A new study published in the Journal of Psychological Science has disproved the painfully enduring stereotype that women stay at arm’s length from science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) because they’re bad at it. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh have concluded that women’s superior performance in other fields explains why they don’t enter STEM jobs. In other words, women tend to have abilities in a variety of fields (including math) and therefore have a larger pool of jobs they can choose from. One of the study’s co-authors, developmental psychologist Ming-Te Wang, says:
"Differences in math ability can’t account for the underrepresentation of women in STEM fields […] Our study shows that it's not lack of ability or differences in ability that orients females to pursue non-STEM careers, it's the greater likelihood that females with high math ability also have high verbal ability […] Because they're good at both, they can consider a wide range of occupations."
In other words, it’s not that women aren’t awesome enough for science and math; it's that they are too awesome at other stuff to limit themselves to these fields.
Researchers collected data from 1,490 college students during their senior year of high school and again at the age of 33. Various motivational beliefs, values, and SAT scores were used to evaluate the subjects' abilities. They explain that these new results could help us develop better education programs for women and girls:
"... educators and policy makers may consider shifting the focus from trying to strengthen girls’ STEM-related abilities to trying to tap the potential of these girls who are equally skilled in both math and verbal domains."
The fact that we're still surprised that a woman could run a popular science blog and that a female tech employee can be fired for pointing out chauvinistic bro-isms is worrying. Perhaps if we stopped questioning women's ability in math and science, we could direct more attention to disproving the belief-systems that perpetuate this claim in the first place.
Women are just as good at math as men. Deal with it. Has the shock worn off yet? Now let's discuss how we can get all these talented ladies some jobs in STEM fields, shall we?