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The influence of parents, teachers, and friends on ninth graders’ educational and career choices

Kirsi Ikonen, Risto Leinonen, Mervi A. Asikainen, Pekka E. Hirvonen


Socializers, such as parents, teachers and friends, play an important role in gendered choices in STEM fields. This study examined Finnish ninth graders’ and their school guidance counselors’ views concerning the influence of socializers in adolescents’ educational and career exploration and decision-making. The data were gathered with the aid of online surveys (246 pupils) and semi-structured interviews (7 school guidance counselors). Our results indicate that ninth graders reported to have future education and career-related discussions mostly with their parents, friends, and school guidance counselors but only rarely with their subject teachers. According to guidance counselors, parents are the main source for occupational gender-stereotypes, and gender-typed views are clearly present in education- and career-related discussions in friend groups. The latter view is also witnessed in the responses of ninth graders. We suggest that subject teachers should play a more prominent role in career-related discussions in order to prevent and mitigate pupils’ gender stereotypes and to update their knowledge about STEM career possibilities. Parents should also be encouraged to talk about gender in career planning and should be provided with information about STEM education and occupations. Developing new methods and materials demonstrating career possibilities with regard to gender is required for STEM teaching and for parental participation in adolescents’ career planning.  


STEM; gender; segregation; socializers; career choice

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