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Canadian Girls Good at Math Half as Likely to Study STEM

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Women in a college science lab.

High school girls in Canada who are good at math are half as likely as male counterparts with similar aptitudes for math to study science, technology, engineering, mathematics or computer science at the college level, according to StatsCan.

Credit: Jessica Darmanin/York University

High school girls in Canada who excel at mathematics are half as likely as their male counterparts to pursue science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), and computer science in college, according to Statistics Canada (StatsCan).

Only 23 percent of 15-year-old girls in Canada who scored in the top three of six categories on the math section of the recent Program for International Student Assessment standardized exam went on to study STEM in college, while 46 percent of boys did so. Among girls with the highest math scores, 48 percent pursued social sciences. In addition, 52 percent of boys with grades in the 80- to 89-percent range chose STEM programs in college, compared with 22 percent of girls with equal grades. Among students with grades of 90 percent or above in high school, only 41 percent of girls pursued STEM while 61 percent of boys did so.

StatsCan says self-confidence is not the issue. "Among university-bound students who considered their mathematics skills as 'excellent,' 66 percent of males chose a STEM program compared with 47 percent of females. Among those who considered their mathematical abilities as 'good,' 36 percent of males and 15 percent of females chose a STEM program," StatsCan says.

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