It is no secret that women’s participation in the STEM (Science, Technology, Math, and Engineering) fields is lacking. The latest report from the Department of Commerce reveals that women make up less than 25% of the work force in the area of STEM.
What’s even more surprising though is that women who already have STEM degrees choose to work non-STEM jobs after graduating more often than men with the same degree.
So, why are women seemingly so turned off by professions involving STEM skills? A Forbes report discusses the findings of a series of studies coming out of the University of Buffalo that suggests women may just be “playing dumb” when faced with the potential of romance.
Men and women involved in the studies were shown images and listened to conversations dealing with one of three categories; romantic, friendship, or intellectual goals. When women were exposed to the romantic category they expressed negative attitudes regarding STEM and showed more of an interest in other types of careers. But when women were exposed to friendship and intellectual categories, their attitudes toward STEM remained unaffected.
The studies’ lead researcher, explains “When the goal to be romantically desirable is activated, even by subtle situational cues, women report less interest in math and science. One reason why this might be is that pursuing intelligence goals in masculine fields, such as STEM conflicts with pursuing romantic goals associated with traditional romantic scripts and gender norms.”
Girls growing up may believe women are just not made to work in STEM fields (see YouTube clip) or men find a math and science-minded woman unattractive. So what can be done about the STEM stigma and gender stereotypes that most women deal with their whole lives?
Women like Danica McKellar (you may remember her as Winnie Cooper from “The Wonder Years”) are working hard to lift the STEM stereotype off young girls. McKellar has written a series of math books like “Math Doesn’t Suck”, targeted at young girls to let them know it’s okay to love math. Girls are even invited to take a quiz on her website entitled “Do you hide your smarts?” to show girls they shouldn’t hide or feel ashamed of their intelligence around boys.
Why do you think women “play dumb” in front of potential mates when it comes to STEM?
Have you ever found yourself hiding your intelligence in a romantic situation?