Not lack of ability but more choice: individual and gender differences in choice of careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics

Psychol Sci. 2013 May;24(5):770-5. doi: 10.1177/0956797612458937. Epub 2013 Mar 18.


The pattern of gender differences in math and verbal ability may result in females having a wider choice of careers, in both science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and non-STEM fields, compared with males. The current study tested whether individuals with high math and high verbal ability in 12th grade were more or less likely to choose STEM occupations than those with high math and moderate verbal ability. The 1,490 subjects participated in two waves of a national longitudinal study; one wave was when the subjects were in 12th grade, and the other was when they were 33 years old. Results revealed that mathematically capable individuals who also had high verbal skills were less likely to pursue STEM careers than were individuals who had high math skills but moderate verbal skills. One notable finding was that the group with high math and high verbal ability included more females than males.

Keywords: STEM; adolescent development; career choice; career development; gender difference; math ability; sex differences.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aptitude*
  • Career Choice*
  • Engineering
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Individuality*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mathematics / statistics & numerical data*
  • Science / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sex Distribution
  • Technology / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States