Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Girls are Science Rock Stars (but not in the U.S.)

For years now researchers have been searching for ways to explain why there are so many more men than women in science fields. A recent test given in 65 developed countries by the Organization for Economic Cooperation may hold a piece of the puzzle. The exam finds that among a representative sample of 15-year-olds around the world, girls typically outperform boys in science. The exception: the United States.

The U.S. has jumped on board a STEM education revolution, but what explains the gap? Hannah Fairfield and Alan McLean of the New York Times attributes Andreas Schleicher, who oversees the O.E.C.D., with saying that different countries offer different incentives for learning science and math. He stated that in the U.S. boys are more likely than girls to "see science as something that affects their life." He also references the "stereotype threat."

While women are capable of being very successful in science careers, many choose not to pursue them because of gender roles in occupations and gender norms affect their decision. Researchers suggest that cultural forces like these are eminent in the U.S., Britain and Canada but far less noticeable in Russia, Asia and the Middle East, where a much larger proportion of girls are involved in science and engineering.  In Jordan, for example, girls score more than eight percent better than boys do in science!

Read the New York Times report and check out the graphics.