The gender gap between men and women in the fields of science, engineering, technology, and mathematics is not new information. This gap has led to a decades-long push to provide girls and women with more opportunities to study and work in these fields. According to the results from the most recent National Assessment of Education Progress, it seems like this push has finally paid off.
Known as “The Nation’s Report Card,” the newly released assessment shows that the country’s girls on average scored five points higher than their male classmates in the technology and engineering literacy portion. The assessment was given to 15,400 eighth graders from approximately 600 public and private schools across the United States in 2018. The girls also scored higher than the boys in almost all of the content areas.
Administrators first gave this test to the country’s students in 2014. Girls outscored boys as well in this earlier assessment, but by a smaller margin. While the boys’ scores stayed about the same from 2014 to 2018, the girls’ scores improved and gave them that five-point advantage.
The improvement could be a result of nationwide campaigns to encourage the budding technological interests of young women. As the corporate world demands more high-skilled workers to tackle issues such as identity theft, which cost the U.S. about $16 billion in 2016, tech giants and celebrities alike have been supporting the educational advancement of girls to fill these professional openings.
Despite these efforts and despite the numbers that show girls outperforming boys in engineering and technology, they are not yet in the classrooms for those subjects as much as boys are. In 2018, about 61% of male students reported taking at least one engineering or technology class, such as coding or robotics, yet only 53% of female students reported doing the same.
This striking difference can show administrators across the country a few things. The first is that girls are outscoring boys in areas of technology and engineering whether or not they are taking a class. The second is that girls still need more encouragement to enroll in these male-dominated courses.
Another point of learning comes with what boys need from educators. The test measured a student’s ability to use principles of engineering and technology in real-world scenarios, such as building a bike path or creating an exhibit. In addition to scoring better overall, girls particularly outperformed boys in areas of communication and collaboration. To get the boys’ performance on par with the girls, administrators may need to focus lessons for their male students on communicating and collaborating to solve tangible problems.
In the meantime, we have just one thing to say to hardworking female students across the country: You go, girl.
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