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This chapter presents a few of the many myths that still influence attitudes to women’s and men’s abilities, interests, and behaviours, as well as expectations about what careers are appropriate for each sex. It then addresses some of the other obstacles in the way of women’s advancement. As we have seen in previous chapters, throughout most of recorded history women have been channelled into domestic roles and barred from formal education, except, in some countries and some eras, at the elementary level. Women have also been excluded from the privileged circles that controlled the scientific enterprise, especially after science became more important in society, between the 17th century and the 20th century. Moreover, the voices of thinkers who were opposed to education for women and considered women as inferior beings were consistently louder than the voice of those thinkers who considered that women, if educated, could play the same roles as men. The voices opposing women’s education were amplified by the myths regarding gender roles that have been created Chapte r 9 R Obstacles to the Entry of Young Women into Science and Engineering 0014_Frize_5x8_B_v09_16_11_2009.indd 145 16/11/09 6:19 PM 146 THE BOLD AND THE BRAVE over the ages and imprinted on the minds of most women and most men for many generations. It is not surprising, then, that gender stereotypes are still very much present in today’s world. Myths are like legends: some people believe in them, but they do not represent reality. They exist because people feel comfortable believing in them, or prefer, with some complacency, to accept what the myth represents, especially if it fits their own views. It is realistic to say that it is easier to maintain beliefs in myths that support the status quo than to challenge long-held beliefs and change patterns of behaviour, in the hope of building a world of equality and opportunity for everyone. Debunking myths and legends can make people uncomfortable and uneasy, but clarification can help in making the world a better place. Myth 1: Gender Stereotypes Have Disappeared It is interesting to observe, as we sit in an airport, a train station or a park, how parents treat girls and boys differently. Often, you can see a boy being given freedom and independence, and allowed to run around, while his sister is hugged or kissed and kept closer to their parents. Although not all parents act in the same way, this pattern of behaviour is still common enough to cause concern about the perpetuation of gender stereotypes. In 1982, Alice Baumgartner-Papageorgiou published the results of a survey she had undertaken of two thousand young people, aged between eight and seventeen, in New Jersey. Her questions were ingenious: she asked girls what their lives would be like and what careers they would choose if they woke up the next day as boys, and she asked boys how things would be if they were to wake up as girls. Her summary of their answers is revealing and thought-provoking even today. The consensus among the girls was that, as boys, they would be “calm and cool, not allowed to express their true feelings, 0014_Frize_5x8_B_v09_16_11_2009.indd 146 16/11/09 6:19 PM Obstacles to the Entry of Young Women into Science and Engineering 147 be rowdy, macho, smart-alecky, show-off more, and would be valued by their parents.” They most frequently said that they would become professional athletes, construction workers, engineers, pilots, forest rangers, or sportscasters, and that “their lives would be better economically and status-wise, and they would enjoy more freedom, and have a better time, with less responsibility.” It is sad that they did not think they could make these same choices as girls or as women. For their part, the boys in the survey were even more traditional in their thinking than the girls were. The boys said that, if they were girls, “they must be beautiful, know how to put make-up on, no one would be interested in their brain, and they were not sure if they would be appreciated by their parents.” They expected that, as women, they would get jobs as secretaries, social workers, models, airline stewardesses, or prostitutes. Iin other words, they still saw women as being limited to roles serving others, and did not see them in scientific or engineering careers. Baumgartner-Papageorgiou repeated the survey with a new set of boys and girls ten years later, in 1992...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780776618845
Related ISBN
9780776607252
MARC Record
OCLC
864851766
Pages
366
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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