Nature vs. Nurture: Girls and STEM
Why is there a gender gap in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)? You may have heard the arguments that girls find science “boring,” that their brains are “wired differently”, and that attempts to bridge the gender divide “deny human biology and nature”. Attributing the gender gap to biology misses the obvious contribution of societal and institutional biases. Co-authored by Buddhini Samarasinghe, Zuleyka Zevallos and me, our article in nature.com blogs explains how stereotype threats, lack of role models, social conditioning, unconscious bias and institutional practices create an environment where girls feel unwelcome and insecure in STEM fields. We advocate active intervention and go on to discuss effective strategies and practical ways, both simple and sophisticated, to solve the problem.
Why should we care if girls remain underrepresented in STEM? Apart from basic fairness, if we want our best and brightest working on innovative ideas and creative solutions, it makes little sense to potentially abandon half the population. We already face many hurdles; lack of funding, lack of jobs, and pushback from science denialists backed by populist politics. We need all hands on deck to forge ahead.
We must look to nurture, not nature, for change.