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Change the Circumstances

There are a number of efforts aimed at increasing the number of women in science and technology fields, but Salon's Amanda Marcotte writes that these programs might not be having the desired effect because they don't change the conditions that lead women to leave.

A trio of researchers from Georgetown University writes in a National Bureau of Economic Research paper that it takes a combination of factors — gender composition of their classes, low grades, and external stereotyping signals — to get female university students to change their science, technology, engineering, and technology major. On their own, Marcotte notes that those factors don't deter women from majoring in STEM fields.

"You need triple signals. You need to be told in various ways you don't belong here," senior author Adriana Kugler from Georgetown tells her. Kugler adds that "[i]t takes society telling them over and over again, and their environment telling them over and over again, that they're not good at something to scare women away from it."

Kugler also tells Marcotte that programs seeking to bolster women's numbers in science, though well-meaning, might be ineffective as they remind women of stereotypes that say women aren't as good at science. Instead, Kugler suggests that the fields be made more welcoming to women by addressing sexual harassment, equal pay, and other issues.