Squamish, BC Canada V8B 0N8
Despite having made significant inroads into a variety of traditionally male-dominated fields such as biology, chemistry, and mathematics, women continue to be underrepresented in computer science, engineering, and physics at the undergraduate level. Many theories have been put forth to explain this phenomenon, ranging from innate female inferiority in quantitative skills to an unwillingness by women to put in late hours. Dr. Cheryan’s research shifts the explanation for this underrepresentation away from women’s deficiencies and instead examines why some STEM fields have been more successful in attracting women than others. Her research reveals a model with two factors to explain the larger gender gaps in computer science, engineering, and physics than biology, chemistry, and mathematics: (a) a culture in these fields that signals a lower sense of belonging to women than men, and (b) a lack of early hands-on experiences in these fields. Changing the masculine culture of these fields – for instance, using environments, the media, and role models – and providing early experience in them may be fundamentally important to increasing women’s interest in them and their ability to be successful once there.