Young women were five times less likely than young men to aspire toward STEM careers in 80 different countries, according to research and a report from the Institute for Family Studies published in late January.
Women preferred “people-oriented” careers such as nursing or teaching, while men preferred “things-oriented” careers generally falling into STEM or blue-collar categories, researchers reported.
The research found that sex-based preferences for certain professions is stable over time, with some exceptions such as an increase in women aspiring toward jobs in medicine, according to David Geary, one of the researchers on the project. Patterns found in the research, based on data collected in 2018, closely resembled a 1918 survey of about 1,700 American adolescents.
“The sex differences in interest in people and things is not only found throughout the world today, as we and others have found, but stretches back at least a century,” Geary wrote. He explained that if social factors were driving differences in men’s and women’s job choices, we would expect those differences to gradually shrink as a society made gender equality gains.
Instead, wealthy, gender-equal countries like Sweden and Norway saw larger gaps between the career preferences of boys and girls, Geary found.
“A focus on such external forces … robs girls and women of personal agency and fails to consider that the interests, motivations, and strengths of girls and boys may differ for reasons that are not due to stereotypes, socialization, implicit bias, sexism, or a host of other factors,” Geary said.
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