Study: Men overestimate their maths skills - which may explain the gender gap in STEM

Clara Guibourg
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Are men wrong about their maths and tech skills?

Men outnumber women significantly in technological professions, with giants like Apple and Google reporting that fewer than two in 10 tech employees are women.

This isn’t because men are just better at maths and science, though.

Instead, a new study suggests that it may be because men think they’re better than they really are.

American researchers from Washington State University found that men tend to significantly overestimate their own maths abilities, whereas women are more likely to judge their performance accurately.

Researchers gave participants a maths test to complete, and afterwards asked them to estimate what per cent they had solved correctly. They found that men tended to judge that they had done far better on the test than they actually had.

They suggest that this “positivity bias” is part of the explanation behind the gender gap in STEM (science, tech, engineering and maths) fields, as an overconfident outlook on their maths abilities makes men far more likely to pursue tech and science-related careers.

“The findings suggest that gender gaps in STEM fields are not necessarily the result of women underestimating their abilities, but rather may be due to men overestimating their abilities.”

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