I came across a disturbing study recently regarding the link between women, romance and fields underneath the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). According to the University of Buffalo study, “When a woman's goal is to be romantically desirable, she distances herself from academic majors and activities related to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).” All the details of the research can be found in the article, "Effects of Everyday Romantic Goal Pursuit on Women's Attitudes toward Math and Science," which will be published in the September issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
Lead author Lora E. Park, PhD, UB associate professor of psychology claims, “When the goal to be romantically desirable is activated, even by subtle situational cues, women report less interest in math and science. One reason why this might be is that pursuing intelligence goals in masculine fields, such as STEM, conflicts with pursuing romantic goals associated with traditional romantic scripts and gender norms."
Now I could keep going with further details of this study. But I won’t. Because dear reader you know as well as I do, that these results, while sadly enough may be true in the minds of the women who took part in the study, are complete baloney. Being smart is beautiful. And hopefully all of us that are mothers to young SheHeroes, or have any role in the life of a young girl, are working hard to prove it to her that smart is beautiful.
Hopefully we are making sure that she understands that being smart is awesome. Hopefully she’ll understand that by being smart and pursuing a career in a STEM field means she will make 33% MORE money then women in non-STEM related fields. And hopefully she'll make the connection that for that simple fact that she will be able to live the life she chooses, own her own home, not depend on anyone for financial help, and if she so chooses to have kids, she'll be able to offer her children a good and full life. And she will always be secure, whether she chooses to marry or not.
So what can you do to help them understand these all-important reasons not to write off a career in STEM for the sake of romance? Go buy a science kit and spend a day showing the SheHero in your life how fun science can be. Take her to the homes of women friends who are already working in STEM careers, and may even have found romance…
And if all else fails and you want to drive home how silly the “You can’t be smart AND Pretty myth” is, show her a picture of Danica McKeller. Maxim centerfold gal, actress, mother oh, AND published award winning mathematician. Or how about Cindy Crawford? One of the world’s most famous Supermodels, mother, AND winner of a scholarship to Northwestern University to study chemical engineering. Maybe actress Lisa Kudrow, known as ditzy Phoebe from the hit show, "Friends" is anything but ditzy in real life. You can’t be when you’re a Vassar alumna with a degree in biology. Or how about everyone’s favorite, Natalie Portman? Beautiful successful actress and mother. AND she’s a Harvard alumna, published author in scientific journals, AND semifinalist in the Intel Science Talent Search.
So yes, smart is beautiful. It’s also cooler, tougher, much more awesome AND smarter. What are you waiting for? Get out there and show your SheHero some science.