Knowledge and Resource Hub
19 December 2018

Gender differences in individual variation in academic grades fail to fit expected patterns for STEM

This paper uses data from more than 1.6 million students to examine the 'variability hypothesis', which is that the over-representation of males in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) occurs because there is greater variability in males' ability; with more males who exceed the performance threshold for STEM subjects. This is what leads to males 'over-representation in STEM. However the study's results suggested this is an insufficient explanation for male over-representation.  Simulations of these differences suggest the top 10% of a class contains equal numbers of girls and boys in STEM, but more girls in non-STEM subjects.