More men end up doing math simply because they believe they are more smarter than they really are, while women are more grounded, says a Washington study looking at attitude differences in the genders.
Shane Bench of Washington State University set out to look at people's biases and experiences with mathematical abilities that set them on the elitist road to pursue related careers in science and engineering.
Men, it turns out, overestimate their abilities while women are more accurate in self-evaluation.
Two studies were conducted, one using 122 undergraduate students and the other consisted of 184 participants. Each group first completed a math test before guessing their performances.
In the first study, participants were told their real test scores and again asked to take a test and predict their scores.
In the second study, participants only wrote one test without receiving any feedback. They were, however, asked to report on their intent to pursue math-related courses and careers.
The former study saw men giving better estimates the second time, while the latter one showed men had a superior attitude about their math prowess, when they reported an inclination to pursue math careers and courses.
The study appeared in Springer's journal Sex Roles.
Though women outperform their male counterparts on mathematical tests in elementary school, they seem to underestimate their abilities. But gender gaps in the areas could be better explained by men's overestimation, says Bench.
His team also found that positively reinforcing women's math abilities at a young age can positively influence their self-evaluation.
"Despite assumptions that realism and objectivity are always best in evaluating the self and making decisions, positive illusions about math abilities may be beneficial to women pursuing math courses and careers," he adds.
Women and science has been in the news with British Nobel Laureate Tim Hunt, who recently set off a storm with "sexist" comments of "trouble with women in labs".
He was forced to resign from UCL for what is now being referred to as "jokes made in a light vein". "Science needs women," he went on to say in his report, parts of which were allegedly quoted out of context.