03/12/2014 11:06 am ET Updated Mar 12, 2014

Women May Be Underrepresented In STEM Because They're Too Concerned With Grades

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Harvard economics professor Claudia Goldin wanted to know why only 29 percent of bachelor’s degrees in economics in the United States are awarded to women. So she started studying the academic records of students at one anonymous research institute and found that women who receive A's in an introductory economics course were actually more likely than men with A's to go on to choose economics as their major. But women who received poorer grades were much less likely to pursue the major than men were. Starting at the A-minus level, women jump ship to other majors, but men stick around. Men who receive B's are just as likely as male A students to elect an econ major, but female A students are twice as likely as B students to major in econ. By the time you reach the C students, men are about four times as likely as women to major in the discipline.

Women: Could you be leaning in in the wrong direction? At the Washington Post, Catherine Rampell says the study shows that women need to “change their myopic attitudes about the significance of grades” in order to set themselves up for greater chances of success in the workplace. “Maybe women just don’t want to get things wrong,” Goldin told Rampell. “They don’t want to walk around being a B-minus student in something. They want to find something they can be an A student in. They want something where the professor will pat them on the back and say ‘You’re doing so well!’” Men, meanwhile, “don’t seem to give two damns.”

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