Politics a “Chilly” Environment for Undergraduate Women in Norway
by: Cissy J. Ballen, University of Minnesota, Dahsol Lee, University of Minnesota, Lise Rakner, University of Bergen, and Sehoya Cotner, University of Minnesota and Bergen
Women are underrepresented in fields related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, but their performance and persistence in the social sciences are rarely studied. To assess the extent that gender influences the behavior of undergraduate women in an introductory political science course, participation was analyzed in a large comparative-politics class at a public university in Norway, one of the most gender-equal countries in the world. Observers documented classroom behaviors of men and women using a protocol that characterizes types of in-class participation. Findings showed that women participated far less than expected given their observed numbers in the classroom. Students described why they chose to participate and whether they felt that barriers existed in the classroom that prevented them from expressing their opinions. This article characterizes those responses and presents the first study to draw conclusions about the gendered educational experience in political science by integrating these qualitative and quantitative results.