'Not girly, not sexy, not glamorous’: primary school girls’ and parents’ constructions of science aspirations

Louise Archer, Jennifer Dewitt, Jonathan Osborne, Justin Dillon, Billy Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

97 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Internationally, there is widespread concern about the need to increase participation in the sciences (particularly the physical sciences), especially among girls/women. This paper draws on data from a five-year, longitudinal study of 10–14-year-old children’s science aspirations and career choice to explore the reasons why, even from a young age, many girls may see science aspirations as ‘not for me’. We discuss data from phase one – a survey of over 9000 primary school children (aged 10/11) and interviews with 92 children and 78 parents, focusing in particular on those girls who did not hold science aspirations. Using a feminist poststructuralist analytic lens, we argue that science aspirations are largely ‘unthinkable’ for these girls because they do not fit with either their constructions of desirable/intelligible femininity nor with their sense of themselves as learners/students. We argue that an underpinning construction of science careers as ‘clever’/‘brainy’, ‘not nurturing’ and ‘geeky’ sits in opposition to the girls’ self-identifications as ‘normal’, ‘girly’, ‘caring’ and ‘active’. Moreover, we suggest that this lack of fit is exacerbated by social inequalities, which render science aspirations potentially less thinkable for working-class girls in particular. The paper concludes with a discussion of potential implications for increasing women’s greater participation in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-194
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Pedagogy, Culture and Society
Volume21
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Bibliographical note

M1 - 1

10.1080/14681366.2012.748676

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