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Why Women May Avoid Careers in Science and Technology: Part I

January 31, 2012

According to Huffington Post blogger Heidi Grant Halvorson, girls are still underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) compared to boys. Halvorson cites a review article in Psychological Bulletin as evidence that girls simply seem to prefer other subjects, and explores the reasons why?

Halvorson also cites research from SUNY- Buffalo that suggests women avoid STEM because they feel entering those fields will make them less desirable to men.  According to Halvorson, gender stereotypes that women are supposed to enter professions such as teaching and nursing, where being communal and nurturing are an advantage, and men are supposed to enter professions including STEM, where being independent and analytical serve them well, can manifest themselves on a subconscious level.

The two papers cited by Halvorson suggest that because of this subconscious manifestation of gender stereotypes, women avoid STEM when choosing a career path; they feel that these fields will keep them too busy to find a romantic relationship, and that men won’t find them attractive if they demonstrate an aptitude for STEM. I think its the exact opposite.

Halvorson concludes that children already know that they can succeed in any field of their choosing; they need to know that pursuing a career not typically associated with their gender won’t keep them finding the romantic relationship they seek. (That we all seek for that matter.) I totally agree. Only by pursuing a career in which you can explore your interests are you sure to meet like-minded people with whom you may fall in love.

For Part II of this series, in which I discuss fantasize about what I would tell the current students of my alma mater, click here.

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