Gender Equality

Girls actually are smarter than boys

Girls are smarter than boys, but where are the women in math and sciences?

That’s how the inspired infographic below begins.

It tells us that girls begin to question their ability because of their gender, that this persists into college, and that we therefore get a skewed population of engineers.

Role models make a difference. Structural impediments can be subtle, like asking for information about gender. These are just two of the many lessons that can be gleaned from this poster. I hope you’ll see even more.

One of the perks of blogging is that readers take the initiative to send me articles and information they think might be interesting. This infographic was one of the treats I received this week. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do — and, please, send more!

Girls in STEM
Created by: Engineering Degree

My interest in moving universities towards balance encompasses gender equality, the communication of scientific results, promoting research-based education and leadership development more generally. Read more



  • Christophe says:

    Honestly it is not only in hard sciences women are bailing out, I for one come from languages where women made out 70 % of the university population and did get the higher grades, but ten years down the line it’s the men that are still here and almost none of the women… It s been a subject that has intrigued me quite a bit over the years for women’s natural ability to learn foreign languages is higher, but when it comes to suffering the inconveniences of a foreign society,men just adapt better, they take a foreign/ local wife and are less judgmental, men also deal with the inconveniences differently plus they do not feel their biological clock ticking as hard as women. If you add that up it makes for longer time spent ‘in country’ leading to more experience hence more chances of landing a ‘good’ job, making up for the lower grades in university.
    This is just my observation as a Sinologist in china who started out as middle of the class but finds himself with very few female peers…

    • Karen says:

      As a woman who is starting out in the field of languages/linguistics, I think I can offer some perspective on why so many women don’t “adapt” well in a foreign setting.

      Specifically, I’m looking to do fieldwork in the Himalayas (mostly Nepal, northern India). I’ll be spending ten weeks this summer learning intensive Hindi in India, and I recently was sent the orientation guide to read before my trip. Reading it certainly made the gender differences in this line of work perfectly clear. Women’s tips include: don’t let anyone know that you live alone, get the support of a community elder to vouch for your credibility as a researcher, carry a safety pin to fend off gropers on trains, dress modestly (shoulders and knees covered), etc. (You get the idea.) Men’s tips? In a sentence, don’t do anything that might stain the reputation of a woman.

      So please, before you insinuate that women are “bailing out” of fieldwork because men are better at adapting to a foreign culture, consider that foreign cultures often pose many more challenges to women than they do to men.

      As far as the “biological clock” explanation, I don’t see any basis for that in my personal experiences. My mentor and his wife are both prominent linguists, and their young children certainly haven’t prevented either of them from having successful careers.

      • Curt Rice says:

        Thanks for these good comments. I think you’re onto something interesting, Karen, with your distinction between “bailing out” and meeting impediments. This is parallel to much of what I discuss about women in the workplace, where common arguments claim that women just don’t want to get to the top, while I am intrigued by what kinds of barriers they meet.

        Regarding the biological clock, there is evidence that women perceive academic careers as requiring personal sacrifice, especially when it comes to having children. I refer to some research on this in a recent posting called “Why women in science don’t want to work at universities.”

  • Stine says:

    Although I agree that low self-confidence, the lack of role models and structural impediments can influence whether women choose a career within math and sciences, I also find it interesting how men’s career choices often are left out of this debate. More women are in fact choosing less traditionally than previously, i.e. they are studying economics and engineering rather than nursing and teaching. However, this change does not seem to have been accompanied by a similar alteration of men’s study- and occupational preferences. What remain unproblematized are therefore men’s choices and the fact that a prerequisite for greater gender balance is that men start choosing the subjects traditionally dominated by women. Such a change will be difficult to achieve as long as society’s incentive structure is closely intertwined with “masculine” career choices, which are surer ways of obtaining money, opportunity and status.

  • Camila says:

    I think based on what you’ve all said i see that in reality women arent questioning themselves more like others question their own ability . Women even as a young girls strive to approve their fathers so once they start ro plan their future daddy is always their so when daddy is not around many male figures tend to put in their own input. As for “adaptation” for women its simply based on how your way of life is its really for any person . When you adapt easily you have some known experience in that area or have been in similar situations but then again thats just how i think .

  • chizu says:

    I would say girls and womens are intelligent than boys and mens, the only reason why most of us say womens are behind men is that womens don’t get the chance prove themselves also they concentrate more on raising their family after pregnancy!!!

  • anon says:

    How egalitarian of you. Where’s the hand-wringing about sex and GPA? Why conclude “girls are smarter than boys” instead of asking “why aren’t boys performing as well as girls?” I guess my tiny man-brain can’t handle ~ the truth ~ about how dumb we are–I suppose my English and Math degrees mean nothing and should have been given to a woman instead.

    Obviously the title of this article and infographic are meant to shock–and challenge traditional stereotypes–but it’s still worth noting that there are many boys who outperform most girls. It’s also worth noting that stereotype threat affects boys, too–see BL Hartley’s work.

    The “Psychology Today” article cited in the infographic also clearly points out that the (tiny!) reported sex difference in IQ reverses when the same peer group is tested at 16. The same article also posits that the IQ sex difference reverses when the average boy hits becomes taller than the average girl; search for “Spurious Correlations” for a good laugh. This (gross and offensive) infographic would be a little less ridiculous if the authors cited the NCDS data directly.

    I hope smart but shy boys aren’t put off a fulfilling academic career by this tasteless article.

  • Sage Thinker says:

    Actually girls only have a higher IQ up until age 16 than it reverses at age 16 and than boys have a higher IQ, Its because girls mature earlier.


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