Gender-STEM stereotypes: a cross-cultural, mixed-methods exploration of women’s STEM pathways between the UK and China

Liu, Jianshu (2024) Gender-STEM stereotypes: a cross-cultural, mixed-methods exploration of women’s STEM pathways between the UK and China. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
[thumbnail of 2023liuphd.pdf] PDF
Download (11MB)


Women’s underrepresentation in higher education and careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields remains a persistent global problem. Grounded in social psychological theories related to gender stereotypes, this cross-cultural thesis aims to understand the reasons for British and Chinese women’s underrepresentation. A review of existing empirical research highlights gaps in understanding British and Chinese women’s underrepresentation in STEM disciplines and careers identified gaps into why and how women maintain careers in these fields. Therefore, this study aimed to 1) identify British and Chinese women’s explicit and implicit gender-STEM stereotypes and the factors impacting these stereotypes; 2) explore what factors positively influenced women studying to PhD level in STEM fields; 3) investigate and interpret patterns of how Chinese Eearly career researchers (ECRs) achieve in their STEM fields. A sequential explanatory mixed-methods design was conducted. The first phase used a quantitative survey and lab-based Implicit Association Test to compare the explicit and implicit gender-STEM stereotypes and attitudes toward STEM fields of British and Chinese women (n = 113). Using a 2 x 2 ANOVA design, Chinese women in the cohort had higher explicit gender-STEM stereotypes than British women, and women studying in STEM fields had lower explicit attitudes on STEM subjects than women not studying in STEM fields. There were no significant main effects or interactions of nationality and STEM study on the implicit measure. However, a planned independent contrast found that Chinese women studying STEM subjects had lower implicit gender-STEM stereotypes than women not studying STEM. The second phase included qualitative focus groups with women from the UK (n= 5) and China (n= 6) studying STEM in the UK, and interviews with Chinese women working successfully in their STEM fields (n = 4) to more deeply understand why women’s persistence in higher level education and careers in STEM. Analyses uncovered factors influencing women’s attrition in STEM fields and possibilities for how women could maintain and achieve at higher level of education and careers in STEM fields. This mixed-method, cross-cultural, and interdisciplinary thesis makes a significant contribution through uncovering common barriers to STEM fields, women’s cognitive dissonance regarding gender-STEM stereotypes, and cultural differences suggesting “glass ceilings” effects in the UK and the pressures from the “ground floor” from Chinese family and society. Policy and educational recommendations are provided, including the importance of embedding STEM career knowledges early, policies such as flexible working, successful female role models in STEM, and the role of social media in raising women’s career profiles and widening their networks.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Lido, Professor Catherine and MakaraFuller, Dr. Kara
Date of Award: 2024
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2024-84121
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 14 Mar 2024 14:58
Last Modified: 14 Mar 2024 15:00
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.84121

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year