Jonah Lehrer cites numerous studies on how gender stereotyping may lower the number of women in math and science fields. In one study, students watched gender-neutral ads (cell phones, insurance) and ads featuring beautiful women extolling diet sodas:

Women exposed to the gender stereotyping ads were far less interested in anything quantitative. Instead, they were more than twice as likely to choose careers in the verbal and service industry, such as retail, sales and communication. The pattern was reversed, however, in the women who saw neutral ads. They were actually more interested in pursuing quantitative careers. All it took was the absence of a blatant stereotype to increase their interest in math. While I don’t expect television commercials to get better anytime soon – pop culture is full of persistent tropes – it turns out that we’ve got a fix for the negative effects of these stereotypes. The cure is female math teachers.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to