Gender Interest?

Say hello to…Rocket Science Barbie!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

These days, there are no gender limits when it comes to careers! Yet people STILL tend to think boys are more interested than girls in engineering. When does this stereotype get started?

Enter Allison Master and team from the University of Houston and University of Washington.

They surveyed more than fifteen hundred students in first to twelfth grade. The researchers first checked how many students endorsed the gender-interest stereotype in engineering. Then, researchers gave some of the girls choices between two similar activities. One was introduced as something that boys were more interested in. 

Results? Students at EVERY grade level believed boys were more interested in engineering. Only twenty percent of the girls chose the activity described as a “BOY” activity.

The researchers theorize that kids pick up on attitudes they observe around them. And that gender-interest stereotypes may impact the number of girls who participate in engineering activities.

It’s all fun and games until some middle school girls hack into those researchers’ computers. Just sayin’!

Reference: Master, A., Meltzoff, A. N., & Cheryan, S. (2021). Gender stereotypes about interests start early and cause gender disparities in computer science and engineering. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118(48), e2100030118.