Gender differences in individual variation in academic grades fail to fit expected patterns for STEM

Journal: Nature Communications

Published: 2018-09-25

DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-06292-0

Affiliations: 2

Authors: 4

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Research Highlight

Girls make the grade but don’t step into science

© Pekic/Getty

© Pekic/Getty

The gender imbalance in science and maths careers is not down to academic ability.

On average, girls outperform boys in most subjects at school, yet women pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are in short supply.

A team led by researchers from the University of New South Wales has analysed more than 1.6 million school and university grades in both STEM and non-STEM subjects, such as languages and arts. They found that girls and boys do equally well in STEM subjects, while girls tend to outperform boys in other disciplines. This defies assumptions that there are usually more boys at the very top and very bottom of the class, which has been used to explain gender differences in STEM careers.

Schooling has a big impact on the aspirations of students, so reducing gender perceptions in education could help close gender gaps in the workplace.

Supported content

  1. Nature Communications 9, 3777 (2018). doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-06292-0
Institutions Share
University of New South Wales (UNSW Sydney), Australia 0.63
Australian National University (ANU), Australia 0.38