Why Are More Girls Not Interested in Science and Mathematics?
This is a complex issue about which much has been written. Many explanations have been proffered. Some claim genetic differences favoring boys for mathematical and scientific content and understanding. Others contend that girls are discouraged from pursuing interest in these areas. Explanations have invoked gender (mathematics and science are male domains, girls who pursue these careers are not feminine), discrimination (university professors and employers in these fields—most of whom are men—would rather work with men), societal expectations (women are expected to be the primary caregivers for children), and role models (there are few prominent women in scientific and mathematical fields).
Expectancy-value theory would say that value relates strongly to choice, and girls do not value science and mathematics as much as boys. This is despite the fact that girls typically perform as well as boys in science and mathematics courses, although girls’ expectations sometimes are lower than those of boys. The key, therefore, is to improve girls’ perceptions of value for science and mathematics, notably by showing how these topics are important for many careers (e.g., business, law) and not just for those that are obvious (e.g., medicine, engineering).
It also will help to break the gender stigma of science and mathematics being male domains. Societal roles are changing and career opportunities continue to expand for women. Today there are female medical doctors, astronauts, CEOs of scientific corporations, and university professors in mathematics and the sciences. As role models for girls considering careers, these women can do much to help shape public awareness and overcome stereotypes that unnecessarily limit professional options for women.
© ______ 2008, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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