José Saturnino Martínez: “Not being aware of inequality from the start then leads to unequal results in education”

University Camilo José Cela organised the seminar entitled “Gender and inequality in education”, given by the sociologist of Education José Saturnino Martínez. The researcher is an expert in social and economic inequality, particularly in the relationship between social origin and educational opportunity inequality.

In his presentation, Saturnino discussed gender equity, the gender gap, gender differences in education or horizontal segregation. The seminar is the last in the ‘The School System from a Sociological Perspective’ series, organised by the UCJC School of Education, in which Julio Carabaña and Mariano Fernández have already participated.

During his visit to UCJC, we took the opportunity to conduct a brief interview:

Question: What points will you address in your talk?

Answer: There are two fundamental points that present us with the educational results. On the one hand, the “inverse gender gap”, and in general, women enjoy better educational outcomes than men, in terms of school success. And then, on the other hand, we have what we can call “horizontal segregation”, which is that men and women do not choose the same educational trajectories. To think about these two issues, we will have to analyse what gender is in social terms and why men and women find opportunities, preferences or tastes that are different and that then lead them to choose different educational trajectories.

Q: Is it possible that there are mistakes being made within the education system that are leading to inequality of opportunities?

A: Education systems are designed to treat students equally and give them the same opportunities. The problem lies in that students’ opportunities vary depending on their social origin, their gender or if they are from a cultural minority. Therefore, treating everyone equally at school contributes many times, without meaning to, to maintaining or legitimising inequality of results. Not being aware of inequality from the start then leads to unequal results and is legitimised because school success is based on the idea that if you study, you pass. You are responsible, not your social origins.

Q: Can individual education be a possible factor to correct imbalances?

A: The fundamental thing for a good education is to recognise the individual. The more we treat people as a homogeneous mass, the more inequalities we will generate. One of the most interesting approaches, as you say, is recognising difference. But if they treat us equally without recognising our difference, it not only generates inequalities, but also legitimises them.

Q: What will you be telling us about gender differences in STEAM vocations?

A: This is one of the most complex issues, because from the point of view of who chooses, people are choosing what they want, then what we are considering is why people do not choose what we would like them to choose. So, why there are so few women in engineering or so few men in education. On the one hand we have to see what are the strictly educational factors, and there are those who insist on curriculum issues (how these subjects are presented in the degree), how to deal with teachers and their expectations in front of students, social expectations of what type of person chooses an educational path, in the sense that if you choose a very masculine professional trajectory you will not look good or vice versa. And then there’s the very interesting question of job opportunities that is often not given sufficient importance in the debate. There is such a large disparity between genders in the decisions made that it is clear there is a still a long way to go since gender should not influence such an important decision.