Nowadays, there are many more women in prominent positions within the fields of medicine, law and business than ever before, but the fields of science and engineering seem to be taking a long time to catch up. There are thought to be several different factors affecting this, some of which include gender biases, and environmental and social barriers. However, equal opportunities in all fields of work should be encouraged, and it may be that some institutions need to do more to encourage female students to consider science and engineering as a career,
since there is absolutely no reason why women cannot excel in either field.
Let’s look in a little more detail at the reasons why females may be choosing not to study at University, when in fact, the evidence shows that they may well excel and should pursue the sciences as a career:
There is a widely accepted stereotype that females in general, are not good at math and science, and whether this is a verbal or subconscious stereotype, it can still have a deeply negative impact on a female. When sitting a math or science test, (and often in a room full of males) females are already on the back foot mentally and even a subtle reference to their inferiority at the chosen subject can have a hugely negative impact on their performance.
While most claim not to believe the stereotype, the fact remains that it exists, and this only adds to the unconscious stereotype.
Having a ‘growth’ mindset:
Students who are studying math or science may approach the subject with differing mindsets; some may have a ‘fixed’ mindset, which makes them highly susceptible to the concept of intelligence being static without the possibility of further development. Those with a different type of mindset, usually referred to as a ‘growth’ mindset, believe that intelligence can be developed, and the individual feels encouraged to learn more and embrace challenges to their intelligence.
The ‘fixed’ mindset often leads individuals to believe that their intelligence will help them combat and overcome challenges easily, and when they are faced with them and cannot immediately resolve or overcome them, they are subject to experiencing an intense loss of confidence.
Since encountering and challenging obstacles is part and parcel of studying science, students who believe that their intelligence will help them do this easily and without the need for further growth and learning will never be as successful as those who push themselves to learn more and gain a higher level of intelligence. As females are subject to many stereotypes regarding their abilities and levels of capability within subjects like math and science, they may already have the mindset that they need to develop their intelligence to combat such stereotypes. So, while the
‘growth’ mindset clearly benefits students of both genders, it could be that females are more prone to the idea of growth and as a result, could become more successful in their chosen field than those of the opposite gender.
Never let stereotypes hold you back in any career path, and if you’re a female considering studying the sciences but are fearful of how others may react to this, remember that there is no evidence to support the stereotypes that still exist today, and if you have a ‘growth’ mindset, there is no reason whatsoever why you cannot excel in this field.