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Male psychologists and female mathematicians: Gender beliefs and undergraduate degree choices

Stereotypes of Femininity
Photo Credit: SVETIKD - Getty Images

Globally, men and women are numerically dominant in undergraduate degrees in math and psychology, respectively. A variety of theoretical perspectives predict that individuals who adhere more to gender stereotypes will be more represented in gender-dominant fields.

Using a pre-registered methodology, we recruited men and women enrolled in psychology and math degree programmes in the United Kingdom and assessed a variety of gender beliefs and identities. Overall, femininity was (marginally) higher in psychology, and higher amongst women generally.

Moderated regression analyses revealed that women who were low in masculinity and high in femininity (the stereotypical pattern) were most likely to be in psychology degrees, whilst women who were low in both were most likely to be enrolled onto math programmes. For men, no component of gender identity or beliefs predicted degree programmes.

Overall, these results demonstrate how dimensions of gender identity may account for gender differences in undergraduate representation. Specifically, women in STEM fields tend to not describe themselves in stereotypical masculine or feminine traits. We discuss implications for efforts to increase uptake of gender stereotype incongruent career paths (e.g., women in STEM) with a particular focus on how femininity may be rejected in counter-stereotypical domains.

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