Femininity & Science, Technology, Engineering, Math
Table of Contents
* = at-risk or disadvantaged population

Why so few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (2010)
Though women and men are more equally represented in today's white-collar workforce than they have ever been, enormous gender gaps still exist in science and engineering careers. Studies have shown that barriers like stereotypes, gender bias, and a discouraging classroom atmosphere can deter women from pursuing careers in these areas and may explain why there are so few female scientists and engineers. These findings show that causes of this gender gap are controllable and more related to social pressures rather than actual ability and academic performance.

TITLE: "Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics”
AUTHOR: American Association of University Women
YEAR: 2010
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available upon request from the American Association of University Women

Family influences gendered interests in young kids (2010)
As kids get older, they become more aware of their gender and its expectations, adopting more masculine or more feminine behaviors and tendencies into their adolescent years which has a role in developing a child's interest and involvement in areas typically associated with gender like math, language arts, and sports. Overall, when girls spend more time with their mothers or other female peers they develop more stereotypically feminine traits and are involved in activities like dance and handicrafts, while boys who spend more time with male peers or their fathers develop more stereotypically masculine traits and are interested in activities like sports and science.

TITLE: "The Development of Gendered Interests and Personality Qualities from Middle Childhood through Adolescence: A Bio-Social Analysis”
AUTHOR: Susan M. McHale, Ji-Yeon Kim, Aryn M. Dotterer, Ann C. Crouter and Alan Booth
JOURNAL: Society for Research in Child Development YEAR: 2010
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available from the Society for Research in Child Development with membership

Girls with more masculine characteristics feel less math anxiety (2009)

Girls who see themselves as having more masculine qualities tend to perform better in math than girls who identify as more feminine. Femininity is linked to math anxiety towards math and doing worse in math, so it may be difficult for girls to feel both feminine and confident in their math abilities. Specifically, anxiety makes it harder for girls (and boys) to solve mental problems like math, which itself often diminishes performance. Boys tend not to show the same anxiety around math as girls do, perhaps because of socially accepted definitions of masculinity that link it to math aptitude (and femininity to verbal skills and creative thinking).

TITLE: "Mathematics Anxiety and Cross Gender Identity in Young Adult Males and Females”
AUTHOR: S.G. Kumari
Dissertation YEAR: 2009
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available from Thapar University, India

Lack of role models in media discourages girls' involvement in STEM (2008)

Shows like Star Trek may encourage kids to take an interest in science, but the media tends to support the idea that the sciences are only a boy's subject. Kids look to the media to teach them how to act, and noting the lack of prominent scientific female roles in the media can help explain why girls just aren't interested in STEM subjects, or feel that they shouldn't be.

The media generally excludes female characters from scientific roles, so aspiring young female scientists have no one to look up to. In addition, especially in commercials, the media tends to support the idea that women have a harder time than men understanding technology. Female scientists in this study claimed that they noticed a significant absence of scientific role models in the media when they were young girls, and at times they felt that the media discouraged them from pursuing careers in STEM.

The lack of female role models in the media causes girls who are interested in science or math to feel like the "odd one out”, as though there is something abnormal about a girl studying these subjects in school, discouraging them from doing so.

TITLE: "Role Models in the Media: An Exploration of the Views and Experiences of Women in Science, Engineering and Technology.”
AUTHOR: Jenny Kitzinger, Joan haran, Mwenya Chimba, and Tammy Boyce
JOURNAL: UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology YEAR: 2008
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available for free from the Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, Cardiff University

Girls perform better in physics, science when boys are not in classroom (2008)

Girls are far less likely to take physics, computer science, natural science, or engineering classes than boys are, mostly because they don't think they are good at these subjects and tend to rate their performance lower, even when it equals or excels boys'. On the other hand, girls are more likely to think they are good at subjects like language arts and reading than boys are. Certain subjects are linked to each gender, and when learning together in the classroom, boys and girls are aware of the subjects they are "supposed” to be good at.

Girls in this study performed better in scientific subjects like physics when learning in a classroom with only girls than they did in a classroom with both boys and girls. Thus, single-sex classrooms may make girls feel more confident in their abilities in these subjects and have a better self-concept in relation to these subjects.

TITLE: "When being a girl matters less: Accessibility of gender-related self-knowledge in single-sex and coeducational classes and its impact on students' physics-related self-concept of ability”
AUTHOR: Ursula Kessels and Bettina Hannover
JOURNAL: British Journal of Educational Psychology YEAR: 2008
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available from IngentaConnect for $24.40

Working engineers: less about calculations, more about communication (2007)

Female engineers are uncommon, and women working in such a male-dominated field struggle to prove their importance Some female engineers experience "gender inauthenticity” – a feeling that they must downplay femininity and femaleness in order to succeed and/or be accepted in such a technical field.

Ironically, in practice, engineering is not just all about calculations and mathematical problem solving. In daily work, engineering requires social skills in working with customers, coordinating workers, balancing teamwork and communicating with many different professionals involved in a large project. But these crucial social skills are downplayed in how the profession thinks of itself. In general, women tend to be good at this social, caring aspect of the job , while men tend to gravitate to the technical aspect. Though these are just generalized stereotypes, all successful engineers need to employ both sets of qualities to be effective.

TITLE: "Nuts and Bolts and People: Gender-Troubled Engineering Identities.”
AUTHOR: Wendy Faulkner
JOURNAL: Social Studies of Science YEAR: 2008
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available for $25 from SagePublications

Little progress made in getting women into computer science class (2007)

Young girls do not often grow up to be computer scientists, and the reasons for this have not changed much over time. Research over the past decade has uncovered this "leaky pipeline” phenomenon, which shows that while girls may start out studying this area, they tend to change their minds about their career plans because of experienced social pressures and discrimination. Negative attitudes towards their own academic ability and career potential are connected to gendered expectations girls experience through a lifetime of interaction with family, peers, and the media. Because they buy into certain gender stereotypes, women are more likely than men to think computer science classes are difficult and tend to be less confident in their abilities in this area. Furthermore, women have lower higher educational aspirations than men, which may stand in the way of equal representation in the computer science field.

Because of these obstacles women encounter, few women earn their bachelor's degrees in computer science, and those who do receive degrees do not follow through with a career in this field. Furthermore, there are fewer women today employed in the computer science field than in previous decades. Women are less likely to stay in the computer science field when they experience discrimination in the classroom or at work, which is common in such a male-dominated field.

TITLE: "Women in Computer –Related Majors: A Critical Synthesis of Research and Theory from 1994 to 2005.”
AUTHOR: Kusum Singh and Katherine R. Allen
JOURNAL: Review of Educational Research YEAR: 2007
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available from Sage Publications for $25.00

Girls’ perception of ability affect performance, enrollment in math class (2005)

Even though young boys and girls have generally equal math ability, as they get older, girls do not do as well as boys in math class because they convince themselves that they are not good at math. Adolescents worry about fitting into a certain gendered role in society, and girls learn that being good at math is more "appropriate” for boys than for girls, leading them to doubt their abilities. Thinking they are not good at math, even if they really are, depresses girls' math performance as well as affects their decisions for future enrollment in math class. Boys, in contrast, based their intentions for future math enrollment upon their actual grades.

TITLE: "Predictors of Young Adolescents' Math Grades and Course Enrollment Intentions: Gender Similarities and Differences”
AUTHOR: Gail Crombie, Nancy Sinclair, Naida Silverthorn, Barbara M. Byrne, David L. Dubois, and Anne Trinneer
JOURNAL: Sex Roles YEAR: 2005
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available from SpringerLink for $34

Black females focus on image to survive in white-man's field of physics (2005)*
Women of color who study and pursue careers in physics represent a clear and hyper-visible minority. Concerned with fitting in with mostly white male peers, they focus on appearance and behavior altering "survival strategies” (rather than on their studies). They create false social identities in order to be seen as more "ordinary” andprove their academic abilities. This rejection of their identity and adoption of a new one is so exhausting that some women of color avoid pursuing physics at higher levels.

TITLE: "Body Projects of Young Women of Color in Physics: Intersections of Gender, Race, and Science.”
AUTHOR: Maria Ong
JOURNAL: Social Problems YEAR: 2005
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available for registered users at the University of California Press

Concerns about social identity shape kids' decisions to pursue science (2005)
Girls shy away from careers in science more than boys do because "engineer” or "physicist”are careers which conflict with their female gender identity. Gender identity is an inner sense of being male or female and masculine or feminine. Concerns about what people may think of them in so-called "masculine” fields like the engineering or physics are more important to these girls in making a career choice than things like curiosity or ability. In fact, concerns over being perceived as "uncool” can cause both boys and girls to shy away from science, altho most kids report being curious about the subject. When girls do go into science fields, it's often in the "helping sciences” like medicine, biology and environmental studies which are perceived as more compatible with stereotypic femininity and a female gender identity.

TITLE: "Science Education and Young People's Identity Construction- Two Mutually Incompatible Projects?”
AUTHOR: Camilla Schreiner and Svein Sjoberg
JOURNAL: Journal of Science Education YEAR: 2005
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available for free from the University of Oslo Department of Teacher Education and School Development

Classroom and workplace bias lead women to drop out of STEM (2003)
While most men pursue degrees regardless of how they feel about their experience in the classroom, classroom biases strong influence women's decisions to pursue advanced STEM degrees. Women are not only more sensitive to interactions and experiences in the classroom, but they also have more negative interactions and experiences to contend with.

Many women who start out pursuing a STEM degree decide to change their major, not because of lost interest but because they become discouraged by gender bias in the classroom. Women who stick around report its often because they notice positive images of female professionals in these fields and that, along with positive classroom experiences, can counter the effects of bias.

TITLE: "Intending to Stay: Images of Scientists, Attitudes Toward Women, and Gender as Influences on Persistence among Science and Engineering Majors.”
AUTHOR: Mary Wyer
JOURNAL: Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering YEAR: 2003
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available for free from North Carolina State University

Girls don't study math because math is for boys (2002)
Girls may feel a conflict between wanting to be seen as female, and doing well at math. From a young age, kids learn that it's natural for boys to study and excel in math and science, and for girls to study arts or books. Math is generally not associated with being feminine or female. This means as long as girls want to fit in with cultural definitions of femininity and femaleness, they may feel pressured to avoid math.

TITLE: Math=Male, Me=Female, therefore Math Me
AUTHOR: Brian A. Nosek and Mahzarin R. Banaji
JOURNAL: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology YEAR: 2002
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available for $11.95 from APA PsycNET

Competent female role models can help raise young girls' math scores (2002)
Girls perform better on math tests when a competent female role model administers the test. Girls look to older role models as demonstrations of what they could be. The presence of older females competent in math shows girls that it is possible for them to excel and disproves negative stereotypes.

Even girls who major in math, still underperform when compared to men. Their lower achievement may be because they're buying into negative stereotypes, and being intimidated by what is largely a male-dominated subject area. Positive female role models can help ameliorate both of these effects.

TITLE: "Female Role Models: Protecting Women's Math Test Performance.”
AUTHOR: David M. Marx and Jasmine S. Roman
JOURNAL: Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin YEAR: 2002
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available from Sage Journals Online for $25.00

Women hide femininity to fit into male-dominated science community (2000)
Is the phrase "feminist scientist” an oxymoron? Some female scientists say it is. Many female scientists do consider themselves feminists – as many as in the general population – and consider their feminism integral to their work. Yet they also report feeling they need to hid their ideas about women's rights in the workplace, and act like "one of the guys” to fit in and feel comfortable with their (mostly male) coworkers. In fact, women who do not identify as feminist are more likely to hold secure positions, possibly because not holding views the diverge from their coworkers better enables them to move upwards. Biological sciences are more likely to have feminist women scientists, and to be accepting of the introduction of feminist viewpoints.

TITLE: The Feminist and the Scientist: One and the Same
AUTHOR: Angela B. Ginorio, Terry Marshall, and Lisa Breckenridge
JOURNAL: Women's Studies Quarterly YEAR: 2000
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available for purchase from JSTOR by request

Girls and boys show early difference in play, science interests, job choice (1998)
Even at a young age, boys and girls differ in what they do for fun, establishing early that liking science is more appropriate for boys than for girls. Young boys tend to play with tools like microscopes. batteries, electric toys, fuses and pulleys. Girls are more likely have experience with knitting, cooking, sewing or plant seeds. Boys report more interest in bombs, computers, x-rays and other technology. Girls report more interest in animal communication, rainbows, weather and AIDS. Boys are more interested jobs where they have power, become famous, and earn lots of money. Girls report more interest in jobs that help people.

In addition, girls tend to believe that science is "difficult to understand.” Because of their low interest, girls tend to have a different experience in science class than boys, leading them to be less likely to take higher level science classes or pursue a career in the sciences. These attitudes towards science are unrelated to actual performance in class, which tends to be fairly equal in youth.

TITLE: "Gender Differences in Students' Experiences, Interests, and Attitudes toward Science and Scientists.”
AUTHOR: M. Gail Jones, Ann Howe, and Melissa J. Rua
JOURNAL: Science Education YEAR: 1998
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available for free from Université de Moncton

Factors affecting female math involvement differ by race, ethnicity (1994)
Girls of all backgrounds tend to be less interested in math and are less sure of their math abilities than boys are, though the underlying problems and obstacles they face differ depending on their racial or ethnic background. Often, white girls do not pursue math because they have learned to have negative attitudes towards the subject, while minority girls struggle in math because they do not perform well and do not receive many learning opportunities in this area.

Though they do not perform as well in math and are offered less opportunity for math success, African Americans and Latina students tend to have more positive attitudes towards the subject than higher-achieving white females students do. In addition, Latina students generally encounter the most obstacles in math opportunity, achievement, and choice to pursue math careers, which may be because of Latino cultural beliefs as well as the types of jobs available to this minority. Finally, gender differences in attitudes towards math are much more noticeable among Latinas than among African American girls, who tend to be more similar to their male counterparts in their feelings about the subject.

TITLE: "The Path to Math: Gender and Racial-Ethnic Differences in Mathematics Participation from Middle School to High School.”
AUTHOR: Sophia Catsambis
JOURNAL: Sociology of Education YEAR:1994
DIGITAL RIGHTS: Available from JSTOR by subscription


   

 

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