Exploring Enabling Interventions for Increasing Female Students’ Access and Participation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (Stem) Disciplines in Kenyan Public Universities
Mbirianjau, Lucy Wandiri
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Globally, studies continue to document disparities in women’s access and participation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines in the universities. Despite existence of policies at the national and institutional level, no single and clear road map exists on what set of interventions can best contribute to redressing this disparities. This study draws attention to the low participation of female students in STEM disciplines and especially in hard sciences in Kenyan public universities. Data for the study were collected in three public universities that were purposively sampled. Questionnaires, interviews, observations, content and documentary analysis were used as key instruments for data collection and research techniques. Data were analyzed both quantitatively and qualitatively. The study findings revealed that, despite the existing educational gender interventions, female students’ enrolment and participation in STEM disciplines in the Kenyan public universities is 30% and less than 20% in hard sciences. The study also established that there exists a continued process of gender typing in the secondary school curriculum which students pick and is further manifested in the universities. This stereotype has created a false perception among female students that soft sciences are marketable for the female gender and are feminine compared to the hard sciences. Further there exists socio-cultural and institutional barriers that affects female students’ participation in STEM disciplines. The study recommends first, the need for government and universities to develop educational STEM policies and interventions to increase female participation in STEM disciplines. Second, the STEM curricula should be made gender responsive with integration of additional STEM female faculty members to act as mentors to female students. Appropriate STEM mentoring and career guidance should be enhanced at all levels of education and all educational stakeholders should be involved in minimising socio-cultural, institutional barriers and stereotypes on masculinity of STEM disciplines.