In the coming years, with Europe’s knowledge economy developing and new technologies on the rise, skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) will be needed for a broader range of careers than ever before. It is therefore imperative to attract and recruit more youth to STEM study programmes; not just to increase the numbers of STEM-trained professionals, but also to increase the diversity of STEM-trained professionals.

The present document critically discusses the reasons present-day science education does not attract the required diversity of youth to STEM study programmes. These reasons include the implicit gendering of STEM, which presupposes certain types of learners to the exclusion of others, and the widespread conflation of gender with biological sex, which contributes to creating STEM stereotypes. These mechanisms are at work both in and out of school contexts, and have the effect of excluding a variety of learners from STEM. Clearly, to create and implement science education activities that are inclusive of the full diversity of learners, it is necessary to address these issues.

A number of recent EU projects have focused on the issue of gender and STEM education, and building on these initiatives as well as recent research, we propose a framework to address gender inclusion in STEM activities. This framework encompasses a number of levels (individual, interactional, institutional, and societal/cultural) and guides inquiries into how conditions and constraints at these levels shape STEM activities in various ways to include (or exclude) various types of learners. The framework gives rise to a set of criteria for the analysis the gender inclusiveness of existing STEM education activities, or for the design new, gender-inclusive activities.

The present document has undergone internal review by two partners in the Hypatia project as well as external review by a panel of gender and science education research experts.

The Theoretical Framework has been translated to Dutch. The document can be downloaded here.