"Gender Differences in Patterns of STEM-related Career Aspirations and Attainment from Early Adolescence to Adulthood"

Researchers from UCI and from the University of Bonn presented their research findings during the symposium “Advances and Issues in Gender and Motivation for STEM” at the International Conference on Motivation in Thessaloniki, Greece, August 24-27.

Paper Title: "Gender Differences in Patterns of STEM-related Career Aspirations and Attainment from Early Adolescence to Adulthood"
Authors: Nayssan Safavian, Arena C. Lam, Fani Lauermann (University of Bonn), Jacquelynne S. Eccles

Abstract 

his research examines the longitudinal profiles of STEM-aspirers to describe the trajectories that lead into STEM and non-STEM careers by: (a) detailing the development and changes in career aspirations from early adolescence into adulthood (grades 7, 10, and 12, and 6 years after high school), and (b) documenting gender differences in aspiration trajectories and career attainment (at age 42). Career aspiration and attainment data from the Michigan Study of Adolescent and Adult Life Transitions were categorized into four domains: traditional STEM-related careers in the physical sciences, engineering, mathematics, and technology (PMET); life sciences (e.g., biology, health sciences); social sciences, and non-STEM. Using latent profile analysis, three common patterns of career aspirations emerged: those who consistently aspired to non-STEM careers (63% of sample); those who aspired for PMET careers in-and-throughout adolescence but began shifting to non-STEM aspirations by adulthood (17%); and those who aspired to life science careers in-and-throughout adolescence but began shifting to non-STEM aspirations by adulthood (20%). Logistic regressions predicting to eventual career attainment indicated that males were more likely to be characterized by the PMET career aspiration profiles, whereas females were more likely to be characterized by the medical/life career aspiration profile. In addition, males were more likely to attain PMET-related occupations, and females were more likely to attain careers in medical/life at age 42. The findings underscore the importance of distinguishing between PMET and life sciences for understanding gendered career preferences and choices within STEM (e.g., life sciences vs. PMET).