Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Current Events: Why Fewer Women Pursue Math Jobs

This was my fifth current events report. I was not happy about having to do it over spring break. I was able to present it in front of our district's Youth Advocate. My friends really liked it.

Check out the full report and video of me practicing below:

Why Fewer Women Pursue Math Jobs

For years in the United States, girls earned more As and diplomas than boys in high school, and more college degrees at all levels. However, that has not been the case when it comes to winning a seat in one of New York City’s specialized high schools. At all eight of the schools that admit students based on an eighth-grade test, boys outnumber girls, making up 60 to 67 percent of the largest and most renowned schools, Stuyvesant, the Bronx High School of Science, Brooklyn Tech, and the High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering at City College.

Even though the difference between girls and boys in enrolling and performing in math classes has decreased in recent decades, girls are still less likely than boys to go for jobs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, which are known as STEM fields. However, researchers tend to agree that differences in math ability don’t account for the disparity between girls and boys in STEM fields. So what does?

Developmental psychologist Ming-Te Wang and his colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh and University of Michigan wondered whether differences in overall patterns of math and verbal ability might play a role.

The researchers examined data from 1,490 college-bound US students, who had been surveyed in 12th grade and again when they were 33 years old. The data included their’ SAT scores, various aspects of their motivational beliefs and values, and their occupations at age 33. Wang and his colleagues found that those students who had high math and verbal abilities, a group that contained more girls than boys, were less likely to have chosen a job in STEM fields than those who had high math and only moderate verbal abilities, who were more likely to end up in a STEM-related field.

According to Wang, this study identifies a critical link in the debate about the lack of girls in STEM fields. “Our study shows that it’s not lack of ability or differences in ability that orients females to pursue non-STEM careers, it’s the greater likelihood that females with high math ability also have high verbal ability,” notes Wang. “Because they’re good at both, they can consider a wide range of occupations.”

Considerable funds have been put into designing and testing a wide variety of programs to increase female participation in math focused jobs. According to Wang, these new findings suggest that “educators and policy makers may consider shifting the focus from trying to strengthen girls’ STEM-related abilities to trying to tap the potential of these girls who are equally skilled in both math and verbal domains.”

Girls may be less likely to pursue careers in science and math because they have more career choices, not because they have less ability.

Exposing girls capable of math and verbal skills to role models in STEM fields during high school may prevent girls leaving STEM fields due to misinformation or stereotypes.

Here are my other current events reports.