The STEM Paradox

December 4, 2021

We are all for women’s autonomy and women’s freedom of choice.

But what some people don’t like, is when that choice doesn’t meet their predefined expectations.

For instance, within the discussion of STEM, where women are seemingly underrepresented in education; we always reach for the words of discrimination and systemic sexism – but never do we ask, perhaps women are just less likely to be interested in STEM? And women’s autonomy goes out the window.

Because is that such a hard idea to fathom?

That women and men might – generally speaking – have different interests to each other? Maybe women and men are actually different, yet equally valuable, members of society?

And such an idea holds true, as shown by Professor Gijsberg Stoet and evolutionary psychologist Dr David Gear when they conducted the profoundly interesting study ‘The Gender-Equality Paradox’ in 2018.

The pair, looking at almost half a million adolescents in 67 nations, found that the more a country moves toward gender equality, the more its women exercised that right, by choosing *not* to study STEM.

Yes, the opposite of what we’re told to expect. Equality for women and women in STEM are inversely correlated.

In the world’s most egalitarian countries, such as Norway, Sweden and Finland, there are fewer women studying in stem, than countries such as the UAE, Algeria, Tunisia and Turkey, who lag far behind in women’s autonomy.

One explanation, as offered by Dr Geary, is that women living in countries with higher gender inequality are simply seeking the clearest possible path to financial freedom, which often is through STEM professions.

Another theory is that because young women outperform young boys in most areas of school, they are therefore given more options to pursue in higher education – outside of STEM.

So how do you make sense of the STEM paradox?

Why do you think, when given the choice, women choose *not* to study stem?

Read the study –
The Study
The Atlantic

Images by eliska-motisova, dustin-humes and rodion-kutsaev from Unsplash.


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