"If you ask someone to describe a man and a woman, you get remarkably similar responses to what you got years ago," she said. "That's residual of the roles that men and women played when women were the caretakers and men were the workers. Those perceptions have held, and for some reason, there's a stake in maintaining those roles in the world."
She takes it a step farther. When women do excel in male-dominated jobs, they're not generally celebrated for it. In fact, women may be penalized for being too ambitious, too confident, too assertive.
How does this fit into science? The requirements for doing well in certain scientific fields don't fit with the attributes women are considered to have, Heilman said. "And if they do get in, they're ostracized, sidelined and seen as unlikeable, and that makes it unpleasant to stay."
At CU Boulder, Bielefeldt and colleagues have developed a marketing campaign designed to draw women into the engineering field. They emphasize that engineering is about creativity, having a positive impact on society and teamwork. The university also has an outreach program that sends college engineering students to mentor younger students in afterschool programs.
"The farther down, the better," Bielefeldt said. "If they don't find it interesting and exciting early on, they wouldn't be tracked into appropriate math and science courses."
Just yesterday, The White House Council on Women and Girls held this event in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building to encourage more girls to get involved in science, engineering, technology and math.
There's this group, made up of NBA and NFL cheerleaders, each with a science or math background, who are tackling the issue with a high kick and a pair of pom poms. They're slated to perform a cheer at the USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, DC this weekend. Here's a look at their appearance at that festival last year:
And the NewsHour also reported last year on the growing Make Movement, a hands-on movement designed to get kids hacking, tweaking and building cool things in their garages, backyards and basements.
A note of warning from Klawe though: starting before high school leaves four long years for the students to get disinterested in the sciences. Her strategy: to capture their attention as soon as they enter college.
"You get them into an intro computer science course that is absolutely fascinating and fun and creative," she said. "And you have them have so much fun that they just can't believe that this is really computer science.
They've done just that at Harvey Mudd with a computer course designed with women in mind.
"We have all kinds of students who arrive saying, "I hate computers." But they have to take a computer science course in the first semester. And halfway through the semester I'll be asking them, "What do you think, what's your favorite course?" And probably 90% say, "CS5. I hate computers, I hate computing, but oh my God, that's the greatest course ever."
Stanford University and University of California, Berkeley have also redesigned computer courses to make them more appealing to women.