Illinois' female students in science, math classes fall behind nation

Feb 6, 2015

Illinois girls lag behind other states in the number that enroll in science, technology, engineering and math classes, according to a recent University of Illinois report commissioned by the Illinois State Board of Education.

In STEM courses, Illinois females represent 15 percent of the enrollments as opposed to 31 percent nationwide.

According to a University of Illinois release, “these gender disparities were reversed in fields not associated with STEM. Females represented 91 percent of enrollments in education and training, and 77 percent of students in human services courses. Girls also dominated enrollments in the marketing career cluster and in the hospitality and tourism career cluster, representing 65 percent and 61 percent of enrollments, respectively.”

The release also stated: “To promote STEM education in Illinois schools, the researchers suggested that Illinois lawmakers provide financial incentives for school districts to develop STEM programs and activities for students.
“The researchers also recommended that school districts review and audit their curricula, instructional practices and materials to eliminate gender biases that may discourage children from considering careers in fields considered nontraditional for their gender.

“Prior research suggests that stereotyping can happen, and students may get impressions about whether they ‘fit’ into certain fields as early as the age of 6 or 7,” said Joel Malin, a curriculum specialist and the lead author on the report. “Role models and classroom instructional practices can make a big difference. We recommend several strategies that would reduce gender inequities and make programs appealing and accessible for both males and females.”

The state spent $600 on the study, which was funded by a federal Race to the Top grant.