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Why You Can't Find Women Engineers: They're Too Well-Rounded

"Not lack of ability, but more choice," say researchers.

Silicon Valley's hottest companies are hurting for women engineers. And many pixels have been spilled trying to figure out why. The answer, according to a study released by Pitt and the University of Michigan, might surprise you: many women choose not to go into STEM careers because they are more likely than men to have other talents.

The study, titled "Not Lack of Ability But More Choice," is based on data from a comprehensive Longitudinal Study of American Youth that checked in on 1,500 young people at the time of taking their SATs in 12th grade, and later at age 33. It found that many women with high math SAT scores have high verbal scores as well. Among the group with the highest scores on both SAT tests, the split was 63% women to 37% men.

Because women who are gifted in math are more likely to also be gifted verbally, argued researchers, they have a wider variety of career options. Men are more likely to be "lopsided," with high scores in math and low scores in reading and writing. Lopsided scorers, both men and women, were more likely to choose STEM careers.

Still, with such robust opportunities in the STEM job market, and with STEM workers earning 70% over the national average, it seems that even the most well-rounded ladies have good reason to join the intensely focused geek world.

[Woman Tipping Scales Image: StockThings via Shutterstock]

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  • Gen

    It's because more men are into technology than women. Plain and simple. None of this well-rounded garbage.

  • Mythoughts

    "Well rounded" equals, generalist with no highly developed professional skill set.

  • vickytnz

    Cheryl Platz has been talking about this for ages. The issue about tech is that it doesn't make it obvious that in areas such as interaction design, it's actually a huge advantage (and near-imperative) to be able to communicate and empathise with others. 
    There's a great talk she did a couple of years back at Interactions 11 on this very topic: