This project examines young women’s reasons for choosing or not choosing male professions, focusing on the question as to what is more decisive in the choice of a gender-atypical profession or course of study: personal role models (parents, teachers) or school subjects.

Lay summary

Statistics show that men and women do not choose the same professions. Professions in the field of mathematics, computer science, the natural sciences, and technology are favoured by men and avoided by women. This causes not only supply shortfalls when recruiting employees in natural science/technology occupations but also reinforces the prejudice that certain (personality) characteristics were “typically female” or “typically male”. Prejudices of that kind are an important cause of the unequal career and life opportunities for women.

This project aims to explore what causes young women to choose gender-atypical professions (for example, physicist, mechanic). To this end, the researchers investigate the influence of family and school on young women’s ideas about their future careers. Do women choose occupations in the area of the natural sciences and technology because of personal role models (parents, teachers) or because school subjects in the natural sciences (mathematics, physics, chemistry) attracted them? To answer these questions, young people in Matura schools and vocational schools in German-speaking Switzerland will be surveyed by means of questionnaires and interviews.

On the one hand, the results will allow critical assessment of a widely held explanation of problems in the area of gender equality that is popular with politicians – ”there are no female (male) role models”. On the other hand, the findings will provide a basis for preparing the ground for possible concrete measures in the basic education, training and continuing education of upper secondary level teachers as well as in the design of teaching aids.