Gender gaps persist in STEM education. Here’s what the data says

Both male and female Gen Z youth believe their schools make considerable efforts to support STEM education. Yet, females' confidence to enter these fields remain low, a new survey suggests.

Historically, male K12 students are more likely than their female counterparts to enter STEM fields beyond high school. In 2023, that continues to be the case, according to a new Gallup and Walton Family Foundation Voices of Gen Z survey. But just how wide is the gap?

According to the survey, which sampled more than 2,000 Gen Z youth aged 12 to 26, males are more interested in three out of the four STEM-related fields introduced:

  • Computer and technology: Male (62%); Female (34%)
  • Engineering: Male (52%); Female (24%)
  • Math: Male (33%); Female (23%)
  • Life or physical sciences: Male (31%); Female (33%)

One of the driving forces behind this gap, the research suggests, is a lack of confidence among young females to pursue a career in STEM. Some 61% of females said they simply don’t enjoy STEM and 57% believe they wouldn’t be good at it.

The good news for educators is that the data reflects ongoing efforts to close this gap through STEM education. For instance, only 17% of females said they don’t know enough about STEM careers, suggesting that they’ve been introduced to them before.

Comparably, more than one-third (38%) of males don’t think they would be good at a career in STEM.

More from DA: Who are districts competing with for students? Here’s what the research says

Additionally, both groups believe their K12 schools make considerable efforts to introduce and support STEM development. There’s little to no gap between the respondents:

  • My K12 school encouraged its students to think about a career in STEM: Male (70%); Female (73%)
  • My school offered a variety of classes related to these fields: Male (78%); Female (85%)
  • I had opportunities to learn about a career in STEM: Male (75%); Female (75%)
  • I was able to participate in STEM-related extracurriculars: Male (70%); Female (73%)

Still, the researchers believe there’s more work to be done to bolster the STEM workforce and close the gender gap. Increasing female representation could help to remove several gender disparities in the workforce, like bolstering the pool of qualified candidates in these demanding fields and potentially reducing the gender pay gap.

“There have been significant, impactful investments in STEM education, but even more is needed to ensure students move beyond interest and actually explore careers in STEM,” Stephanie Marken, Gallup partner and executive director for education research said in a statement. “By creating programs that allow students the opportunity to explore, understand and apply core STEM concepts and to participate in hands-on learning, we can set youth up for successful careers in an industry that desperately needs them.”

Micah Ward
Micah Ward
Micah Ward is a District Administration staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

Most Popular