Journal of Science Education and Technology

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 135–144 | Cite as

How Interest in Science Negatively Influences Perceptions of Women

  • Sheila Brownlow
  • Tonya J. Smith
  • BeLinda R. Ellis


We examined whether women who pursue scientific training are viewed negatively by college students. Participants (N = 114 college students; 56 women, 58 men) saw a woman describe her major (either chemistry or the humanities) and express either strong commitment to her course of study or ambivalence about it. Participants then provided judgments about the speaker's traits (such as assertiveness and sociability), social behaviors (including how often she dates), and her future potential (including happiness and fulfillment with her career, as well as starting salary). Results indicated that both major and commitment level influenced perceptions of the speaker. Commitment to the major increased judgments of future career fulfillment, intellectual competence, school achievement, and assertiveness. Pursuit of chemistry, however, was perceived as negative, as people judged the woman as less sociable when she was committed to being a chemist, and women participants predicted she would have a less fulfilling career. Men participants said they would not want to date her. Although women may understand that they could make more money in the sciences, negative judgments about their social capabilities and future happiness may contribute to their propensity to avoid science.

female scientists sex-role stereotypes 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sheila Brownlow
    • 1
  • Tonya J. Smith
    • 1
  • BeLinda R. Ellis
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyCatawba CollegeSalisbury

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