This study investigated the nature and extent of the science gender gap in higher education institutions in Tanzania (Mainland) focusing on the enrolment and employment of the students and faculty members. The study examined in detail the factors that militate against women’s participation in science education in three institutions of higher learning. It also explored the strategies that have been adopted by the government and institutions under study, to promote science education for females, having as a reference affirmative actions and policies.
In the theoretical part, various paradigms and perspectives behind the science gender differences are presented. These include social learning theories, Feminist critiques of science, the pedagogy of difference and environmental perspective.
The nature and extent of the gender gap in science in higher education is illustrated using some quantitative data and discussing enrolment and employment trends in three cases.Based on qualitative methods, semi-structured personal and focus group interviews were employed to staff and students respectively, while analysis of data occurred throughout the research period.
The study demonstrated that a gender gap in science exists in all three universities. Female students and female faculty are outnumbered by their male counterparts in enrolment and employment respectively. Majority of the students and staff were observed to be concentrated in the biological science field. The study also revealed that women posses lower academic qualifications which lead to their concentration in the lower academic ranks. Women are seriously underrepresented as administrators in all three universities to the extent that to some posts they are invisible.
The study also demonstrated that women experienced institutional and societal barriers. The institutional barriers were related to financial shortfalls, inadequate facilities and science teachers while the societal barriers were linked to cultural expectations and societal influences regarding women’s roles; including early marriages, little societal support and the lack of role models to emulate.