The Australian Academy of Science published last month a report that showed the COVID-19 pandemic would adversely affect women working in STEM (science technology engineering and mathematics) fields. According to the report, 7500 women worked in STEM fields in Australia in 2017 compared with 18,400 men. According to the authors:
The pandemic seems to have increased pre-existing gender inequality. Women are underrepresent in STEM workforce and are often assign lower-skilled and less secure roles. Many women in Australia’s STEM workforce are now facing greater job loss than men, which could reverse equity gains made in recent years.
Women are less likely than men to enroll in maths and science degrees. Only 35% of STEM university degrees in Australia are grant to women. Over the last five years, this number has remained stable.
Research from the 1990s suggested that girls might not be able to study science and math as well as boys. Recent research has shown that girls do math and science at a similar level to boys, or slightly better.
Choosing Academy These Jobs As Often As The Men?
A recent study revealed that while women are able to perform at the same level or higher in science and maths as men, their humanities performance is significantly better. This could be why they aren’t choosing STEM careers. Science and math are just as easy for girls than they are for boys.
We wanted to determine if gender differences existed in science and math school performance and whether this affected student applications to universities. The data we used were from more than 70,000 secondary school students in Greece for a ten-year period.
Our research showed that girls scored around 4% higher in science and maths than their male counterparts. However, their scores in the humanities were only 13% higher. Our research also showed that girls are 34% less likely than boys to choose a STEM-related specialty in their final years of high school.
These findings can be applied to Australia. The latest PISA results show that girls in Australia score at the same level as boys in science and maths, but are much better in reading. The difference in performance between boys and girls in reading is 6% for Australia and 9% for Greece. However, the performance of boys and girls in maths and science is almost identical.
STEM Females Have A Comparative Advantage Academy
Students were able to choose which areas they wanted to specialize in through comparing their academic strengths with those of their peers and comparing them with each other.
We compared students’ STEM and humanities grades using our data. We defined a STEM advantage as a student who had a higher STEM grade than students in reading and writing. This student was considered to have STEM academic strength if the STEM advantage was higher than that of one of his classmates.
STEM advantages were higher for boys because they excelled in science and maths more than the humanities. Their STEM advantage was less than that of the boys, as girls did not do well in science and maths more than they did in humanities.
We considered two pairs of girls who had identical STEM academy and humanities grades at secondary school’s beginning. They were randomly assigned to different classes. Then, we analyzed their enrolment decisions up to three years later.
STEM And Humanities
Two girls with similar STEM and humanities performance (with the same STEM advantage) were assigned different classrooms. One girl was assign in a classroom with STEM-advantage classmates (higher STEM scores than her peers in humanities and STEM). One girl was assign to a class where her classmates had similar STEM and humanities performance (no STEM advantage).
These two girls chose different fields of study after secondary school, even though they received identical STEM and humanities grades. The STEM-related fields were less popular among the former, whose peers had a STEM advantage.
Based on their classmates, the study revealed that these girls had identical performance and ended up choosing a different educational path. This could explain up to 12% gender gap in STEM enrollment in tertiary educational academy.
The same was true for boys. We found no difference in the enrolment decisions of boys who had identical grades and different classmates when we analyzed pairs of boys.
What Are The Options?
Our research shows that girls are more affected by success than their peers. This is not true for boys. These findings are consistent with research suggesting that girls are more affected by negative grades than boys when it comes to making decisions about their future, particularly in STEM.
Research suggests that teachers have a significant role in recognising. Academic strengths and encouraging them, regardless of gender or other students. Research has shown that gender stereotypes of STEM-minded teachers have a negative impact on girls’ self-image.
Teachers must instill confidence in girls about science and maths. Even though they might be more proficient at writing and reading. Science and maths lead to high-paying jobs such as engineering, data science, and computer programming. Turning away from STEM could have a lasting impact on girls’ life earnings.