From Desk to Workplace How Math Keeps Girls Away from

From Desk to Workplace: How Math Keeps Girls Away from Better Jobs | Training

The inequality that women suffer has very deep roots. A study published this Tuesday by EsadeEcPol proposes a novel analysis whose axis is mathematics. The research begins like a journey in primary education, with the discovery that a large proportion of girls, significantly larger than the proportion of their peers, are beginning to distance themselves from the issue. This continues in basic education, a phase in which this feeling deepens and crystallizes in the choice of post-compulsory training branches that largely avoid both the subject and its derivatives, which in the report are referred to by the Anglo-Saxon acronym STEM (Science, Technology). are summarized, engineering and mathematics. And it means that women are very poorly represented in the labor market in the group of professions related to these disciplines, barely a quarter, despite the salary gap compared to men and other factors that hinder their professional careers , B. undesirable short-time work, are significantly lower in this area.

The report, titled Women in STEM. From basic education to careers, created by Lucía Cobreros, Jorge Galindo and Teresa Raigada, it cites more than 70 studies on the subject published in recent years and also presents its own indicators to show the dimensions of the problem. In both Spain and the OECD average, male and female primary school students perform differently in mathematics in favor of the first-best performers (in reading, girls have an even greater advantage over their peers). ). The authors state that this difference has been explained by researchers over time through two main theories: one that attributes it to biological differences and one that attributes it to sociocultural differences. The Esade study takes the second position, which, it asserts, has greater “scientific support.” In addition to analyzing the data, changes in teacher training, content and the way it is explained are proposed to counteract the gender stereotypes that female students are exposed to from a young age, both at home and at school, where some have teachers “Prejudices” that lead them to “associate male characteristics with the sciences and female characteristics with fields such as the humanities.”

From Desk to Workplace How Math Keeps Girls Away from

Up to the age of five, according to studies in different countries, there is no difference in “expectations of brilliance” between girls and boys. However, by the age of six, which coincides with the first year of primary education, “both boys and girls categorize children as 'really intelligent' people” and begin to “express, both implicitly and explicitly, that mathematics is a 'boy thing' In the international TIMSS test, which assesses 10-year-old students, Spanish girls score 14.6 points less than boys, making them the third EU country with the largest gap (behind Cyprus and Portugal). Living in more egalitarian countries appears to help narrow the gap, while living in countries with very strong gender roles widens the gap, according to existing evidence. While another study suggests that studying in classes with a higher proportion of female students could improve their performance in STEM subjects. This work, published in 2023, used data from Greece, where secondary school students are randomly assigned to classrooms, which can lead to significant gender imbalances.

1709626530 323 From Desk to Workplace How Math Keeps Girls Away from

Girls are more afraid of math – a study shows this is the case as early as age seven. And only in these cases are these nerves associated with a drop in performance in the subject. At the age of 16, Spanish girls score 10.1 points lower in mathematics in the PISA report exams (the students are 25.3 points ahead of their peers in reading). The difference, which corresponds to the European Union average, decreased by 6.4 points between 2012 and 2022. But the level of discomfort the issue causes among young people has skyrocketed over the same period; The proportion of girls who say they get nervous when solving math problems rose from 11% to 21.3%.

Five research findings published since 2018 support the widespread perception that what girls and boys say they want to be when they grow up ultimately influences who they end up being. This makes it all the more important to counteract the gender stereotypes that have surrounded them since childhood. Girls tend to be more supportive of community values ​​and less supportive of individual values, expressing a “relatively higher preference” for “family over career.” And teenage girls with a “traditional view of femininity” and “work roles” are less likely than adults to pursue “careers related to science, math, engineering and technology” in adulthood, according to research that followed the same people over the years the USA.

At the age of 15, only 1.3% of 15-year-old Spanish adolescent girls want to pursue information technology (compared to 10.3% of boys) and 9.8% want to pursue engineering, physics, chemistry, mathematics or biology (compared to to 17.5%). % of students), according to the PISA report. 21.9% of female students want to pursue health-related careers (compared to 8.7% of boys). This is reflected in the A-levels, where in 2021 they represented 76% in the arts, 64% in the humanities, 54% in the social sciences and 48% in the natural sciences. In the area of ​​selectivity, female students take fewer than half of the exams than their fellow students in the subjects of physics and technical drawing.

1709626532 118 From Desk to Workplace How Math Keeps Girls Away from1709626535 732 From Desk to Workplace How Math Keeps Girls Away from1709626537 229 From Desk to Workplace How Math Keeps Girls Away from1709626539 283 From Desk to Workplace How Math Keeps Girls Away from

One of the elements that, according to the authors of the Esade report, contributes to girls becoming more distant from mathematics and other related disciplines than boys is the different tendency towards competition. Two research findings cited in the report suggest “that students with a greater propensity for competition, regardless of their grades, are more likely to choose to specialize in mathematics, with boys more likely to participate in competition.” If mathematics competence is not is measured at a particular point in time, for example in a single exam, but across the entire work over the course of the course, the differences in performance become blurred or the girls even achieve better results. Therefore, one of the papers concludes that “certain math test scores may overemphasize the advantage of men over women.”

1709626541 680 From Desk to Workplace How Math Keeps Girls Away from

The most radical educational segregation in Spain occurs in vocational training, where only 7% of students earn a STEM degree, compared to 52% of male students. At university, 14% in computer science, 27% in science, 37% in mathematics and statistics, 73% in health and social services and 78% in education are women. Still, their first-year dropout rate, one of the indicators of college performance, is lower for them in STEM careers – 8% compared to 13% in engineering, for example.

1709626543 776 From Desk to Workplace How Math Keeps Girls Away from

Research cited in the Esade study suggests that women are “more susceptible to signals of non-belonging,” which would lead them to avoid highly masculinized environments. Among the measures that appear to have a positive impact on encouraging female students to pursue STEM activities is connecting them with women who work in these fields so that they can do so in the first place can explain by hand. “The results,” the Esade researchers add, pointing in a similar direction, “suggest that the most effective interventions were those that attempted to improve perceptions of STEM careers without overemphasizing the underrepresentation of women .”

1709626546 969 From Desk to Workplace How Math Keeps Girls Away from

All of this means that only 5.5% of women are in STEM jobs, compared to 13% of men, although the difference is smaller among the younger population (in the 16-29 age group). The percentages are 9% and 17% respectively). And this despite the fact that women who work in this type of profession have a better salary than those who do it in other professions, and although they also earn less than their male colleagues, this difference is slightly smaller (men's salary is 10% higher). The proportion of women among skilled workers is higher than that of women and among technicians is 8% and is therefore below the average for professions, which is 20%. The proportion of female employees with partial contracts is 7.6% in MINT professions and 26.9% in other professions.

1709626548 246 From Desk to Workplace How Math Keeps Girls Away from

The educational trajectories uncovered lead to a working reality in which only 5.5% of women pursue STEM careers (13% of men). The Esade report, which uses a proprietary indicator based on the use of micro-data from the INE Living Conditions Survey, reflects a generally positive change. Only 3.7% of women between 45 and 64 have a job in the industry, but the percentage rises to 7% between 30 and 44 and 9.1% between 16 and 29. In the first of these groups, the proportion of men in STEM positions triples that of women, while in the youngest age cohort this factor drops to 1.84.

1709626550 680 From Desk to Workplace How Math Keeps Girls Away from

The authors of the Esade study suggest a number of measures to address the situation. These include: improving the pedagogical training of teachers and generalizing a gender-sensitive approach in explaining mathematics and other STEM subjects; Include female references in teaching materials and bring real women working in the industry into the classroom (or students into their workplace) and create more inclusive work environments. The lack of a welcoming culture and the persistence of gender stereotypes in companies, alongside the difficulties in reconciling them, appear to be the main reasons for the “low preference” of women when choosing scientific and technical careers, according to several studies cited in the report.

1709626552 513 From Desk to Workplace How Math Keeps Girls Away from

You can follow EL PAÍS Education in Facebook and Xor sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter.

Subscribe to continue reading

Read without limits