This project investigates how far, and in what ways, gender may have an influence in the progress of students through higher education, graduation and progression into skilled employment in STEM fields in India and Rwanda. At present, girls and women are markedly under-represented in STEM areas both as students and in the workforce in most countries across the globe. At Higher Education level, only 35% of students enrolled in STEM studies internationally are women (UNESCO, 2017a). Addressing this problem is vital in ensuring equitable access to quality education and meaningful work, and is crucial for countries seeking to prioritise equitable economic development, speaking directly to UN SDGs 4, 5, and 6.
Both our countries of focus, India and Rwanda, currently have a severe under-representation of women STEM students in HE, and in relation to the skilled workforce (WEF, 2018), and there is a limited amount of research in these countries, as in many global south contexts, on gender and STEM issues post-secondary school (for an overview see e.g. UNESCO, 2017a). What is particularly under-researched is the gendered journeys of students once they have accessed university, and beyond into skilled employment (UNESCO, 2017a, EGHE, 2018). Moreover, most lower and middle-income countries do not collect detailed disaggregated data to document access, retention, transfer/dropout, and successful graduation at HE level, especially by institution and discipline (see Chanana, 2007). Neither is there information on the onward journeys of students after they leave education Our research thus seeks to address these gaps.
The project consists of a range of quantitative and qualitative methods, including:
- secondary statistical data analysis of gendered patterns of HE participation and achievement, utilising available data in India and Rwanda, with UK data utilised for comparative purposes
- largescale primary survey data with STEM students in both countries.
- a range of in-depth qualitative methods, including in-depth interviews with three sets of participants in India and Rwanda (followed up a year later): first-year STEM students and final year STEM students at a university in each country and employees in a key STEM employer in each country
The project aims to utilise the findings for a range of materials/activities, including the development of gender-sensitive virtual support ‘toolkits’ , developed in conjunction with student participants; and gender- sensitive CPD materials developed in conjunction with STEM academic and industry staff, tailored to appropriate national/regional contexts.
The Gendered Journeys project builds in part on the sharing of knowledge and ideas generated through a previous project also led by Barbara Read, the ESRC-funded network Examining Gender in Higher Education (EGHE): exploring gendered patterns of participation and success in STEM and beyond. A UK-African Countries Network (www.eghe.org). One of the objectives of the project was in relation to capacity-building of excellent early career researchers, and we are very pleased that amongst the Rwandan team for the Gendered Journeys project is co-I and ECR Jane Umutoni, who previously played a key role as co-I in the EGHE network. We are also lucky to include a fellow ECR Dr Marie Chantal Cyulinyana as a further co-I from the University of Rwanda, as well as our new project Research Associate Emma Seddon who is nearing completion of her PhD.
We are also delighted to be able to draw on the substantial expertise of Drs Manish Thukar and Saikat Maitra from the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, and Dr Srabani Maitra, Prof Bonnie Slade and Prof Catherine Lido at the University of Glasgow. We will also capitalise on other links with GCRF that the University of Glasgow has built, and with which other team members are involved, including the work of the Centre for Sustainable Healthy Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods.