average score in mathematics surpassed those of girls’ by a gap of five points or less. Only two countries, Indonesia and Sweden, exhibited results where girls outperformed the boys in mathematics. Performance sex gaps in science were generally negligible and inconsistent, having gaps of less than 2 points and no overall gender advantage.
The sex gaps widen for degrees earned in tertiary education. A review of first tertiary degrees awarded in mathematics and computer science or engineering, manufacturing, and construction2 shows large sex gaps that do not correlate with PISA performance in mathematics and sciences. Males earned a greater portion of degrees awarded in mathematics and science. Salvi Del Pero stated that even the relatively small sex gap in mathematics performance does not adequately explain the lower participation of females in mathematics as a degree or career choice. Instead, motivation measures showed a greater correlation with sex gaps in degree attainment. Motivation was measured using an index that included student assessments of how interesting the subject was and how relevant the subject would be for their career choice. Preliminary findings suggested that girls were less motivated to select mathematics and engineering majors.
On the basis of this evidence, Salvi Del Pero recommended three policy initiatives that engage girls earlier in mathematics and computer science to encourage greater participation in these fields. First, she recommended working toward a better gender balance of teaching staff in kindergarten and in basic education. Second, professional role models are a key to gender equality in all three areas, so “masculine” professions should intentionally be promoted among young women and “feminine” professions among young men. Third, preliminary findings suggested that stereotyping is still paramount in addressing motivation measures in science, mathematics, computer science, and engineering-related fields. Salvi Del Pero proposed that stereotyping be addressed in educational and training choices at school (and at home); policies to address stereotyping in education should not be conceived as isolated initiatives. A gender-difference initiative should be complemented by more general efforts to combat gender stereotyping in social messages and should not clash with the messages conveyed via the media and the observations of the actual patterns of employment.
Over 55 percent of males who majored in science acquired jobs in physics, mathematics, and engineering after graduation. In contrast, only 34 percent of female majors in these same areas obtained positions in related fields.
-Angelica Salvi Del Pero
Finally, Salvi Del Pero presented data based on a survey of college graduates employed at their first job at least 5 years after tertiary graduation, as shown in Table 2-1. The data suggested that different pathways in employment emerged for women and men. Over 55 percent of males who majored in science acquired jobs in physics, mathematics, or engineering after graduation. In contrast, only 34 percent of female majors in these same areas obtained positions in related fields. Correlation of these results to other fields was not possible. For example, 68 percent of females who majored in humanities secured teaching positions after graduation; only 52 percent of similarly trained males secured similar positions. Further analysis is necessary to explain these different outcomes for men and women, including understanding “What are the influences of expected outcomes on the labor market.” In the near-term, Salvi Del Pero and her associates will address this question using additional surveys of college graduates and longitudinal PISA data. Additionally, every three years since 2000, OECD
2 The OECD aggregates “mathematics and computer science” and “engineering, manufacturing, and construction.” In some cases, these fields are disaggregated.