Fast Facts: Early Barriers to Girls & Women in STEM
With relatively so few women in some math and science careers, girls have fewer role models to inspire their interest in these fields.
- Teachers and parents often underestimate girls’ math abilities. These lower expectations and biases are estimated to contribute to around half of the gender achievement gap in math.
- Parents tend to talk more about spatial relations and use spatial language with boys than girls.
- Parents from high-income families are more likely to reinforce the belief that boys are more capable and interested in math and science, investing in opportunities for their sons compared to daughters.
- And when women do enter scientific fields, they typically receive less credit and fewer citations for their publications than male peers.
Girls and Math Anxiety
- Teachers — who are predominantly women in early education and elementary schools — often have anxiety about math that they pass on to girls.
- Girls are harder on themselves. They self-assess lower than boys with similar achievement.
- And teachers are harder on them too. They grade girls harder for the same work and assume girls need to work harder to achieve at the same level as boys.
Male-Dominated STEM Culture
- Because fewer women study and work in STEM, these fields tend to perpetuate inflexible, exclusionary, male-dominated cultures that are not supportive of or attractive to women and minorities.
- Women are subjected to a greater frequency of harassment and gender-devaluing biases in some fields of study, such as engineering and computer science, on campus and professionally.
- Girls and young women don’t see examples of female scientists and engineers in books, media and popular culture. There are even fewer role models of Black women in math and science.
- One study found that if girls had as many role models of women inventors as boys do to male inventors, the gender gap in innovation could be cut in half.
Sometimes parents squash students’ interests because they are afraid of science or math. So they don’t participate. You don’t have to know the answers to engage kids; you just have to let them know it’s important.