At Uskudar American Academy, a noticeable lack of female representation endures in STEM courses, especially Advanced Placement classes, with the most significant disparity in Physics and Technology courses.

Over the last decade in Turkey, the underrepresentation of women in STEM disciplines has become a crucial issue to be addressed. While attempts to address the gender gap have concentrated on imbalances in higher education, the pattern has endured in high school classrooms. Such is the case at the Uskudar American Academy in Turkey. 

Students at Uskudar who choose to enroll in STEM-related Advanced Placement courses are faced with an unbalanced gender demographic. Despite an equal gender distribution among students at the school, a considerable percentage of female students tend to avoid pursuing STEM disciplines. 

“When I first enrolled in Advanced Coding classes, I didn’t expect a balanced number of males and females, but I was shocked to realize that I was one of the only three girls enrolled in the class,” Neva Anaç, a female student and junior at Uskudar who is currently taking “AP Physics C: Mechanics” and AP computer science classes, said.

Anaç’s statement reflects the extent of the gender gap present in the school, especially in technology-related subjects such as coding and computer science classes. Anaç’s computer science class is composed of eleven males and three females. This gender gap is clear in Advanced Placement classes and the school’s International Baccalaureate, or IB, classes, in which STEM-related classes lack female representation. 

Kim Weeden, a professor of the social sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences at Cornell University, traces the gender gap in high school STEM classes primarily to the student’s career plans and societal stereotypes. According to Weeden, this gender gap in high school STEM classes is linked to the student’s occupational plans and is affected by other confounding factors. 

“It is not a simple story of girls being less prepared for advanced classes,” Weeden said. “High school students are affected by their social environments, what their fellow students are taking, their occupational plans, and societal perceptions. Females tend to avoid pursuing subjects that they think they might be discriminated against.”

According to Weeden, Uskudar American Academy’s gender gap can partly be attributed to the adverse effects of  gender norms for female students. Weeden added that occupational plans act as a prominent contributing factor to the gender disparity and attributes Uskudar’s gender gap to the career choices of its students.  

Weeden said that girls in traditional societies continue to face societal norms about their capabilities starting from a young age which influences their decisions about their STEM classes as they avoid being educated in male-dominated fields. 

Uskudar American Academy’s pronounced gender gap in STEM disciplines is not a subject of discussion by the school administration. Currently, the school isn’t involved in any initiatives to foster gender diversity or bridge the gender gap. 

Rodney Lutz has been teaching “AP Physics C: Mechanics” classes for over a decade at the school and Lutz said that he has witnessed a male-dominated classroom nearly every year.  

Lutz said he believes the administration should encourage female students to choose STEM elective courses to narrow the gender gap 

“I have not witnessed any change in teaching methods or policy improvements for a gender-diverse STEM education during my time here,” Lutz said. 

Uskudar American Academy was established by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in 1876 as an all-girls high school.