Are Green Degree Fields Serving to Narrow the Gender Gap in STEM?

A new study led by Dafna Gelbgiser while she was a postdoctoral researcher at the Center for the Study of Inequality at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, finds that the gender gap in overall STEM degree attainment may be narrowing because more and more women are earning degrees in so-called “green fields.”

After examining more than nine million degree recipients in the United States between 2009 and 2014, researchers found that the graduates of green fields such as environmental science and sustainability are far more gender equal than is the case in other STEM fields and also in non-STEM disciplines. One explanation for the gender gap in STEM is that women are more drawn to care-oriented and humanistic fields rather than technical and scientific disciplines. But, the researchers write, “As a new social phenomenon, the environmental movement enables fields to emerge outside of existing paradigms – for example, being simultaneously care-oriented and technical, or both humanistic and scientific – and therefore transcend traditional gender divisions.”

Dr. Gelbgiser says that “our findings suggest that gender balance in STEM fields is malleable and these emerging fields can be a force leading to greater equality in higher education.”

Dr. Gelbgiser is now a quantitative researcher at Facebook Inc. She holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology and East Asian studies from Tel Aviv University in Israel. She earned a Ph.D. in sociology at Cornell University.

The full study, “Green for All? Gender Segregation and Green Fields of Study in American Higher Education,” was published in the journal Social Problems. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/StudySTEM Fields


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