City Research Online

"You must be very intelligent...?": Gender and Science Subject Uptake

Ryan, L. (2012). "You must be very intelligent...?": Gender and Science Subject Uptake. International Journal of Gender, Science and Technology, 4(2), pp. 167-190.


The reasons that fewer girls than boys choose to study physics have, with few national exceptions, been an on-going academic and policy concern. This paper considers how ‘common-sense’ ideas about subject choice are gendered and are based on notions of ‘natural’ interest and ‘natural’ abilities of boys and girls. It identifies instances of such reasoning in sociological theories, most recently Catherine Hakim’s preference theory. Drawing on ethnomethodology and Bourdieu’s framework for the analysis of modes of knowledge production, the paper argues that ‘common-sense’ reasoning produces and reproduces gendered understandings about ‘appropriate’ and ‘natural’ male and female interests and abilities. Secondary qualitative analysis from a study on science uptake demonstates how girls who express interest in physics have to justify such preferences.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: physics, preference theory, essentialism, gender, common sense
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Q Science > QC Physics
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
SWORD Depositor:
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