GCSE and A level statistics show us subject choices are very gendered – even in 2017, boys tend to choose typically male subjects and girls tend to choose typically female subjects.
Interactionist theory points to teacher stereotyping and labeling as one of the main explanations for these gendered differences in subject choice, but what evidence is there that teachers stereotype pupils along gender lines?
This 2017 Online Survey by Accenture found evidence of gender stereotyping and bias around STEM subjects:
- Almost a third (32%) of young people think that more boys choose STEM subjects than girls because they match ‘male’ careers or jobs. The perception that STEM subjects are for boys only is the primary reason that teachers believe few girls take up these subjects at school.
- More than half of both parents (52%) and teachers (57%) admit to having themselves made subconscious stereotypes about girls and boys in relation to STEM, and over half (54%) of teachers claim to have seen girls dropping STEM subjects at school due to pressure from parents.
This research was based on a sample of 8,644 people in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, including 2,793 boys and 2,667 girls aged 7-16, 909 young men and 875 young women aged 17-23, and 1000 parents and 400 teachers.
The fact that this research is only based on a sample of 400 teachers, and the fact that the sample is online and random, raises questions about how generalisable these findings are to the wider population of teachers. We simply don’t know!