There's an ongoing assumption that part of the reason that girls aren't attracted to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields is that girls just don't do as well in those subjects during their school years.
However, a new study done by the University of Missouri and the University of Glasgow, Scotland, recently disproved that, showing that girls, in fact, do better than boys academically, including subjects related to math and science.
This study did not focus on a single country, but looked at international data, determining that in 70 percent of the world's countries, girls outperform boys in academic achievement. Even more interesting, factors such as social and gender equality, politics and economics did not affect these results.
"We studied the educational achievement levels of 1.5 million 15-year-olds from around the world using data collected between 2000 and 2010," says David Geary, Curators Professor of Psychological Sciences in the College of Arts and Science at the University of Missouri. "Even in countries where women's liberties are severely restricted, we found that girls are outperforming boys in reading, mathematics, and science literacy by age 15, regardless of political, economic, social or gender equality issues and policies found in those countries."
Researchers only found three regions of the world where boys did better than girls in these subjects: Colombia, Costa Rica and a part of India called Himachal Pradesh. In countries such as the U.S. and the U.K., though, the academic achievements of boys and girls were similar.
What is most surprising is that countries with less gender equality, such as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, there was an even wider gap between how much better girls performed in education than boys.
Considering that these results include math and science, though, now we must ask the question about why there are still so few women taking up those fields? There's obviously a disconnect going on somewhere, whether it's at the schools with counselors not pushing girls towards STEM, or in the STEM fields themselves where women still face a certain level of misogyny.
The researchers, however, are more concerned about closing the gap and figuring out why the gap exists in the first place.
"In fact, we found that with the exception of high achievers, boys have poorer educational outcomes than girls around the world, independent of social equality indicators," writes the researchers. "Therefore, in order to effectively close the gaps in achievement, education policymakers should consider factors other than political, economic and social equality, and especially as related to boys' overall achievement and high-achieving girls' interest in mathematics and science."
[Photo Credit: Nannette Turner/Flickr]