Though their numbers are growing, only 27 percent of all students taking the AP Computer Science exam in the United States are female. The gender gap grows worse from there: Just 18 percent of American computer-science college degrees go to women. This is in the U.S., where many college men proudly describe themselves as “male feminists” and girls are taught they can be anything they want to be.
Meanwhile, in Algeria, 41 percent of college graduates in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math—or STEM, as it’s known—are female. There, employment discrimination against women is rife, and women are often pressured to make amends with their abusive husbands.
According to a report that I covered a few years ago, Jordan, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates were the only three countries in which boys were significantly less likely to feel comfortable working on math problems than girls were. In all of the other nations surveyed, girls were more likely to say they feel “helpless while performing a math problem.”
So what explains the tendency for nations that have traditionally less gender equality to have more women in science and technology than their gender-progressive counterparts do?
According to a new paper published in Psychological Science by the psychologists Gijsbert Stoet, of Leeds Beckett University, and David Geary, of the University of Missouri, it could have to do with the fact that women in countries with higher gender inequality are simply seeking the clearest possible path to financial freedom. And typically, that path leads through STEM professions.