Levels of Science Identity, Belonging and Experiences of Discrimination for Commencing Science Students at an Australian University
AbstractA key step in achieving gender equality in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce is recruiting more women into undergraduate STEM degrees. Some disciplines, such as biology, have been more successful at this than others. Yet, gender issues at university still exist in these science disciplines, which may be deterring women from remaining in this career pathway. This case study at an Australian university explored known risk factors for attrition by surveying 215 first-year undergraduate science students. It also investigated how these factors differ for students in the ‘gender-balanced’ and ‘gender-unbalanced’ science fields. Findings showed that female students in both the ‘gender-balanced’ and ‘gender-unbalanced’ science fields begin university with low levels of belonging, and encounter experiences of discrimination early on. These findings highlight potential risk factors for attrition for incoming Australian science undergraduates, and some potential challenges tertiary educators need to be aware of within their first-year classrooms.