Study Finds That Academically Gifted Men and Women Have Differing Views on What Constitutes Success

The Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth was begun in 1971 at Johns Hopkins University and Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College. The study involved, 1,650 youths around the age of 13 who had been identified as gifted. The study has followed the original participants for the past 43 years. More than a third of the participants have earned doctoral degrees, compared to about 2 percent of the general population. The group has published 85 books and more than 7,500 scholarly articles. They hold 681 U.S. patents.

A recent survey of the participants was conducted by researchers at Peabody College. Generally the participants have been successful and report a high degree of life satisfaction. Women and men were equally represented in fields such as finance, medicine, and law. But the researchers found differences between men and women. Men tended to be concentrated in STEM fields, whereas women were more likely to be in education, health care, or business. Some 90 percent of the men were employed full-time, compared to 65 percent of women. Men in the study had an average income of $140,000 compared to $80,000 for women.

Men reported that they spent an average of 51 hours per week on their careers compared to 40 hours for women. Women valued family and community life as important contributors to their overall high level of life satisfaction, whereas men determined their value mostly by their career achievements.

benbowCamilla Benbow, the Patricia and Rodes Hart Dean of Education and Human Development at Vanderbilt and co-author of the recent study, observed that “men and women valued career choices, community and family somewhat differently in constructing lives that were satisfying, yet both were equally happy with their outcomes. Both genders used their intellectual abilities to create resources for themselves, and with those resources come choice and the ability to exercise preferences.”

Dr. Bendow holds a bachelor’s degree, two master’s degrees, and an educational doctorate, all from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. She has been on the faculty at Vanderbilt since 1998.

The study, “Life Paths and Accomplishments of Mathematically Precocious Males and Females Four Decades Later,” was published in the journal Psychological Science. It may be downloaded by clicking here.


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