Do women majoring in STEM disciplines in countries other than the United States encounter the same challenges to persistence that we’ve identified in our universities? A June 2014 article in the International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education by Garcia Villa and Gonzalez y Gonzalez suggests they do. The authors of “Women Students in Engineering in Mexico: Exploring Responses to Gender Difference” report that the female students they interviewed encounter male engineering faculty and students who stereotype them as being weak and less capable in math and science. The interviewees also find that male college students in general assume women in science are unfeminine and unattractive.

These descriptions of the STEM educational experience for Mexican women sound remarkably like those given by American interviewees in the study, Talking about Leaving: Why Undergraduates Leave the Sciences, by Seymour and Hewitt. While it’s unfortunate that stereotyping of women in STEM is seemingly widespread, we should consider that we have other countries to look to for advice and collaboration. I’ll be searching for and sharing examples of successful international programs that support young women in STEM majors by challenging persistent stereotypes of females.

Image attribution: “A medical student working at the laboratories of ITESM CCM during the PreHealth course,” by Hillary411K, 2013. CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

 

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