Gender and the STEM Fields in Education- and Career-Related Discussions between Finnish Parents and their Adolescent Children
Keywords:Career choice, gender segregation, STEM, parental involvement
Occupational gender segregation in Finland is high and persistent in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Previous research has concluded that, rather than differences in aptitude, gendered educational and vocational choices originate from more complex system of attitudes, self-concepts, motivations and both direct and indirect social influences, all of which shape young people’s future goals. In the sphere of social influences on career choice, parents play a special role in adolescents’ education and career exploration. This study explores two interrelated areas: firstly, the ideas expressed by Finnish adolescent children’s parents about the role of gender in education and career choices, and secondly, parent-child discussions about such ideas, especially with regard to STEM career pathways. The research data (N=103) was collected by means of an online survey. Almost half of the parents reported having had discussions about STEM careers with their children. Problematically, many parents considered that they had too little information about these careers. Our results indicate that mothers are more aware of the societal and individual consequences of occupational gender segregation than fathers are. The results also suggest that parents should be provided with up-to-date information on STEM careers and on the consequences of occupational gender segregation in order to enhance parents’ readiness to support their children in their future exploration of education and careers. Greater collaboration between homes, career counseling, teachers and relevant organizations concerned with the economic world, working life and entrepreneurship would be beneficial in promoting awareness of these aspects during adolescents’ career development.
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