Data Shows Girls Around The World Underestimate Themselves In Math


The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has gathered data comparing countries all over the world on their track record of gender differences in various skills, degrees, work, and wages. It’s an interesting cross section of opportunity, gender imbalance, and culture. The OECD even took into account self-perception in math skills. As Olga Kazhan of The Atlantic writes:

When it comes to math, the picture is grim: Jordan, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates are the only three countries in which boys are significantly less likely to feel comfortable working on math problems than girls are. In all of the other countries, the girls are more likely to say they feel “helpless while performing a math problem.
On the actual PISA math test, though, girls only scored about 2 percent, on average, lower than boys did…So it’s clear that around the world, girls are better at math than they think they are.

The OECD had recommended battling against the stereotypes that allow girls to underestimate themselves in order to help close the gap as well as providing more education for girls in STEM fields. But the OECD data revealed a lot more interesting information.

Another tidbit in the evaluation is that women in conservative countries like Mexico and Turkey are taking on more STEM jobs while women in “more progressive” countries like Belgium and Switzerland more often take up education, health, and the humanities, though there’s obviously not one reason for this. Reasons such as culture-specific perceptions about how fields like computer science are gendered as well as simply wanting to go into more lucrative jobs play into this.

And female executives? While there is a huge global disparity, Norway, which had instated a law decreeing that 40% of public boards consist of women, scored pretty high. But Norway does really enforce that law:

The Norwegian law is fairly draconian: Companies must either comply or be shut down. As a result, though, the boards have also become more professional —no more old boys’ networks—and more diverse, since companies often have to look outside Norway’s borders to find enough women to meet the minimum.

Obviously we have a long way to go. But despite the huge range of development, political institutions, and cultural differences, the OECD has made widespread recommendations regarding how to support women more effectively, including increased education materials and financial support.

Image via Getty.

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