Universitat Jaume I (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2020 Proceedings
Publication year: 2020
Pages: 8352-8359
ISBN: 978-84-09-24232-0
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2020.1860
Conference name: 13th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 9-10 November, 2020
Location: Online Conference
Research in social psychology has tried to understand the differences between men and women in university majors or fields of study enrolment. A key factor in this regard is the perceived usefulness of the studies. The goal congruity perspective suggests that two different social cognitions predict attraction to the different fields. First, individuals may particularly value communal goals (e.g., working with or helping others), due to either chronic individual differences or the salience of these goals in specific contexts. Second, individuals hold beliefs about the activities that facilitate or impede these goals, or goal affordance stereotypes.

For example, STEM careers are perceived as less likely than careers in other fields to fulfil communal goals (e.g., working with or helping other people). Such perceptions might disproportionately affect women’s career decisions, because women tend to endorse communal goals more than men do. Goal congruity perspective argues that a fundamental cause of gender gaps in STEM is the gender difference in communal motivation. STEM fields may particularly deter people with communal orientation, since it is believed that these fields impede the objectives of directly benefiting others and altruism. Research conducted under the framework of the EVT theory (Expectancy-Value Theory), suggests similar results: young females place a higher value on people-oriented jobs and young males placed a higher value on competitive and wealth-related occupations and jobs. Empirical evidence about the effect on perceived usefulness of studies among those undergraduate students who are also mums or dads is more limited. Here we try to overcome this gap.

The present study compared the differences in perceived usefulness of studies of undergraduate men and women introducing as a modulating variable the fact of having or not having children. A total of 300 undergraduate students from 19 universities of Pyrenees – Mediterranean Region were asked about perceived usefulness of their studies in the framework of Via Universitària Survey (2018). In previous research, we tested and concluded that the perceived usefulness of the studies is different between women and men. Women consider that studies will allow them to higher personal growth and the improvement of the society, while men perceive that will allow them to achieve a better social position and incomes. The present study tested the hypothesis that these gender differences in usefulness of the studies are modulated by having or not having children. The implications of the results for educational politics and future research guidelines are also discussed.
Usefulness, undergraduate students, gender, agentic motivation, communal motivation, parenthood.