A1 Journal article (refereed), original research

STEM: A help or a hinderance in attracting more girls to engineering?

Open Access hybrid publication

Publication Details
Authors: Naukkarinen Johanna, Bairoh Susanna
Publisher: Wiley: 12 months - No Online Open
Publication year: 2020
Language: English
Related Journal or Series Information: Journal of Engineering Education
Volume number: 109
Issue number: 2
Start page: 177
End page: 193
Number of pages: 17
ISSN: 1069-4730
JUFO-Level of this publication: 2
Open Access: Open Access hybrid publication


Research on gender differences and practical initiatives to attract girls to engineering are often carried out at the macro level where science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are aggregated into an entity called STEM.


This article challenges the aggregated approach, analyzes gender differences among science and engineering applicants in Finland, and discusses the implications of the findings for engineering education and intervention initiatives.


The data consist of the application choices of all applicants to Bachelor studies in Finland in 2016 (151,369 individuals), from which two groups were selected: persons whose first application choice was engineering/technology and persons whose first choice was natural sciences or mathematics. The application choices of these individuals (in total 9,104) are statistically described and analyzed.


Engineering/technology (TECH) and natural sciences and mathematics (SCIMA) subjects are not perceived as alternative options by female applicants. Almost 60% of all female TECH applicants and more than 50% of the female SCIMA applicants apply only to their respective programs. Moreover, TECH applicants considering other options prefer other subjects to SCIMA and vice versa.


Encouraging more girls to study STEM is not a sufficient solution for attracting more women to engineering. Instead of or in addition to encouraging girls to study science and mathematics in K‐12 education, it is necessary to open the black box of technology and help young people better understand what engineering is about.

Last updated on 2020-14-04 at 12:26