The National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) strongly asserts that gender equity is critical to the advancement of science and to the achievement of global scientific literacy. Gender equity means ensuring all students of any sex, gender identity and/or expression, or sexual orientation—regardless of racial or ethnic background or ability—are empowered, challenged, supported, and provided full access to become successful science learners.
The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS; NGSS Lead States 2013) and the Framework for K–12 Science Education (NRC 2012) upon which the NGSS are based, envision equitable and excellent science education experiences for all students. The NGSS Appendix D entitled, “All Standards, All Students,” cites girls as a marginalized group in science education due to women’s persistent underrepresentation in science careers, particularly in the areas of engineering and technology (NSF 2015; NGSS Lead States 2013). While strides have been made in encouraging more girls to take classes in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), girls continue to take fewer advanced-level science courses in high school and graduate from college with fewer STEM degrees (NCES 2012; Sadler et al. 2012), even though they demonstrate equal STEM talent (Wang and Degol 2013). Recent studies suggest that although students associate women with science much more frequently than they did in earlier decades, the stereotype of scientists as males persists and becomes stronger as students progress through school (Miller et al. 2018). A variety of research-based best practices for supporting girls in STEM includes (1) instructional strategies that increase girls’ achievement in science; (2) promotion of successful female role models in science; and (3) classroom, school, and district structures, such as afterschool and mentoring programs, that encourage girls in science (Baker 2013; NGSS Lead States 2013; Scantlebury 2014). All of these practices—together with educators and policy makers addressing their own gendered biases—can support girls in developing their STEM identities (Kim et al. 2018).
While gender equity in science education has traditionally focused solely on providing opportunities and access for girls in science, contemporary notions of gender equity transcend binary male/female roles to include students’ gender identity (one’s internal sense of their own gender), gender expression (a person’s behaviors or mannerisms that are societally associated with masculinity or femininity), and sexual orientation (identity with respect to sexual attraction), as well as sex (biological identity based on genitalia or genetics) as important factors for consideration in students’ learning and feelings of safety at school (Greytak et al. 2016). Science educators must recognize and respect diversity within gender and sexuality to include LGBTQ students, and become sensitized to the ways in which language, curricular materials, and pedagogical choices can impact, both positively and negatively, students’ feelings of belonging and competence in science classes and careers. For example, when teaching topics such as reproduction or evolution, limiting discussions of gender or sexuality solely to male-female heterosexuality may unwittingly marginalize students who do not identify with these roles and miss important opportunities for exploring the diversity of reproductive strategies among living things (Bazzul and Sykes 2011; Milne 2011) and growing evidence of the non-binary nature of sex in humans (Ainsworth 2015). Intersectionality, or the confluence of factors including but not limited to sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, and/or ability, also plays an important role in understanding how students experience classroom science and science in society as some populations who represent these intersections have been more marginalized than others with respect to STEM participation (Ong, Smith, and Ko 2017; Sparks 2017; Tan et al. 2013). Science teachers can capitalize on the rich and diverse strengths and experiences of all students by first recognizing and addressing their own biases and becoming familiar with the array of practices that can support students of any gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation.
NSTA makes the following declarations to achieve gender equity. It is critical to note that, while these statements focus on preK–12 education, gender equity in higher education, the workforce, and national policy influence, and are influenced by, the active and informed participation of stakeholders at every level. Science teachers, school administrators, counselors, teacher educators, professional and curriculum developers, and policy makers must work together to ensure all students are scientifically literate and can envision themselves as future scientists and citizens of a global society. To support gender equity, NSTA recommends all stakeholders support the adoption of this position statement, including its definition of gender equity and the following recommended policies.
For science teachers to focus on gender equity, NSTA recommends that they:
For teacher educators and professional developers to focus on gender equity, NSTA recommends that they:
For curriculum specialists/developers, counselors, and administrators to focus on gender equity, NSTA recommends that they:
Specifically, administrators should:
Specifically, counselors should:
For policymakers at the local, state, national, and international level to focus on gender equity, NSTA recommends that they:
—Adopted by the NSTA Board of Directors, November 2019
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