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PRINTED FROM the OXFORD RESEARCH ENCYCLOPEDIA, EDUCATION (oxfordre.com/education). (c) Oxford University Press USA, 2020. All Rights Reserved. Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 21 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The literature on gender equity, education, and technological innovation identifies three primary areas of concern: STEM (collective disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), computer science, and, interestingly enough, reading comprehension. These gendered divides are often framed in public discourse as problems of equality; however, most research and scholarly discussions focus on equity, on fairness. Considerable work by feminists in the social studies of science and technology, demonstrating how innovation and technology are already gendered, has lent strong support to an educational emphasis on how “fairness” might best be achieved.

It remains the case that “gender” in most research studies refers to a binarized conception of sex: either male or female, girls or boys, men or women. However, critical intersectional understandings of gender that take into account age, socioeconomic class, race, ethnicity, sexuality, and dis/abilities hold out promise for more nuanced understandings of inequities in education. For example, taking the widest perspective, it is socioeconomic class, not gender, that continues to create the greatest disparities in educational outcomes, whereas within any given socioeconomic context, gender is paramount. For girls and women, equity-focused educational interventions aim to develop better pathways to higher education and jobs in STEM subjects and fields. Female underrepresentation in STEM and computer science is often framed as a gender-specific skills deficit impeding access to and success in globally competitive, technologically innovative, and the most highly remunerated occupations, rather than as a barrier created by differences in expectations, norms, experience, and prior educational provision. Gender equity initiatives for school-aged boys are concentrated in the areas of reading and comprehension skills, with little connection made in the literature to either presumptions about or implications of this underachievement as a deficit that jeopardizes future educational or vocational skills. It may be that evolving conceptions and practices of gender that take better account of both gender diversity and intersectionality will enable educational interventions beyond these stereotypical and binarized educational analyses and initiatives, lending hope that we may yet see women and girls assuming not just an equitable but indeed a transformative role in technological innovation.

Keywords: gender, equity, technology, developed nations, STEM, feminism

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