Despite the mainstream belief that women are underrepresented in Science, Technology, Mathematics, and Engineering (STEM) degrees, a new report out of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) shatters this myth.
Mark Perry, a University of Michigan-Flint professor, appears to be the first to discover that the “STEM gender gap” doesn’t exactly exist after all. According to his recent AEI report, women now earn 50.6 percent of all STEM bachelor’s degrees, and are also overrepresented in graduate school.
While 50.6 percent is only a slight majority, this translates into 8,500 more female STEM graduates per year and about 33,000 more women in STEM grad school. And because college is now a woman’s domain, it’s likely these small disparities will expand over time.
Due to this, Perry urged activists to focus their efforts elsewhere.
“I think it’s time to stop the massive and expensive ‘social engineering’ efforts to force women to go into the STEM fields,” Perry told PJ Media on Sunday. He also pointed out that while women are excelling in STEM overall, disparities remain among certain fields.
But there’s no evidence these disparities are due to oppression or exclusion. Instead, with more freedom comes more choices, and computer science is one field that has especially taken a hit.
“The biggest change over [since 2004] is the significant decrease in the female share of computer science degrees, which has decreased from more than 25 percent in 2004 to about 18 percent in recent years,” Perry explained.
“Perhaps that is a sign that the expensive national effort to force more women in computer science has largely failed. Maybe it’s the case that even if women go to college planning to major in computer science, they end up switching to fields they like better,” he added.
This sentiment aligns with much of what recent scholars have said. University of Washington-Seattle Professor Stuart Reges recently sparked outrage when he wrote an essay on “Why Women Don’t Code,” in which he suggested that women like non-STEM fields better.
“Men and women are different,” he wrote, explaining that there are numerous theories that could explain why women are less likely to go into computer science specifically.
“Men disproportionately respond to economic incentives, so they are more likely to respond favorably to reports of high salaries for tech workers. Women tend, on average, to be more risk averse, and are more likely to respond strongly to negative stories,” said Reges, who has taught computer science since the 1980s.
Recent studies have also suggested that motivational speeches patronizing women into choosing STEM may also be backfiring. One Indiana University study involving 585 students discovered that “women in STEM” videos made women more apprehensive about studying STEM, not less.
Georgetown University researcher Adriana Kugler also noted a similar phenomena two years ago.
“Society keeps telling us that we need to increase the participation of women in STEM fields, but that kind of sends a signal that it’s not a field for women, and it kind of works against keeping women in these fields,” she told me back in 2017.
In conclusion, Perry noted that the push for 50/50 parity in STEM has been “misguided.”
“Fifty-fifty gender parities in higher education are completely unrealistic and unachievable. Students naturally gravitate to the fields that most interest them, and we see that in the overrepresentation of women in biology.”
Instead of the STEM gender gap — which overall has swung in the favor of women — Perry stressed that society should have other concerns.
“The 60/40 gender disparity in college degrees favoring women that the Department of Education forecasts within the next decade should be of much greater concern to society than failing to achieve 50/50 gender parity in a few STEM fields, in terms of the future implications for the labor market, for family formation and other concerns.”
See Perry’s full report on the new STEM data on his Carpe Diem blog.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen.