Institut für Soziologie



GENSEG - Understanding the impact of parental gender differences in field of study choice in Germany (Marie Sklodowska Curie Fellowship, European Commission)

Principal Investigator: Helen Law, Ph.D.

Host: Prof. Dr. Pia Schober


While in many countries women have been increasing their participation in higher education, fields of study continue to be segregated by gender. Men dominate the technical fields which include mathematics, engineering and the physical sciences, whereas women tend to engage in areas that have a social and caring dimension. Despite numerous policies to enhance gender equalities in society, gender segregation in higher education, ironically, appears to be more pronounced in postindustrial countries, such as Germany, than in developing/transforming societies. Although gender differences in field of study and occupational choices are shaped by multifarious influences, the role of parents might be particularly worth attention because parents are the primary and one of the most influential socialising agents in childhood and adolescence. In fact, one possible source of students’ knowledge about and interest in a particular field of study and career early on stems from parental education and occupation. The impact of parents’ occupational fields and its gender typicality has received less attention than parental education in early research. Even though some studies have identified the association of parental occupations with students’ engagement in gender-atypical fields of study, they do not provide any empirical evidence of the mechanism for the relationship. Despite the possibly significant influence of parental occupation on the educational and career choices of adolescent boys and girls, previous quantitative studies rarely examined the mechanisms for the relationship between such gender differences and parental occupations. The proposed research seeks to offer new evidence on how parental occupations influence students’ choices of a gender-atypical field of study and career.