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Stellenbosch Working Paper Series No. WP11/2017
Publication date: October 2017

Despite improvements over the past decade, South African women continue to be underrepresented in tertiary studies and professional careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. This has implications not only for economic development and growth, but also for social inequality as women continue to have lower access to higher paying employment opportunities. Using data from the Trends in Mathematics and Science Study of 2011, this paper finds that whilst grade 9 girls in the poorest 80% of South African schools experience no difference in domain-specific performance, self-concept and motivation, girls in the wealthiest subset of schools are found to significantly underperform in both subjects, as well as possess lower self-concept and motivation, and higher anxiety. Teacher gender and education are shown to correlate with these results; specifically, female teachers with math backgrounds negatively influence girls’ performances in wealthy schools. This is argued to be in keeping with stereotype threat theory (Steele, 2003) whereby women that are highly identified with math are subject to greater anxiety and concern over their performance. The relative difference in the performance of girls taught by a female versus a male teacher compared to the performance of boys is smaller when exposed to teachers with education training, suggesting that classroom methodology plays a role in the attainment of girls. Student fixed effects estimation reveals that the teacher characteristics mentioned above play important roles for moderating the relationship between student self-concept and performance of boys and girls.

JEL Classification:
C21, I21, I24, J16

gender inequality, STEM, stereotype, performance, self-concept, development