Studies indicate that although U.S. women have achieved parity or near-parity with men on science and math achievement tests, the top levels of many such fields still boast more men than women. A number of studies over the past several years are starting to imply that there may be a simpler underlying explanation for this gender gap than people have assumed, such as women's desire to have careers compatible with family life and a lack of interest in science and math.
"One of the things that has to be filtered into the mix is that those girls, who, at a young age, have high quantitative scores are more likely to have high verbal scores than boys are," notes Cornell University psychologist Stephen J. Ceci. He and two colleagues determined in a study that women earn almost 50 percent of all doctoral degrees in certain fields such as biological sciences, but their numbers are far lower in other science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines. One reason for this disparity is that women leave STEM careers at two times the rate that men do, and Ceci speculates that this trend may be partly attributable to the fact that more women than men classify themselves as "home-centered" as opposed to "careerist."
"Women tend to look for careers where you can combine work and family," says Meredith College economist E. Ann York. Experts say that women also tend to gravitate toward compassionate fields such as healthcare and environmental studies, where the focus is on making a difference in people's lives. Some experts, such as University of Colorado professor Margaret A. Eisenhart, believe that bridging the gender gap requires addressing the issue that girls receive little relative exposure to careers in STEM fields.
From Education Week
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