Girls get better grades in STEM subjects too, study finds

Girls get better grades than boys including in math and science, researchers reported Tuesday. A big analysis of grades covering 1.6 million high school and university students shows that girls beat boys at all ages. This includes science, technology, engineering and math subjects, the Australian researchers said.

One difference they have found was that the female advantage is narrower in STEM subjects, reported Rose O’Dea and colleagues, who study biology and applied statistics. They used a new technique for meta-analysis — a study of studies which crunched the numbers in a novel way. They analyzed the results of more than 200 different studies have done around the world but mostly in the U.S.

“Overall, girls had significantly higher grades than boys by 6.3 percent,” they wrote in their report, published in the journal Nature Communications. Simulations of these differences suggest the top 10 percent of a class contains equal numbers of girls and boys in STEM, but more girls in non-STEM subjects,” they added.

Some experts had given a theory that boys do better in STEM fields than girls do because there are more boys who perform at the extremely high end of the scale in STEM subjects. According to the theory, boys and girls average out the same, but that is because there are also more boys at the low end so.

“We definitely did find gender differences,” O’Dea told NBC News. “The differences are quite small. They are particularly small in STEM.”

O’Dea has her own theories about the matter why women might steer clear of STEM fields. One is the culture of course.

“Women in male-dominated pursuits, including STEM, face a paradox: If they conform to gender stereotypes, they might be perceived as less competent, but if they defy gender stereotypes and perform ‘like a man,’ then their progress can be halted by ‘backlash’ from both men and women,” she and colleagues wrote.

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