Why are girls not interested in technical fields?

Jacquelynne Eccles, an American professor of psychology and education, would like to see television shows with a successful female engineer as the main character.

Why are girls not interested in technical fields? Photo: Ari Aalto

For several decades now, Professor Jacquelynne Eccles has studied why many professions are highly gendered. Success at school, for example, does not explain why girls do not choose mathematical or technical fields.

– Girls have better marks than boys in all subjects at all class levels. In mathematics, however, girls think less of their skills than boys, and they find the subject less important than boys do, said Eccles, the guest speaker at the 9th Annual Collegium Lecture in April.

The girls who believe in their skills do not necessarily choose a technical field. According to Eccles, this is because of life choices.

– Many girls want a profession that enables them to interact with people and possibly help others. They don’t think technical fields offer these opportunities, even though technical professions are diverse. For this reason, I would like to see television shows, or something of the like, with a successful female engineer in a leading role, Eccles suggests.

Boys should also have more diverse models of different fields.

– Elder care will suffer from labour shortages in the future. We should present a broader picture of the many professions the field offers. This might make boys see elder care as an attractive field and a possible profession, Eccles points out.

It is possible to fight gendered choices, but the work needs to begin with small children. According to Eccles, children should be given the opportunity to express themselves in a diverse manner and try different toys, for example, regardless of gender. This would help change the deep-rooted concepts of gender roles and the division of duties in our culture.

– Children are very sensitive to cultural messages. By the age of three, they know which are traditional men’s jobs and women’s jobs. And if they don’t learn this by themselves, they will be taught at a very early age, says Eccles.

Jacquelynne Eccles gave the 9th Annual Collegium Lecture, "Gender and Achievement", at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies in April. Eccles is a Professor of Psychology and Education at the University of Michigan.

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Gender & Achievement Research Programme (University of Michigan) » »

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Text: Tiina Palomäki
Photo: Ari Aalto
Translation: AAC Global

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