What's Keeping Women Out of Science, Math Careers? Calculus and Confidence

Aug 14, 2016 | Gilbert

It's well-known there's a gender gap within science, technology, engineering, and math majors and careers, and a new study traces the moment many women give up on STEM to a single college class: calculus.

The study, published in PLOS One last month, found that women are 1.5 times more likely to drop out of the STEM pipeline after Calculus I than men are. And that's likely because women, when compared to men of similar capabilities, tend to start and end the course with lower confidence in their math skills. (During the course itself, men and women lose math confidence at about the same rate.)

"This work points to female students' mathematical confidence entering college as a major contributing factor to women's participation in the STEM workforce," write the researchers, who are from Colorado State University and San Diego State University, "and thus more work is needed to understand the factors (such as classroom environment, home environment, extra curricular involvement, etc.,) that help to shape students' perceptions of their own success before they enter college." Read full article here.