The opening statement – “Girls are Smarter Than Boys” – is a bit of an oversimplification (though it is theorized that girls’ brains mature faster than boys’, helping to explain the discrepancy in the younger years). But, if it got your attention, then it did its job, because what follows is certainly worth a look. What it says – that women are underrepresented in the fields of math and science – probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone. The problem is that too few people actually recognize it as a problem.
The roots of that problem, according to the infographic, might be found in our society, and the gender roles we consciously or unconsciously choose to enforce. The results should be eye-opening – the inforgraphic presents evidence of a precipitous decline in confidence during high school, when measures of self-confidence in girls drops from 72% to 55%. When asked to identify gender on tests, scores dropped significantly against gender-blind tests, while performance on other tasks was much weaker when the female subjects were first told that males are better than females at a given task.
And so, we get the jokes in college about the lack of females in engineering classes. 29% of males entering college plan to major in the fields of math or science, against 15% of incoming female students. The attrition continues after graduation – only 20% of women with degrees in math or science end up working in a related field. The inforgraphic ends on this note – “In a room of 25 engineers only 3 will be women.”
How we got here and why this persists are tangled and complex issues, but one thing is certain – to fight this trend, the way our culture treats gender differences needs to change, and that starts on the individual level. And we do need to fight it – that needless attrition of females from youth to adolesence to the working world is robbing the nation of untold potential in math and science.