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MALTATODAY 8 January 2023

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5 NEWS maltatoday | SUNDAY • 8 JANUARY 2023 Sex segregation: women 10 times more likely to follow 'feminine' subjects JAMES DEBONO GENDER segregation in high- er education remains deeply entrenched in industry-geared vocational institutions like MCAST, with female students there 10 times more likely to find themselves in so-called 'feminine-labelled fields' of study than University of Malta students. These fields include the hu- manities, social science and healthcare where female stu- dents tend to be over-repre- sented, a study in the Malta Re- view of Educational Research says, while male-labelled fields are where males tend to pre- dominate – engineering, maths and natural sciences. In the workplace, 'female jobs' will include education, in- surance, real estate retail trade, human health and social work activities while men will grav- itate towards manufacturing, construction, administration and professional scientific and technical jobs. MCAST lecturer Matthew Muscat-Inglott found the data of student and working pop- ulations in 2016/17 showed women attending the Universi- ty of Malta were twice as likely to follow an engineering-relat- ed programme, than those at- tending other post-secondary institutions. And women at the UoM were three times more likely to study maths or the natural sciences than those at other institutions. Instead, women at FHE (fur- ther and higher-education) in- stitutions were nearly 10 times more likely to follow a 'femi- nine' field rather than a 'male' subject; while female students at the UoM were eight times more likely to pick such 'fem- inine' programmes. Eventually, women in Malta studying such subjects do not necessarily follow that same occupational track. Industry driven education perpetuating segregation Muscat-Inglott partly at- tributes the greater gender segregation in vocational in- stitutions like MCAST to the "commitment" by major voca- tional stakeholders in Malta to- wards "cultivating stronger ties with employers, and increasing their focus on apprenticeships and work-based learning." The researcher however in- vites "restraint in this line of policy making" if Malta is to seriously tackle gender equity. The decreased propensity for gender stereotyping at the Uni- versity of Malta suggests that studying vocational subjects in Malta "increases the likeli- hood of conformity to tradi- tional gender stereotypes". But Muscat-Inglott believes social classcould be a major factor in determining women's choice of post-secondary education between university and voca- tional educational. "If system- ic segregation is channeling women and men into predeter- mined and disparate pathways towards inequitable outcomes, then despite much-lauded ad- vances in inclusive educational practices in recent years, gen- der inequality nonetheless pre- vails in revived and inexorable forms." Dynamism or greater ex- ploitation? One interpretation explaining the discrepancy between fe- male participation in higher ed- ucation and their later place of work is a "degree of dynamism in the modern workplace" that has somewhat eroded gender stereotypes, with both women and men adapting to the labour market by abandoning tradi- tional gender notions of what jobs they "should" be doing. Muscat-Inglott thinks edu- cational institutions "may be operating more on the basis of detached, underlying assump- tions and stereotypes sur- rounding gender, rather than on any effective grasp of real, present-day labour market forces." But he advises caution on the 'dynamism' of the job market when it comes to gender. With "ever-increasing competition for available work", the deval- uation of labour power places women specifically "at height- ening risk of intensifying capi- talist exploitation." This is also reflected in unequal earnings and status between men and women working in the same field. Muscat-Inglott recommends curricular reform with the goal of "deconstructing gender ste- reotypes" to address the sys- temic gender inequity in Mal- tese society. Women 10 times more likely to follow 'feminine subjects' at MCAST and other non-university post-secondary institutions, and 8 times as likely to do the same at University of Malta

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