Italy has the largest gender disparity in science and mathematics

Layers. (Photo: @theoldcarmilla)

In the OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test results, Italy stands out with a worrying difference: the country ranks last among 81 countries in educating women in science subjects, especially mathematics.

This persistent gender imbalance, known as the “gender gap,” reflects a 21-point difference between girls’ math skills compared to their male peers, the equivalent of a full year of schooling.

This phenomenon is not alien to deep-rooted stereotypes that consider men more inclined to calculations and practical problem-solving.

While many countries have implemented plans to engage girls at an early age, Italy appears to be lagging behind in tackling this stigma.

Italy’s gender achievement gap of 21 points contrasts sharply with an average of just 9 points in other countries, with 14 education systems showing girls outperforming boys in science subjects.

It is important to note that this gap does not reflect a natural tendency; Instead, girls are often steered toward humanities majors from an early age, discouraging them from exploring fields such as computing and technology.

However, in other disciplines, Italian women do not perform much lower and, in most cases, outperform men. Moreover, women who choose scientific careers obtain higher grades than their male colleagues, although their representation in these fields remains low.

On the international scene, Italy lags behind other European countries in mathematics and science. While mathematics results remain in line with the OECD average, the persistent gender gap puts the country at a disadvantage. In science, although there has been improvement, Italy is still at the bottom of the ranking.

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This phenomenon not only affects the academic performance of women in Italy, but also has long-term consequences on their educational and career choices. Women’s choice to enter scientific careers is affected by this ingrained stigma, and the gap widens as they progress through secondary and tertiary education.

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