Understanding the Factors Influencing Women’s Career Trajectories in STEM Education in Kazakhstan.
Keywords:STEM, Female faculty, gender gap, kazakhstan
Although female researchers in Kazakhstan account for 53% of the total, those engaged in science, engineering, and technology fields (STEM) account for less than 45% of the STEM total. A similar pattern is experienced with respect to tertiary education students in Kazakhstan with the percentage of undergraduate women being 58% of the total, but only 32% of the undergraduate students in STEM. Thus, the phenomenon of "leakage" from the STEM educational pipeline starts early and persists, albeit ameliorated with advanced degrees. This study seeks to identify the barriers that deter Kazakhstani women from entering STEM disciplines, from persisting through their studies, and from pursuing successful academic careers. Specifically, the purpose of this study is to identify the extent to which various socioeconomic and institutional factors shape the perception of women towards STEM fields. The major methodological instrument employed is a set of qualitative interviews of female faculty in STEM, designed and calibrated for the local context. The interviewees were randomly selected from one of the largest local universities with a broad spectrum of STEM disciplines. The proportion of indigenous female faculty members in STEM disciplines in this university is less than 25%. The preliminary results reveal that the key barriers are disrupted work-life balance, cultural stereotypes, poor self-assessment, and gender-based discrimination on an institutional level. In addition, factors such as availability of research facilities, job autonomy, involvement in decision-making procedures, and encouragement from the institution emerge as critical facilitators for effective female careers in STEM. The conclusions of this study are expected to inform the development of appropriate questionnaire instruments towards a larger study across a section of tertiary education institutions in Kazakhstan.
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