Why is the population of women in physics, engineering, music composition, etc. so sparse? It might have to do with current stereotypes.

Up until relatively recently, women were not in the academic work place’ men dominated all of the academic, intelligent, and advanced jobs. However, today, over 50% of molecular biology and 60% of comparative literature degrees go to women. But where are all of the women in political science and philosophy?

Research shows that careers that focus on brilliance tend to have fewer women in it. In other words, jobs that emphasize knowledge you “can’t be taught” are typically filled with men. Sarah-Jane Leslie and Andrei Cimpian became interested in gender representation in fields that focused on talent versus fields that focused on hard work. They surveyed other potential explanations, gender differences at the upper end of the intelligence scale, and how men and women differ in how they think. They hypothesized that women might not be able to work a certain schedule and therefore not have enough time required for certain academic fields, fields which are extremely selective should have more men than women, and men are better at abstract thinking and women are better at emotional understanding. They tested these hypotheses with surveys that ranked reactions to a statement from strongly agree to strongly disagree (Likert scale), collected and compared GRE scores, and included statements that assessed how much participants though thinking abstractly or emotionally was important in their academic field.

Leslie and Cimpian concluded that stereotypes about women (and also African-Americans) undermine their representation in certain jobs because they subconsciously do not feel fit to be in that field. Other factors include schedule flexibility or harassment in the work environment, but above all, it’s all about attitude, not aptitude.

Why do you think women don’t see themselves as brilliant, even though they may be well aware of their intellectual abilities?


Print Friendly, PDF & Email