New study repeats: Service-Oriented Women avoid STEM

July 19, 2010 at 10:03 pm 3 comments

This is a claim we’ve heard before, but this is a larger studies and was just published last week: Women avoid STEM careers because they want to help people.

A team of Miami University researchers led by psychologist Amanda Diekman has come up with a different explanation. In a paper just published in the journal Psychological Science, they argue women perceive STEM careers (those in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) as largely incompatible with one of their core goals: Engaging in work that helps others.

“STEM careers may elicit thoughts of the ‘lone scientist,’” the researchers write, conjuring up chilly images of a solitary man staring at his computer. Diekman and her colleagues argue such stereotypes, which imply isolation and a lack of human contact, may discourage some girls from pursuing scientific careers.

via A New View of Why Women Shun Science Careers | Miller-McCune Online.

Entry filed under: Uncategorized. Tags: , , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Alfred Thompson  |  July 19, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    I’ve also heard this before and it “feels” right to me. When I do career talks about CS & IT fields I try to talk a good bit about how these fields can and are making a big difference in people’s lives, the environment and other service areas. It seems to go over well with girls and boys seem to “get it” as well.

  • 2. Alan Kay  |  July 19, 2010 at 11:50 pm

    This seems a little weird, whether true or not.

    I know that this is an intensely vocationally oriented society, but most art forms are “callings” not “jobs”.

    The scientists and mathematicians I know (like the musicians and other artists I know), went into these fields for the love and calling of them.

    This could possibly be a very unrepresentative sample of today’s scientists and mathematicians.

    I guess the question is whether any of these fields is helped or ultimately hurt by trying to turn them into vocations rather than avocations?

    Best wishes,


    • 3. Erik Engbrecht  |  July 20, 2010 at 7:28 am

      I would say for most people I know who I would consider mathematicians or scientists, their field is a calling. But that doesn’t mean everyone with a math or science degree. It means people who are mathematicians or scientists. There are high barriers to entry to becoming a professor or researcher in private industry. I think these barriers keep out all but the most committed.

      In engineering I’d split it 50/50 at best…and that’s probably being optimistic, depending on how high your standard for a calling is. There are moderate barriers to entry in engineering. One generally needs at least a bachelor’s degree in some form of engineering or closely related field such as computer science.

      In IT I’d peg it at 5% at most. Today most people who go into IT do it because they perceive it to be a path to a better paying job, not because they love technology or love supporting their users. There are very few barriers to entering IT. A degree helps for the higher ranks, but it isn’t required in the least and it doesn’t matter what its in or where its from in many cases. Private certificate programs are advertised on the radio and every community college offers them. Also, many, many IT positions are completely non-technical. Possibly the majority.


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