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2017 WCGTC Biennial World Conference

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3.1 Keynote - Helen Watt

Saturday, 22 July 2017
08:30 - 09:30


Professor Helen Watt
Monash University

Harnessing Girls’ and Women’s Talent Potentials in STEM Domains

Despite more than 35 years of research and policy aimed at increasing girls’ and women’s participation in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), why do gender differences stubbornly persist? The Australian Industry Group (2015) cautioned, “the pipeline of STEM skills to the workforce remains perilous” because participation in sciences and advanced mathematics at school and university is in decline, participation is not comparable with other nations, and our students underperform in major international studies. Gender differences in STEM enrolments and aspirations prematurely restrict girls’/women’s career options, having ramifications for women’s later wellbeing from economic and psychological perspectives. The 2025 strategy put out by the Office of the Chief Scientist (2013) stipulates improved female participation as a key action. Despite equivalent abilities, in Australia women currently earn 5% of the doctoral degrees in physical sciences, 11% in chemical science and 50% in biology (Dobson, 2012). At the Bachelor level, 53% of degrees went to women in the natural and physical sciences, 13% in information technology, and 15% in engineering and related technologies (Australian Government Department of Education and Training, 2014). In this address, I will share key findings from the STEPS Study (, in which I have been following longitudinal samples of youth over the past two decades, to examine whether and how girls/boys are differently motivated in STEM; how motivations matter differently in directing them towards particular purposes and aspirations; and, how features of their learning environments can promote or diminish their motivations.

Helen WattHelen Watt is Professor in the Faculty of Education, Monash University, and Australian Research Council Fellow 2011–2015. Previously she served at the Universities of Michigan, Western Sydney, Sydney, and Macquarie. Her interests include STEM motivation and engagement, gendered educational and occupational choices, and quantitative analyses for developmental data. Her work has implications for redressing the gender imbalance in mathematics and science-related careers, and supporting career development for beginning teachers. Helen is founder and coordinator of Network Gender & STEM, Associate Editor for AERA Open, and on the editorial boards of the International Journal of Quantitative Research in Education, Contemporary Educational Psychology, and Australian Journal of Education. She has attracted awards, media and competitive funding, and co-edited books and journal special issues including Gender and occupational outcomes (2008); Understanding women’s choice of mathematics- and science-related careers (2006); Teacher motivation (2014); and Global perspectives on teacher motivation (2017).


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