Countries with more gender equality have fewer female STEM grads

Ellen Fitzpatrick

Countries with a higher level of gender equality have a lower rate of women graduating with degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), a recent study has found.

Countries such as Finland, Sweden and Norway all have high levels of gender equality but have fewer women obtaining STEM degrees. More women in countries with lower gender equality, like Albania and Algeria, are inclined to opt for STEM subjects after school.

The researchers from Leeds Beckett University and the University of Missouri believe this might be because countries with less gender equality have a low rate of welfare support so women choose high-paid careers in STEM.

“The issue of the declining numbers of female students taking higher level mathematics in the Leaving Certificate, as evidenced by data available from the State Examinations Commission, is a serious concern for STEM educators in Ireland,” said Brien Nolan, Head of the School of Mathematical Science in DCU.

“ The School of Mathematical Sciences has initiated PR and marketing efforts that seek to promote further study and careers in maths for females. Overall, there is a need for significant research and investment in order to understand and address this complex issue,” added Nolan.

The Psychological Science study examined what motivates young people to study STEM subjects in terms of ability and interest. The study was conducted on 475,000 teenagers in 67 countries and regions.

It found that both boys and girls succeeded in these subjects at a similar rate, boys had a higher interest level in STEM subjects whereas girls tended to do better in reading and had a higher ability in non-STEM subjects.

In the UK, 48% of girls have the scientific ability to take on STEM subjects at third level yet only 29% of STEM graduates are female. The figure drops to 39% when interest is added to this.

Figures such as these show the large gap in countries that have more gender equality, especially within the workplace. This is due to the high level of social security in these states compared to those with lower equality rates.

Ellen Fitzpatrick

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