The Gender(ed) Gap(s) in STEM: Explaining the persistent underrepresentation of women in STEM careers

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


Countless projects and campaigns have sought to increase the number of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) in recent decades. Nevertheless, women continue to be underrepresented in STEM education and workforce, particularly within many fields of engineering/ technology. This study argues that instead of ‘the gender gap’ - the underrepresentation of women - numerous gender(ed) gaps exist within STEM, manifesting in different yet often subtle ways across various contexts. By ‘gendered gaps’, the study refers to the various ways in which gender matters in STEM, leading to differing expectations and experiences for men, women, and others.
In the study, the vast scholarly literature on women/ gender and STEM is classified into two broad groups which are labelled ‘mainstream’ and ‘critical’. The study critiques the mainstream approaches and draws on critical feminist theorizing to explain the persistence of the gender(ed) gaps. While (lacking) interest in STEM is among the most popular explanations for the gender gap in the mainstream literature, critical studies underline how gendered societal norms, expectations, and stereotypes influence what an individual can be interested in. The intertwining of masculinity and STEM, and its linkages to stereotypes and understandings of ‘natural’ male superiority in STEM, has received hardly any attention from mainstream scholars. Additionally, mainstream studies have not sufficiently addressed the impact of masculine culture(s).
The articles in this study cover four gender(ed) gaps along the pipeline of STEM careers in Finland: application to university STEM studies, graduation with Master’s in engineering/technology, genderbased discrimination in technology workplaces, and recruitment to top management in technology companies. The study deploys a mixed methods approach, combining both quantitative and qualitative data and methods.
The study argues that the gender(ed) gap(s) in STEM in Finland persist due to the cumulated and compounded effects of masculine cultures favouring men as well as stereotypes affirming male superiority in mathematics, stemming from the strong linkages between masculinity with (physical sciences, mathematics, engineering, and technology. Consequently, for (many) women, these lead to lower ability beliefs and less interest in STEM studies and careers as well as a more fragile identity as STEM professionals.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
  • Hearn, Jeff, Thesis supervisor
  • Niemistö, Charlotta, Thesis supervisor
  • Kock, Sören, Degree supervisor
Award date12.05.2023
Place of PublicationHelsinki
Print ISBNs978-952-232-491-7
Electronic ISBNs978-952-232-492-4
Publication statusPublished - 2023
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • 512 Business and Management
  • gender gap
  • STEM
  • engineering
  • technology
  • gender differences
  • discrimination
  • education
  • careers
  • workplaces
  • executives


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