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The Islamic Republic of Iran leads the way in getting more women into STEM

Campus magazine, a Singaporean publication aimed at students, published this article on 15th December 2021: The Paradox of Gender Inequality in STEM Education. It was one of many pieces that pointed out the odd fact that

In a nutshell, multiple studies have found that the lower the gender-equality in a given country, the higher the percentage of women studying STEM.

Simply put in numbers, before the pandemic, women made up 70% of engineering students in Iran, 42% in Morocco, 41% in Algeria, and 40% in Jordan, but only 29% in Norway, 19% in the U.S., and just 18% in Australia. Those are just some countries, but the pattern repeats itself almost everywhere.

The Global Gender Gap Report (GGGR) by the World Economic Forum (WEF) calculates global gender inequality based on a matrix, including health and survival, educational attainment, labour force participation, percentage of seats in parliament, and more. According to the 2021 GGGR, Norway was third globally. Iran was 150th. Yet Iran has double the percentage of women studying STEM.

Like almost every other article on the subject I have seen, the one in Campus spends several paragraphs explaining – and lamenting – how cultural factors push female eighteen year-olds away from science subjects. Note the scare quotes around “choosing”.

The unconscious bias may have different sources. For instance, it’s often cultural – the idea that “girls should play with dolls, while boys should build things” is still inherent in many households today. It may be observational – since women in STEM are already underrepresented, we assume that STEM is more a “guy thing.”

Sometimes, it can even be well-intentioned. For instance, parents may assume that STEM is difficult and they fear their daughters won’t be as successful being in a male-dominated course – especially compared to sons who they ascribe different characteristics, like being more competitive.

Facing this litany of discouraging cultural and social messaging, it’s no surprise that young girls in more developed countries – where there are viable, non-STEM study options – are often pushed away from STEM. This is then wrongly interpreted as them actively “choosing” non-STEM subjects.

…but devotes far less attention to the reasons behind superior academic performance of younger girls compared to boys in STEM subjects. There is half a line of acknowledgement that, hey, eggheads argue about why girls do better, but not a word of what those arguments are. Female superiority at thirteen is not seen as a thing needing to be changed or explained:

Multiple studies in dozens of countries show that pre-teen girls outperform their male peers in standardised math and science tests. Psychologists and neuro-scientists may argue the specific reasons, but the result is undisputable. Preteen girls and boys also enjoy/prefer STEM subjects at roughly the same ratio.

If we want Iranian levels of female STEM university students, perhaps we should do what Iran does and embed the superior level of responsibility shown by females into law?

According to Iran’s Islamic law, in cases of murder and certain other capital crimes boys over 15 and girls over nine may be held as culpable as adults and, therefore, punished with the death penalty.

– from “Iran executes 100 young people a year, human rights group says”, the Times, 26th Dec 2021.

23 comments to The Islamic Republic of Iran leads the way in getting more women into STEM

  • thefattomato

    What other choice do women in Iran have?

  • bobby b

    But we beat the heck out of Iran in Gender and Race Studies, I bet! Yay, team!

    Women in the West achieved parity in college (just in time for/because of – pick one) a switch from knowledge-based learning to an exploration of feelz. Not sure that women qua women have been well-served by this. More get degrees, which are worth much less.

  • Stonyground

    Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

    Just in case there is anyone else here who wasn’t aware.

  • I did indeed notice

    This is then wrongly interpreted as them actively “choosing” non-STEM subjects.

    My mind put the quotation marks around “wrongly”, not around “choosing”. 🙂 Overtly, the PC avoid assuming agency in women, any more than in blacks, because implicitly the PC intend to make their choices for them – lest they make ‘wrong’ ones. Empowering women is all very well as propaganda, but empowering the PC is the goal.

    As to understanding women’s greater stem percentages in less encouraging countries, well, C.S.Lewis wrote that a good way to get boys to read is to forbid them to do so – and then ensure they have many opportunities to disobey you. Maybe, in this respect, girls are not so unlike boys. Maybe telling girls they should go into STEM, that it’s their duty to the PC project, merely encourages them to see it as a duty – obviously a distasteful duty, else there’d be no need to lecture them about it.

    There again, maybe girls are not identical to boys as regards innate interest in STEM. Why should we not interpret the high figures in Islamic countries as an effect of prejudice, motivating girls to pursue male-respected careers to achieve respect. In a country lacking such prejudice, why should we not interpret the lower female proportion as the natural outcome when society does not distort girls’ own choices – unless, as I speculate above, we should see it as the unnaturally low outcome of the PC distorting them the other way?

  • Mark

    Iran, morocco, jordan, iran…..scientific and technological superpowers? It probably would make little difference if the goats dominated STEM in these enlightened utopias. Bit like congratulating Caeser on the “diversity” of his galley slaves.

    How many women choose STEM? Who cares as long as each individual has freely chosen. Are there and have there been pressures on women? Of course, just as there have been and are on men. But is this the issue?

    How many women who do STEM at university go on to have meaningful careers in those fields or meaningfully apply what they have learned (and the same for men).

    When I went to university to do physics (cough) years ago, it was my basic fascination with how the world and various machines and systems work that drew me, not any particular consideration as to the sort of job I would subsequently be doing (although I was not, of course, unaware of what was more probable) After a 40 year career – which is coming to a close – mainly in the aerospace industry, I have had to deal with so much BS. But it was the basic interest in the how of things that enabled me to deal with it. STEM, for me, as for so many other who entered the various fields at the same time, was a calling, as it should be. It meant that I didn’t automatically switch off at 5pm. It was, to some degree, my hobby as well and I found it easy to keep up with general progress.

    Now, alas as for so many other things, its just something to be marketed, based on sugar and bullshit coated images of how you can “change the world” without the necessity of doing any real work, hard or otherwise.

    “Global Gender Gap Report (GGGR) by the World Economic Forum (WEF) calculates global gender inequality based on a matrix, including health and survival, educational attainment, labour force participation, percentage of seats in parliament, and more”. Well that’s a calling!

    Unfortunately for some it is – and I suspect it’s this sort of bollocks that many modern day STEM graduates would consider a productive application for what they have learned rather than anything actually useful.

  • Paul Marks

    “wrongly interpreted as them “choosing” non STEM subjects”.

    Young women are choosing (not “choosing”) non STEM subjects.

    Most people here can see how journals such as “Campus” are saturated with Frankfurt School Marxism (hence “choosing” rather than choosing – as with Freedom of Speech “really” being “Repressive Tolerance” according to Herbert Marcuse), but it goes back a lot further than that – this is the triumph of Rousseau (the intellectual father of the French, rather than the American, Revolution).

    According to Rousseau – when people choose what he did not want them to choose, this was not really the “General Will” – this was “The Will of All” what Marxists (Marxists take many of their doctrines from Rousseau – normally without admitting it) call “False Consciousness”.

    The “False Consciousness” of young women created by “unconscious bias” of “social and cultural messaging” causes them to only think they are choosing non STEM – subjects, really they are not…. (and the rest of the standard Frankfurt School tap dance).

    In reality – thefattomato is correct, young women in Iran an other oppressive regimes choose STEM subjects because they often have no other choice. The truth is just about the opposite of what Frankfurt School Marxist saturated journals present.

    And bobbyb is correct – a lot of the subjects taught in the West are of low academic quality.

    That can also be traced back to Rousseau – who attacked teaching facts and hard skills and (in the novel Emile) advocated teaching attitudes instead. This was presented as “freedom” – but, of course, was SLAVERY. Remember even when the young man gets married at the end of Rousseau’s novel the teacher (basically like Rousseau’s “Lawgiver” – who pushes the “General Will” HIS OWN WILL against “The Will of All”) REMAINS with the couple – “guiding” (“Nudging”) every decision.

    The left “Project” and have done since Rousseau – the claim to stand against people being manipulated (“Nudged”) into decisions – but that is exactly what they do stand for, and have done ever since Rousseau.

    John Dewey brought Rousseau’s ideas (do not teach facts and hard skills – teach attitudes instead) into American education), and now Rousseauism (and its off shoot Frankfurt School Marxism) does not just dominate the schools – it dominates the education system as well.

    By the way – to those who claim that the left does not stand for tyranny. From the start the left was dominated by the ideas of Rousseau (who stood for tyranny) and then the ideas of Karl Marx (who also stood for tyranny) became more popular – although, in truth, much of Marxism is repacked Rousseauism.

    Show me a leftist political movement that repudiates the ideas of Rousseau – the “teacher” in Emile, and the “Lawgiver” in the Social Contract.

  • Paul Marks

    For “certain crimes” girls over nine years old may be executed in Iran.

    Thank you for your wonderful example of freedom “Campus” magazine – and “equality” to, as the age for boys is 15.

    The Marxist (specifically Frankfurt School Marxist) alliance with Islamist powers (as long as those Islamic powers are anti Western) is one of the many depressing aspects of our age.

    As far as the American education establishment is concerned – as long as powers share their Death-to-the-West Death-to-America creed, nothing else matters.

    Nothing else matters – even the killing of nine year old girls for unclear “certain crimes”.

    How can you protect your children from this demented leftist educational establishment – which dominates so many private schools as well as government schools?

    Home Schooling is one option – and if your children want to go to university, point out that American universities that accept government backed “Student Loans” tend not to tolerate dissent. In the final Orwellian move – most American universities, encouraged by the Obama Administration (it was not necessary for the Frankfurt School Marxists to “infiltrate” the Obama Administration – as the President himself was one of them) have used “Title Nine” of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (supposedly all about freedom and tolerance) to viciously crush dissent, both among academics and among students.

    Supposedly dissent prevents a “welcoming and safe environment” for certain groups of students – i.e. the Herbert Marcuse doctrine (which can be traced back to Rousseau) that Freedom of Speech is “Repressive Tolerance”.

    I say again – show me a leftist movement that repudiates the ideas of Rousseau, the “Lawgiver” of the Social Contract and the “teacher” of Emile (who did not teach facts and hard skills – but taught attitudes instead, seeking to control the mind of the person for-life).

    The left has always stood for tyranny – this is what Rousseau (the father of the left) stood for. And Karl Marx (and Herbert Marcuse and the rest) carry this on. The fact that they constantly use such words as “freedom” and “liberty” is a disguise to deceive the unwary.

  • Paul Marks

    By the way…

    ITV News (and the BBC and the rest of the accursed “mainstream media”) are not saying that people going to hospital is the “result” of Prime Minister Johnson not imposing yet more insane Covid restrictions.

    In short the left (in this case the media) are not opposing the government because it is oppressive – they oppose it because it is not REPRESSIVE ENOUGH – not as repressive as they would like it to be.

    It was the same with the French Revolution.

    If anyone thinks that the, Rousseau saturated, French Revolutionaries opposed Louis XVI (that well meaning – but horribly weak man) because he was oppressive – then I have a nice bridge to sell you.

    They wanted MORE oppression – not less. That is the heart, the rotten heart, of the left.

    Just as they want MORE insane Covid regulations now – and (absurdly) blame people going to hospital on lack of enough tyranny.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Paul Marks, in defence of Campus magazine, the quote about girls of nine being liable to the death penalty under Iran’s system of Islamic law is from a separate article in the Times called “Iran executes 100 young people a year, human rights group says” (the hyperlink in the last line). Perhaps I should have made it more clear that they were from different sources. I put them together in this post because I happened to read the Campus article shortly after the Times one and the irony struck me that the progressive assumptions about women and the Islamic assumptions about women, so different externally, ended up in the same place: women are more responsible.

  • John

    During the latter part of 2021 in neighbouring Afghanistan it allegedly became a lot more difficult for presumably STEM qualified women to hold down a job in banking.

  • Jacob

    Why would anyone be interested in the gender of STEM students?
    Why would anyone be interested in the skin color of STEM students?
    Why would anyone be interested in the height or weight of STEM students?

    There was once an ethnic joke about Galicians (Spanish Galicia – “Gallegos”): two gallegos meet, one says: I want to buy a car, which car would you recommend? – the other says: a red car. Red cars are the best.

  • Paul Marks

    Natalie – I am not saying that the facts about the persecution of women and girls in Iran were in the “Campus” magazine. On the contrary – I am saying that these facts were NOT in the Campus magazine. The Islamic Republic of Iran hates the West, hates America and hates “Trump” – nothing else matters to the “Woke” (Frankfurt School) types who control Western schools and universities.

    And it is the same with the brutal persecution (indeed judicial murder) of homosexuals in such countries as the Islamic Republic of Iran – the “Woke” (Frankfurt School) establishment DO NOT CARE.

    Their show of loving equality for black people (treated as less than human in the Middle East for more than a thousand years), equality for women, and equality for homosexuals, is a charade. All that really matters to “Woke” (Frankfurt School) establishment is the extermination of the “capitalist” West.

    “Death to America” is the summation of the “Woke” creed.

  • Paul Marks

    John – yes indeed it did.

    Jacob – I have to admit that France does not get everything wrong, forbidding public bodies to ask the race or religion of people is quite correct.

    In the United States it has been illegal under Federal law to discriminate on the basis of race since 1964 (in some States it was illegal to do so long before then) – yet it happens every day. Public and private institutions discriminate against Asian and white people in favour of black people, from Harvard to Hollywood this occurs – and various fancy names (such as “Affirmative Action”), but it is SKIN COLOUR RACISM.

    The institutional corruption – the flouting of the law for almost SIXTY YEARS is sickening.

    And it is applying to sex as well – “we must have more women in X jobs” is SEXISM, it is DISCRIMINATION ON THE BASIS OF SEX.

    It is horribly wrong – and look how it never applies to nasty jobs where there is a high chance of being killed. No one ever says “we must have more of X group” in such jobs – “evil” white, male, heterosexuals, are allowed to do such jobs (and allowed to die, or be crippled).

  • Paul Marks

    “But if we did not discriminate in favour of X group, if we just did things on merit, then they would not fit the proportion they are in the general population”.

    That lets the egalitarian cat out of the bag – and explains why the left HATE such places as Hillsdale College which has forbad discrimination on the basis of race and sex since the 1850s – yes the 1850s (middle of the 19th century). If the left were really “against discrimination” they would love Hillsdale – in fact they hate it (with a passion).

    And as Hillsdale would not (correctly not) keep statistics on the number of female students or “students of colour” in the university, it had to turn down all government funding for students (including the so called “student loans”).

    A blessing in disguise.

    As for de facto quotas for X groups….

    Do you want the bridge you drive over, or the building you work or live in designed by someone who was picked to fill a quota?

    How about your doctor? Would you like to be treated by someone who was picked to fill a quota?

    Do not laugh – it is already happening.

  • Chester Draws

    You simply cannot compare the amount of STEM girls in Iran, say, with the US, say. The social systems are far too different.

    Taking STEM is a way for young well-off Iranian women to meet young Iranian men with a future. Men who probably aren’t fanatically religious and with a bit of brains. There is simply no need for a young US girl to do the same because they can meet them at a bar. Or a house even.

    The Islamic countries value STEM degrees very highly, socially. But not the actual practice of the various sciences etc. As a result they pump out an amazing number of engineers while having quite small need for them. No-one is bothered, it is a status thing, and status things aren’t about usefulness. We pump out masses of journalism graduates for the same reason — far, far more than could ever be journalists.

    In the West a person doing STEM is almost certainly doing so because they want to enter a STEM career. You cannot make the same assumption about other societies.

    The actual percentage of women getting engineering jobs in Iran? I’m going to stick my neck out and say that it is not 70%. And it won’t be any time soon under the Mullahs.

  • John B

    Asking the other question might help: why do fewer boys choose STEM in Countries with lower gender equality?

  • Johnathan Pearce

    A while ago I reviewed a book, Apollo in the Age of Aquarius, by Neil Maher, who appears to be some sort of lefty Green, and he contrasted the supposedly more gender-equal composition of Russian cosmonauts in the early period of the space race with all those toxic masculine jocks who worked for NASA. It was completely hokey, of course: the “equality” is very much of the gilded cage variety. And sometimes one would come across claims about how Fidel Castro’s Cuba saw an improvement in literacy, which ignores how there’s not much point in being able to read or write more if censors clamp down on anything that might be a bit naughty.

    The world remains beguiled by the supposedly superior achievements of countries run by thugs and fanatics. It is an itch we need to stop scratching.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Johnathan Pearce,

    I actually do think that Communist countries were relatively good at teaching people to read. If I may quote myself:

    When the history of Fidel Castro’s rule in Cuba comes to be written all that stuff about the excellence of the healthcare system will turn out to be lies but the claim of high literacy rates will be more or less true.

    Communist education gets results because force is near to the surface. I acknowledge but do not approve. See previous post here (scroll down to “Two education stories from Poland”), quoting Brian Micklethwait, or you can get more recent Micklethwait here. A further advantage of communist education is that the wishes of the teachers are given almost as short a shrift as those of the pupils.

    Force works well in education because the forcers can look at the forcees all the time they are doing the forcing. It works less well in healthcare and very badly indeed in agriculture.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex, December 28, 2021 at 5:13 pm), it is probably relevant that being taught to read is commonly forceful, in that children are typically told by their parents or teachers that today there will be a reading lesson, not asked whether they want there to be a reading lesson today. Communists forcing children to learn reading do not look vastly different from other teachers forcing children to learn reading, the way their methods do in other activities.

  • bobby b

    When government instructs us through the written word, reading is obligatory.

  • Paul Marks

    In the 1950s both Cuba and the Dominican Republic (both island countries in the Caribbean – with similar populations), were both ruled by brutal dictators – but Cuban living standards were much higher than those of the Dominican Republic.

    Now the reverse is true. Now the Dominican Republic, which used to have vastly lower living standards than Cuba, is less poor than Cuba is.

    I wonder why that is?

    “The CIA”, “The Embargo” “Do not think – HATE!” replies the education system and the mainstream media.

  • Rudolph Hucker


    Taking STEM is a way for young well-off Iranian women to meet young Iranian men with a future. Men who probably aren’t fanatically religious and with a bit of brains. There is simply no need for a young US girl to do the same because they can meet them at a bar. Or a house even.

    The Islamic countries value STEM degrees very highly, socially. But not the actual practice of the various sciences etc. As a result they pump out an amazing number of engineers while having quite small need for them. No-one is bothered, it is a status thing, and status things aren’t about usefulness. We pump out masses of journalism graduates for the same reason — far, far more than could ever be journalists.

    I agree, however, that situation is not just in Iran is it? The same issue exists on an even bigger scale in India.

    India tops the world in producing female graduates in STEM but ranks 19th in employing them


    Maybe (perhaps) the incredibly low percentage of women going into STEM in the UK, US and Australia has something to do with the collapse of STEM-related industries in those countries.

    Should we be surprised at the reason or the result? Our young citizens are repeatedly being bombarded with messages that suggest STEM-related industries are “Bad Industries” (because environment). Our own governments seems to be actively discouraging STEM-related industries from existing in these countries, and what’s left is drifting towards worn-out and disfunctional (e.g. railways).

    I wish ehere were more STEM-related industries (in the UK, US and Australia) that still seem glamorous, exciting or inspirational. Can anyone think of any/many? There are a few that spring to mind (Tesla, SpaceX etc). The most notable thing is those firms still have leaders that call BS on wokery.

    At the risk of thread drift, but while I remember it, may I recommend Elon Musk’s recent interview?

    I’m not perverted enough to be on CNN


  • John Mumaw

    I coached chess for many years. The girls would lose interest around puberty, the boys would stick with it at a greater rate. So the STEM subjects. Girls are too sensible to spend hours staring at a vinyl board and plastic pieces. Boys (perhaps more Asbergerish?) would continue. Women, given the choice, as in Western countries, prefer to study people and living things (see the feminine preponderance in psychology, biology, and vet med at university). Boys are more attracted to the abstract. Choices for success are more circumscribed in poorer countries, so girls have to become… electrical engineers, perhaps.