When Lora Park was a graduate student in psychology at the University of Michigan, she used to hang out with a group of women in the physical sciences. And Park noticed that some of these exceptionally bright, academically successful women would hide their accomplishments from men they would meet, afraid of scaring them off.
Watching these scenes, Park wondered if women fear that they can’t excel in math and science fields and also experience love. Park is now an assistant professor of psychology at the State University of New York at Buffalo. The journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin is about to publish a series of research projects she led, along with Buffalo graduate students, that suggest that when college-age women think about romance, they become less interested in studying STEM fields. College-age men, however, can get interested in romance without any impact on their engagement with math and science.
Park acknowledged that the research will be controversial — and that many times when she presents findings to women in academe, they don’t like talking about the role that something such as romance may play in the choices students make about what to study. But Park said that focusing on these questions could help confront the gender gap in STEM fields, which persists even as women have demonstrated that they have the academic preparation and ability to succeed in them. Read More