Ethnographic exploration of the ways girls' relationships shape their consumption of science discourses.

Lead Research Organisation: Newcastle University
Department Name: Sch of Geog, Politics and Sociology


Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) careers have a substantial gender imbalance. Initial differentiation between men and women occurs during education, at the point when children can choose what to study. The percentage of women in post-16 STEM education remains low despite the numerous Initiatives to encourage increased female participation. Feminist literature identifies the masculine gendering of STEM subjects as a key impediment to gender equality (Cockburn 1997, Faulkner 2009, Francis et al 2017, Keller 1987, Sismondo 2010, Wajcman 2010, Watt et al 1998). However, this literature does not examine STEM gendering as part of the broader context of young women's lives. This research examines how STEM discourses are situated and played out as part of girls' everyday experiences. By investigating how girls perceive, interpret and act STEM through their relationships and everyday interactions, a richer and more holistic understanding of the emergence of STEM gender inequality can be gained. This project is novel in combining insights from Feminist STS with ethnography of young women's lives, to understand how identities are produced in the course of growing up. Participant observation will be undertaken with 15 - 16 year olds to understand how gendering occurs and is interpreted during the period girls' are making their post-16 education choices, as well as documentary analysis to explore gendered discourses built into the science curriculum. The findings will produce new insights to better inform interventions aimed rectifying the gender imbalance of STEM subjects and provide new tools to help in undermining the inequality.


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