Magazine article Work & Family Life

Why So Few U.S. Girls Seek Careers in Science

Magazine article Work & Family Life

Why So Few U.S. Girls Seek Careers in Science

Article excerpt

Why are there so many more men than women in the top ranks of science? Researchers have been asking this question for years, and they recently picked up a fascinating clue.

It came in the form of a test given by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to a representative group of 15-year-olds in 65 countries around the world. In that test, girls outperformed boys in science in a majority of the countries - but not in the United States. In the U.S., boys outperformed girls.

Andreas Schleicher, who oversaw the test for the OECD, suggests that the incentives to learn science and math vary markedly from country to country. In the United States, he said, boys are simply more likely than girls to "see science as something that affects their life."

But why? These days American women are working side by side with men in so many new fields - and now they're even combat soldiers. What is deterring them from careers in science? How is it that this field is still so maledominated? Is there a cultural stereotype at work?

Perhaps so.

"We see that very early in childhood - around age 4 - gender roles in occupations appear to be formed," says Christianne Corbett, coauthor of the 2010 report Why So Few? …

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