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Woman’s under-representation in STEM: The part role-models have played in the past and do we still need them today?

Atkinson, Stephanie (2018) Woman’s under-representation in STEM: The part role-models have played in the past and do we still need them today? In: PATT36 International Conference: Research & Practice in Technology Education: Perspectives on Human Capacity & Development., 18-21 Jun 2018, Athlone Institute of Technology, Ireland.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


n 2005, Blickenstaff wrote that woman were under-represented in science, technology, engineering and
mathematics (STEM) in both education and careers in most industrialised countries around the world.
This under-representation is not something new, it was identified as problematic as early as the 1980s
(Kelly et al.,1981; Smail et al., 1982). While encouraging girls to study and pursue careers in the
technology sector continues to be problematic even today (Bauer, 2017). After introducing the topic, the
paper begins with a brief discussion of some of the factors that researchers have believed influenced this
under-representation. Several ways forward to improve the state of affairs from the literature are then
discussed, before turning to concentrate specifically on role-models and the part that they can play in
changing the situation. The next section focuses on the author’s personal experiences of being a role-
model in a male-dominated workplace in the mid-1960s when she started her career as the first qualified
female woodwork teacher in the UK having trained as a product designer and maker of furniture. This is
followed by a discussion of various research projects concerned with the positive effects of role model
exposure in terms of: motivating individuals through acting as behavioral models, representing the
possible, being inspirational; improving a sense of belonging; impacting on academic self-efficacy; and
negating stereotypes. The final section looks at very recent research and comes to some conclusions
about the question posed in the paper’s title: Do we still need role-models today

PATT36 Final Paper as submitted.pdf - Accepted Version

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Additional Information: ISBN 978-1-5272-2507-7
Depositing User: Barry Hall


Item ID: 9633
Official URL:

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Catalogue record

Date Deposited: 08 Jun 2018 08:49
Last Modified: 18 Dec 2019 16:06


Author: Stephanie Atkinson

University Divisions

Faculty of Education and Society
Faculty of Education and Society > School of Education


Education > Educational Research

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