Why women choke under pressure

Written By komlim puldel on Sabtu, 07 Maret 2015 | 20.01

Anxiety and a lack of confidence is preventing many young women from achieving in maths and science, a new report has found. Source: Supplied

TEENAGE girls may be "choking under pressure" at school, cutting themselves off from lucrative careers due to a lack of confidence and anxiety, according to an OECD report.

The comprehensive study of 510,000 15-year-olds from 65 countries around the world reveals that gender differences in education begin much earlier than previously thought.

It found that despite working harder at school and spending more time on homework, young women display much higher anxiety and lack of confidence when it comes to solving mathematical and science-based problems.

It translates into less women working in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers which is problematic because these in-demand industries are provide the highest paying jobs.

"High-achieving girls are more likely to suffer from high levels of anxiety than high-achieving boys, even when they have greater intrinsic motivation to learn mathematics," the report states.

It also found that "girls tend to be consistently more anxious towards mathematics than boys" and they "underperform considerably" when it comes to scientific thinking and interactive problem solving.

Yahoo President and former Google engineer Marissa Mayer is a notable exception. Picture: Eric Risberg. Source: AP

The report, called the ABC of Gender Equality in Education, was released in time for International Women's Day and attempted to determine why women are so under-represented in STEM fields later in life.

It found that a lack of confidence and anxiety towards maths and science subjects in high-achieving girls meant they often lagged behind their male peers.

"This gender difference in the ability to think like a scientist may be related to students' self-confidence. When students are more self-confident, they give themselves the freedom to fail, to engage in the trial and error processes that are fundamental to acquiring knowledge in mathematics and science," the report states.

Expectations of parents and teachers can also play a large role in determining the type of career women will take up. Source: Supplied

Less than five per cent of young women contemplate working in STEM careers, compared to around twenty per cent of boys.

The study also revealed the expectations of parents, teachers and employers played a large role, with parents much more likely to expect their sons to work in STEM fields even when they perform the same way as daughters at school.

The data showed that 15-year-old boys spend one hour less per week on homework than girls and are eight per cent more likely to declare school a "waste of time". However they outperform girls in every single country in mathematics and exceed the number of women contemplating a career in computing or engineering in virtually all countries.

OECD Secretary-general Angel Gurria said the findings are a clear sign "we cannot rest complacent".

"We can provide a better future to our children if we act upon the evidence," he said.

Do you feel anxiety over performance or think young women 'choke under pressure'? Leave a comment below or continue the conversation on Twitter @NewscomauHQ |@Victoria_Craw


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