Understanding why girls do worse than boys (pdf) in math, and why they have more anxiety about the subject, is complicated. Cultural norms that favor boys, teacher bias, and even parents’ own math anxiety all seem to play a role.
By that logic, things should be better in more countries where lots of women hold powerful math and engineering jobs.
They are not.
A new study shows that even when countries where lots of moms have high-status STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) jobs, math anxiety for girls is significant. What’s more, the gap between girls’ and boys anxiety in math is bigger in more developed and equitable countries.
This is bad news for the vast majority of women-in-STEM advocates who argue that more role models are key to getting more women to pursue degrees and careers in the area. “The assumption that just seeing women role models will open the floodgates won’t be enough,” said David Geary, a professor of psychological sciences and neuroscience at University of Missouri and one of the authors of the study.
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