Romantic thoughts kill STEM ambition in college women

by Grace

The journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin is about to publish a series of research projects … that suggest that when college-age women think about romance, they become less interested in studying STEM fields. College-age men, however, can get interested in romance without any impact on their engagement with math and science.

The research, conducted by Lora Park at the State University of New York at Buffalo, may offer insight into the gender gap in STEM fields.

Another area of research she is pursuing may or may not be helpful to her efforts, Park said. Since the assumptions of many women appear to be that men find female STEM success unattractive, she hopes to find out whether this is in fact the case.

I’ll stay tuned for that.  From personal experience, I know some men find STEM success very attractive.

Romance vs. STEM – InsideHigherEd, August 16, 2011


5 Comments to “Romantic thoughts kill STEM ambition in college women”

  1. I think the problem is not that guys find women in STEM to be unattractive, but rather that women find men in STEM to be unattractive. Research into why women do not major in CS has found that the social milieu to be a huge disincentive. When I see my classes, especially the intro classes, I often feel the same way. My intro classes are usually packed with gamer types, many of whom are going to drop out – but the women don’t know that. They don’t realize that the classes get friendlier and more “normal” as time goes on.


  2. “women find men in STEM to be unattractive” — uh oh, the nerds don’t get the girls until later on, I guess?


  3. One of my journalism classmates as an undergraduate had started out as an electrical engineering major. She got weirded out by the last-woman-on-earth dynamic that being in electrical engineering created, and she had at least one guy who was always hanging around whether she wanted him to or not.


  4. That “last-woman-on-earth dynamic” does have its downsides.


  5. The true nerds are not the problem. The problem is that lots of video game guys flock to the intro courses because their high school counselor told them that since “you like computer games you should major in computers”. These are guys that probably should have been steered into votech programs. When I complain about the illiterate students, these are the ones I am talking about. Women who are steered into computer science, by contrast, tend to be very smart and articulate. So they come into the intro to CS course, see all these really skanky guys who seem to have to interest other than computer games, and they get scared. Most of those guys end up flunking out, so the upper division courses are populated by genial nerds, and are more pleasant.


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