Prof finds 'no evidence' sexism is behind gender gap in STEM

The lack of women in science and mathematics is largely a matter of personal preference, not discrimination, according to a psychology professor.

Dr. Lee Jussim, a professor at Rutgers University, explored the issue in an article published last week in Psychology Today, explaining that girls with strong math and science skills also tend to have high verbal skills, giving them access to a wide variety of potential career options.

Further, he says that because girls tend to prefer working with people, as opposed to working with objects or numbers (a male preference), women tend to pursue different career paths than do men.

This results in a gender disparity in many fields (such as in information technology or coding), but while the mainstream media may blame “gender discrimination” or “sexism,” Jussim told Campus Reform that there’s scant evidence to prove this connection.

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For the last seven years, Jussim says he’s been researching the “consistent disconnect between data, and the interpretation of data" in the psychological sciences.

“There’s a knee-jerk assumption that gaps—demographic gaps—reflect discrimination,” Jussim observed, but he contends these gaps aren’t exactly indicative of discrimination.

"There are many papers claiming to find evidence for discrimination [in STEM fields], but when you look at the data, there's no evidence for it,” he explained, adding that “advocacy [of a] political agenda can distort the science.”

Nonetheless, the federal government has responded to such claims by handing out millions of dollars to fund initiatives designed to promote diversity and combat discrimination in STEM fields, including more than $3 million in National Science Foundation grants this month alone.

[RELATED: Feds dole out $3M+ to fight ‘microaggressions’ in STEM fields]

Jussim told Campus Reform that while gender discrimination shouldn’t be discounted entirely, people should consider other factors that could influence career choices.

“We are not denying discrimination,” he said, explaining that historical and current discrimination could indeed play a role in why men predominate in the sciences. But rather than view discrimination as the sole source of the gender-gap, he argues that women’s choices and preferences must also be considered.

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There are “early enduring gender differences between men and women,” Jussim observes, asserting that “embracing those differences is a good thing” because when “you follow your heart's desire, and that desire leads to some gender differences...then the world will be a better place for it."

Fearing that some girls may be pushed into STEM fields against their innate preferences, Jussim says he hopes that his essay will be liberating for some.

“People should choose the [career] fields they want to be in,” he told Campus Reform. “Everything does not have to be perfectly equal all the time.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen