The potential scientist's dilemma: How the masculine framing of science shapes friendships and science job aspirations

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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 distance to explore how friendship patterns might influence this gender and science paradox. Three patterns highlight the social dimensions of gendered science persistence: (1) boys and girls do not differ in self-perceived science potential and science career aspirations; (2) consistent with gender-based norms, both middle school boys and girls report that the majority of their female friends are not science kinds of people; and (3) youth with gender-inconsistent science aspirations are more likely to be friends with each other than youth with gender normative science aspirations. Together, this evidence suggests that friendship dynamics contribute to gendered patterns in science career aspirations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number14
JournalSocial Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017



  • Adolescence
  • Culture
  • Engineering & Mathematics) education
  • Gender
  • Homophily
  • STEM (Science
  • Social networks
  • Technology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)

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