Fewer Women in Developed Nations seek STEM Degrees

People would think that those countries that are most aware of gender inequalities, would actually do the most in addressing the need for more women to graduate with a science, a technology, an engineering, or a math (STEM) degree. However, recent studies are discovering quite the opposite. Scientists at the University of Missouri, and also those from Leeds Beckett University that is located in the UK, discovered that ladies in developing worlds, where it is believed that there is more gender inequality, are actually more interested in entering STEM fields than women from developed nations. These findings were posted in the publication Psychological Science.

Why the Absence of Women?

women in stemEven though there are girls who perform as good as if not better than boys in the field of math and science within several countries, the greater gender equality a country has, the smaller the quantities of female STEM graduates. This was not the case for organic sciences though, only the inorganic sciences. This negative correlation is now called the “gender-equality paradox.” A professor of psychological sciences named David Geary, from the University of Missouri’s College of Arts and Sciences, was a researcher for this study.

Here is what he stated in a recent press release:

“We analyzed data on 475,000 adolescents across 67 countries or regions and found that while boys’ and girls’ achievements in STEM subjects were broadly similar in all countries, science was more likely to be boys’ best subject. Girls, even when their abilities in science equaled or excelled that of boys, often were likely to be better overall in reading comprehension, which relates to higher ability in non-STEM subjects. As a result, these girls tended to seek out other professions unrelated to STEM fields.”

This was not the case where girls performed poorly in science or math. Actually, their individual strengths are in the field of language and reading instead of science and math. People are apt to select professions which need skills that they are excel at. As a result, girls are picking fields that require reading comprehension, even if they possess the skills that are necessary for excelling in STEM.

This might very well explain why these STEM fields have had the very same quantity of workers from both genders for several decades and why today’s strategies to attract more women to STEM field have failed. The trend is more pronounced in nation like Finland, Norway, and Sweden.

Geary commented on these results:

“In countries with greater gender equality, women are actively encouraged to participate in STEM; yet, they lose more girls because of personal academic strengths. In more liberal and wealthy countries, personal preferences are more strongly expressed. One consequence is that sex differences in academic strengths and interests become larger and have a stronger influence on college and career choices than in more conservative and less wealthy countries, creating the gender-equality paradox.”

Nations that are wealthier usually have more economic options, which allow women to choose a field based on things other than economics. In countries that are poorer and have less gender equality, women are finding that opportunities for employment are not that easy to find, and thus security and great salaries can come from seeking a STEM career. Scientists feel that these findings could actually help develop more strategies to reach women in developed nations, and urge them to pursue a career in STEM.