Zerrin Salikutluk, Stefanie Heyne
Do Gender Roles and Norms Affect Performance in Maths? The Impact of Adolescents' and their Peers' Gender Conceptions on Maths Grades

European Sociological Review, 2017: 33, issue 3, pp. 368-381
ISSN: 0266-7215 (print), 1468-2672 (online)

Although girls outperform boys in academic achievement in general, boys still have an advantage in STEM fields in many countries. One possible explanation for the female disadvantage in maths and their under-representation in technical professions is culturally embedded beliefs about female inferiority and male superiority in maths and related disciplines. On the one hand, these beliefs can lead to different subject-specific investment strategies of female and male students. On the other hand, the presence of negative stereotypes about girls’ lower competencies in maths in classrooms can hamper girls’ performance via stereotype threat by their peers’ expectation. Accordingly, not only the own beliefs are relevant but also the attitudes of classmates that can reinforce behaviour patterns of adolescents conforming the prevailing gender norms. Using data from the Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Survey in Four European Countries, we investigate whether students’ gender roles and norms and their classmates’ attitudes towards gender norms bring forward stereotypical maths performance at school in Germany. Our results indicate a distinct gender differential in favour of boys. We find evidence that female students perform particularly worse in classrooms in which traditional masculinity norms are present, while in classrooms with no or low approval of these norms, no statistically significant gap is apparent.