Where are tomorrow’s female scientists?
In reading, 15-year-old girls outperform 15-year-old boys (by the equivalent of roughly one year of school), while in mathematics boys outperform girls (though by a narrower margin, the equivalent of less than half a year of school); in science there is instead little difference between boys’ and girls’ performance. Yet dig a little deeper and a more nuanced picture emerges. There are far more boys (24.9%) than girls (12.5%) among the lowest-achieving students in reading, while there are far fewer girls than boys among the top performers in mathematics (10.6% vs. 14.8%) and science (7.7% vs. 9.3%).
There are even larger gender differences in the fields of study chosen in higher education: in OECD countries, fewer than 1 in 3 engineering graduates and fewer than 1 in 5 computer science graduates are girls. This is likely because of stereotypes and expectations, rather than performance differences in math and science. For example, at age 15 far fewer girls (4.7%) than boys (18%)—even among the top performers— reported that they expect to have a career in engineering or computing.
Even when girls do graduate from scientific fields of study, they are much less likely than boys to work as professional in these fields, more often choosing to become teachers. Data from a subset of OECD countries show that, among graduates with science degrees, 71% of men but only 43% of women work as professionals in physics, mathematics and engineering. As a result, across OECD countries, only 13.7% of the inventors who filed patents are women.
Information on data for Israel: http://oe.cd/israel-disclaimer