Moving through the STEM Pipeline: A Systematic Literature Review of the Gender Inequality in Russian Engineering




gender gap, STEM pipeline, Post-Soviet context, factors of gender inequality


Gender inequality in engineering—and other scientific and technical fields—is one of the most persistent and intractable problems in modern culture. This issue has been sufficiently explored in Western Europe and the United States, but much less is known about the situation in Russia, which has a distinct gender history. In the former USSR, women were massively educated in technical sciences and their employment in engineering professions remained unconventionally high in comparison to the West. At the same time, women’s earnings were lower than men’s, and they mostly occupied low- and middle-level jobs, rarely reaching leadership positions. What happened to the gender imbalance after the collapse of the Soviet Union? How has it changed after radical political, economic, and social transformations? The purpose of this review, by analyzing empirical studies of gender inequality in engineering in post-Soviet Russia published after 1991, is to answer these questions.

In the last 15 years, there has been a growing interest and works dedicated to this topic, but they remain fragmented and disconnected. Thus, there is a need for a generalized comparison of existing studies and the linking of them to one another. This systematic and problem-oriented literature review seeks to fill this gap. First, it aims to summarize, classify, and critically analyze the existing research results, thereby forming a general picture of gender transformations that have taken place in the engineering profession in Russia. Second, the review identifies key topics, issues, approaches, and reveals contradictions and gaps in the scientific discussion that enables a characterization of gender studies in the engineering field in Russia and formulates an agenda for future research. The review follows a STEM pipeline metaphor, organizing empirical findings in three stages: general education, professional education, and employment. Responding to the need for a comprehensive analytical perspective on gender inequality, the paper develops a multilevel framework, embracing and linking macro-, meso-, and individual-level causal factors of gender imbalance in engineering.

The main finding is that gender inequality dramatically increases from an individual’s educational years to employment later in life, resulting in a multidimensional gender gap and multiple disadvantages for women. Path dependency on Soviet times has both positive and negative influences on gender equality, while the transition to a market economy has had mostly negative consequences, driving women out of engineering and leading to its masculinization. Another finding is that existing studies of the gender gap in post-Soviet Russia are not balanced, concentrating mostly on engineering education and initial professional socialization. More studies of the employment and workplace period are necessary, as it remains the most troublesome for women. In addition to women-oriented comparative studies, the role of men’s clubs, and norms of masculinity that support gender inequality need to be examined. More attention to macro-level factors and, most especially, the unique features of post-Soviet context is required.

Acknowledgements. The research was funded by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFBR) according to the project № 20-011-00690: “Engineering career in contemporary Russia: professional, organizational, and institutional transformations”.

Author Biography

Irina A. Antoshchuk, Sе Petersburg University

  • St Petersburg University, Saint Petersburg, Russia
    • PhD Candidate
  • University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands
    • PhD Candidate