Screen Readers Skip to Content

Gender Norms Still Important For Female College Major Choice

Author: Springer
Published: 20th Aug 2017
Peer-Reviewed Publication: N/A
Additional References: Education and LGBT Publications

Summary: New study suggests a relationship between how much women conform to feminine norms and their choice of college major.


Main Document

Traditional cultural norms about gendered roles and femininity still matter for women's choice of college major, says Ann Beutel of the University of Oklahoma in the US. Beutel and her colleagues published a study in Springer's journal Gender Issues showing how long-held cultural norms about femininity may contribute to ongoing gender segregation in academia, and to the college majors that women decide to pursue in particular.

The study was motivated by the persistence of gender segregation in terms of college major choices, despite the tremendous strides that have been taken by young US women in their overall level of educational attainment and representation in the workplace.

Data was collected from 657 undergraduate female students at one US university.

Participants answered questions about their intended or current study programme. They completed the Conformity to Feminine Norms Inventory which measures to what degree women conform to eight dominant feminine norms held in high esteem in US culture. This includes being relationship-orientated, caring for children, thinness, sexual fidelity, modesty, being domestic and physical appearance.

The results suggest a relationship between the extent to which young women conform to feminine norms and their choice of college major. For instance, women who reported greater conformity to feminine norms generally had significantly lower odds of choosing a major in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) or doctoral track-medicine (e.g., pre-medicine) or arts or humanities. Women choosing majors in social sciences, education, and social services generally aligned more to the norm of caring for children than did those choosing to major in arts, humanities, business, communication and journalism. Interestingly, those who reported greater conformity to the domesticity norm were more likely to choose a major from the STEM, doctoral-track medicine or clinical and health sciences fields.

"Given that the college years are a time when gender norms may be increasingly salient to young women, it is important to understand whether conformity to norms about women's sexuality, appearance, and relationships, as well as conformity to norms about women's caregiving and domesticity, are associated with college major choice," says Beutel.

"At least some of the barriers to increased gender integration of academic fields of study may come from cultural norms about gender, and in particular femininity, which have been durable in spite of increases in gender egalitarian ideology and women's educational attainment and labor force participation," Beutel explains.

Reference: Beutel, A. M. et al (2017). Femininity and Choice of College Major, Gender Issues DOI 10.1007/s12147-017-9195-8

Post to Twitter Add to Facebook

Latest Education and LGBT Publications

The above information is from our reference library of resources relating to Education and LGBT that includes:

High School Biology Textbooks Do Not Provide Comprehensive View of Sex and Gender thumbnail image.
Textbooks used by a majority of introductory U.S. biology classes paint a Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus image, running afoul of scientific evidence.
Publish Date: 22nd Feb 2024
Difficulty of LGBTQ classroom scenarios to approve of in elementary and secondary schools by partisan affiliation - Image Credit: USC Center for Applied Research in Education. thumbnail imagePercentages of adults, by partisan affiliation, selecting various potential purposes of public education as very important - Image Credit: USC Center for Applied Research in Education. thumbnail imagePercentages of adults overall and by partisan affiliation agreeing race-related classroom scenarios are appropriate in public elementary schools - Image Credit: USC Center for Applied Research in Education. thumbnail image
Americans united on core principles like importance of public education and parental involvement, but diverge on the details.
Publish Date: 22nd Feb 2024
How Many Genders Are There? 2024 Gender Identity List thumbnail image.
Updated 2024 list of gender identities and terms people use when identifying themselves and talking about gender.
Publish Date: 7th Dec 2022 - Updated: 10th Apr 2024
Behind the scenes at the SkillFlix video production shoot - Image Credit: dfusion, inc. thumbnail image
The article explores several lessons learned about inclusivity during formative research and video production efforts.
Publish Date: 2nd Dec 2022 - Updated: 5th Jan 2023


1How Many Genders Are There?
Alphabetical list of gender identities.

2Transgender Reporting Guide
How to write about transgender people.

3Glossary of Sexuality Terms
Definitions of sexual terms & acronyms.

4Glossary of Sexual Identities
Definitions of gender related terms.

5Am I Gay? Questions to Ask
Think you may be gay or bisexual?

• Submissions: Send us your coming events and LGBTQ related news stories.


• Report Errors: Please report outdated or inaccurate information to us.



• (APA): Springer. (2017, August 20). Gender Norms Still Important For Female College Major Choice. SexualDiversity.org. Retrieved May 27, 2024 from www.sexualdiversity.org/edu/783.php


• Permalink: <a href="https://www.sexualdiversity.org/edu/783.php">Gender Norms Still Important For Female College Major Choice</a>