Filtered Out, but Not by Skill: The Gender Gap in Pursing Mathematics at a High-Stakes Exam. By: Zawistowska, Alicja; Sadowski, Ireneusz. Sex Roles. Jun2019, Vol. 80 Issue 11/12, p724-734. 11p. 1 Chart, 1 Graph.

The present paper concerns the gender gap in pursuing mathematics at high stakes matriculation exams in Poland. Results of the optional Extended Exam in Mathematics (EEM) serve as the main criterion in entering tertiary education in majority of technical and engineering majors and, therefore, the exam works as an important filter for future career paths. We investigate whether the wide, gross difference between men and women in the propensity to take EEM can be mostly explained by an underlying skill difference, school effects, or other non-cognitive factors. We also test a skill immunization hypothesis which predicts that the gender gap declines at higher levels of mathematical skill. For those purposes we use official data from the 2016 matriculation exams covering the complete cohort of a quarter of a million students in more than 5000 schools. The results show that with skill and school effects roughly held constant, women are still much less likely to take EEM and the gender gap does not narrow on the upper tail of performance in mathematics. Furthermore, higher verbal skill draws women away from pursuing mathematics more strongly than it draws away men. These combined results imply that non-cognitive factors play a key role in self-selection processes and that STEM majors are at higher risk of losing mathematically gifted women than mathematically gifted men.