Monday, 15 August 2016

Gender, stereotypes and sustainability

One of the Institute's science education lecturers, Kelly Davis, has recently published some research around gender in the context of environmental sustainability. Whilst gender and sustainability might at first glance seem to be two unrelated issues, Kelly argues that they are connected - women are under-represented in science education, which plays a central role in school strategies to raise awareness of environmental issues. She suggests that one of the reasons females are under represented in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects in schools in due to gender stereotyping and an 'unconscious bias' by some that these subjects are solely a male preserve. Clearly, female scientists have as much to offer as their male counterparts, and lecturers in higher education involved in initial teacher education should strive to combat stereotypical thinking and challenge unconscious bias, to pave the way for a more equitable gender balance in STEM education, she says.

Here's the abstract of Kelly's article, published in the journal Science Teacher Education. The full article can be read at this link

As a lecturer in science education, the concept of environmental sustainability is heavily embedded within my teaching.  This article aims to highlight the links between gender and sustainability.  The sustainable development agenda 2030 states that one of its targets is to ‘achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls’ (United Nations, 2015).   However, the reality is that women are still under-represented in science, technology, engineering and mathematical (STEM) fields (Penner, 2015).  This article explores the issue of this under-representation of women, and also specifically looks at changing practice within a primary science teacher training programme.  The article not only explores gender equality for women, but also for men, highlighting the stereotypical barriers trainee male primary school teachers encounter.  The issues of ‘unconscious bias’ and ‘stereotype threat’ are also discussed and changes in practice recommended.  The article highlights the fact that teachers and higher education professionals are in the fortunate position where they can facilitate change; after all, education is the key to a more sustainable future for all (Nevin, 2008).

Nevin, E. (2008) Education and sustainable development, Policy and practice: A development education review, (6), 49-62.
Penner, A. M. (2015) Gender inequality in science (347), 234.
United Nations (2015) Sustainable Development Goals. Available online at this link. (Accessed 9 March, 2016)

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Gender, stereotypes and sustainability by Steve Wheeler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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