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Gender Differences in Mathematics and Science Competitions: A Systematic Review
Steegh, A., Höffler, T., Keller, M., Parchmann, I.

Gender Differences in Mathematics and Science Competitions: A Systematic Review

Journal of Research in Science Teaching. DOI: 10.1002/tea.21580, Open Access

Gendered patterns in mathematics and science interest emerge in early childhood, develop over time, and ultimately reflect advanced course selection in secondary education. During the crucial time adolescents become aware of their strengths and interests and specialize accordingly, they get the opportunity to participate in out‐of‐school learning programs such as mathematics and science competitions. This raises the question whether mathematics and science competitions contribute to gender equity by equally promoting female and male interests. In this article, we present a systematic review on gender differences and the mechanisms explaining success and failure in mathematics and science competitions. On an international level, we found large gender differences regarding participation in all Olympiads with the exception of the biology Olympiad. In fairs and national Olympiads, overall participation rates were not gendered as such, but females preferred biology topics whereas males preferred physics related topics. Male and female achievement in fairs was comparable, but males clearly outperformed female participants at the Olympiads, with the smallest differences in the biology Olympiad. Variables and theoretical frameworks explaining participation and achievement and the role of gender in mathematics and science competitions are discussed. We suggest that gender stereotypes, through their influence on self‐concept and interest, play an important role in the mechanisms resulting in low female participation rates in and beyond mathematics and science competitions (especially in physics and chemistry). The mechanisms we found explaining female representation during a national selection competition might be considered as reflecting those in female mathematics or science careers and could thus serve as food for thought on countering the gender gap in mathematics and science.