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If we got angry about this kind of thing we'd be angry all the time

Asked Why There Are So Few Female Physicists, Male Scientists Often Cite Lack of Math Skills. Oh, Really?


Why are their fewer females in physics than biology? Turns out the answer changes depending on whether you ask men or women. A team led by sociologist Elaine Ecklund polled 3,455 scientists on why they think the gender gap in physics is so much larger than in biology, and while women were more likely to cite discrimination, men’s explanation tended more toward “women just suck at math.”

Sigh.

Said one male respondent, a physics graduate student, ”Physics is more difficult for girls and you need a lot of thinking, and the calculation, and the logic. So that’s maybe hard for girls.”

Yes. We ladies just aren’t good with the logic! We’re always so unreasonable, with our tendency to behave irrationally and turn into raving she-beasts, especially around that time of the month, ifyouknowwhatI’msaying. Pass me my Midol!

And compare a male biology professor’s explanation that “On balance [women are] just less interested in math” to the response of a female physics grad student, who noted how a friend of hers ”was always told, ‘Oh, you’re not good at math,’ until she found herself getting As in a multivariable calculus class. You know, she was scared of math all through high school.”

The division was by no means clear-cut between the sexes; some men did cite discrimination as a factor, and some females pointed to innate factors as part of the reason why more females go into biology, though the “innate factor” in question is a desire to connect emotionally to their work, not a lack of mad math skillz. Said one female postdoctoral fellow in biology, “I think women … want to have more of a sense that what they are doing is helping somebody. … Maybe there are more women in … biology [because] you can be like ‘Oh, I am going to go cure cancer.’”

According to Ecklund, the fact “that few men in either discipline emphasized the present discrimination that women in science may face (and that men in physics hold a much larger share of senior faculty positions) suggests that discrimination is not being adequately addressed in physics departments at top research universities.” Hopefully this study will serve as the wake up call that physics departments need to acknowledge that they have in fact been ignoring what is a very real problem.

Though the fact that so many men apparently still think the puny female mind (note the sarcasm, please) just isn’t equipped to handle higher math is pretty discouraging. Can it be required that every K-12 math classroom have a sign in it saying “DISCLAIMER: Women Don’t Inherently Suck at Math! Just So You Know.” so we can clear this up once and for all? Seriously. There’s no excuse.

(via: Buzzfeed)

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  • http://twitter.com/sarasakana Sara Sakana

    Well, let’s see how long it takes the mansplainers to show up on this post.

  • http://profiles.google.com/mkjonese Emma Jones

    I’m not even sure flat-out discrimination completely explains it either, though. I think it’s more of a nurture issue. Little girls in classrooms are more often given the answer to their classwork than little boys, taking the LEARNING out of school. This often continues up through high school, and girls fail to learn the skills they need to to compete in a scientific environment (or the business world, for that matter). That’s not to say this happens to all girls (I had a wonderful father who would never give me the answers, and though I hated him for it then, I love him for it now), but it is a big problem. The difference in how we socialize our kids has more to do with what their strengths and interests are when they grow up than gender or genetics, I think. And that leads to discrimination later on, because there is a notion that girls aren’t good at math… because people are failing to really teach them.

  • http://twitter.com/FroWillis Sarah

    Yeah throughout elementary school and whatnot I remember being told that girls aren’t at good at math. I suck at English and foreign languages, not math. My boyfriend has his bachelor’s in applied math and physics and is working on his masters in physics. He’s actually pretty bad at basic math due to moving so much as a kid (Army brat).

    I got my degree in forensic science (no not criminal justice or in being a CSI) and the forensic science department was overwhelmingly female. It was roughly 70% female. I would joke that’s where all the girls interested in science went. Dead bodies man, girls love them.

  • Anonymous

    This is difficult, because it’s very much a case of unequal expectations and cultural norms. I feel like there’s a lot of social deprogramming that will have to be done to rectify the gender disparity in maths and sciences (for example, studies show that a majority of teachers unconsciously call more often on boys than girls, and have more tolerance for boys talking out of turn than girls. Why? I have no idea). Boys are expected to be more mathematical and logical, and when we hold high expectations for children, it’s remarkable how often they rise to the occasion. “Boy” hobbies often highlight mathematic and logic skills. Girls who enjoy these hobbies are seen as either “tomboys” or “weird”. A girl has to have either a very supportive circle of friends and family or a lot of chutzpah to ignore the traditional view of girls and continue to pursue the academic interests she likes, or the hobbies she loves. Inversely, boys are performing more and more poorly in areas of language arts because girls are expected to be the better communicators (and, as I mentioned, kids will rise or fall to meet adult expectations). “Girl” hobbies often encourage socialization and communication skills.

    All anthropology aside, I interned with a national laboratory for two years. This was eight years ago, and things may be different today, but… I vividly remember talking with my boss and him being surprised by my interest and understanding of the topic. I explained, yes, this is actually my major. I thought that was why I was in this department? He told me he had no idea – they’d just taken me on because they had to have another girl on the staff to make their numbers come out right. Other people in the department assumed I was a clerical intern. Interesting projects went to male interns, despite the fact that said interns spent a solid hour every day circulating in a pack and chatting up the (entirely female) clerical interns, and did a half-assed job on everything they were assigned.

    So yes, in my experience sexual discrimination is also a massive problem that needs to be addressed when it comes to women in math and science fields.

  • Jenn Kluska

    Unfortunately there is a definite gender bias when it comes to the Sciences.
    Check out this (rather depressing) Discovery article about how academic scientists critiqued the student resumes of a fictitious female versus male student (each application was identical except for the name).
    I bet you can guess the result…

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2012/09/19/scientists-your-gender-bias-is-showing/

  • http://www.facebook.com/erebus.rubric Erebus Rubric

    ”Physics is more difficult for girls and you need a lot of thinking,
    and the calculation, and the logic. So that’s maybe hard for girls.” Really? I thought physics was more difficult for women because of the rampant and unapologetic institutionalized culture of misogyny.

  • Objective

    So what happens if it turns out that women are generally less interested in any specific field? Force them into jobs they don’t want in the name of equal opportunity just to meet a quota? There seems to be a lot of investment in this agenda. Equal opportunity, yes. Quota, no.

  • Schwinny

    I’m an engineer and I teach at a university in the UK. We see the same problems as physics. It is a leaking pipeline. Not only are there small numbers of women going into science, engineering and mathematics compared to other subjects but the rate of attrition after graduation is equally bad. Just looking at women who earn advanced degrees, more than 70% end up leaving the science, engineering and mathematics fields. Some drop out of the workforce for families but the vast majority move to other fields. The numbers are something like 20% not working (presumably starting families) and 50% working in other fields. It is staggering.

    Picking up on Sarah’s comment about women in forensic science, I struggle to get applicants for engineering-oriented PhD projects described with engineering language, particularly women. Advertising a crossover PhD with forensic science, I was overwhelmed with female applicants. The same was true with a very bio-oriented PhD a couple of years ago. These are useful lessons to me for advertising in the future to broaden appeal and diversity.

  • Gemma Lynn

    This straw man brought to you by Objectivity. Wait a second…

  • Anonymous

    I don’t remember there being ONE girl in my class who wasn’t better at me at math. I think it’s a case of hegemony in action, yet again. I hope that changes soon.

  • Schwinny

    Recent, robust research shows that the differences in performance in various subjects that are linked to gender result from social factors not innate differences. Training in a subject levels the playing field. Gender-based differences disappear. Women may “prefer” certain fields but there are a number of social pressures from a very early age that push women to prefer these fields.

  • Rebecca Pahle

    Even if, for the sake of argument, women ARE just generally less interested in a specific field, how could you possibly prove that? Like Schwinny says, social pressure is a pretty big factor, so even if you got 100 women in a room and only 10 of them say they’d maybe want to pursue science, you couldn’t say “Oh, well, women as a whole aren’t into science, then.” It’s a hypothetical situation that I don’t think there’s any scientific evidence in support of.

  • http://twitter.com/Milly_Wee Emily Martin

    Ahh that’s awesome! My mom’s a nurse and she says if she could redo her career she’d try forensics. She was kinda hoping I would pursue that but I didn’t. It’s interesting that it was mostly women at your school :]

  • Anonymous

    There is only one correct answer to a question like “why is there so few women in X domain” and it’s to run out of the room as fast as you can, really. There is no good answer to those questions except, if you’re lucky, there actually IS some discrimination. I have to give kudos to those guys for finding what the worse possible answers must be…
    I studied in Computer Science and the only answer I have to why there is no women in that domain (maybe 20% of my classmates were women) is because, well, there is no women in that domain… I have honestly nothing else. The women I studied with were pretty good in math (better then me and my defficient skills) but for a reason or another, they were very few who even tried to take that class.
    Discrimination might explain part of the phenomenon (and I’m certainly not in any position to give hindsight information about the world of Physics) but I think part of the explanation has to be cultural. Men and women might be very much alike in most ways, the truth is boys mostly hang out with boys and girls mostly hang out with girls. If your friends are interested in Biology, or are already working in the domain, you’re more likely to develop your interest in that particular science than another, where you don’t know anyone. Also, if there is a young girl reading this article who doesn’t know if she should go in Physics or Biology, she just learned there’s not a whole lot of women in Physics, which can’t be a plus.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rebekah-Jones/759152663 Rebekah Jones

    I would point out though that it is a feedback loop- girls are given the answers more because of the cultural assumptions about them being the ‘fairer’ sex, needing more help in areas of logic. The parents might not mean ill, but well, there is a reason why there is a girl’s toy section filled to the brim with princess clothes and pink sparkly things. Because parents buy it and reinforce the cultural assumptions about girls.

    I would bet some of these scientists who said girl’s aren’t as good at math are parents of little girl’s themselves. :/

  • Objective

    Though it may be anecdotal, one only needs to be a parent of both boy and girl preschoolers who do not watch TV or surf the internet before educational and societal pressures, including programs based upon quotas, kick in to see what attracts them in households rich with opportunities and choice for both genders.

  • Objective

    Why would women want to be with other women instead of men? 90% of the population feels societal pressure is to meet the opposite gender. It’s an anthropological advantage to wander into an area where your selection is nearly guaranteed, either professionally with quotas or personally with mates.

  • http://www.facebook.com/robert.jabs Robert Jabs

    I study at a somewhat utopian computer science faculty where we have +40% female students and our theoretical computer science professor is a woman too. And guess what, women turn out to be just as good at maths, theoretical computer science and programming as men in that enviroment. We have some who just chose cs as a major because they weren’t sure what else to take (cs has low sat requirements in germany, since they don’t depend on the difficulty of the subject, but just on the number of applicants) and they are positively ecstatic about the subject now, just because they feel that they’re treated well and in such a good enviroment to study logic heavy, difficult subjects. They get to get excited about solving difficult problems and can do it without constantly getting patronized if they ask for help like anybody (<-men) else. We actually have galls changing from another university in our area with over 90% male cs students to us and suddenly thrive. So, yeah, math-heavy subjects could indeed have a discrimination problem…

  • Objective

    Intelligence and quality isn’t the issue. Interest and tendency is the issue. You can’t force some people to be interested in a field simply by promoting it any more than you can expect people to switch hand dominance or gender preference without some collateral damage. All things being equal, people are where they are because it’s in their field of interest.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t understand what you mean. I wouldn’t like to be the only guy in my office and I don’t know anyone who would like that. It must be even worse for women because an environment with a lot more men then women is where sexism is usually at its strongest.

  • Anonymous

    I have a degree in physics from a top university. I had the highest GPA in my department upon graduation and was the only student to receive honors in physics that year.

    Despite this, I spent four years thinking I wasn’t very good in my chosen field — certainly not as good as the boys. I even had a professor tell me that I was “too emotional” for physics and should maybe channel my energy into something more appropriate.

    Physics is difficult for anyone, male or female. You need dedication and encouragement to keep going. Based on my own experience, even the most dedicated girls are often actively discouraged. So why stick with physics?

  • Andi Montgomery

    As a female PhD track grad student in engineering physics, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this. I love my work, and I’m certainly just as good at math as my male peers. I don’t feel discriminated against by my professors or research colleagues. But I’ve started to consider whether I want to stay in the field. While my work is important to me, the prospect of having a family is more important. And, unfortunately, there’s no “good” time to take 6 months maternity leave in the academic career track. I can’t take it during a 2 year post-doc appointment, and I don’t necessarily want to take it while I’m trying to get tenure somewhere.

    So the problem I see (for me at least) is not with overt discrimination, but with the way the academic career path in the sciences is structured. I’m sure other people have other reasons, because not all women want to have families (but some smart, motivated women do!)

  • Anonymous

    What you say is completely true. The problem is that it’s impossible to prove it’s not the case either. Those type of problems are very much like the chicken and the egg: is there no women in that field because of the sexism, or is it sexist because there’s never any women there and a boys club mentality took hold. I would go with the first theory because sexism pre-dates pretty much everything but it doesn’t explain why things are better in biology than physics. It must have been as sexist there as anywhere else at one point.

  • http://www.facebook.com/robert.jabs Robert Jabs

    I didn’t say that qualtity or intelligency is the issue, neither did I say that we should promote cs or physics to women anymore. What we should do is give them an enviroment that gives them the same chances as men to study a certain subject. And as of now, that is not the case. Women constantly get patronized by there male counterparts, they get hundreds of people telling them that girls are not as good at math in their childhood/adolescence, so how do you expect them to develop an interest in field like engineering, physics or cs? The confidence you need to get through often times frustrating topics is heavily lowered if you’re constantly told you can’t do things because you’re female. You always taking a high risk of not succeeding if you study such a hard subject and if you don’t have the confidence you’re less likely to do so.

  • Rebecca Pahle

    OK, but… if that’s so obvious, researchers should be able to find some credible evidence to back it up. For how often the argument that “The reason there aren’t more female scientists, directors, [insert male-dominated field here] is that women aren’t interested in those things” is used, I’ve never seen it accompanied by a shred of actual evidence. The argument doesn’t hold water for me.

  • Objective

    I know you didn’t say that, but your inference is that all people are on equal standing with regard to intelligence and quality. I’m saying the people who claim there are differences with those things are being sexist. All things being equal, that leaves interest and tendency to disprove.

  • Objective

    Personally, I prefer the company of the opposite gender. Topics are generally much more interesting to me because I learn more. Also, sexism is not exclusive to men. It is equal opportunity in that regard. To believe either gender engages in it more or less than the other is also sexist. Each disparages the other with equal zeal when they believe they are not in mixed company.

  • Anonymous

    I am not a scientist but I see a lot of research showing quantifiable differences in the brains of men and women. EG – Men see motion women see difference, women navigate by landmark men navigate spatially, women can hear the cry of their newborn men are oblivious, women step on the brake for emergency men step on the gas, even the connections between our lobes are constructed differently, perhaps most importantly men are attracted to women while women are attracted men. Need I go on…here are some obvious differences: mens suits black blue gray, womens every color in the rainbow. Father’s day cards are one small section, Mothers Day cards are three aisles plus two aisles of chocolate and one aisle of stuffed animals. Why aren’t there more straight guys in fashion or design? Why aren’t there more men in nursing or teaching. Why can’t I sit thru 5 minutes of the Oprah Channel and my wife cant sit thru 5 seconds of Spike?

    Maybe its nature maybe its nurture but does it matter? When I look at
    the leading physicists in the world today I don’t see the type of people
    who would want to keep women down, Its hard to imagine
    institutionalized sexism in a field that relies on logic.

    Why can’t we be different but equal? Is that so terrible? What if women are just as good at it but just not as interested?

  • Objective

    Let’s just say I look forward to the day where equal opportunity is the truth, is the reality, so we can eliminate the so-called straw man possibility, contrary to Gemma Lynn’s accusation about my reasoning, that research currently knows more than parents. No matter who was right or wrong, on that day, the point would be moot because women would be happy either way. Unless there’s an agenda being promulgated to swing power to one group’s advantage over another’s. History is replete with such things. Everyone wants an advantage, so will this be forever solved, or forever argued on the basis of research that changes with each new study?

  • Anonymous

    I didn’t say sexism was exclusive to men, I said that an environment with more men than women was usually where sexism flourishes the most.

    And your belief that sexism is equal opportunity for both gender is just that, belief. There’s a lot more sexual harassment going on from men toward women than the opposite. That’s just facts, not an opinion.

  • http://twitter.com/FroWillis Sarah

    VCU is one of the top school for forensic science, if not the best. The majority of my professors were women too. I had one male forensic science professor.

    Actually in general forensic science is the most evenly split with men and women. The American Association of Forensic Science is almost 50/50.

  • Gemma Lynn

    Well, just so long as the women are happy, then.

    Your experience with your preschoolers (who are somehow shielded from educational and social pressure, despite being in preschool) does not qualify you to speak for all children everywhere. My parents’ experience was very different from yours; they’re not qualified to speak for all children everywhere either. Researchers have access to vastly larger information pools than you do, as well as the tools and methods required to analyze them. They can follow trends, they can experiment in statistically-significant ways, they do, in fact, know more than you do. Your argument is equivalent to reading that the average height for a grown man is 5’8″, and disputing it because a guy you know is 6’2″.

    This article is about documented gender disparity and discrimination. Your first comment attempted to invalidate the point of the article by raising a concern about quota-based employment systems forcing women into jobs they don’t want. That’s a textbook straw man.

  • Objective

    Sorry, I know you didn’t say that. I’m speaking to you while being aware there is a larger audience here, so I put a larger scope on it than simply a person conversation. You speak of harassment, so I gather your point of view is limited to the professional world. I’m not limiting my arguments to that. It could be a party, a scout camp-out, a PTA meeting, a sporting event… anything in life. I think it’s boring when men and women break off into their own conversations, but they invariably do, so it appears to be a natural thing. I’ve heard women trash and praise men, making them the butt of their jokes. I’ve heard men trash and praise women, making them the butt of their jokes. Equally. We are all more alike than not, but we might have different interests and tendencies generally.

  • Anonymous

    I can see your point of view, as long as there is no false equivalency. Sexism at work can have worse consequences because not everyone is on equal footing and since men usually holds the positions of power, their sexism is more frequent in that context. Which is what I meant in my original comment.
    In the social situations you mentionned, I can see things being more equal. Although the superior physical strength of men probably gives a certain status of power in those cases as well.

  • StraightAcePhysics

    I never do this, but I felt like sharing a story. Just so you know where I’m coming from, I’m a Physics Ph.D. student at an Ivy league school (if you even care).

    Ironically, I just had a heart-to-heart with a female friend (also a Physics Ph.D. student) about a week ago over coffee. We were talking about whether we would stay in Physics, since another friend (also female) just quit.

    Her biggest reason for quitting Physics was simple: She just wasn’t happy. It’s hard for women to stay in Physics because it’s a male dominated field.

    Imagine her daily grind: Her life is dominated by research work. She’s in an office surrounded by guys who talk about “guy stuff” for 8-12 hours a day. She has no women to talk to at all.

    After a few years, this really started to frustrate her. Maybe other women can relate. (An aside: The happiest physics/engineering women I’ve met described themselves as tomboys)

    So in my opinion, it’s not really a misogynistic conspiracy (Of course misogyny exists in academia, but so do communists and socialists; not being sarcastic). And at this level, skill differential is irrelevant. Everyone knows what they’re doing.
    It’s just a lack of daily enjoyment. If you’re not happy, you try to find a better job – if you’re able. The same rings true for men and women alike.

    But this is just why women leave. I could write another novella on why more women don’t get Physics degrees in the first place.

    Some more perspective: The only reason to stay in Physics is love. If they’re not having fun in the workplace, most quit Physics for business or consulting where they can make 2-3x as much pay for half the effort.

    Some numbers: In our lab, there are over a hundred men and three women. The women rarely see each other, since they work on different projects. Before you get mad: This is just our lab, not the entire Physics program here. Overall, I think about 15-20% of the Ph.D. students here are women, but I haven’t checked the numbers this year.

    Anyways, I could talk about these subjects all day since I’m a huge Physics education nut, but I’ll stop there for now.

    -Steve F.

  • Objective

    I misscommunicated. By preschoolers, I mean before school, before Kindergarten, not the school that comes before school.

    I wouldn’t be so quick to assume what I have access to or know or what you have access to or know. “Documented” just means it’s written down somewhere by people. Results often change with who is funding or promoting it. I reassert that there is a large investment in promoting quotas in the name of equal opportunity. Equal opportunity is fair so long as it is in terms of resources made indiscriminately available. Quotas are inherently unfair, often outliving their purpose and becoming a mockery of what they stood for.

  • StraightAcePhysics

    “Just looking at women who earn advanced degrees, more than 70% end up leaving the science, engineering and mathematics fields.”

    This is one of the biggest problems, in my opinion. Keep in mind, it’s a problem for men, too.

    Creating interest is one thing, but staying interested for the rest of your life is another. Most of the Physics grad students I know are going into fields like business or consulting because they just burn out.

    Hey, by the way, that multi-disciplinary approach to advertising Ph.D.s is pretty interesting, Schwinny. I’ll have to keep that in my back pocket for later (My field has a huge shortage of people, let alone women).

  • Objective

    > superior physical strength of men

    LOL. Well there you have it. Biology moves into these discussions with warp speed. Generally, what you say is true. Men have more muscle mass than women as a whole. But anecdotally, it can be wildly askew. Amazon women and scrawny geek men. Stand Sigourney Weaver up against Rick Moranis and compare! But men and women are segregated from each other in most sports because of fairness issues that work generally but fail anecdotally. Women and men still have their own golf tees, and so forth. Sigourney has a choice, but the tees are there nonetheless – blatant inequality on display for all to see. Should they quota the number of rounds of golf per tee per day per gender (men using women’s tees per day and women using men’s tees per day) or let each person use the tee most suited to their interests (and let the player be the judge of their own abilities)?

  • Gemma Lynn

    “Documented” in an academic context means “supported by evidence”. The strength or weakness of the evidence is certainly up for debate, though it seems fairly strong in this case.

    I made assumptions about what you know or have access to because you based your assertion about the innate interests of both genders on your experience with your kids. If you have peer-reviewed research that demonstrates your experience is normative, by all means fire away.

    I don’t argue your points about the potential abuses of quotas, but they’re not addressed in the article.The article discusses institutionalized gender bias; you suggested that the study is part of an agenda pushing gender quotas. It’s a non sequitur of the straw man variety.

  • Anonymous

    Now, I really do suck at math. It takes me a lot longer then I’d like to try and figure it out. (working a logical problem through all the negative self talk is particuarly hard) But on top of that, hearing my whole life how “women just don’t get math”, etc? You know what I did when I first heard that? I gave up. “Oh, it’s okay, I gotz that female brain, I’m just never gonna get it. Wevs.” Who does that help? Really? No one, least of all me. I’m still way freakin’ behind on my math skills; might have to take another math class for my Associates (ugh!). But at least now I go in with the knowledge that this type of talk (“Lady brains don’t understand math”) is ignorant and bullshit.

  • Rebecca Pahle

    …research DOES know more than parents. Not about individual kids. But about the social influence (or lack thereof) upon kids in general? Yeah, it totally does. If your argument held water, someone should be able to back it up.

  • Gemma Lynn

    Historically, “different but equal” hasn’t worked out as well as one might think.

    The argument for equal opportunity is not that men and women are the same, or even that men and women have the same interests in the same measure. The argument is that women and girls who have an interest in traditionally male-dominated fields (Hi, I’m a female software engineer) should have the same support and opportunity that men and boys do. That will never be the case in an environment that assumes a lack of females results from a lack of female brainpower. Whether most women are innately or conditioned to be interested or not interested is irrelevant.

  • http://twitter.com/Super_Widget Joanna

    You lost me at “I am not a scientist”.

  • http://twitter.com/Super_Widget Joanna

    I used to know someone who could do incredibly fast -and I mean electronic calculator fast- arithmetic. That person was a girl. And she was 13 years old.

    I’m very average at math, but so is everyone in my family, but having gone to an all girl schools for 14 years I can tell you there are some pretty logically wired ladies out there that would kick anyone’s ass at calculus.

  • TheSquirrel

    ”Physics is more difficult for girls and you need a lot of thinking,
    and the calculation, and the logic. So that’s maybe hard for girls.”

    I note the word ‘maybe’ here. I doubt this guy gave this much thought or attention. So *maybe* (heh heh) the lesson here is that even someone trained in the scientific method isn’t above pulling answers straight out of their butts.

  • http://profiles.google.com/mkjonese Emma Jones

    Oh, certainly. I think it’s a subtle type of discrimination… but people don’t really recognize it. I was listening to a male friend complain about how the girls he’s worked with never do much of anything because the guys would do it for them. Well of course! Don’t blame the guys for doing that, blame the girl for letting it happen. (Who wouldn’t let the other person clean out the trash bins if they offered?)

  • Anonymous

    This is why single sex schools are the way to go, at least when you get up to highschool. I’m not sure how many single sex schools there are in the States, talking to Americans always suggests to me that its not the norm over there, but in NZ there’s heaps of them.
    Most of the girls in my class at highschool took physics, maths and chemistry until they were 15 or 16, in an environment where you’re with other girls enjoying (or at least participating in) the same subject, taught by female teachers (there were two male maths teaches and no male science teachers when I was there) and no one thinks you’re odd or tomboyish for liking those subjects. I did statistics the whole way through school and I aced it, and am now studying for a Masters in structural geology. As far as the sciences go I know more former classmates doing maths or engineering or ‘hard sciences’ as I do who do biology or psych. And I think the same goes for boys-schools promoting drama, english and biology (my older brother also went to a single sex school and is now a biology teacher).

  • http://twitter.com/diefrankenmaus Kate

    Stereotype threat. Look it up, yo. Differences between males and females on math tests disappear when you simply tell participants that a test is “gender fair” (i.e. males and females do equally well).

  • Anonymous

    Your biggest factual error was claiming men are attracted to women and vice versa, whether you use anecdotal or empirical evidence that is plainly not true in approx. 10% of the population.

  • kellosaurus2000

    I kick-arse at math, I always have and have thankfully been told so and supported in this. However this was not enough to keep me in physics, math or chemistry.
    Chemistry was the worst by far – lecturers seemed to compete to try get as many derogatory comments to females or sexist examples in to a lecture, thus becoming a “GC” in the eyes of the mainly male class.
    Math and Physics were better, in that the lecturers were supportive and a lot of my class mates were lovely. The main problems were a) Everyone being nice was conditional only acknowledging my “geeky” interests and b) pretty much all the engineering students ranged from barely concealed sexist to overtly sexist. This included telling me girls were to illogical to do science.
    So basically I ended up doing my masters in biology – where I still have to put up with people informing me I do hippy science, or chose it because I can not do math. What it offers though is that when I go back to my lab there is a bunch of other scientists, of both genders, ready to to laugh at the fools who clearly no nothing about science. Still have to deal with some bio-engineers hate on what biologist and doctors do and straight up tell me that they can do things more exactly and thus improve patient outcomes without our input – but now I just laugh in their faces

  • Sefa

    What the hell. When I was in high school, the girls did the best in physics, chemistry and math. (Algebra and pre-calc were my weaker maths, but I excelled at geometry and calculus. Physics was a rough spot, too, because I understood the theory, but the calculations were algebra-based which killed me. Anecdotal, yes, but hardly an exception in the world.) The fact that most of these men don’t encounter as many women or have their (conscious or unconscious) discrimination pointed out to them only lets them continuing so.

  • Anonymous

    I have a theory that women “prefer” pink and frilly because, long ago, they told men those were feminine and not masculine, but actually they didn’t care (who would?) and the real reason was that way the men wouldn’t touch their stuff. Over time this was lost and it became culturally normative, but that was the genesis. No research of course, but it’s at least consistent with how children can be manipulated (Tom Sawyer and whitewashing the fence).

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Adam-Black/753035399 Adam Black

    Physics is difficult no matter who you are! I know it kicked my butt up and down when I was in college. That was Engineering Physics, to be clear, and I gotta say I still don’t fully understand fluid dynamics.

    And mathematics isn’t hard to teach to girls, it just seems like they’re conditioned (especially by their peers) to consider it “too hard”. I taught my daughter (and my son) math from the age of four, and both of them are very comfortable with it. My daughter’s high school had a whole clique of girls who equated math with “uncool”.

    Now that they’re grown, my daughter tells me she’s the only woman in her office that has any real mathematical skill, and that’s depressing.

    I think a lot of the problem is that math-ignorant parents are unable to teach their kids even the fundamentals.

  • harpoon

    every time i see females write online to try to discredit a stereotype they resort to stupid sarcasm “OH IM JUST A DUMB GIRLY GIRL CONTROLLED BY MY HORMONES, OH LOOK, SHOES! :) “. It was funny the first 100 times now its just boring. Address the issues that men bring up. Disprove them..

  • Anonymous

    And maybe 10% of scientist are female.

  • Anonymous

    Pink and blue as gender identifiers is not cuturally consistent. It is a modern convention of western civilization which can actually be traced to modern American retailing

  • Anonymous

    True thank you

  • Anonymous

    Great point thank you