Women with smart boyfriends less likely to have careers in maths and technology

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Women who prefer brainy boyfriends are less likely to become mathematicians or scientists themselves, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that girls who have the traditional romantic goal of dating someone smarter than them are more likely to distance themselves from careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

Instead, they were more likely to opt for roles which are often considered feminine - such as a social worker or primary school teacher, according to the study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology

And the same women are also less likely to have a talent or love for maths.

Researchers say this could be down to girls downplaying their interests in these more ‘masculine’ fields, but it could also be something they are not even conscious of.

Figures from the Wise Campaign, which aims to get more women into STEM careers, reveal that women make up just one in seven of the UK STEM workforce (14 4 per cent).

For the new study, researchers identified the dating preferences of more than 900 participants.

They found that women were more likely to look for a smarter partner than men and that the more seriously they felt about this, the more traditional they were in gender roles.

The researchers then put the maths skills of their participants to the test before analysing how much they enjoyed maths and how interested they were in STEM topics while they imagined their dream partners.

The results revealed that the women who were most driven in finding a smarter man were the poorest at maths and the least interested in STEM careers.

Study author Professor Lora Park, of Buffalo University in the US, said: “What we found is that not all women reacted equally to these romantic goal primes.

“Women who had a traditional romantic partner preference of wanting to date someone smarter than themselves were the ones who distanced themselves the most from STEM fields when they thought about romantic goals.”

Prof Park added: “In general terms, women have made many advancements, but in certain fields of STEM they haven’t made that much progress.”

“I was surprised by the fact that some women have this preference.

“But I wasn’t surprised that this preference led to worse outcomes in these masculine fields.”