In an expert study conducted in Germany, Dana Kube and her research team delve into the complex dynamics of gender bias within STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) classrooms. The study, aimed at understanding the role gender plays in shaping the experiences of women scientists in higher education, sheds light on the challenges they face and proposes strategies for fostering gender inclusivity in STEM classrooms.

The primary objective of the study was two-fold: first, to comprehensively examine the influence of gender and gender bias in STEM environments within higher education institutions, and second, to identify potential areas where Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) pedagogical interventions could mitigate these biases among students and teachers in German STEM departments.

Employing the innovative group concept mapping method, the research team collaborated with women participants from STEM faculties alongside a cohort of gender mainstreaming experts. This inclusive approach aimed to capture diverse perspectives and experiences, offering a nuanced understanding of the social context of gender within STEM.

The study unearthed several key insights regarding the prevalence of gender bias in STEM environments. Chief among these were the persistence of stereotypical beliefs about women, entrenched gender roles, disparities in workload allocation based on gender, instances of sexism, and structural power imbalances along gender lines. These findings underscored the many obstacles related to gender bias that women still encounter on their path to success in STEM careers, as statements of the women participants demonstrate:

Reconciliation of family and work: It is still mostly women who have to cut back on work or have to justify themselves strongly if they do not do so.” 

Women do the preparatory work. Men often take over the performance or work presentation.”

Women in leadership positions are much more burdened with requests for help/guidance/committee work/seminars/organisation than their male colleagues (at the same level). This reduces their time for independent work and research.” 

“… Emphasising gender when a woman has achieved something special.” 

I have already read in job postings that women are considered a minority who need special support, mentioned in the same breath as people with disabilities and people with refugee experience.” 

Crucially, the study advocates for developing and implementing gender-inclusive pedagogies in CSCL settings within STEM classrooms. By addressing specific manifestations of gender bias, especially everyday sexism in STEM higher education in Germany in targeted collaborative learning in STEM, the experts see the potential for fostering an environment of inclusivity and equity, creating a more gender-inclusive atmosphere for women and other genders than men in STEM classrooms.

On a more general stance, our findings highlight the urgent need for joint efforts to dismantle the barriers that hinder women’s advancement in STEM fields. We can cultivate a more diverse and vibrant STEM community by integrating gender-inclusive practices into teaching and learning methodologies.

The implications of this study extend far beyond academia, with the potential to catalyse transformative change in STEM industries and beyond. As Germany strives to foster innovation and excellence in its scientific endeavours, addressing gender bias in STEM classrooms is crucial in achieving true equality and inclusivity.

Moving forward, initiatives aimed at promoting diversity and gender equity in STEM education must be met with unwavering commitment and collective action. Only by confronting and dismantling the systemic barriers that impede women’s progress can we unlock the full potential of STEM fields and pave the way for a more equitable and inclusive future.

Read the full study:

Cite as: Kube, D., Weidlich, J., Kreijns, K., & Drachsler H. (2024). Addressing gender in STEM classrooms: The impact of gender bias on women scientists’ experiences in higher education careers in Germany. Educ Inf Technol.