Although women in America make up nearly half of the work force, they only comprise 24 percent of STEM jobs (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). A recent study has perhaps shed a bit of light as to where this divergence may be rooted. According to the research, men often overestimate their math skills than women, but it’s this over-confidence that may lead them to pursue a career in the field.

In the study, which was conducted by researchers from Washington State University, 122 undergraduate students and 184 other participants were asked to complete a math test before guessing how well they have done, Psychcentral reported. One group received feedback about their real test scores before they were asked to take a test to predict their scores. The second group was not given any feedback before taking their test and were additionally asked to report their intent to pursue math-related courses and careers.

Results showed that differences lied not in the test scores of men and women but rather their prediction of their personal scores. Time and again, male participants overestimated how well they performed on the exam. Women, on the other hand, were much more accurate in predicting their scores. The results also revealed that far more men expressed interest in pursuing a future in math courses and careers than women.

The team hopes this finding can help to move along current efforts to get more girls and women involved in math and science.

According to Tamara Hudgins, executive director of Girlstart, a nonprofit dedicated to providing after-school and enrichment programs to get girls interested in sciences, getting more girls involved in science could have huge benefits for everyone, TODAY reported.

“That means that potential innovations aren’t happening, because we’re not preparing our students for the STEM jobs that are out there,” Hudgins said. “If we can get girls interested in STEM, we can change the national economy, and change innovation in America and across the world.”

As shown by the data, believing you are competent in a subject is directly correlated with your decision to study it further and perhaps eventually pursue a career in the field. Helping to build up young girls’ confidence in these subjects may be a healthy way to encourage their future involvement in these fields.

“Gender gaps in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields are not necessarily the result of women’s underestimating their abilities, but rather may be due to men’s overestimating their abilities,” said Shane Bench, lead researcher in the study, as reported by Psychcentral.

Source: Bench SW, Lench HC, Liew J, Miner K, Flores SA. Gender Gaps in Overestimation of Math Performance. Sex Roles. 2015.