Apr 14 2023

Aptitude Exceeds their Interest in STEM Subjects

Cindy Cummings


Women make up just 28 percent of the workforce in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), with men vastly outnumbering women in terms of STEM college majors as well. The gender gaps are particularly large in some of the most promising and highest-paid sectors of the future, including engineering and computer science. A new study by tech provider YouScience, however, has shown that girls’ aptitude in many STEM areas is high, even though their interest may be low. It is food for thought for those who believe that girls steer away from STEM subjects because they find these subjects difficult or challenging. The study also showed that in some non-stem subjects, girls’ interest significantly outweighed their aptitude. This is the case in arts and media, teaching, law and public safety, and human services careers.

 New Findings

The study was undertaken on over 225,000 female middle and high school students. It found that their aptitude for careers in technology and computers, in particular, was eight times higher than their self-reported interest in these fields. Their aptitude in advanced manufacturing was even higher—11.3 times higher than their interest in the field. It is vital to note that the study was undertaken on some STEM subjects only. There are many more subjects that could form the basis of future studies. As stated by educational specialists Proprep, for instance, degrees like statistics and probability are in high demand, since statistics majors have a host of potential job offers. Potential high-paying jobs in the field include database administrator, financial analyst, business analyst, and more. It is important for girls to know that they are capable in these fields and that talents and abilities can be honed through study and dedication.

 Women More Likely to Switch from STEM to Non-STEM Majors in Colleges
Another body of research by the I Z A Institute of Labor Economics found that women are more likely to switch out of male-dominated STEM majors in response to poor performance than men. A growing body of scientific literature shows that one significant reason is that women are more sensitive to negative feedback than men. All individuals can have biases involved on beliefs that they are innately “good” or “bad” at specific subjects. These biases can have a major role in the final choice of one’s major and career. STEM stereotypes already send subtle signs to females that lead to underestimate their abilities and increase their chances of changing their academic direction, compared to men.

Women Need to Know Their Potential

As stated by YouScience’s Chief Operating Officer, Jeri Larsen, women must be made aware that they have extraordinary potential in STEM subjects. This should be achieved as early as middle school, so that teachers can help guide students into pathways to the careers they are most suited to. Teaches should encourage girls and women to take STEM classes, including advanced classes. They should be aware of biases and stereotypes and point them out to students, who should know the power effect that negative thoughts, biases, and stereotypes can have on their decisions.
Research by YouScience has shown that girls are far more adept at STEM subjects than they realize. They also do not fare as well in terms of “adeptness” at some non-STEM subjects than they believe. The gap in STEM jobs between women and men must be addressed as early as middle school, through the proactive elimination of unhelpful negative biases.

Tags: STEM