New Perspectives in Science Education

Edition 14

Accepted Abstracts

Do Single-sex Educational Programmes in STEM Disciplines Reduce Drop-out Rate of Female Students?

Ulrike Busolt, Hochschule Furtwangen University (Germany)

Karin Ludewig, Hochschule Furtwangen University (Germany)

Susanne Schmidt, Hochschule Furtwangen University (Germany)


Traditionally, female students and researchers are extremely underrepresented in mechanical engineering, computer science and comparable technical subjects in Germany and elsewhere (c.f.; In universities, research organisations and universities of applied sciences as well as in research and development departments of the German industrial sector women are widely outnumbered by men when it comes to the study and professional exertion of the academic disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (=STEM). There has been a broad academic discussion about how to increase the percentage of women in the STEM disciplines. Also, many practical measures have been taken to achieve such an increase over the last 20 years (c.f. In the federal state of Baden-Württemberg public funding is spent on single-sex educational programmes which, inter alia, are supposed to help reduce the drop-out rate of female students in some STEM disciplines. Both from the point of view of stakeholders who are interested in economic growth and therefore in the growth of well-skilled work force and from the point of view of supporters of gender equality, a higher quota of women in STEM is a desirable target. Netzwerk Frauen.Innovation.Technik is a group of women who, on behalf of the federal state government of Baden-Württemberg, regularly organise spring schools for female students and professionals of mechanical engineering as well as summer schools for female students and professionals of computer science. According to the concept of the educational programmes, courses are open for females only (single-sex education); during the events, there is a stress not only on the teaching of hard and soft skills in technical subjects themselves but also on networking activities; professionally successful women are presented as role models; individual mentoring and small learning groups are emphasised. Since 2002, these spring and summer schools were evaluated on a regular basis. The outcome indicates that the events did indeed contribute to a decrease in drop-out rates of female students. As a result, it can be said that single-sex educational programmes such as the ones mentioned above help raise the rate of females in traditionally male-dominated STEM disciplines.

Keywords: Women in STEM; single-sex educational programmes; drop-out rate; mechanical engineering; computer science; female researchers;


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