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Women’s Beliefs About Their Own Knowledge

By Michelle Wheater

Artwork by Gracyn Mose

Climate change is arguably the biggest scientific problem we are facing today. Considering this problem’s enormity, the knowledge that the general public holds on the subject in an important factor in defining and solving the problem. Aaron McCright saw climate change as “a theoretically and empirically interesting case for examining gender dynamics” (McCright, 2010). This was his opportunity to directly test whether gender was correlated with climate change knowledge and concern. Usually gender is used as a statistical control in climate change studies and does not get studied directly. He used data from Gallup, an analytics company known for its public opinion polls, on the concerns and knowledge of climate change from the US general public (McCright, 2010).

Looking at the data McCright concluded that women had more accurate information on climate change and also care more about climate change. This disproves his hypothesis that men would have more accurate scientific knowledge, but proves his hypothesis that women would be more concerned about climate change. Because women care more about the effects of climate change, it can be reasoned that women should play a big role in solving the problems of and surrounding climate change. But the common belief is that scientists and politicians will be the ones to actually solve this problem, both of which have a relatively low percentage of women in their upper ranks. This should be remedied to more effectively face the problem of climate change. But McCright also concluded that women believe that they know less than they actually do. This lower perception of their knowledge leads to the results that other studies have found when they asked women and men about their knowledge of science without testing their actual knowledge.

Doubt in their own knowledge about climate change highlights the sexism that surround women’s scientific knowledge and academic knowledge as a whole. Women thinking that they know less than their male counterparts is the biggest dissuader for women entering STEM fields (McCright, 2010). Because women have been bombarded with the subliminal messages that they are not fit to study science, that they know less than men, and that they should stick to traditionally feminine fields because that is the only things they are good for. They internalize those messages and believe that they know less than men. But it was shown in McCright’s study that even though these women believed that they knew less than men, they actually knew more than men on this subject. Even though this study was done on one scientific subject, its findings can be applied to all subject because it shows that women’s doubts about their own knowledge, that stems from the present sexism, is unwarranted, and women’s knowledge and capacity to learn is equal to men’s. This shows the messages that women are fed throughout their lives are incorrect. Women are just as capable of learning science and entering a STEM field as men are.


McCright, A. M. (2010). The effects of gender on climate change knowledge and concern in the American public. Population and Environment, 32(1), 66–87.

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