Eighth-grade students stereotype STEM careers as masculine

By Louise Ann Lyon - May 2011


Cho, S., Goodman, M., Oppenheimer, B., Codling, J., & Robinson, T. (2009). Images of women in STEM fields. Journal of Science Communication, 8(3), 1–5.



This study shows why it is important try to combat students' stereotypes about the masculinity of STEM fields especially at an early age.

What Is The Issue?

In a survey, eighth-grade students identified women who were in STEM fields to be significantly more intelligent, less attractive, and more creative than women in non-STEM fields. The students did not indicate that they found a difference between women in STEM fields or non-STEM fields in terms of how organized or how good at their job they were. The authors suggest that the development of these stereotypical views could help explain why women are consistently underrepresented in STEM fields and why women consistently choose professions already dominated by women.

What Was The Study?

This study surveyed 40 eighth-grade students (55% female and 45% male) at a private academy in the American South. All students were White. Students filled out a survey in a school lab where they were asked to rate photos of African-American and White women labeled with a job title for five items: good at her job, organized, intelligent, attractive, and creative. About one-half of the students rated an image with a STEM career label and the rest with a non-STEM career label.

What Were The Findings?

Students found the women labeled with a STEM career to be more intelligent and creative than the non-STEM women, but less attractive. Students rated STEM and non-STEM women to be equally good at their job and equally organized. The results of this study suggest that informal science educators might try to combat prevalent stereotypes about the masculinity of STEM fields at as early an age as possible.