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FEATURE ARTICLE

When Scientists Choose Motherhood

A single factor goes a long way in explaining the dearth of women in math-intensive fields. How can we address it?

Wendy M. Williams, Stephen J. Ceci

2012-03WilliamsF1.jpgClick to Enlarge ImageGender inequities in science, technology, mathematics and engineering have long been a subject of concern. Some advances—more women than ever are working in the biological sciences—along with broad societal changes have improved the outlook. Still, women are significantly underrepresented in many fields. These changes require a reassessment of the reasons for such disparities. Recent work suggests that former causes, such as gender-based discrimination in such areas as hiring and grant allocation, are not as central now. Instead, the hurdles women face often stem from a combination of several factors, including the decision to have children and cultural norms that place the burden of raising children and managing households disproportionately on women. The authors consider the evidence and offer an updated perspective on these sources, along with suggestions about potential steps toward change.


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