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STEM Gender Gaps Significant Among Gen Z
Gallup Blog

STEM Gender Gaps Significant Among Gen Z

by Tara P. Nicola

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Male members of Generation Z in the U.S. are more interested in STEM fields than their female counterparts, according to the latest data from the Gallup and Walton Family Foundation Voices of Gen Z survey. When asked about their interest in occupations related to life and physical science, technology, engineering, and math, 85% of males born between 1997 and 2011 state they are very or somewhat interested in at least one of these sectors, compared with 63% of females.

The fields with the largest gender gaps (28 percentage points each) in reported interest are engineering and computers and technology. Males are also 10 percentage points more likely than females to be interested in math careers. Interest in life and physical science careers is essentially the same for females and males (33% vs. 31%).


These findings are based on a Gallup Panel web survey, conducted Sept. 11-19, 2023, with 2,006 U.S. Gen Z youth aged 12 to 26.

Gen Z Females’ Low STEM Confidence a Driver of Gender Gap

Among Gen Z youth who note they are not interested in pursuing a STEM career, 60% say it is because they don’t enjoy STEM and 48% because they would not be good at those roles. While young males and females are about equally likely to say they don’t enjoy STEM, confidence in one’s own STEM ability differs significantly by gender.

Gen Z females are nearly 20 points more likely than males to say they are not interested in a STEM career because they don’t think they would be good at it. By contrast, males are more likely to say they don’t know enough about STEM careers.


These findings align with previous Gallup studies about computer science education, which found that female students are much less likely than male students to express confidence in their ability to learn computer science and to think that computer science is important for them to learn.

Gen Z Females Exposed to Fewer STEM Topics in School

Female Gen Z youth report learning about fewer technical STEM concepts in their middle and high school coursework than their male counterparts do. More males report learning about six of the seven STEM concepts surveyed.

There are especially large gaps in exposure to computer science and physics concepts. Fifty-four percent of males report learning in school about computer programming/coding -- skills that underlie roles in fields as diverse as technology, manufacturing and cybersecurity -- compared with 39% of females. Furthermore, 44% of males say they have learned about electrical circuits -- a concept foundational to careers in electrical engineering, as well as the development of semiconductors and batteries -- compared with 30% of females.


This difference in exposure is not necessarily a result of schools more heavily encouraging males than females to pursue STEM. Indeed, nearly equal percentages of Gen Z males and females say their schools encouraged them to pursue STEM careers, provided opportunities to learn about STEM careers and supported participation in STEM-related extracurriculars. Rather, as has been noted in the research literature, this disparity in exposure is likely a product of females being less inclined to take STEM-related coursework and join extracurricular activities that prepare students for careers in technical fields such as physics and computer science.



Women make up half of the total college-educated workforce in the U.S. but only 34% of the workforce in science, technology, engineering and math sectors. Women are especially underrepresented in fast-growing STEM fields such as computer science. The findings from this study show that despite much investment in STEM education -- including in initiatives to reduce disparities in STEM participation by gender -- significant gender gaps persist.

The underrepresentation of girls in STEM has significant implications for society as a whole. At a fundamental level, increasing girls’ interest in STEM and their representation in high-growth STEM sectors is critical for strengthening the U.S. economy, as bolstering the pool of qualified candidates for in-demand STEM roles and reducing the gender pay gap can promote economic growth.

More work must be done to increase girls’ exposure to STEM, cultivate their STEM learning throughout secondary and postsecondary schooling, and remove barriers that hinder their pursuit of STEM careers.

Learn more from the Gallup and Walton Family Foundation’s Voices of Gen Z survey.

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Tara P. Nicola, Ph.D., is a Senior Consultant at Gallup who conducts higher education research.

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