Where do women study STEM at high rates? Sweden, where gender equality is a super important cultural value? In the US where we spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to get more women into tech? Or in the Middle East, where some women can’t (yet) legally drive and are the property of their closest male relative?
If you answered the latter, you’d be right. In a fascinating article about education in the Middle East, Amanda Ripley writes at The Atlantic:
In fact, across the Arab world, women now earn more science degrees on a percentage basis than women in the United States. In Saudi Arabia alone, women earn half of all science degrees. And yet, most of those women are unlikely to put their degrees to paid use for very long.
This is baffling on the most obvious levels. In the West, researchers have long believed that future prospects incentivize students to invest in school. The conventional wisdom is that girls do better in school as women acquire more legal and political rights in society. But many Middle Eastern women do not go on to have long professional careers after graduating; they spend much of their lives working at home as wives and mothers. Fewer than one in every five workers is female in Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman.
All throughout the world, girls outperform boys in school. That’s not the shocking part. The shocking part is that we claim that women aren’t studying STEM subjects at school and aren’t entering tech careers in the US because of discrimination and oppression, but in countries where women don’t have a lot of rights (and granted, those rights vary drastically even within Middle Eastern countries), they manage to succeed in STEM in school.
To keep reading, click here: If You Want More Women in STEM, Try Discriminating Against Them