies show that in all countries, government policies have been developed that (partially) address the promotion of STEM-related TVET. This promotion often focuses on the quality of STEM-related TVET and an increase in the number of students that participate in these subjects. Only some of these policies place a focus on the topic of gender, gender equality, or participation of girls and women. There seems to be a gap there. Reference to gender or gender parity is not always made explicitly in these policies, even though these policies are referred to when talking about gender. On the other hand, there are specific STEM-related TVET policies that focus on coping with gender challenges. These policies can be categorized into two main types: (i) strategies aimed specifically at the education and training sector to address gender disparities in STEM subjects; and (ii) strategies aimed at redressing gender disparities in STEM-related occupations that have implications for the education and training system. (BIBB)
Overall, we can conclude that no generally accepted definition of STEM-related TVET exists yet, and this can be partially explained by the limited research on this specific subject that has been undertaken by international and national bodies.
This lack of a clear and common definition hinders the collection of data and information from different countries.
In general, the figures received from the country cases show a clear under-representation of girls and women in STEM-related TVET.
Despite a very modest increase in recent years in female participation in STEM-related TVET, we can still see a strong leaky pipeline between STEM-related TVET and STEM-related occupations or STEM-related higher levels of education.
Despite seemingly successful approaches to promote female participation in STEM-related TVET, this is not yet reflected in large and sustainable increases in participation of girls and women.
The existence of specific laws, policies and/or interventions addressing gender disparities in STEM-related TVET seems to be rather limited. In many cases, strategies or single actions in wider policies for the promotion of (female) participation in STEM-related TVET aim at a systemic response, by simultaneously targeting different parts of the system. In several middle- and low-income countries, policies and actions focusing on gender equality in TVET are donor driven, as is the case for Ghana and Lebanon.
While influential reports such as Cracking the Code have provided useful insights into gender in relation to STEM education and therefore function as a useful point of departure for the present study, much more research is needed into how these insights relate to the specific context of STEM-related TVET.
Existing evidence is that while biological factors, including genetic makeup, the structure of the brain, hormones and physical strength, influence female participation and performance in STEM-related TVET, they are not determining factors.
At a psychological level, gendered stereotypes were identified as playing a critical role in the development of gendered identities that impact on STEM.
Peer and especially parental beliefs and attitudes, including those of the father, can potentially play an important role in both preventing and facilitating participation of girls in STEM-related TVET.
TVET institute-level factors play a role in relation to participation and performance, including the culture/ethos, teaching, learning and assessment, availability and nature of learning materials…
Labour market organizational-level factors such as workplace culture, physical infrastructure, the presence of female role models in technical jobs (employee profile) and hidden or explicit employer preferences play a role in relation to participation of girls and women.
A number of interventions are being used at an institutional level to address gender disparities in participation and performance but these need to be better evaluated.
A range of social factors were also identified as being worthy of further research, including the effects of gendered cultural norms and values, the role of the media, the effects of government policy and legislation…
Governments have adopted a range of laws, policies and/or specific interventions to address gender disparities in STEM education. However, there is an overall lack of implementation and monitoring and evaluation of the implementation.
As indicated by the UNEVOC Centre in the Philippines, the main challenges faced in the efforts to promote female participation and achievement in STEM-related fields in TVET and transition to STEM-related occupations is to define on a national scale what STEM and STEM-related TVET are.
Career guidance, coaching and mentorships are instruments through which TVET institutions can support girls to develop realistic but also attractive images of STEM careers, to make well-informed choices, and to discuss and overcome hurdles and gender-specific challenges.
There is a need to develop indicators at a national level that while complementary of global indicators (therefore allowing for international comparisons) can also be used to measure progress towards gender parity in relation to local STEM priorities.
There is a need for longitudinal data, particularly at a national level, that can be used to measure changing patterns of participation and performance of girls and women over time in STEM-related TVET.
Future research might usefully focus on the transition points between different levels of STEM-related TVET and between different levels of STEM-related TVET and the labour market.
Although existing evidence concerning the participation and performance of girls and women in STEM education can provide a useful point of departure, more research is needed into the personal, institutional and societal factors that affect female participation in STEM-related TVET.
In order to truly grasp the possibilities for improvement and impact of various interventions and initiatives taking place on the personal, institutional and/or societal level, more research is needed into the effects of these different kinds of interventions on female participation and performance in STEM-related TVET. (BIBB)