Further Discussion


In this last section, we will talk about how mathematics connects to the larger topic, how does mathematics performance affect gender in STEM? First of all, the fact that females perform worse on mathematics assessments means that there are math-able girls and women out there who are not being identified [37]. Girls are less likely to pursue a career in STEM if they think they aren’t good enough, and colleges and graduate programs will overlook capable candidates if their test scores are low. This means that there are girls out there that could have a successful career in STEM, but aren’t choosing to pursue one for other reasons. This by no means is saying that all girls who are math-capable should pursue careers in STEM, but the unfortunate reality is that in today’s society not many do. 

Overall, despite the highly controversial nature, Summers made some valid points. There are less women in the top percentile of math and science. Many women are not willing to commit to a 50-60 work week, and there are many capable women who are not being identified. However, from the research that began emerging after Summers’ speech, he made some incorrect assumptions. It is unlikely that women aren’t represented in the top percentile purely due to biological reasons, it is much more likely that this is due to societal factors that under-represent their mathematical ability. Women aren’t willing to commit to a demanding job because they have to make a choice between having a career or having a family, which is a decision men rarely have to make. Lastly, capable women are not being identified because they are socialized to believe that they are not capable of having math-intensive careers, causing them to pursue other options. Despite all the issues prevalent in today’s STEM workforce, the gender gap in STEM will not change if there is still a disproportionate amount of girls willing to take the career path, and mathematics performance affects this choice. 

37. Andreescu, T., Gallian, J. A., Kane, J., Mertz, J. E. “Cross-Cultural Analysis of Students with Exceptional Talent in Mathematical Problem Solving”. Notices of the American Mathematical Society, 55 (2008):1248–1260.

Prev Next