I have long suspected that much of any genetic influence on a gender gap in an academic/occupational field might be as much or more about innate interest in a type of activity as it is about innate ability. A new psychological theory (supported by some research, so it is more than idle speculation) supports that hunch.
The press release, Technical aptitude: Do women score lower because they just aren’t interested? contains these nuggets:
Smart people, researchers have found, are able to learn the requirements of any job if they are motivated to. And research shows that men and women do not differ, on average, in general intelligence.
Frank Schmidt, author of the paper outlining the theory . . .
posits that this difference stems from sex differences in interest in technical pursuits, which leads people to acquire technical experience, which in turn increases technical aptitude scores.
Excellence follows interests by way of learning experiences. Of course, culture can play a role in how a field is presented and taught,making it more interesting to one gender or another. Social factors can also determine how accessible and attractive types of learning experiences are to one sex or the other. Engineering, nursing, etc. If females are interested, they will gain experience and acquire aptitude. If males are interested, ditto. Those uninterested will not, or at least not as much.
Of course, allow me to add, “it seems” & “in general.” Greater confidence in the proposed relationship between variables awaits further research.