Gender and the career choice process: the role of biased self-assessments

American Journal of Sociology

This article develops a supply-side mechanism about how cultural beliefs about gender differentially influence the early career-relevant decisions of men and women. Cultural beliefs about gender are argued to bias individuals' perceptions of their competence at various career-relevant tasks, controlling for actual ability. To the extent that individuals then act on gender-differentiated perceptions when making career decisions, cultural beliefs about gender channel men and women in substantially different career directions. The hypotheses are evaluated by considering how gendered beliefs about mathematics impact high school students' assessments of their own mathematical competence, which, in turn, leads to gender differences in decisions to persist on a path toward a career in science, math, or engineering.