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Young men just more interested in STEM fields, poll finds

Gender gap exists despite equal opportunities, encouragement, Gallup says

Young men are more interested in science and technology careers than young women even though both equally report receiving opportunities and encouragement to enter STEM fields, a new Gallup survey found.

The poll by Gallup and the Walton Family Foundation found that 85 percent of young men ages 12 to 26 are interested in physical science, technology, engineering, or math careers. In contrast, 63 percent of young women said the same.

“Women make up half of the total college-educated workforce in the U.S. but only 34% of the workforce in science, technology, engineering and math sectors,” according to Gallup.

The poll comes amid a wealth of programs aimed at encouraging more girls to study STEM fields and research exploring why so few do.

One Duke University professor proposed instituting grading curves in STEM courses to recruit more women into those fields.

Another PhD candidate at Cornell University suggested doing away with gendered terms in biology classes like “male,” “female,” “mother,” and “father” because they are “exclusionary,” The College Fix reported.

Despite these and other efforts to shrink the gap, fewer young women still express an interest in careers in STEM, the Gallup poll found.

When broken down by specific career area, the poll found the largest interest gaps in engineering, computers, and technology, with a 28-percent difference between young men and young women.

The difference was smallest for life and physical sciences careers, with 33 percent of young men and 31 percent of young women saying they were interested.

When asked why they were not interested in a STEM job, a significant majority (60 percent) of young adults said they do not enjoy the field, and 48 percent said they did not think they would be good at it. According to the research, “Gen Z females are nearly 20 points more likely than males to say they are not interested in a STEM career because they don’t think they would be good at it.”

And while fewer young women reported learning about STEM fields in middle and high school, compared to young men, Gallup noted that the “difference in exposure is not necessarily a result of schools more heavily encouraging males than females to pursue STEM.”

Almost equally, young men and young women said their schools encouraged them to consider careers in STEM fields and provided classes and extracurricular programs to facilitate it, the poll found.

“Rather, as has been noted in the research literature, this disparity in exposure is likely a product of females being less inclined to take STEM-related coursework and join extracurricular activities that prepare students for careers in technical fields such as physics and computer science,” Gallup stated.

Meanwhile, other research has found that young women are more likely than young men to study psychology, health sciences, education, languages, and public administration.

MORE: The REAL gender gap: Men lag in humanities, languages, graduate fields of study

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About the Author
Micaiah Bilger is an assistant editor at The College Fix.