National Public Radio (NPR) reports on a new study by University of Texas sociologist Catherine Riegle-Crumb, which offers an interesting new perspective on this question.
Riegle-Crumb found that across the US boys were more likely to take physics than girls, but at individual schools the divide was anything but constant. When she controlled for variations, she found that “in communities that had a higher percentage of women in the labor force who are working in science, technology, engineering and math, that in those schools, girls were as likely as boys to take physics, or even more likely.”
“Riegle-Crumb’s finding about the importance of local role models meshes with a broad range of earlier work that shows the decision to pursue math and science is not about innate differences between boys and girls, but about social context and norms. Countries with greater gender equality, for example, reveal more equal math test scores among boys and girls.”