It has been widely suggested that women are under-represented in STEM fields because careers in these fields are perceived as incompatible with other traditionally feminine roles and life goals such as helping others or maintaining a marriage and family. Although a number of studies of women in STEM have examined the importance of the communal goal of helping others, few studies have examined another communal goal, maintaining a romantic relationship. To address this gap, we designed a two-part study to explore the impact of romantic relationships on relationship and career goals of college STEM majors. First, a survey was conducted that examined the impact of relationship status on 713 male and 409 female college STEM majors’ life goals and gender roles (82 % White). Although results indicated gender differences in goals and roles related to family and careers, interaction effects with relationship status that would suggest unique negative impacts on women’s education or career goals were not found. Next, a subsample of 59 female STEM majors (81 % White) and their male romantic partners participated in a study examining their investments in and beliefs about careers, family, and the balance between the two. Findings suggest that successful female STEM majors may seek and find partners who are supportive of their educational and careers goals, as evidenced by the partners’ investment and expectations for relationship and work roles. Overall, findings indicate that a supportive romantic partner may be a positive determining factor for women’s success in STEM.
Sex Roles – Springer Journals
Published: Feb 29, 2016
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