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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Post-secondary paths in science for B.C. young women and men Adamuti-Trache, Maria

Abstract

The purpose of this thesis is to identify typical patterns of career destinations for young women and men in relation to their high school science preparedness. This is an empirical structural study that documents the way high school academic capital is turned (or not) into human capital for science and engineering professions. The study uses ten years of longitudinal data on educational and career paths of British Columbia high school graduates of the Class of '88. Correspondence analysis and other descriptive statistics provide a picture of students' participation in mathematics and science senior high school courses and post-secondary academic programs. School course choices, post-secondary educational attainment, specialization fields are correlated to respondents' high school science preparedness, parental education and gender. A major finding of this study is that high school science preparedness opens greater opportunity for students to attend and succeed along abroad range of post-secondary pathways. Still, thesis findings confirm the existence of a "leaking" phenomenon along the physical sciences and engineering post-secondary pipeline, especially for women as well as men with non-university educated parents. Equity in access and outcomes is discussed in relation to respondents' possession of cultural and academic capital, and in relation to gender inequality that persists within school and post-secondary institutions, the science community and society at large. Implications for further research emerge from the literature review and the interpretation of thesis findings. Longitudinal research needs to explore more directly the reasons why many young women and men who excelled in science at the high school level depart from the science pipeline sooner or later. A major conclusion is that the "critical mass" approach that directs attention toward creating a large supply pool to feed the science pipeline by encouraging more young women to enter the field of science is still a unilateral numerical strategy, and more has to be done to improve the retention and advancement of talented women interested in science. This thesis reinforces the need for an analysis of the culture of the science community and a revision of the leaking science pipeline concept that should be replaced by a more open non-linear model of science careers.

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