Do all countries have the same gender imbalance in science?

That is, while some countries may have a higher proportion of women in science, while others have a lower proportion of women in science, if you compared the gender ratio in physics compared to the gender ratio of biology in a country, would you always see the same or similar results? Or could you see a higher proportion of women in physics compared to biology in one country, but see a higher proportion of women in biology compared to physics in another country?

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    Perhaps someone else can complete this: I remember having read in the Communications of the ACM that in some middle-east country, the vast majority of computer science the students are women, and that was specific to computer science). This may be a starting point for a search to a proof for a "no" answer, depending on how narrow you define the term "science".
    – DCTLib
    Dec 16, 2014 at 11:34
  • @DCTLib Romania, if I recall correctly.
    – JeffE
    Dec 16, 2014 at 15:05
  • Are you looking for an answer based on supporting documentation (as opposed to answers that say "It seems to me from my observations...")? If so, please add the reference-request tag.
    – ff524
    Dec 16, 2014 at 15:14
  • Discussion about imbalance, segregation, etc. moved to chat.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Aug 15, 2018 at 12:04

2 Answers 2


Within Europe alone there are huge variations in the number of female mathematicians as documented with lots of graphs and maps here.

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    I find the Netherlands/Belgium difference particularly striking. Dec 16, 2014 at 17:56

It is a misconception that women are underrepresented in science or STEM fields fields in general. The reality is that women have entered some STEM fields to the point where they are no longer underrepresented (e.g., biology) while largely forsaking other STEM fields (e.g., computer science).

Today, more women than ever major in so-called STEM fields. More than 58% of all bachelor’s, master’s and doctorates in biology are being awarded to women.Within certain University biology departments, women also make up nearly half of the faculty. And within the department of behavioral and social sciences, 70% of faculty members are women :

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However, women comprise only 18% of students receiving bachelor's degrees in computer science and engineering, and those figures have actually dropped over the past couple of years :

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And in spite of having an overall 2-to-1 advantage in being ranked first for the job in any STEM field, women remain underrepresented as faculty members for those fields as well. Policies to attract more girls and women into subjects such as computer science, physics and engineering have largely failed.

These trends in gender representation are consistent internationally. For example, if we look at Britain, we see that women are eg. less than 20% of all engineering and computer science undergraduates, but more than 60% of all biology undergraduates and even more than 75% of all veterinarian undergraduates :

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If we look at Europe as a whole, we see that 40% of the 17 million scientists and engineers in the EU are women. However, men are particularly overrepresented in manufacturing (83% of scientists and engineers in manufacturing were male), while the services sector was much more balanced (55% male and 45% female).

Further, we see that women are in the majority in all of the EU Member States among students studying for Master’s degrees. Yet, we also see that there are considerably more female than male students studying social sciences, journalism, information, business, administration or law, with women accounting for 57.6 % of all students within this field of education :

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Even if we look beyond Europe and North-America, we see a very similar gender distribution across different fields :

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My girlfriend and I, both living in Belgium, are a perfect reflection this pattern as well : I work as a programmer in corporate R&D and have only male colleagues, while my girlfriend teaches bio-chemistry faculty at a local university and has mostly female colleagues.

Obviously, there still remain differences in the gender gap on a per county basis. Peculiar about these differences, however, is that women are actually less likely to enter a STEM field in countries with greater gender equality :

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One possible explanation for the aforementioned gender distribution is the high "geek factor" in fields like computer science, physics and engineering. Another would be gender stereotyping transmitted through our interaction with others. However, there also biological differences to consider, like the difference between men's and women's brains.

Men may simply be more driven by a biological urge to build things, whereas women may simply be more driven by a biological urge to help people. It would be foolish to underestimate the impact of sex hormones on our individual preferences when even among monkeys males prefer to play with trucks and females with dolls!

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    While I appreciate the data, I don’t think it is relevant to the OP’s question. They want to know if there’s always about 10% of woman in physics 15% in math, 65% in medicine, etc (numbers are made up). While you have cross-country comparisons and you have by-field breakdowns, none of those graphs do both at the same time. This is what is shown to be inconsistent in the other answer for mathematics, and I have seen similar results for Economics and Physics (though I can’t find data easily on Google). Jul 30, 2018 at 12:56
  • @StellaBiderman : I disagree. All these datasets clearly indicate that (1) more women than men obtain a bachelor's degree, (2) women are overrepresented in social sciences & biosciences (>50%), (3) fairly represented in mathematics & physical sciences (up to 40%) and (3) significantly underrepresented in computer science & engineering (20% or less) throughout the West and - for most part - the world as a whole. This, both with respect to education choices & career choices, although gender gaps are greater for career choices than education choices. Jul 30, 2018 at 13:18
  • @JohnSlegers Which graph shows that the % of women in biology is constant across countries? The closest I see is that the average in the EU and the average in Europe are close together, but you’d expect that even if it wasn’t particularly consistent. Jul 30, 2018 at 13:23
  • @StellaBiderman : Graph 2 : Bachelor's degrees in biosciences earned by women in the US : 58% —— Graph 3 : Bachelor's degrees in biosciences earned by women in the UK : 61% —— Sure, there are only two countries, but the those numbers are surprisingly close when considering the ocean physically and many social & economic differences culturally separating both countries. —— I would have loved to include data on degrees obtained in biosciences for other countries, but I've thusfar been unable to find such data. Jul 30, 2018 at 13:28
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    I removed off-topic parts from the answer and moved all pertaining comments including comments that I consider obsolete comments to chat. Please stick to the question.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Aug 15, 2018 at 11:58

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