Interesting study on the social aspect of interest in science among middle school boys and girls. The big question is how to transform such research into programs.
We do know that girls report academic discrimination from peers for violating science and math gender norms . Future research should focus on whether friendships with other girls with similar aspirations help create and reinforce science identities, or if they serve to isolate girls from their female peers. Longitudinal analyses should provide insight into whether girls influence one another’s science career aspirations. It is possible that girls who might otherwise have higher science career aspirations do not, only because they would lose friends or face criticism or fewer options for friendships because of interest in something masculine.
Gender is a fundamental organizing principal and stratifying system in the United States; it is hard to have hope that we can make gender less relevant for science engagement . There are many who are trying to “unbend” gender . There are pockets of progress (e.g., women in the military, running for president, NSF ADVANCE programs) and resistance (e.g., corporate boards, Wall Street, pay gaps, etc.). Our results suggest that social interactions and friendships in middle school are relevant to understanding gendered patterns of science career aspirations. Therefore, efforts to support more girls staying in science may need to go beyond individuals and institutions to facilitate interactions that promote science aspirations.
In the United States, girls and boys have similar science achievement, yet fewer girls aspire to science careers than boys. This paradox emerges in middle school, when peers begin to play a stronger role in shaping adolescent identities. We use complete network data from a single middle school and theories of gender, identity, and social…