Panel discussion: Women in STEM

OLIVE project and the pedagogical cafe organizes a panel discussion on the topical issue : Women in STEM – current situation, challenges and opportunities for more equality in the future 

The panel aims to present/discuss the current situation as a global phenomenon with a focus on Finland and Palestine as two cases. Another aim is to point out the need to take action for more equality in the future; to possibly identify necessary structural changes; to map out an action plan; to offer policy recommendations; and, to offer the basis for future events and frameworks for further collaboration.  

To get the link to the discussion, pls fill in the registration form by Monday the 30th of January 2023, at 9-10.30am.

A zoom link will be sent before the event starts by email.  

For more information about the project, check the website of OLIVE.  

Panel details   

Women in STEM – current situation, challenges, and opportunities for more equality in the future 

The panel will host three presentations (maximum 10 minutes each) and a longer discussion and Q&As (appr. 25’-30’) with participants, presenters, and panelists.  

The panel will be chaired by Amal Alkahlout, Professor, Al-Azhar University Gaza, Palestine.  

Discussant: Hille Janhonen-Abruquah, Professor, University of Eastern Finland, Finland 

Moderator: Osama S. Hamdouna, Dean, Faculty of Education, Al-Azhar University Gaza, Palestine 

Moderator: Justus Kinnunen, University teacher, University of Eastern Finland, Finland 

Commenting & summarizing: Ayman A Rezeqallah, Researcher & Coordinator, Birzeit University, Palestine & Marianna Vivitsou, Postdoctoral researcher, University of Helsinki, Finland 


Women in Physics in Palestine 

Wafaa Khater, Dean, Faculty of Science, Birzeit University, Palestine 

Over the past 15-20 years, at the undergraduate level, the number of female students majoring in physics in the Palestinian universities is increasing compared to the number of their male colleagues. Currently, female students are outnumbering their male colleagues with a percentage that reaches up to 90% of any physics class in Birzeit University. Similar numbers and percentages are seen as well in Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics, Health-related Sciences, IT and Engineering classes to some extent. The vast majority of these female students become schoolteachers after they graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in physics. 
Most of Palestinian universities offer programs that lead to Master’s degree in Physics, where again female students outnumber their male colleagues. Only, few of them continue to the PhD level and beyond, this is because of various reasons such as cultural and socio-economic reasons; most of Palestinian universities do not offer PhD programs in Physics, which means that female students need to study outside Palestine and overcome any barriers that might get imposed on them because of cultural and socio-economic restrictions. At the academic staff level, the percentage of female academic staff members who hold PhD in Physics do not exceed 30% at its best. It is important to promote the role of women in physics and show examples of well-established women physicists to be role models for female students. This will contribute to capacity building among young generations of female physicists. It is also important to learn from other societies that share similar challenges.  

Keywords: Women, physics, postgraduate studies, barriers 


Socio-Cultural Factors Contributing to Adolescents’ Gendered Education and Career Exploration in STEM 

Kirsi Ikonen, Project Coordinator, Faculty of Science and Forestry, Department of Physics and Mathematics, University of Eastern Finland 

In Finland, occupational gender segregation is a persistent phenomenon. Segregation levels are high and stable especially in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), which are strongly male-dominated. This dissertation research project addressed the contribution made by socio-cultural factors to adolescents’ gendered career exploration in the fields of STEM. The project was composed of three sub-studies, each of which aimed to explore the main topic from a particular viewpoint. Sub-study 1 revealed that parents play the most important role in Finnish adolescents’ education and career exploration and are also potentially the main mediators of gender stereotypes. School guidance counselling played second fiddle to parents with regard to the amount of education- and career-related discussion that adolescents have with these two groups of socializers. Career-related discussions with subject teachers seemed to be minimal. Sub-study 2 documented that ninth-graders mostly referred to masculine physical characteristics when justifying certain occupations as more suitable for men than for women. Respectively, they generally referred to gender-typical interests when justifying certain occupations as more suitable for women than for men. One positive signal in this study was that no stereotypes regarding male superiority in STEM occurred in ninth-graders’ views. Boys presented more gender-stereotypical perceptions of occupations, and boys also considered that their own gender affected their occupational preferences more strongly than did girls. Sub-study 3 suggested that parents’ familiarity with the range of STEM career pathways may be quite limited and parental awareness of the consequences of occupational gender segregation appears to be rather one-sided. The results of this dissertation research provide support for the idea that there is a need to increase dialogue between families, schools and employers about job opportunities within STEM and the skills that are in demand in STEM, since these stakeholders have their own strengths in the interaction with adolescents.  

Keywords: Occupational segregation, social aspects, vocational interests, STEM, gender stereotypes  


Palestinian women in STEM: Reality … challenges and opportunities 

Montaser Al-Halabi, Director of Practicum, Al-Azhar University Gaza, Palestine & Ali Abuzaid, Professor of Statistics, Department of Mathematics, Al-Azhar University Gaza, Palestine

Palestinian women have some of the highest levels of education in the Middle East. They have a literacy rate of 96.5 percent and attend elementary school just as frequently as males. In Tawjihi/Injaz tests, Palestinian girls routinely outperform their male counterparts. 
This presentation aims to address the barriers that limit girls’ participation in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) and promote their participation as well as the efforts being made to overcome them.  
The presentation considers four main correlated aspects of Palestinian girls in STEM, Firstly, we review some statistics about girl’s contribution in the education and labor forces in Palestine.  
Secondly, we shed the light on the major barriers to girls in STEM in Palestine including cultural and societal attitudes towards girls in these fields. Special emphasis on the gender stereotype roles and expectations that might limit girls’ opportunities and aspirations in STEM, which can be reinforced by a lack of role models and mentors for girls in STEM, as well as a lack of access to resources and opportunities for STEM education and careers. 
Thirdly, to address these barriers and increase girls’ participation in STEM, we review the Palestinian government and various NGOs have implemented a number of programs and initiatives. For example, the Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education has implemented a number of initiatives to improve STEM education in Palestine, including the “Tomorrow’s Leaders” program, which aims to increase the participation of girls in STEM by providing them with access to resources and opportunities. Additionally, the Palestinian Association for Science and Technology has implemented a number of programs and initiatives to promote STEM education and careers for girls in Palestine, including the “Girls in Science” program, which aims to increase girls’ interest and participation in STEM through workshops, events, and other activities. 
Lastly, we present a case study of the OLIVE project at Al Azhar University -Gaza which has launched the first bachelor’s degree in STEM teacher education programs in Palestine. About 78% of the enrolled students in the programs are females. Furthermore, primary results of conducting Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey (CLASS), revealed that females have higher positive attitudes scores toward sciences compare to males. 

Keywords: Education, gender gap, girls-STEM, Palestine 

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