De-biasing Education: Reducing Gendered Educational Choices

Work package 3

This work package will examine to which extent the context of education serves as a source of as well as a potential tool to tackle gender inequality. More specifically, we will take a closer look at gendered educational choices. Gendered educational choices are education-related choices that are in line with gender stereotypes and gender-based expectations of how girls and boys should feel, think, and act (Brownhill et al., 2015; Eagly & Wood, 2012; Ellemers, 2018; Eccles & Wigfield, 2020). A choice within the educational context might, for instance, be the choice between taking an advanced course in Literature versus Physics. On the individual level, a gendered choice in this context would be if boys disproportionately choose Physics and girls disproportionately choose Literature. On the societal level, gendered educational choices result in an overrepresentation of girls/women and underrepresentation of boys/men in some fields such as HEED (healthcare, early education, domestic; Croft et al., 2015; Meeussen et al, 2020) as well as an overrepresentation of boys/men and an underrepresentation of girls/women in some fields such as STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics; Belanger et al., 2020). In the first phase, we will identify key leverages to change gendered norms and decisions in education and map existing tools and interventions. In the second phase, we will develop tools and interventions to help reduce gendered educational choices and assess these in diverse cultural contexts. There are six deliverables within Work Package 3 that are part of three consecutive steps:
Step 1: Identify agents that cause gendered educational choices and map existing tools and interventions developed to reduce gendered educational choices. 
D3.1 – Review paper: Agents involved in gendered norms and choices in education
This review paper was completed in November 2023 and summarizes agents that can make gendered norms and decisions in education more likely, such as – but not limited to – objects, people, rules, symbols, beliefs, or media. Across the institutional, experiential, and symbolical levels, it applies an intersectional lens and covers agents relevant in the Global North and the Global South. The paper thereby points out leverage points to reduce gendered educational choices and can help inform policy-makers and other societal stakeholders (e.g., NGOs and educational institutions), people working or studying in educational institutions with an interest in de-biasing education, and researchers in universities and other institutions with an interest in de-biasing education. 
D3.2 – Review paper: Interventions to reduce gendered norms and choices in education
This review paper was completed in February 2024 and presents existing interventions to reduce gendered educational choices. It maps these interventions across two axes, namely vertical gender segregation (i.e., spanning from students’ unequal chances to receive education to the clustering of men at the top of occupational hierarchies and women at the bottom) and horizontal gender segregation (i.e., spanning from girls’ tendency to steer towards typically feminine occupational fields, and boys tendency to steer towards typically masculine occupational fields, resulting in the clustering of men and women in different types of occupations and tasks at the same level in the occupational hierarchy; Bettio & Verashchagina, 2009; Charles & Bradley, 2002; Charles & Bradley, 2009). It contains interventions from the Global South and the Global North and aims to apply an intersectional lens. This paper supports readers in gaining an overview of existing interventional approaches and maps these across contexts and potential mechanisms. Readers that might benefit from reading this paper are social agents and institutions related to students’ education (e.g., schools, teachers, or counsellors) with an interest in de-biasing education and policy makers and other societal stakeholders (e.g., NGOs and educational institutions) around the world with an interest in de-biasing education. This paper can also inform family members of children currently in education who want to help them make unbiased educational choices that best meet their true interests and talents as well as researchers at (applied) universities and other knowledge institutes with an interest in de-biasing education.
Step 2: Knowledge exchange about how gendered educational choices can be reduced. 
D3.3 – White Paper: De-biasing education for educational policy-makers
This White Paper will illustrate how this project tackles gendered educational choices as a root cause of gender inequality using four key strengths: cross-cultural sensitivity, an intersectional lens, an interdisciplinary perspective, and the incorporation of various crises that societies around the world are facing. Based on our past two review papers, we will offer five pieces of advice on how interventions and tools are best constructed and used to maximize their ability to reduce gendered educational choices in different contexts. It will help communicate our key insights to both policy-makers and practitioners. 
Step 3: Develop evidence-based tools to reduce gendered educational choices 
D3.4 – Two Working Papers: Analysing the impact and effectiveness of the tools and interventions 
These two working papers will take this work package another step further as they will revolve around the development and piloting of a tool and an intervention that aim to reduce gendered educational choices. This tool and intervention will be developed based on the insights gained through the review papers, exchange with practitioners and policy-makers, and feedback received in scientific discussions at academic conferences. The tool and intervention will be piloted in different cultural contexts.  
D3.5 – Practical toolkit and information package for socialising agents
To ensure that the insights gained in this work package will lead to fruitful and lasting change in society, it’s crucial to make them accessible to key agents that can reduce gendered educational choices. That’s why this toolkit will distil our insights on gendered educational choices and strategies to mitigate them into actionable knowledge and advice for reducing gendered educational choices in everyday contexts. In doing so, it provides valuable guidance and sustainable practices for educators, parents, schools, and policy-makers, empowering them to minimize the likelihood of gendered educational choices and to help young people make unbiased educational choices based on their true interests and talents. 
D3.6 – Practical toolkit and information package for young people
Another promising way to influence students’ educational choices is by directly targeting the decision-makers themselves. Our second toolkit will thus specifically cater to young individuals who are faced with numerous academic options, needing to navigate through various courses and potential fields of study. This toolkit is designed to serve as their guide, aiding them in recognizing and mitigating their own biases as well as influential factors and individuals that might shape their choices. This toolkit aims to educate young people about factors contributing to gendered educational choices and provide information on techniques that can help students de-bias their educational choices.