Journal Article

Secondary school subjects and gendered STEM enrollment in higher education in Germany, Ireland, and Scotland

April 18, 2020

International Journal of Comparative Sociology, Vol. 61, No. 2, pp. 59-78

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This article examines the extent to which science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subject choice in upper secondary education explains gender differences in STEM enrollment in higher education. We adopt a cross-country approach using Germany, Ireland, and Scotland as three case studies. These countries differ in terms of both the degree of subject choice offered in upper secondary education and the relevance for higher education admission of having studied specific school subjects. Using datasets of young people from all three countries, our results indicate a stronger mediation of school subjects for Scotland than in Germany and Ireland and a remarkable gender gap in STEM enrollment in all three countries. We conclude that females studying science subjects within upper secondary education appears to be a necessary but not a sufficient condition to ensure gender equality in progression to STEM fields.