Universitat Jaume I (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2022 Proceedings
Publication year: 2022
Pages: 3818-3825
ISBN: 978-84-09-37758-9
ISSN: 2340-1079
doi: 10.21125/inted.2022.1055
Conference name: 16th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 7-8 March, 2022
Location: Online Conference
According to UNESCO (2020) data, there has been a continuous transformation directed to gender parity in the past generation. This report also states that we are a long way from gender equality in education. For instance, this report reveals that technical and vocational programs are disproportionately male. Globally, within the female student population in higher education, only around 30% choose science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields of study. In addition, in more than 120 countries, women account for about 25% of students in tertiary engineering, manufacturing, and construction programs and also in information and communications technology. To better understand this mismatch, we may include in the analysis variables of a psychosocial nature, such as self-confidence.

Scholars have well established gender differences in self-confidence among undergraduate students. Men, compared to women, tend to feel more overconfident in their performance on skill-based intellectual tasks (e.g., Jonsson and Allwood, 2003; Lundeberg et al., 1994; Stankov et al., 2012); and this may be particularly true in the STEM domain. In their extensive review on gender differences in confidence judgments, Lundeberg et al. (1994) report males are typically more overconfident than females, particularly in math, and these findings are robust across middle and high school, as well as at the post-secondary level (McMurran, 2020). Moreover, some statistical data show that female students leave college with lower self-confidence than they had as freshmen. In contrast, men generally gain self-confidence during their years in college, despite having, on average, lower achievements than their female classmates (e.g. Fissinger, 2013).

This study examines gender and domain differences in students’ confidence in a sample of 7.759 undergraduate students (4.092 are STEM students and 3.667 are EHW students) from public universities in Catalonia, Valencian Region, and Balearic Islands. They were asked about access, learning conditions, expectations, and returns for university studies in the frame of Via Universitària Survey (Xarxa Vives d’Universitats, 2018). In particular, we tested the hypothesis that male students are overconfident in their skills and teachers’ recognition than female students and this gender gap will be greater among students in the STEM domain (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) than students in the EHW domain (Education, Health, and Wellness). Consistent with expectations, significant gender differences in confidence were found in both domains (STEM and EHW). In particular, as expected, male students feel more overconfident in their skills and teachers’ recognition than female students in a significant way. The implications of the results for educational politics and gender mainstreaming in university teaching are discussed. A key factor to be considered is the persistence of gender stereotypes in society. These beliefs distance women from everything related to STEM, so contributing to foster or undermine girls’ sense of self-confidence.
Gender, self-confidence, undergraduate students, higher education, STEM domain, EHW domain.