Black Women Are More Confident About Entering STEM Fields
A new American Psychology Association study shows that while STEM is associated with masculinity cross-culturally, black women associate STEM with men less than white women do. The study mentions that African American women also study STEM majors more frequently than white women.
The stereotypes women — as well as men, as well as teachers, professors, and employers — hold about science and masculinity has a chilling effect on women’s participation in STEM majors and careers. However, black women appear to be more confident about approaching science and mathematics, possibly because the character traits associated with the fields – like independence and assertiveness — “may not be considered unfeminine” in African American cultures.
This is important in a set of professional fields that employ men at a rate of almost 74% and whites at around 70 percent. Especially in computer science, there was enthusiasm in the mid-20th century for women to become employed in STEM, but as the science progressed the industry started making connections between programming and childhood hobbies that were typically associated with boys, and the programming-as-masculine stereotype grew from there.
While it’s extremely encouraging to see that young black women feel more secure about approaching STEM, if the speculation that that security is based on cultural mores is correct, it speaks to a need to change expectations for girls and women in other cultures.
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