Study Concludes That Romance Contributes to the Gender Gap in STEM Fields

Lora E. Park, associate professor of psychology at the University of Buffalo, is the lead author of a study entitled “Effects of Everyday Romantic Goal Pursuit on Women’s Attitudes Toward Math and Science.” The study, funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, concludes that women who want to be romantically desirable distance themselves from academic disciplines related to science and mathematics.

Dr. Parks writes: “When the goal to be romantically desirable is activated, even by subtle situational cues, women report less interest in math and science. One reason why this might be is that pursuing intelligence goals in masculine fields, such as STEM, conflicts with pursuing romantic goals associated with traditional romantic scripts and gender norms. Gender scripts discourage women from appearing intelligent in masculine domains, like STEM, and in fact, studies show that women who deviate from traditional gender norms, such as succeeding in male-typed jobs, experience backlash for violating societal expectations.”

The article, published in the September issue of the  journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, can be downloaded here.

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