Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

School children using a tablet. Photo: Bertrand Langlois/AFP via Getty Images

Fewer women than men are pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) despite higher average grades and lower variation in performance while in school, according to a study published this week in Nature Communications.

The big picture: Girls are just as likely as boys to have earned high enough grades to pursue a career in a STEM field, but because of gender stereotypes and high performance in other non-STEM subjects, women can be systematically driven away from STEM careers.

Methodology: Researchers extracted data from 227 studies examining 1.6 million students — 820,158 female and 826,629 male — and examined their overall grades, performance in STEM subjects and performance in non-STEM subjects.

By the numbers: Sexes were more similar in performance in STEM subjects than non-STEM subjects with girls holding a 3.1% higher average grade in such subjects than boys.

  • Girls also dominated boys in non-STEM subjects with a 7.8% advantage in their average grades.
  • However, boys were typically at the very top of the class and performed with more variance, meaning there is an over-representation of males in these classes leading to a broader scale of performance in grades and scores.
  • Despite their comparable performance, girls still tend to gravitate toward non-STEM career paths with women representing just 24% of STEM industry.

Be smart: "If girls perceive they have fewer competitors in non-STEM subjects because, on average, fewer boys perform better than girls, this might lead to a preference for non-STEM over STEM careers," the study states.

Between the lines: Gender stereotypes are at play here. Differences in expectations exist for boys and girls largely due to the cultures they grow up in, the study found.

"Social pressures" make it difficult for individuals to break gender stereotypes, says Rose O'Dea, a study co-author and doctoral candidate at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

  • She calls it the "backlash effect," where both men and women are expected to play certain roles in certain career paths. When they deviate from these, they face a backlash from their peers.
  • Women in male-dominated fields tend to have to make a choice, the study notes: Either conform to gender stereotypes and be perceived as less competent, or defy gender stereotypes and face a backlash from both men and women for exceeding expectations.

Yes, but: STEM, as a category of fields, has long had diversity issues. Men are generally hired at a much higher rate than women, as noted in a 2012 OECD Economic Study.

The bottom line: To increase the presence of women in STEM, the path must come with less social barriers and more acceptance, the authors say.

Go deeper

Off the Rails

Episode 5: The secret CIA plan

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer, Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 5: Trump vs. Gina — The president becomes increasingly rash and devises a plan to tamper with the nation's intelligence command.

In his final weeks in office, after losing the election to Joe Biden, President Donald Trump embarked on a vengeful exit strategy that included a hasty and ill-thought-out plan to jam up CIA Director Gina Haspel by firing her top deputy and replacing him with a protege of Republican Congressman Devin Nunes.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Empire State Building among hundreds to light up in Biden inauguration coronavirus tribute.
  3. Vaccine: Fauci: 100 million doses in 100 days is "absolutely" doable.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode again.
  5. Tech: Kids' screen time sees a big increase.

Biden Cabinet confirmation schedule: When to watch hearings

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on Jan. 16 in Wilmington, Delaware. Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

The first hearings for President-elect Joe Biden's Cabinet nominations begin on Tuesday, with testimony from his picks to lead the departments of State, Homeland and Defense.

Why it matters: It's been a slow start for a process that usually takes place days or weeks earlier for incoming presidents. The first slate of nominees will appear on Tuesday before a Republican-controlled Senate, but that will change once the new Democratic senators-elect from Georgia are sworn in.