Global Career Expectations

Career expectations of boys and girls around the world show that gaps exist among young men and women on their plans to pursue a science or engineering career. Every three years, OECD conducts a PISA survey along with its international math and science assessments. In particular, OECD asks 15-year-old students across the globe what kind of careers in science they expect for themselves. In the most recent (2018) PISA survey, male students expressed science and engineering career expectations at twice the rate of young women across most countries. However, the United States stands out for having one of the lowest proportion (6%) of 15 year-old young women who indicate aspirations to pursue science and engineering careers.

Global PISA Career Expectations by Gender
Source: OECD, PISA 2018 Database, Table II.B1

In 2017, the OECD published the brief report What kind of careers in science do 15-year-old boys and girls expect for themselves?  based on responses from the 2015 PISA survey. The OECD average expectations show almost parity between boys’ and girls’ expectations of a science career, in which about 25% of respondents from each gender expect a science career. Yet, when these expectations are further disaggregated by professional occupations in different science sub-fields, a clear gender difference can be discerned. On average among OECD countries, more than half the girls interested in a science career, 17.4%, expect a health professional career while 5.9% of boys expect to do so. On the contrary, almost half the boys interested in a science career,12.2%, expect a career as science and engineering professionals whereas 5.3% of the girls have the same occupational expectations.  Another way to describe this is that on average among OECD countries, boys are 2.4 times more likely than girls to expect careers as scientists and engineers. In the United States, this likelihood is higher than the OECD average, with boys being 3.3 more likely than girls to have these expectations.

OECD Average Expectations of a Science Career, by Gender, 2015

title Global Career Expectations - global career expectations
Source: OECD (2017), “What kind of careers in science do 15-year-old boys and girls expect for themselves?”, PISA in Focus, No. 69, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/76e7442c-en.

Students expecting to work as science and engineering professionals for Selected Countries, by Gender, 2015

title Global Career Expectations - global career expectations
Source: OECD (2017), “What kind of careers in science do 15-year-old boys and girls expect for themselves?”, PISA in Focus, No. 69, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/76e7442c-en. Note: B-S-J-G (China) refers to the four PISA-participating municipalities/provinces in China: Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Guangdong; CABA refers to Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, Argentina; FYROM refers to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

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