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Gender awareness participation process: Differences in the choices of science careers

Final Report Summary - GAPP (Gender Awareness Participation Process: Differences in the choices of science careers)

On the basis of recent studies, it clear that gender differences still exist in science in the European Union (EU); it is well known, for example, that girls are statistically less interested than boys in certain branches of science and technology. On a broader level, young people are losing contact with science and the number of science students in universities has decreased.

The GAPP project focused on qualitative research and developing new practices in science communication and education to tackle the gender differences in Europe's science and technology.

The main objectives of the project were:
1. to understand the loss of interest of young people, particularly girls, in science and technology studies and careers by exploring differences in their perception of S&T professionals, and raise awareness among experts and stakeholders on this issue;
2. to promote social dialogue among researchers, teachers, students, parents and other social actors to identify the main issues and expectations of these groups;
3. to develop and test a range of practical activities to help overcome gender differences and create a connection between secondary school students and science and technology.

We can say that, from the experience carried out in the first year of the project, many things can be done regarding the modification of the stereotypes and the social roles, starting from school, involving all social factors that in some way have a determining role on the training of young people, their parents and teachers. In particular, we refer to the modification of stereotyped behaviour, to the reduction of gender approach, to the greater involvement of the female gender in male roles either at school or at home, to the increase moreover of the contacts and the interaction with the external world, especially with the female gender exponents that occupy roles of responsibility, of management, etc. in various applied fields: the scientific, technological and social ones.

Greater involvement of school and family in training activities could therefore bring a valid contribution to the change of the roles and of the stereotypes of today's society, which are still quite present and which influence future choices, especially those of girls.

Across the six countries involved in this project, the starting point is a perception of S&T which confirms the current stereotypes, as with other large surveys, such as the Eurobarometer. In particular, the exact sciences are generally considered to be more difficult than human studies, as they would imply a special talent. On the other hand, technology involves a lot of sawing: being a hands-on activity, many students think that you need to be physically strong and that you get dirty, leading them to think that it is more a field for boys than for girls. Sciences and technology arouse spontaneous positive feelings amongst our participants.

We didn't find any conclusive differences between the two genders in terms of education choices and job opportunities. It is worrying that students do not seem to have a clear concept of the professions available. Their frame of reference is primarily the subjects they have at school and the experiments they perform there. In particular, participants call for a better knowledge of the S&T professions: all our participants told us of the importance of practice in S&T, and they see S&T as strongly linked with reality. In order to come closer to S&T, gaining experience with science and technology since an early age emerged to be very important.

Moreover, a change in stereotypes has to be carried out starting from teachers, role models, from the meetings with S&T professionals in schools, science centres, museums, and through the media, in fiction and advertising, by filming interviews with young and dynamic role models, both for boys and girls. Practically, a direct participation and a 'science and scientific careers in action' approach is desired as much as possible.

In conclusion, it can be said that the results of the project provided, in our opinion, an important contribution to the subject of women in science and in technology, by investigating among younger children the causes that determine their professional choices, proposing integrated actions among the world of school, the scientific community, and society in general, on a European level.

So greater involvement of schools in training activities could provide a valid contribution to the changing of roles and of stereotypes that are still quite present in today's society and that influence future choices, especially for girls.