Women are underrepresented in fields where success is believed to require brilliance

Meredith Meyer, Andrei Cimpian, Sarah Jane Leslie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Women's underrepresentation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields is a prominent concern in our society and many others. Closer inspection of this phenomenon reveals a more nuanced picture, however, with women achieving parity with men at the Ph. D. level in certain STEM fields, while also being underrepresented in some non-STEM fields. It is important to consider and provide an account of this field-by-field variability. The field-specific ability beliefs (FAB) hypothesis aims to provide such an account, proposing that women are likely to be underrepresented in fields thought to require raw intellectual talent-a sort of talent that women are stereotyped to possess less of than men. In two studies, we provide evidence for the FAB hypothesis, demonstrating that the academic fields believed by laypeople to require brilliance are also the fields with lower female representation. We also found that the FABs of participants with college-level exposure to a field were more predictive of its female representation than those of participants without college exposure, presumably because the former beliefs mirror more closely those of the field's practitioners (the direct "gatekeepers"). Moreover, the FABs of participants with college exposure to a field predicted the magnitude of the field's gender gap above and beyond their beliefs about the level of mathematical and verbal skills required. Finally, we found that beliefs about the importance of brilliance to success in a field may predict its female representation in part by fostering the impression that the field demands solitary work and competition with others. These results suggest new solutions for enhancing diversity within STEM and across the academic spectrum.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number00235
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Volume6
Issue numberMAR
DOIs
StatePublished - 2015

Fingerprint

Aptitude
Mathematics
Technology
Foster Home Care
Parity

Keywords

  • Diversity in academia
  • Field-specific ability beliefs
  • Gender
  • Lay theories of success
  • Stem

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

Cite this

Women are underrepresented in fields where success is believed to require brilliance. / Meyer, Meredith; Cimpian, Andrei; Leslie, Sarah Jane.

In: Frontiers in Psychology, Vol. 6, No. MAR, 00235, 2015.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

@article{4d0b32cc17a54ca996109a45fc4adc20,
title = "Women are underrepresented in fields where success is believed to require brilliance",
abstract = "Women's underrepresentation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields is a prominent concern in our society and many others. Closer inspection of this phenomenon reveals a more nuanced picture, however, with women achieving parity with men at the Ph. D. level in certain STEM fields, while also being underrepresented in some non-STEM fields. It is important to consider and provide an account of this field-by-field variability. The field-specific ability beliefs (FAB) hypothesis aims to provide such an account, proposing that women are likely to be underrepresented in fields thought to require raw intellectual talent-a sort of talent that women are stereotyped to possess less of than men. In two studies, we provide evidence for the FAB hypothesis, demonstrating that the academic fields believed by laypeople to require brilliance are also the fields with lower female representation. We also found that the FABs of participants with college-level exposure to a field were more predictive of its female representation than those of participants without college exposure, presumably because the former beliefs mirror more closely those of the field's practitioners (the direct {"}gatekeepers{"}). Moreover, the FABs of participants with college exposure to a field predicted the magnitude of the field's gender gap above and beyond their beliefs about the level of mathematical and verbal skills required. Finally, we found that beliefs about the importance of brilliance to success in a field may predict its female representation in part by fostering the impression that the field demands solitary work and competition with others. These results suggest new solutions for enhancing diversity within STEM and across the academic spectrum.",
keywords = "Diversity in academia, Field-specific ability beliefs, Gender, Lay theories of success, Stem",
author = "Meredith Meyer and Andrei Cimpian and Leslie, {Sarah Jane}",
year = "2015",
doi = "10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00235",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "6",
journal = "Frontiers in Psychology",
issn = "1664-1078",
publisher = "Frontiers Media S. A.",
number = "MAR",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Women are underrepresented in fields where success is believed to require brilliance

AU - Meyer, Meredith

AU - Cimpian, Andrei

AU - Leslie, Sarah Jane

PY - 2015

Y1 - 2015

N2 - Women's underrepresentation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields is a prominent concern in our society and many others. Closer inspection of this phenomenon reveals a more nuanced picture, however, with women achieving parity with men at the Ph. D. level in certain STEM fields, while also being underrepresented in some non-STEM fields. It is important to consider and provide an account of this field-by-field variability. The field-specific ability beliefs (FAB) hypothesis aims to provide such an account, proposing that women are likely to be underrepresented in fields thought to require raw intellectual talent-a sort of talent that women are stereotyped to possess less of than men. In two studies, we provide evidence for the FAB hypothesis, demonstrating that the academic fields believed by laypeople to require brilliance are also the fields with lower female representation. We also found that the FABs of participants with college-level exposure to a field were more predictive of its female representation than those of participants without college exposure, presumably because the former beliefs mirror more closely those of the field's practitioners (the direct "gatekeepers"). Moreover, the FABs of participants with college exposure to a field predicted the magnitude of the field's gender gap above and beyond their beliefs about the level of mathematical and verbal skills required. Finally, we found that beliefs about the importance of brilliance to success in a field may predict its female representation in part by fostering the impression that the field demands solitary work and competition with others. These results suggest new solutions for enhancing diversity within STEM and across the academic spectrum.

AB - Women's underrepresentation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields is a prominent concern in our society and many others. Closer inspection of this phenomenon reveals a more nuanced picture, however, with women achieving parity with men at the Ph. D. level in certain STEM fields, while also being underrepresented in some non-STEM fields. It is important to consider and provide an account of this field-by-field variability. The field-specific ability beliefs (FAB) hypothesis aims to provide such an account, proposing that women are likely to be underrepresented in fields thought to require raw intellectual talent-a sort of talent that women are stereotyped to possess less of than men. In two studies, we provide evidence for the FAB hypothesis, demonstrating that the academic fields believed by laypeople to require brilliance are also the fields with lower female representation. We also found that the FABs of participants with college-level exposure to a field were more predictive of its female representation than those of participants without college exposure, presumably because the former beliefs mirror more closely those of the field's practitioners (the direct "gatekeepers"). Moreover, the FABs of participants with college exposure to a field predicted the magnitude of the field's gender gap above and beyond their beliefs about the level of mathematical and verbal skills required. Finally, we found that beliefs about the importance of brilliance to success in a field may predict its female representation in part by fostering the impression that the field demands solitary work and competition with others. These results suggest new solutions for enhancing diversity within STEM and across the academic spectrum.

KW - Diversity in academia

KW - Field-specific ability beliefs

KW - Gender

KW - Lay theories of success

KW - Stem

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=84926504457&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=84926504457&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00235

DO - 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00235

M3 - Article

AN - SCOPUS:84926504457

VL - 6

JO - Frontiers in Psychology

JF - Frontiers in Psychology

SN - 1664-1078

IS - MAR

M1 - 00235

ER -