Background. The dearth of women is particularly low in engineering and physical science, whereas they make up half of the enrollments in other science and biology-related fields. The theory of expectancy-value of achievement related choices explains young people’s gendered academic choices and performance (Eccles-Parsons et al, 1983; Wigfield and Eccles, 2000). Young girls are therefore more likely to enroll in courses and studies that they think they can master and that have a high task value for them.
Objectives. The present longitudinal study aims at analyzing secondary students’ interest in STEM studies from a gender perspective.
Method. The longitudinal sample consisted of 529 students enrolled in the second (14 years; time 1) and third courses (15 years; time 2) of compulsory secondary school. 51% were girls. 53% come from intermediate households. 77% are Spanish. A survey was administered with questions about sociodemographics, as well as performance in all subject areas, students’ self-concept of ability and perception of utility in the two time points, and future study choices. STEM studies were divided into technology and experimental/health science (MEC, 2013).
Results. Logistic regressions revealed that young females and students reporting high self-concept of ability in math and natural science and high performance in Spanish at time 1 were more likely to pursue experimental and health studies at time 2. Similarly, young males and students with high self-concept of ability in technology and low performance in natural sciences at time 1 were more likely to pursue technological studies at time 2. In addition, students with high utility value of technology and natural science at time 1 were more likely to pursue experimental and health studies at time 2.
Conclusions. These findings have important educational implications and suggest that the structure of the educational system in Spain shapes students’ gendered aspirations in STEM.