We all know the stereotypes, right? Boys are just better than girls at math and science. But can that possibly be true? Well, Florida State University researchers did a deep dive to find real reasons to why fewer girls pursue careers in STEM than boys. And what they discovered is a very sad reality. According to their findings, girls’ poor confidence levels hold them back from climbing up the math and science career ladder. And not their actual ability to perform.
Researchers followed 10th grade students over a six-year period, including for two years after they graduated high school. The students were surveyed on how strongly they felt they were able to perform in math in their 10th and 12th grade years.
The students didn’t solve actual math or science problems in the study. And researchers didn’t take into account classroom performance.
But the results showed performance might not be the point.
Boys in the study were often more confident about their skills than girls. And as a result, they rated their ability to do well in math 27 percent higher than girls did.
As Science Daily reported, Lara Perez-Felkner, assistant professor of higher education and sociology, says self-esteem is the obvious culprit here.
“The argument continues to be made that gender differences in the ‘hard’ sciences is all about ability. But when we hold mathematics ability test scores constant, effectively taking it out of the equation, we see boys still rate their ability higher, and girls rate their ability lower.”
And according to Perez-Felkner, those confidence levels have an impact on the student’s futures. Not just in high school, but the types of colleges they choose to attend too.
“It also influences the majors they intend to pursue,” Perez-Felkner said. “And the majors they actually declare and continue on with in degrees and potential careers.”
The study also found that the student’s 10th grade year seemed to be the most crucial; the results from that year seemed to have a major correlation to whether a student was likely to pursue a math or STEM career.
So if you’re a girl who thinks you aren’t any good at math, try out a few problems. Your perception could be low self-esteem trying to trick you out of your potential.