Educational Psychology Review

, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 119–140

Gender Gap in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM): Current Knowledge, Implications for Practice, Policy, and Future Directions

Review Article

DOI: 10.1007/s10648-015-9355-x

Cite this article as:
Wang, MT. & Degol, J.L. Educ Psychol Rev (2017) 29: 119. doi:10.1007/s10648-015-9355-x


Although the gender gap in math course-taking and performance has narrowed in recent decades, females continue to be underrepresented in math-intensive fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Career pathways encompass the ability to pursue a career as well as the motivation to employ that ability. Individual differences in cognitive capacity and motivation are also influenced by broader sociocultural factors. After reviewing research from the fields of psychology, sociology, economics, and education over the past 30 years, we summarize six explanations for US women’s underrepresentation in math-intensive STEM fields: (a) cognitive ability, (b) relative cognitive strengths, (c) occupational interests or preferences, (d) lifestyle values or work-family balance preferences, (e) field-specific ability beliefs, and (f) gender-related stereotypes and biases. We then describe the potential biological and sociocultural explanations for observed gender differences on cognitive and motivational factors and demonstrate the developmental period(s) during which each factor becomes most relevant. We then propose evidence-based recommendations for policy and practice to improve STEM diversity and recommendations for future research directions.


Gender gap STEM Career preference Lifestyle value Relative cognitive strength Motivation 

Funding information

Funder NameGrant NumberFunding Note
Directorate for Education and Human Resources
  • DRL1315943

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  2. 2.Penn State AltoonaAltoonaUSA

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