Macho Nerds?

It’s hard to believe, but it seems that men in technology fields tend to be more sexist than men in other professions. And it‘s driving women away.

In a recent study at Cornell and the University of Texas, Austin, researchers tried to discover why women trained in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) disciplines are more likely to leave their fields than other professional women. Their results suggest that one problem may be the anti-women climate prevalent in STEM fields.

The Cornell/Texas team worked with data from a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics survey that tracked the careers of men and women over the course of three decades. They found that half of the women working in STEM fields moved on to other occupations after the first 12 years of their careers. But only 20 percent of other professional women left their occupations over the entire three decades of the survey. The researchers noted that these results fly in the face of economic pressures, because STEM jobs pay more.

Sharon Sassler, Cornell professor of policy analysis and management, noted, “A lot of people still think it’s having children that leads to STEM women’s exits. It’s not the family. Women leave before they have children or even get married. Our findings suggest that there is something unique about the STEM climate that results in women leaving.”

What’s so unique about STEM fields? Well for one thing, men in STEM fields tend to have more traditional ideas of gender roles than other college-educated men, the researchers noted. Those ideas could be affecting how women in STEM jobs are treated, how their performance is evaluated, how their contributions are viewed in the collaborative efforts typical of scientific endeavors, and how their careers evolve.

The researchers noted, however, that women married to men who also work in STEM fields are less likely to change careers. “A spouse who understands the dictates of the work and can accommodate a wife’s career may be especially influential in women’s STEM retention,” according to the report.

So the next time you turn on a show like The Big Bang Theory, don’t feel too sorry for all those nerds looking for love. It seems they may be driving women away by their own sexist attitudes.

1 thought on “Macho Nerds?”

  1. Sounds to me like the attitude in STEM jobs stems from the dearth of women in those jobs, so it’s a vicious circle.

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