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Greater biological variability cannot explain differences in opportunity

You’ve probably heard this story many times before: there’s some kind of glass ceiling in the world of science and math that hinders women’s ability to progress. The latest data confirms that something is going wrong.

The United States ranks 31st on the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index and is tied for 21st on Social Watch’s Gender Equity Index. Still, the test scores of U.S. high school girls have reached parity with those of boys, and half the undergraduate math degrees awarded in this country go to women.

But after that, something goes off the rails. Just 27% of math Ph.D.s go to women. Exactly the same percentage — 27% — of people with careers in science, technology, mathematics, and engineering (STEM) fields are women. Women constitute a very similar number — 30% — of STEM college professors.

This is a problem, and not just from an equality standpoint, says math professor Rebecca Goldin, an associate professor of mathematics at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, and director of research at the university’s Statistical Assessment Service. “Scientific and mathematical progress relies on the best people doing their best work,” she says. “If you discourage half the population [from doing science], then that part is simply not in your pool of who’s the best, so the best science doesn’t happen.”

Now cue the apologists. The most common explanation I hear for the disparity, over and over again, is that it’s an accurate reflection of ability: men do better at the higher ranks of science and math because they have better brains. And the most frequent rational for that is the greater male variability hypothesis: the bell curve of performance for women is better tuned to achieve a greater likelihood of median ability, while men are more erratic — they produce more damaged, faulty brains than do women, but at the same time, they produce more brilliant brains. The male population exhibits greater extremes.

This has never made any sense to me.

There are deleterious traits which men have at higher frequency than women: color blindness, for instance, or hemophilia. The explanation for those is that they’re X-linked, so males are hemizygous and when they carry a defective allele are less likely to carry a complementary healthy allele at that locus. There is also a known higher incidence for objectively measurable mental defects in males vs. females, diagnosable at birth. Again, the likely explanation is that hemizygosity for all those loci on the X chromosome makes males more vulnerable to developmental and genetic errors.

But how does this lead one to conclude that the greater variability should lead to greater beneficial variability? An expansion of the left tail of the distribution does not imply that there has to be an equivalent expansion of the right tail. For example, males also exhibit greater infant mortality in females. There is no compensatory reduction of male mortality in old age. The mortality curve shifts left for us men; it didn’t broaden to give those of us who made it to middle age an advantage over women in our cohort to reach greater old age.

And I note that there is never any specific explanation of a mechanism that would allow greater variability to promote greater intelligence in males. There is much flapping of hands over the greater male frequency of autism, reading disorders, juvenile delinquency, etc. (all true), and then a dangling “therefore…” leading to the conclusion that there must be compensatory intellectual benefits for men. It’s basically little more than an appeal to the belief that the universe must be fair, and must grant us guys as a population a benefit to make up for the bad deal we get as babies.

Guess what? The universe isn’t fair.

It is conceptually possible that the universe could have screwed over the females or the males of our species. We know, for instance, that human physiology carries specific mechanisms that increase male body size over that of women; you could imagine a species in which there was a similar coupling of hormones to brain growth, and in a science fiction world you could imagine a race with great gender disparities in intelligence. That doesn’t seem to be our world, though, and it also wouldn’t make sense to explain such a phenomenon by greater noisy variation. But you can’t explain that possibility away by saying it wouldn’t be fair for our biology to so discriminate against one sex: again, the universe isn’t fair.

You have to look at the data. And the data all seem to be saying that men and women who make it to the point of entering the academic world have roughly equal intellectual potential, and that the differences between them are shaped by sociocultural influences, not biology.

To analyze some of the theories put forth for the math gender gap, Kane and Mertz looked at internationally standardized scores for the 2003 and 2009 OECD Program for International Student Assessment math tests and the 2003 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study. These two datasets include data from 86 countries with a 31-country overlap. If the greater male variability hypothesis, which posits that men have a greater range of intelligence than women, is true, then that variability would persist, consistently, across all 86 countries.

Instead, “For any given country, you quite reproducibly measure the same variance ratio,” Mertz says. But between countries the variance ratio changes. Persistent cultural factors, in other words, seem very important in setting variance ratios. “That was one thing that really shocked me,” Mertz says.

Some scholars have speculated that coeducational schools put women at a disadvantage in learning math. But Mertz and Kane’s research found that gender-segregated schools make no difference in improving math scores for girls or boys.

And while the test scores of children from the poorest countries were affected by poverty, all correlation with per capita GDP ends at $11,500. After that, gender equity — as measured by the World Economic Forum and Social Watch — is the only factor they studied that’s positively correlated with improved test scores for girls and for boys. “It’s very reproducible from exam to exam,” Mertz says. “If we were willing to speculate, one thing the U.S. might do to improve math performance would be to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

Well, changing a few laws isn’t necessarily going to change people’s attitudes, so I’d disagree with her there. But as a reflection of deeper problems in how we perceive science and math and women and men, yes, she has a point.

Mertz cites a shirt famously removed from racks at the American retail clothing chain Forever 21 earlier this year as an example of the unhealthy attitude towards math in U.S. culture. The shirt said, simply, “Allergic to Algebra.”

“‘Allergic to Algebra’?” Mertz says. “This is what’s being sold in the U.S. in 2011? Whereas there’s a book in Japan [for teenage girls] called Math Girls. That book is essentially an introduction to topics you would see as a hardcore math major in college, and this is a bestseller in Japan. It’s in its 18th printing; they’ve had three sequels. Can you imagine that in the U.S.?”

There is no denying that the most important factor contributing to academic performance is cultural, not biological. Biology sets the limits, but culture determines what you do within those boundaries, and clearly, we have lots of room for improvement in intellectual accomplishment; most people aren’t bumping up against the physical limitations of what their brains can do. What we should be doing is looking at our people, and trying to do better. Less than 30% of the professoriate are women? That doesn’t say women aren’t as smart, it should be seen as missed potential, and we should be working harder to give every man and woman equal access to the chance to excel. 65% of men and 72% of women graduate from high school? Let’s figure out what’s holding the men back and fix it.

The great crime here is when people try to claim that these differences are hardwired and nothing can or should be done about them. Brains are plastic to a degree that makes minor potential differences between sexes and races negligible.

(Also on Sb)

Comments

  1. remyporter says

    Really? “Biological differences” is the most common excuse? It’s among the stupidest, certainly, but usually the excuse I hear is “Due to historical institutional differences there’s cultural expectations and role models, etc. that are not conducive to encouraging female involvement in STEM disciplines.”

    Then again, I try to only talk to intelligent people.

  2. Gregory says

    In summary: It all comes down to misogyny. There is a prevailent expectation that women will underperform, therefore women that perform as equals to or better than men are ignored.

    It is the tired but all too accurate observation that, in many fields, a woman must outperform her male colleagues in order to be seen as a barely suitable junior partner.

  3. says

    I teach Junior High math and computing- maybe it’s small sample size, maybe it’s selective sampling, but most of the really killer math students I have had in 8 years of teaching algebra have been female; roughly 60-65% is my guess. Not scientific, I know, but some seriously brilliant young ladies have come through my classroom door.

  4. Dick the Damned says

    …most people aren’t bumping up against the physical limitations of what their brains can do.

    Good, because it sure as hell hurts.

  5. Childermass says

    Let us pretend it is true that sex, eye color, height, whatever did make a big difference. It still would not relieve the person hiring an employee, accepting a student, etc. from judging the person on their individual merits because people are not averages. A perspective employer is risking hurting his organization by not getting the best person he could get and potentially opening his organization up for legal action. It also reveals that the person or persons doing the hiring are potentially lazy in performing a very important duty. It begs the question: are they being lazy in other duties to the organization too.

  6. Gregory Greenwood says

    Guess what? The universe isn’t fair.

    Absolutely true, and also a truth that I think is perhaps more denied than any other. I think that the fact that many people are so utterly wedded to the idea that the universe must be somehow callobrated to be fair may well go a long way to explaining the rise of religion and various forms of woo in our society, and also helps explain the anti-intellectual backlash against the science and other disciplines that demonstrate just how unfair the universe really is.

    You see, if the universe isn’t fair, then the privileged cannot feel smug and superior in their privilege. They cannot simply blame the less fortunate for their plight, but rather are forced to acknowledge that the disadvantaged got a raw deal, and that the privleged aren’t where they are due to some Neitzchean ‘will to power’ or by virtue of innate superiority, but simply because they got lucky – lucky to be born without conginital conditions, lucky to be born into the society, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender and social class that they were, lucky to be born into an age when society is configured to afford their social group such undue privilege.

    Lucky that the dice of life came up sixes for them.

    The same applies to the MRAs. They don’t want to admit that the entire system is rigged against women, because if they do then they are forced to open their eyes to their privilege, and they would far rather pretend that the system is fair, and that they are simply better at mathematics, science and other intellectual pursuits than women by virtue of their possession of a magic penis.

  7. says

    What amount of this difference is the result of the increased difficulty of pursuing an advanced degree and a family when female as compared to male? I found it difficult as a male that tries to take an active role in his family, but my road did not include pregnancy (my wife defended her Masters while pregnant). I would be unsurprised to find that many women capable of advanced degees in STEM left that path to pursue a family. I am not suggesting that this is the only, or even the most important, factor. I am simply wondering what the impact of this factor is. I also wonder if it will continue to decrease in effect as traditional parenting roles become less common.

  8. bjornbrembs says

    I’m a faculty member at a university in Germany. From my perspective, there are a number of palpable reasons for a dearth of women in many higher positions, not just, but especially science. One of them is that these positions are frequently VERY family unfriendly. Sure, you can have someone take care of your kids 24/7, but why have them then?

    Before the birth of our daughter, I worked about 60-80h per week and barely managed to get enough papers published to make it to faculty (hopefully to be tenured next year). Now I work at most only 50h per week and don’t seem to be able to get my work done. Most of these past 2 years I’ve struggled just to get the most important stuff off my desk.

    Many of my female colleagues (my spouse is also a scientist), simply want to see more of their kids. My guess is (without knowing the stats) that more men are willing to spend this amount of time away from family than women. At this point, it’s not really relevant if this is biological or cultural, it’s simply how it is. Even if it were biological, as a neurobiologist I’d hazard a guess that our brains are plastic enough to overcome this difference. But for now, that’s IMHO, one of the big three reasons for the gender gap. I don’t know where it ranks among the reasons, but it’s definitely way up there.

  9. says

    @tygardner

    I had similar thoughts to yours (while of course echoing what you said about it being a very small contributory factor) – the age at which one pursues a PhD is also the same age at which many women are starting a family. It’s difficult to do both – I myself was in residency when I was pregnant with my first child, and while many were supportive, I heard my share of snippy comments about “well, that’s one way to get out of doing clinic duty.”

    I can’t see changing gender roles making much of a difference, for the simple fact that women are the ones who are actually pregnant for nine months, which adds a whole host of limitations to one’s time and abilities.

  10. Drew says

    I don’t know about those two explanations you say are the two most common. I’ve never heard anyone make them before but then again I am a lot younger so it’s possible those had already been dismissed by the time I came along.

    What I think we need to figure out is this: If roughly equal undergrad STEM degrees are going out between the sexes, is the disparity in STEM PhDs due to not being accepted into grad school at even rates, leaving grad school prior to finishing for whatever reason at uneven rates, or not even applying to graduate schools in the first place.

    I don’t know the answer but I assume the data is out there to determine the answer. In my (possibly) naive “hope” (If you want to call it that) I’d like it to be the third for the simple reason that it seems the easiest to try to do something about; hopefully as a community we can do more to encourage and motivate attending graduate school by being more welcoming and friendly.

    There does seem to be one silver lining that you might have missed PZ. The proportion of XX in the professoriate (30%) seems to be exactly proportional to the population being selected from (~27%). This seems to suggest that, at least in selection to professor type roles, selection committees don’t seem to be placing much emphasis on the gender of the applicant (though I’m certain that there are certain islands where the gender proportions are still greatly skewed).

    I will say that it’s a bit strange to see the actual numbers on a large scale, in my grad school class there were 6 XX and 4 XY. Success rates were 2 XY and 1 XX leaving with MS, 1 XY getting kicked out, 1 XX leaving without MS and going to nursing school instead, and the rest getting PhDs. That class started 10 years ago and I always (again naively) assumed that most graduate classes starting around the same time frame and since were similar.

  11. opposablethumbs, que le pouce enragé mette les pouces says

    bjornbrembs, I wonder if you might like to consider rephrasing this particular point –

    At this point, it’s not really relevant if this is biological or cultural, it’s simply how it is.

    Of course it’s relevant. It’s pretty much the whole point of what we’re talking about here. There are different cultural expectations of men and women and significantly different levels of pressure on men and women to either accept/expect spending more time away from their families, or not to accept/expect it.

    It is often the case that women end up being expected/obliged to do both at once (anecdata: my mother reached the UK “rank” of Senior Reader and ran her own research group, with large numbers of publications (about which she was scrupulously fair, which is part of the reason her post-docs loved her) while running a home and raising four children).

    I never want to see “it’s simply how it is”. That is unadulterated defeatist bullshit, because in case you haven’t noticed “it’s simply how it is” carries fucking massive overtones of “and that’s how it will always be/that’s how it should be”. Even if you don’t intend that meaning, that is what comes across. So maybe it’s worth rephrasing …

  12. gingerbaker says

    Men are more aggressive than women, as a biological rule of thumb. Men create workplaces and markets that are highly competitive, as bjornbrembs, above, illustrates eloquently.

    These work environments are not necessarily attractive to anyone with a strong maternal instinct, or to anyone who doesn’t relish conflict.

    I’ll bet you won’t find a high percentage of women in any field or industry where advancement to upper echelons depends on constant aggressive competition.

  13. Matt Penfold says

    Men are more aggressive than women, as a biological rule of thumb. Men create workplaces and markets that are highly competitive, as bjornbrembs, above, illustrates eloquently.

    The term you are looking for is institutionalised sexism.

    It is no more acceptable than the more overt kind.

  14. jasonmartin99 says

    Exactly, Gingerbaker. Male agression is one of the human universals which Steven Pinker lists in The Blank Slate. This would suggest that it’s bilogical and not cultural. There’s also parental investment theory which another poster hinted at earlier. There’s a lot to consider when we try to fix societal ills. It’s always very complicated.

  15. says

    Men are more aggressive than women, as a biological rule of thumb.

    In all of biology? Pure bullshit.

    BTW the mormon cricket has aggressive females that fight over males, female angler fish are more aggressive because the males are passive parasites, how would you describe lions? In arthropods it’s not at all uncommon for females to be the bigger and more aggressive sex (Mantids, Spiders, and good god Bees)

    And even in animal behavior, confusing leadership or dominance with aggression is erroneous. There are dogs for example that are relatively low aggression, but have naturally high dominance in pack behavior.

    These work environments are not necessarily attractive to anyone with a strong maternal instinct, or to anyone who doesn’t relish conflict.

    Two are not exclusive: Tiger Mothers anyone?

  16. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    Men are more aggressive than women, as a biological rule of thumb.

    I’m a biologist. So, no. If men are more aggressive than women, this could owe in part to culture.

    Men create workplaces and markets that are highly competitive, as bjornbrembs, above, illustrates eloquently.

    For parity, this must be fixed.

    These work environments are not necessarily attractive to anyone with a strong maternal instinct, or to anyone who doesn’t relish conflict.

    Then, there is something wrong with the environment. You may prefer to blame 50% of the workforce, but this seems absurdly counterproductive.

    I’ll bet you won’t find a high percentage of women in any field or industry where advancement to upper echelons depends on constant aggressive competition.

    ‘You won’t find many women in industries that subscribe to institutional sexism, and sweep their active misogynist acculturation under the carpet of “biological reality”.’

  17. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    …This would suggest that it’s bilogical and not cultural.

    Something is bilogical around here.

    Look. The kind of masculine aggression that we see in the other great apes is exactly the kind of aggression that would make civilization impossible.

    You don’t have an urge to fight every stranger that you meet, do you? The suppression of this instinct is necessary for humans to live in groups that have membership beyond kin. If anything, successful industry represents the cultural victory* over “male aggression” not an expression of it.

    *Yeah. Cultural. Such societies haven’t existed for even 12,000 years yet.

  18. says

    I’m a biologist. So, no. If men are more aggressive than women, this could owe in part to culture.

    I might agree tentatively that increased levels of what might be considered androgen make someone more aggressive. But then they bring up things like maternal instincts as something exclusive to aggression.

    How? It seems that at least in humans the maternal instinct includes increased aggression.

  19. gingerbaker says

    ” Men are more aggressive than women, as a biological rule of thumb.

    In all of biology? Pure bullshit.”

    I meant humans as biological creatures.

  20. pj says

    @Ing

    Bonobos are not devoid of aggression but they definitely are much less so than regular chimpanzees.

  21. gingerbaker says

    “I’m a biologist. So, no. If men are more aggressive than women, this could owe in part to culture.”

    Yes, but I also think it is biologically inherent. As a parent, I have spoken to a lot of other parents who have had both boys and girls. If they had a girl first, and then a boy, they are almost always pretty astonished at the difference of the two genders. Boys WILL be boys, and the difference is evident an an early age.

    ” These work environments are not necessarily attractive to anyone with a strong maternal instinct, or to anyone who doesn’t relish conflict.

    Then, there is something wrong with the environment. You may prefer to blame 50% of the workforce, but this seems absurdly counterproductive.”

    Which 50% do you think I am “blaming”?

  22. twist says

    I’m tired of seeing “men are just more aggressive/ambitious/driven/competitive/whatever” used to excuse why there are so many less women than men at the top of so many fields.

    I don’t think it’s surprising that there’s a gender gap at the top when you have one gender conditioned from birth that it’s their role to be competitive and ambitious and the provider, and another gender conditioned to think that they must always be nice and sweet and polite and smiling and nurturing and fucking maternal. It isn’t an excuse for the disparity.

    We need to get rid of the idea that men are somehow more suited to more competitive careers and that women are more suited to nurturing roles. We need to stop pearl clutching about working mothers and the rise of female breadwinners. We need to ridicule articles in women’s magazines about how dreadfully hard it will be to find a date if you’re too well educated or earn too much. We need to point out that the loss of ‘real men’ is no great tragedy.

    So far, it seems that any attempt to do something about the top ends of so many careers remaining elitist boy’s only clubs just results in lots of “But men are more COMPETITIVE! And AMBITIOUS! And women want babies because they’re maternal and nurturing and what about their FAMILIES?!? Women can be scientists if they want, so they must just not LIKE science very much, right? Stop trying to take away my privelige! WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!”, when girls are still having stuff like “But you don’t like science! Maths is difficult! Science is a BOYS thing and nobody will like you if you’re nerdy and act like a boy!” shoved down their throats.

    Then when we’re adults it’s “You’ll never get a husband if you focus on your career too much. Don’t you want babies? Men don’t like it if you earn more than them. Being the breadwinner is the man’s job. Well you can’t BLAME them for not wanting to employ you, you’ll probably leave to have babies in a few years!”.

    We’re discouraged at every fucking turn, but no, obviously we’re just not the tops of our fields because that’s how our brains are. Yup. All in the biology.

  23. ChasCPeterson says

    I suspect that the comments section of a blog–particularly this one, but even, say, Coyne’s–is just about the worst place possible to discuss the biology of human behavior.
    Already here we have seen the inability to distinguish between ‘men/women’ and ‘males/females’ and a biologist with expertise in the ecology of parasitic plants who nevertheless dons the mantle of authority to bloviate about what is and isn ‘t ‘cultural’. And the ideologues haven’t even shown up yet.
    Of course it begins with the OP’s shamelessly stupid unreferenced strawfigures and pointless opining. Newsflash, PZ: we don’t understand dick about how the brain works to manifest behavior (or to do much of anything else), let alone anything about how genetics might influence such processes, and so your argument from ignorance about the plausibility of genetic mechanisms for sex differences is purest wanking.

    Well, I’m already in a foul mood and so this is the sum total of my contribution to this discussion, which I confidently predict to shed zero light on the issues of interest.

    Have holidays, if that’s what you do.

    p.s. pj, thanks for the unreferenced assertion. Here, Ing, let me fucking google it for you.
    OK? So what?

  24. thepint says

    It seems that at least in humans the maternal instinct includes increased aggression.

    “Mama grizzlies” anyone?

  25. thepint says

    @ #25 twist: Yes to everything you wrote.

    We’re discouraged at every fucking turn, but no, obviously we’re just not the tops of our fields because that’s how our brains are. Yup. All in the biology.

    Adding to that, those of us women who do exhibit competitiveness, ambition and have no desire to have children are constantly whacked with the “Well then there’s obviously something wrong with you because REAL women don’t think like that” stick, so we’re fucked either way.

  26. says

    Twist,
    Just be sure that you don’t mock the decision of women, and men, who make choices that (seem to) compromise career in the name of family. Balancing career and family is difficult under the best of circumstances. Academia is not the best of circumstances.
    Some portion of the difference is conscious decision making/compromise. Another portion is the result of imposed barriers. Only the latter need be a target of our scorn.

  27. Azkyroth says

    The great crime here is when people try to claim that these differences are hardwired and nothing can or should be done about them.

    In particular, the number of people who desperately cherry-pick the data to try to support this conclusion they’ve already committed to.

  28. Azkyroth says

    Men are more aggressive than women, as a biological rule of thumb. Men create workplaces and markets that are highly competitive, as bjornbrembs, above, illustrates eloquently.

    These work environments are not necessarily attractive to anyone with a strong maternal instinct, or to anyone who doesn’t relish conflict.

    I’ll bet you won’t find a high percentage of women in any field or industry where advancement to upper echelons depends on constant aggressive competition.

    Not this shit again…

  29. bird.is.the.word says

    “It is the tired but all too accurate observation that, in many fields, a woman must outperform her male colleagues in order to be seen as a barely suitable junior partner.”

    I just experienced this last week. My boss emailed a project partner to let him know that I am interested in working with him in the development of a monitoring protocol for a project our organizations are working on together.

    He then sent an email to my boss saying that “Also, as a former teacher, I’m most willing to work with (my name) and volunteers in learning the nuances for producing solid data.”

    The man hardly knows me and he makes an assumption that because I am a youngish woman I have yet to learn the nuances for producing solid data and equates me to a volunteer. Both my boss and I were outraged. I ended up ‘reminding’ him that not only do I have an M.S. directly related to the research we will be doing, I have 10 years of mostly practical experience in the field, and am a published author. The dude taught fucking HIGH SCHOOL biology.

    So anyways, while taking time off to raise kids may play somewhat of a role in why there are less women in top-tiers of science and math than men, there are much more insidious issues women in science face on a day-to-day basis.

  30. Azkyroth says

    Yes, but I also think it is biologically inherent. As a parent, I have spoken to a lot of other parents who have had both boys and girls. If they had a girl first, and then a boy, they are almost always pretty astonished at the difference of the two genders. Boys WILL be boys, and the difference is evident an an early age.

    Oh for fuck’s sake. How many of them raised their kids in a cultural vacuum? How were they prevented from inflicting their own sexist assumptions on their kids? There are ample research studies showing that people will interpret the exact same behavior radically differently from the same baby depending on whether they’re *told* it’s a boy or a girl.

    Your name sounds female. Why do you have this a priori commitment to the idea that women are inferior “EQUAL but DIFFERENT [in ways that just coincidentally happen to make them unsuitable for nearly all positions of power or prestige in society]?”

  31. Azkyroth says

    Newsflash, PZ: we don’t understand dick about how the brain works to manifest behavior

    “…except that women are inferior “EQUAL but DIFFERENT [in ways that just coincidentally happen to make them unsuitable for nearly all positions of power or prestige in society]” by NATURE. That one we’re sure about.”

  32. Azkyroth says

    So anyways, while taking time off to raise kids may play somewhat of a role in why there are less women in top-tiers of science and math than men, there are much more insidious issues women in science face on a day-to-day basis

    And except for certain high-risk pregnancies and high-risk or highly physical jobs (“profession” generally doesn’t include these), my understanding is there’s no fucking reason except culture why having a family should be significantly more professionally debilitating to a woman than a man.

  33. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    Newsflash, PZ: we don’t understand dick about how the brain works to manifest behavior (or to do much of anything else), let alone anything about how genetics might influence such processes, and so your argument from ignorance about the plausibility of genetic mechanisms for sex differences is purest wanking.

    But we do understand a great deal about how cultural practices influence success. We have two hypotheses that are not mutually exclusive to explain a gender gap in success in higher education.

    H1: It’s biological.
    H2: It’s cultural.

    If this were purely academic, we could just say “Fuck it. I guess we really can’t account for H1, can we?”. But it’s not. Believe it or not, those ideolugues are dissatisfied with the status quo, and might be interested in bringing parity to the work place. By the principal of parsimony, H2 is the better explanation because it requires fewer ad hoc assumptions than does H1. So let’s work on culture. See? It isn’t rocket science.

    Already here we have seen the inability to distinguish between ‘men/women’ and ‘males/females’ and a biologist with expertise in the ecology of parasitic plants who nevertheless dons the mantle of authority to bloviate about what is and isn ‘t ‘cultural’.

    Let’s by all means wait until a sociologist steps in to set the record straight. On the other hand, it isn’t like we would listen to them anyway, because sociology isn’t a science right? This is called having your cake and eating it too.

    And for the record, if I have ever done ecology, it was purely by accident.

    And also for the record, blow it out your ass. Might lighten your mood.

  34. lesterley says

    The argument I’ve heard is that women simply aren’t interested in the hard sciences – similar to a dog not being interested in learning to knit.

    Yeah, it’s complete crap. But I honestly didn’t know how to rebut it when I first heard it.

  35. twist says

    Twist,
    Just be sure that you don’t mock the decision of women, and men, who make choices that (seem to) compromise career in the name of family.

    I try not to, but realise that I can come across as mocking. If I have have done so here then I apologise.

    I tend to react quite strongly to the assertion that I shouldn’t want to prioritise my career because of the location of my reproductive organs. It’s an assertion that I’ve had shoved down my throat most of my life. I certainly don’t mean to imply that people for whom career is not as important as it it to me are worthy of mocking, I just hate any implication of what I ‘should’ want based on having two x chromosomes.

  36. gingerbaker says

    …Your name sounds female. Why do you have this a priori commitment to the idea that women are inferior “EQUAL but DIFFERENT [in ways that just coincidentally happen to make them unsuitable for nearly all positions of power or prestige in society]?”

    I don’t think they are inferior, just different. Perhaps you think girls/boys and men/women are the same? That testosterone doesn’t have biological effects?

    And I certainly never said they are unsuitable for positions of power or prestige. Where do you come up with shit like that?

    Perhaps it comes from the same place in your brain that makes you say that ‘gingerbaker’ sounds like a girl’s name? Just askin.

  37. says

    Twist,
    That is exactly what we must confront. It is just as important that we support men who choose to stay in the home with the children while the mother works. Parenthood tends to make at least one of the parents carriers more difficult, despite Azkyroth’s assertion to the contrary. We simply shouldn’t assume which of the parents (sometimes the same sex) should bear the greater portion of the difficulty. That is a family decision and one that is context specific. Of course it would be nice if academia was more family friendly, but it is very competetive. I have certainly found that my pursuit of excellence does come at a cost to my family. Sometimes it is worth the cost and sometimes it isn’t. I should probably add that this comes from someone who gave up the university track for the community college track but still feels the pressure of balancing work and family.

  38. bird.is.the.word says

    “there’s no fucking reason except culture why having a family should be significantly more professionally debilitating to a woman than a man.”

    I totally agree. I think people here are putting too much emphasis on ‘women are more likely to take time off to raise kids than men’ as one of the core issues with the gender disparity we are discussing. Sure there are sexist culture-based roots for the fact that women are more likely to be the primary care-givers. But this fails to explain why the gender disparity is so great in math and sciences in particular.

  39. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    Boys WILL be boys, and the difference is evident an an early age.

    WTF has that got to do with this discussion? It has been demonstrated that by highschool age, boys and girls perform roughly the same in STEM disciplines. Humans of this age are developmentally adults. For a biological explanation to be apt*, it would have rto account for developmental differences that occur during graduate school.

    *Let’s not even shoot for correct. Just meaningful.

  40. Azkyroth says

    I don’t think they are inferior, just different. Perhaps you think girls/boys and men/women are the same? That testosterone doesn’t have biological effects?

    Of course you wouldn’t come out and say women are “inferior,” just that they’re biologically unsuited to be comfortable or successful in “competitive” environments like politics, business, academia, or pretty much anything that isn’t domesticity, charity work, or low-level “human factor” type jobs. In other words, any position of power or prestige. Very, very different from being “inferior,” of course.

    And I’m perfectly aware that testosterone has biological effects. HOWEVER, the onus is on YOU to demonstrate that testosterone causes the SPECIFIC BEHAVIORS you’re attributing to it. “Testosterone has biological effects” does NOT imply that any specific claim about what those effects are, and what their relative importance is compared to other factors, is true. In fact, this particular equivocation (“where’s the evidence for claim x?” “What, you think [very general category claim x belongs to] is ALL false?”) is basically a pseudoscience smoking gun.

    And I certainly never said they are unsuitable for positions of power or prestige. Where do you come up with shit like that?

    *ahem*

    Men are more aggressive than women, as a biological rule of thumb. Men create workplaces and markets that are highly competitive, as bjornbrembs, above, illustrates eloquently.

    These work environments are not necessarily attractive to anyone with a strong maternal instinct, or to anyone who doesn’t relish conflict.

    I’ll bet you won’t find a high percentage of women in any field or industry where advancement to upper echelons depends on constant aggressive competition.

    As I observed above, “like politics, business, academia, or pretty much anything that isn’t domesticity or charity work.” Or making you a goddamn sammich, which I guess falls under domesticity.

    Perhaps it comes from the same place in your brain that makes you say that ‘gingerbaker’ sounds like a girl’s name? Just askin.

    …..what?

  41. Azkyroth says

    Parenthood tends to make at least one of the parents carriers more difficult, despite Azkyroth’s assertion to the contrary.

    What the hell are you talking about?

  42. jamesonjendreas says

    @Azkyroth

    Just an FYI – Ginger Baker was the stage name of the drummer from cream.
    :)

  43. Azkyroth says

    iPad, spelling correction, fat fingers. Sorry about that: careers.

    Okay, now point to where I said that parenting wasn’t a career obstacle.

    What I said was that [since pregnancy and childbirth are the only parts that can't be taken over by a man, and the former usually isn't so debilitating you can't work productively and the latter often means taking just a few days off], there’s no reason why it should be significantly more of a burden FOR WOMEN than FOR MEN.

    There’s a difference, see?

    (I really resent it when people twist my words to produce A Conveniently Moronic Statement to rebut. I’m not a fucking stage prop.)

  44. says

    Yeah, there’s a bunch of shit like this.

    I got a copy of this for my niece. Hopefully she doesn’t immediately throw it away, it’s not her only Christmas gift anyway. Although I worry, her mom (my sister) recently said something about how she’s writing a paper for a class about how the second law of thermodynamics disproves evolution (oh, I got some words for her about that.)

  45. JJ831 says

    @Azkyroth
    Cream, they are a band from England in the 60′s, probably know their Guitarist\Singer – Eric Clapton.

    (Note: Changed my nickname)

  46. says

    Azkyroth’s,
    I apologize for misscharacterizing your statement. I would still argue that if you consider the variation in normal pregnancy, and the general physiological effects of even the average pregnancy, it is still a bit tougher for women. Then there is the pumping of breast milk and associated leaking. Not a huge difference perhaps, but perhaps women who’ve had children would know more that I. However, despite my wife’s pregnancies, and childbirth, being a burden on me I’m comfortable saying they were a significantly greater burden on her.

  47. gingerbaker says

    Boys WILL be boys, and the difference is evident an an early age.

    WTF has that got to do with this discussion? It has been demonstrated that by highschool age, boys and girls perform roughly the same in STEM disciplines. Humans of this age are developmentally adults. For a biological explanation to be apt*, it would have rto account for developmental differences that occur during graduate school.

    *Let’s not even shoot for correct. Just meaningful.

    Here is what is has to do with the discussion:

    It has nothing to do with any kind of developmental insufficiency of women. As you say, they perform the same on STEM disciplines. But somewhere in their college to early postgrad years, women fall out of the system, yes?

    All I am saying is that one of the reasons might be because they (quite rightfully, if you ask me) are not attracted to career tracks which are dominated by competitive men, who, along with all their cultural baggage, are simply doing what comes naturally to them – being the biggest bastard on the block.

    Science was very competitive back when I graduated from college in the late seventies, and it has only gotten worse. “Publish or perish” is a bellicose coinage, but at least science is academia! It is ten times worse in the world of big business. Who would want to give up a life outside of the office for that battleground of backstabbing intrigue? The fact that there are relatively few women competing in that arena, frankly, speaks well of the good sense and nature of women!

    My point is along with all the misogyny, cultural conditioning, and maternal responsibilities that women face, they also have to contend with the fact that men do what they do because of their biology as well as because of what they learn from society.

    Good luck changing that short of mandatory castration. Especially, in Western capitalist society, which glorifies if not depends on the testosterone-driven natural instinct.

  48. gingerbaker says

    Oops, blockquote fail.

    Boys WILL be boys, and the difference is evident an an early age.

    WTF has that got to do with this discussion? It has been demonstrated that by highschool age, boys and girls perform roughly the same in STEM disciplines. Humans of this age are developmentally adults. For a biological explanation to be apt*, it would have rto account for developmental differences that occur during graduate school.

    *Let’s not even shoot for correct. Just meaningful.

    Here is what is has to do with the discussion:

    It has nothing to do with any kind of developmental insufficiency of women. As you say, they perform the same on STEM disciplines. But somewhere in their college to early postgrad years, women fall out of the system, yes?

    All I am saying is that one of the reasons might be because they (quite rightfully, if you ask me) are not attracted to career tracks which are dominated by competitive men, who, along with all their cultural baggage, are simply doing what comes naturally to them – being the biggest bastard on the block.

    Science was very competitive back when I graduated from college in the late seventies, and it has only gotten worse. “Publish or perish” is a bellicose coinage, but at least science is academia! It is ten times worse in the world of big business. Who would want to give up a life outside of the office for that battleground of backstabbing intrigue? The fact that there are relatively few women competing in that arena, frankly, speaks well of the good sense and nature of women!

    My point is along with all the misogyny, cultural conditioning, and maternal responsibilities that women face, they also have to contend with the fact that men do what they do because of their biology as well as because of what they learn from society.

    Good luck changing that short of mandatory castration. Especially, in Western capitalist society, which glorifies if not depends on the testosterone-driven natural instinct.

  49. maureenbrian says

    tygardner,

    If we omit those pregnancies where the woman is actually ill we might come up with this scenario – the woman takes the last 3 months of the pregnancy off for comfort and convenience, a week off for the birth and to establish breast feeding after which by agreement with colleagues she works part-time and they all agree who will do which bits and that baby can come too and, say, be fed on demand during departmental meetings. Within nine months total Professor Mother is fully back in action.

    Except that it doesn’t happen. I wonder why that might be?

    Meanwhile, Professor Testosterone smashes up a couple of limbs, either on his Harley or rock-climbing. He is immobilised in hospital for a matter of months, then his mobility is limited and sometimes he is a little befuddled with all the pain meds he’s on. People make allowances for him, rearrange schedules, cover for him. It might be two years before he is fully functional again but no-one says he has thrown away his career, no-one behaves as though he inadvertently had his whole brain removed while he was away.

    Again, I wonder why?

  50. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    Boys WILL be boys, and the difference is evident an an early age.

    *facepalm* Yes, and I’m totally sure these parents raise their children in a dark cave with no exposure to the outside world so that they’re absolutely certain this is strictly a biologically driven reality.

    Or ginger thinks children don’t absorb anything from the culture they’re raised in.

  51. McCthulhu awaits the return of the 2000 foot Frank Zappa says

    If anecdotal evidence and a sample size of one counts for anything (and it doesn’t), my wife has the master’s degrees in computer science and mathematics, while I had to drop out of the UofCalgary astrophysics program because of sleep disorders. My little girl’s favorite science subject is planets and insists she is going to be commander of the space plane. There you go, 2-0 in favor of STEM women already…it’s only a matter of time until we wait for the breakup of the old boys clubs and the ship will right itself (with help from a bit of attitude adjustment in the establishment).

  52. Ms. Daisy Cutter says

    Drew, #10: Not all women are XX, and not all men are XY. Genotypes are not synonymous with gender.

    Gingerbaker, #24: Parents, and society, reinforce aggression in boys and docility in girls. If they were natural in the respective sexes, policing of gender expression wouldn’t happen. And kids get it pretty much once they exit the womb. The website Sociological Images has a tag just for this.

    Also, please, the “separate but equal” crap is really transparent.

    Tygardner, #29: People who make “traditional” choices get tons of validation from society already. I don’t approve, nor am I compelled to approve, of women who want to pump out 20 baybeez and therefore they don’t need no edumacashun or job skills, because, you know, husbands never die or become disabled or run off. As I said recently (I won’t link only because I don’t want to get stuck in the spam filter),

    Some choices absolutely suck, for the woman who makes them, for any kids (especially daughters) she has, and for society. Not all stay-at-home mothers make the wrong choice, but if you’re a fundnut who decides not to go to college or goes only to get your “M.R.S.”, and you refuse to cultivate any marketable skills, and you press your daughters into the same dim future by not educating them and teaching them that their role is to be cum sleeves and broodmares and shit-wipers and skidmark-washer-outers for teh menz… I spit on your choice, quite frankly.

    And especially since those types not only consider me a freak for never wanting to marry or have children but vote for legislation that would deprive me of my right to avoid both. Fuck ‘em, I owe them no respect at all.

    Chigau, #36: Zing.

  53. bird.is.the.word says

    “Who would want to give up a life outside of the office for that battleground of backstabbing intrigue? The fact that there are relatively few women competing in that arena, frankly, speaks well of the good sense and nature of women!”

    Bullshit. It speaks of overt as well as subtle discrimination and a hostile work environment. It speaks of a dominant good-old-boy mentality and women not getting invited to extra-curricular bonding time. It speaks of over-rated male performance and under-rated female performance (by both male and female “raters”). It speaks of lower job satisfaction because of the hostile work environment. It speaks of being subjected to institutional sexism almost daily throughout your entire career.

    “All I am saying is that one of the reasons might be because they (quite rightfully, if you ask me) are not attracted to career tracks which are dominated by competitive men, who, along with all their cultural baggage, are simply doing what comes naturally to them – being the biggest bastard on the block….My point is along with all the misogyny, cultural conditioning, and maternal responsibilities that women face, they also have to contend with the fact that men do what they do because of their biology as well as because of what they learn from society.”

    So basically, men in STEP and business are assholes because it is in their nature to be assholes and good luck changing that? Seriously, this is your argument?

  54. thepint says

    @Miss Daisy Cutter #59 – To follow up on people viewing women who don’t want kids as being freaks, there an article awhile back in a British magazine that caused a bit of a stir, because the author was a business owner (and I think the author was a woman) stating that she was less likely to hire childfree women or promote them because she didn’t find them “trust-worthy” because their desire to not have kids was “unnatural.”

    ah, right, the Daily Mail. Sigh. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1185128/Why-bosses-right-distrust-women-dont-want-children–VERY-outspoken-mother-ex-boss.html

    So either women are passed over because “hey, she might want a baby someday (because all women do, ya know)” or “hey, she’s a freak who doesn’t want kids and I don’t trust women who don’t want kids!” Screwed either way. *head desk*

  55. Ms. Daisy Cutter says

    ThePint: Newspapers, even those more respectable than the Daily Heil (which is most of them), love to post articles on childfree people, because they will draw countless page hits from the types who are offended at the very existence of people like me. The accusations and insults are very, very similar in timbre to those hurled at atheists by theists: we’re unnatural, we’re impious, we don’t know our own minds, we don’t know what we’re missing, we can’t know love, we’re causing society to fall apart, and TONS of crap about The Natural Role Of Women.

  56. opposablethumbs, que le pouce enragé mette les pouces says

    And except for certain high-risk pregnancies and high-risk or highly physical jobs (“profession” generally doesn’t include these), my understanding is there’s no fucking reason except culture why having a family should be significantly more professionally debilitating to a woman than a man.

    QFT.

    Anecdata alert (sorry!):
    time taken off work for pregnancy-and-birth#1 = 3 days.
    Time taken off work for pregnancy-and-birth#2 = 10 days. Which was just as well, as sole breadwinner.

    But then, I do a desk job. And I had another pair of hands right there in the room with me.

    Though as maureenbrian says in #56, a vast proportion of people in jobs that don’t demand extreme physical labour could do something very similar – if other people’s attitudes weren’t so bloody antediluvian.

  57. says

    Maureen,
    Shouldn’t we make allowances for both situations? After all, the second scenario you mention could also happen to a woman. The way to deal with this is to recognize that we can make allowances for those who are in need, especially in academia. I will not defend those who make it more difficult for a professor mother, but I also don’t think it is helpful to pretend that there isn’t a real need for consideration of the situation to ensure that it works for the mother and the college. Online teaching for a term? Sounds like a decent plan. I’m sure that many other ideas could make things easier and help to keep talented people in academia while allowing them to be parents. Of course we aren’t addressing the child’s next 5 years before school starts, Some will be ok with day care, but I kow that some will decide that they’d rather do something different, I think that this, particularly during grad school, might be the source of some (but not all) of the difference between men and women in percentage with advanced degrees. If having a family, during normal reproductive years, was better supported I think we’d see that difference decline. The retirement of the most sexist should also help, perhaps to an even greater degree.

  58. thepint says

    You’re preaching to the choir, Ms. Cutter. :) The Husbeast and I are childfree by choice, too. We’re lucky we haven’t gotten much flack for it (yet). But you’re right about the similarity in insults that get hurled at the childfree and atheists (or gays, or men who like being primary care givers or women who enjoy a competitive milieu, etc etc) – comes with bucking what’s considered the cultural norm, apparently. FSM forbid that one can be happy making choices contrary to what we’re raised to believe is “normal.”

  59. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    All I am saying is that one of the reasons might be because they (quite rightfully, if you ask me) are not attracted to career tracks which are dominated by competitive men, who, along with all their cultural baggage, are simply doing what comes naturally to them – being the biggest bastard on the block.

    And yet this so-called biological imperative is not operational during the teen years and early twenties when parity between men and women in these STEM disciplines is greatest?

    “Publish or perish” is a bellicose coinage, but at least science is academia!

    Compare the number of single-author versus multiple author papers published in Science and Nature. A successful publication record is a hallmark of the ability to cooperate more than it any tendency toward aggression. At the risk of inciting further jackassery from ChasP, I know all about this because I do it regularly. But go ahead and look for yourself. None of the 19 research articles and reports published in this week’s issue of Science are single-authored.

  60. opposablethumbs, que le pouce enragé mette les pouces says

    PS to my earlier comment. Just because I happened to have the (pretty bloody rare) circumstances that made it possible to avoid taking time off does not mean and should not be construed as meaning “I did it like that so anybody could do it like that”. The fact that those enabling circumstances are so rare as to deprive most people of genuine choices is precisely the problem.

  61. Ms. Daisy Cutter says

    A lot of people seem to need some kind of script to follow in life, and it confuses the shit out of them if other people are reading from other scripts… or none at all.

    The other year I was reading one of those obnoxious “let’s all dump on S/F fandom” people, and one of the commenters said something like, “What’s wrong with just having a beer and watching the game?” I realize the expression What’s wrong with….? is idiomatic, but consider what it implies: By making a non-normative choice, you are not validating my normative choice, and you are causing me anxiety because how do I now know I’m doing the right thing with my leisure time?

    No, hardly anyone thinks about it in those terms. Maybe they should. The “right thing” to do with your leisure time is whatever you want, so long as no one is harmed.

  62. Ms. Daisy Cutter says

    One of those obnoxious threads, I should say. On Cracked.com or the like. Jeez, I previewed and everything. Time to go home.

  63. maureenbrian says

    tygardner,

    I was talking about attitudes, not about the precise detail of an individual family or the personalities within it.

    We had just been treated to the usual spiel about how men are naturally competitive, agressive, more inclined to take risk and so forth. So I used that stereotype to make a point not because I sincerely and truly believe that 50% of the planet conforms to it.

    I used to climb and I grew up among motorcycle nuts on the Isle of Man but neither of those invalidates the point I made.

    By the way, with the possible exception of a stray astrophysicist in Chile, scientists in academia tend to work in groups, the majority work on campuses which provide all sorts of services which enhance that comradely feeling, increase efficiency and assist in retaining good staff.

    Adding a day nursery and childcare agency to HR, the refectory and the maintenance engineer would take but a change of political will. It is that change we are waiting for and we are, not, surprisingly, becoming impatient.

  64. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    Good luck changing that short of mandatory castration. Especially, in Western capitalist society, which glorifies if not depends on the testosterone-driven natural instinct.

    The last sentence is much more telling than the first. Even if you believe that the “testosterone-driven natural instinct” is really at play, you admit that the cultural milieu that glorifies, nay, depends on it is the problem. But culture isn’t anything that can be changed, while the presence of balls is surgically/chemically modifiable.

    Keep telling yourself that it can’t be helped, and you’ll find that it can’t.

  65. pj says

    “What’s wrong with just having a beer and watching the game?”

    A briefest derail:

    Back in alt.fan.pratchett many regulars enjoyed analysing the books. That seemed to be an inexplicable provocation to some posters. Typically their angry renunciations would include the sentence “What’s wrong with just enjoying the magic.”

    Live and let live can be a tough maxim to live by.

  66. twist says

    Just be sure that you don’t mock the decision of women, and men, who make choices that (seem to) compromise career in the name of family.

    I’ve thought about this a little more, and while obviously I think that people should be free to make whatever choices they want to regarding their career without facing ridicule, I do wonder how many people (of any gender) who have given up a career would have done so if their career was a little more friendly to anyone not part of the old boy’s club. No choice that we make is made in a vacuum. If you’ve been ignored, patronised, harrassed, passed over for promotion and generally made to feel as though you don’t belong, leaving it all behind seems like it would be much easier.

    Pregnancy and family life needn’t be a barrier to a successful career. People are, of course perfectly entitled to give up a career to raise a family (or for any other reason!), I just wish there could be a little less external pressure on women that that’s what society expects of us. Still. In (nearly) 2012.

    @ 61 thepint – Ah the Daily Fail! That paper is hilarious in a kind of I-want-to-quit-the-human-race way. If it’s not immigrants or Diana, it’s pearl-clutching about working mothers or sex education.

  67. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    Adding a day nursery and childcare agency to HR, the refectory and the maintenance engineer would take but a change of political will.

    ^This

  68. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    One obvious way to help the cause of women in STEM is to help humanize the whole endeavor. Graduate school and getting tenure (or intership/residency) seem to be set up to make folks burn out. Why not reset the work for a more humane schedule? Studies have shown that errors increase after 10 hours on the job, so why expect longer days? (A good question for my field where often the chemical operators have 12 hour shifts, easiest to schedule for 24/7 coverage.) Why not ease up on the hours expected? A resident who has worked 18 hour days for three weeks straight should not be seeing patients. Same for any scientist. I noticed in my academic days, that some of the most efficient people only worked 40-50 hours, and working longer usually meant that someone was trying to do too much at once, and wasn’t doing it efficiently due to fatigue. Once the hours are equalized at a humane level, I would think women would be more than the equal of inefficient menz..

  69. says

    Can I just say “YAAAAYYY!!!!!” for the 30%?

    Because when I was an undergraduate, it was more like 5%. Amazing, don’t you think? Who would have thought that natural biological instincts and differences could evolve so quickly!

    My favouritest ever piece of snark: “Well, if I get my natural feminine instincts biologically, then I’m not having you tell me how to behave!” (Should come on a cartoon of a cranky looking girl with wild hair, but the 70s has not all been digitized.)

  70. says

    If they had a girl first, and then a boy, they are almost always pretty astonished at the difference of the two genders. Boys WILL be boys, and the difference is evident an an early age.

    Yes, I hear that a lot, too. Usually from people whose IQ gets to room temperature on a chilly day. In Celsius.
    They have two kids and they are totally differnt from an early age and they reduce it to the most simple answer: their sex (I’m not even talking about gender).
    Yet, parents who have same sex kids actually notice the exact same thing, even though they have the same sex-chromosomes!
    Can you imagine that there might be more differences between kids, like different other chromosomes and a different environment even in the womb?
    Well, you could, if your brain were capable enough, but it seems that counting to two and distinguishing between two letters of the alphabet is all you can manage.

  71. opposablethumbs, que le pouce enragé mette les pouces says

    Who would have thought that natural biological instincts and differences could evolve so quickly!

    It is amazing, isn’t it. Oh, and I remember that poster too! It’s funny how the very people who are always banging on about “natural”, “innate” differences are the same ones being the most rigidly prescriptive about gender roles …

    Also funny the way the prescriptivists don’t seem to want to know about humanising working conditions for the benefit of all staff (Nerd’s comment put me in mind of Greta Christina’s posts on “patriarchy hurts men too”).

  72. forrestpugh says

    If 27% of Ph.D. graduates are female, and 27% of jobs in the fields of Science and Math are filled by females then really there isn’t so much of a problem of discrimination as there is a problem of access is there?

    That isn’t necessarily a social-inequality problem at all. The biology argument makes little or no sense in terms of mental capacity. It is true that women and men tend to perform differently on different task-specific activities, but in aggregate no sex is “better” than the other at complex thinking.

    But let’s not ignore the elephant in the room – women are the gender biologically capable of raising children. This happens most frequently in the modern world when a woman is between her mid 20s and 30s.

    This is incidentally the same time when men (and 27% of women) are pursuing higher degrees (Master and PhD). Anyone who is not (yet) a parent has NO CLUE how much work that takes, and how very effectively it stops ANY pursuit of higher education.

    Being a parent is most definitely a full time job at least until the child is 6 or 7 when they can be shipped off to their local education facility for 8 hours a day. Whether you split that job between the 2 parents or sub-contract it to sitters or grandparents; the time and budget constraints effectively preclude the pursuit of a PhD… some Masters degrees on the other hand are a good investment, and can be successfully pursued even with a gaggle of children in the house.

    After your mid 30s pursuing a PhD is essentially a very unlikely balancing act of determining whether or not an extra $250k+ of debt is worth the increased earning. Most likely by that time in life it simply can’t happen without a lottery win, or other fiscal win-fall allowing the individual the luxury of not having to cover normal living expenses for a few years.

    While the inequality may very well BE a cultural thing; its existence may not be a “bad” thing. If you can show me that women are actively and systematically being rejected from graduate school, or lab-jobs, or professorships BECAUSE they are women then I will accept your claim that it is a discrepancy that should be changed.

  73. Ms. Daisy Cutter says

    Well, this is rather pertinent to the discussion: “All I want for Christmas is… presents that aren’t bloody pink”:

    Now, if you’ve been following Pink Stinks — the campaign which raises awareness of the limited range of toys marketed to girls — you’ll know why I have a problem with pink. The “pinkification” of toys has led to such horrors as these “Science Kits for Girls” (will it be the beauty salon or the perfume lab?). Because, you know, girls don’t do “proper” science, only girly science: even though a good proportion of those in the cosmetics industry, and perfumiers, are men.

    And it’s not just a problem for girls: one mother on Twitter told me recently that her son would love a diary and a craft kit this Christmas, but the only ones she can find are pink. Male child, know your place! Feelings are for women! Also macramé!

    Yes, Ginger and Chas, I can’t imagine how socialization plays any role in forming children’s interests. /eyeroll

  74. opposablethumbs, que le pouce enragé mette les pouces says

    women are the gender biologically capable of raising bearing children.

    FIFY

    If childrearing were not disproportionately assumed to be “women’s work” the proportion of parents of both sexes being able to continue with Higher Education would be roughly equal. Or how are all those fathers managing it?

  75. Ms. Daisy Cutter says

    While the inequality may very well BE a cultural thing; its existence may not be a “bad” thing.

    Spoken like someone who never has to worry about it derailing his career.

    And now that Forrest Gump has mansplained to us that raising kids is just wimminz’ natchurral job and the menfolk aren’t “biologically equipped” to do it, ergo there’s nothing sexist about the lack of support for child-minders in STEM, he wants us to prove to him that women are getting rejected from academia and industry for being women, which of course would be impossible to prove. What a wanker.

  76. vltava says

    Whereas there’s a book in Japan [for teenage girls] called Math Girls. That book is essentially an introduction to topics you would see as a hardcore math major in college, and this is a bestseller in Japan. It’s in its 18th printing; they’ve had three sequels. Can you imagine that in the U.S.?”

    Not to detract from the overall point of this post, which is a great one, but in a minor defense of the U.S., there are Danica McKellar’s three books, which seem to have done well enough that she keeps writing more and Hudson Street Press keeps publishing them. Of course, that just means that someone somewhere is doing something in reaction to our cultural attitudes on this issue, but, I acknowledge the rest of us need to do more. Unsurprisingly, McKellar seems to be a freethinker, as she has participated in events at CFI Los Angeles.

  77. chrislawson says

    PZ, one can easily construct theoretical situations where greater diversity creates more intelligence at both the higher and the lower ends of intelligence. For instance, if you give men two dice to roll, their Dice Quotients (DQs) will range from 2 – 12 with an average of 7. Give woman a single die to roll and add 3.5 to their roll and you get a range of 4.5-9.5 with the same average of 7. In other words, if you want to find people with the biggest DQs (pun intended), they will *always* be men.

    The problem is not in the theoretical formulation, but in the assumption that this abstract possibility is a realistic description of the way intelligence and by extension life success, income, prestige, etc. are distributed in society.

    I am old enough to remember when girls did not do as well at school as boys. Many explanations were offered, from the genetic to the social, and I distinctly recall a lot of people saying that if girls want to succeed in a male-dominated world, they’d better get used to being talked over and ignored in the classroom. Suck it up, in other words. Then something interesting happened. Girls’ scores kept improving — to the point where they overtook boys’ scores. And amazingly, when this happened there was an outcry demanding that schools change the way they teach so that boys don’t get left behind. It was appalling. All those poor boys might have to compete with successful women for their future CEO positions. Apparently it was OK throughout 99.99% of human history for girls to be treated like disposable chaff, but ten years of girls doing better needed urgent correction.

  78. julian says

    Regarding the differences in young girls and boys.

    I remember reading in Delusions of Gender about a study where children were dressed in either blue or pink (boys in pink, girls in blue) and adults were brought in to look after them. From what I recall of Cordelia Fine’s description the researchers observed that how much a care taker would let a child get away with (as in rough play and risky behavior like climbing things) seemed to depend on what the care taker believed the sex of the toddler was.

    Obviously babies in blue got away with much more than babies in pink.

    Looking through the book now to see if I can find the chapter

  79. julian says

    Ok so I’ve mixed up a couple different studies (although the one I had in mind seems pretty good.)

    The one outlined in Chapter 18: Parenting with a Half-Changed Mind that I think was the one I was mostly recalling was of mothers asked to predict how steep and incline their child could crawl up and if they would attempt it. Consistently the mothers underestimated what the girls would attempt and accomplish. They also over estimated boy’s abilities.

    (The study, by Mondschien, E.R, Adolph, K.E. and Tamis-LeMonda, C.S, was published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology in 2000)

    Other studies outlined in that chapter point to parents approaching children with expectations despite claims to the contrary. For example, mothers spending more time talking to girls despite there being no difference in how either sex responds.

    Any way sorry for fucking up my last example so badly. Should know never to trust memory when the text is right next to me.

  80. says

    chrislawson, that’s a big DUH! Of course there are statistical distributions where a long tail at one end implies a long tail at the other. A plain old normal distribution will suffice. The whole point is that you can’t *assume* this to be the case, just because you’d like it to be. There are also plenty of distributions with a long tail in one direction and not the other.

  81. scenario says

    There are differences between how boys and girls behave at one day old, well before cultural differences could take effect. However, any biological sexual differences is tiny compared to cultural differences. I also believe that women and men do naturally think differently from each other but this is totally irrelevant to the issue of who to hire. Who cares what a persons thought processes are when they make a decision, if they are consistently making good decisions.

    As someone else pointed out, the problem is that not enough women are getting PhD’s in math and science, not that they aren’t hired. If 27% of the degrees in a field are awarded to women and 27% of the jobs in the field belong to women, there doesn’t seem to be systematic hiring discrimination.

    I Googled a few stats:
    The average age for a first marriage in the U.S. is 28.4 for men and 26.5 for women.
    The average age a woman has her first child in the U.S. is around 26 for women and 28 for men.
    The average age of getting a PhD. is 27 to 29.

    I’m sure that there is a lot more to it than this but some of the reason that there are more men with PhD’s than women is timing. People in the U.S. tend to get married and have kids around the same age as they pursue a PhD degree. Since men tend to be two years older than women in a typical relationship, they are more likely to have either completed or be close to completing their PhD before their first child is born. Women are more likely to be having children right around the time they would be starting to pursue a PhD.

    Lets look at a couple who have a baby, she is 26 and he is 28.
    The both want to get a PhD and they’ll start when they are 26 or 27 and finish at 29. He is already 2/3 of the way though the process when the child is born but she has either just started or hasn’t even started the process. Who is more likely to end up with the PhD, all else being equal? Is it discrimination?

    My conclusion is that not all of the discrepancy of men to women PhD is due to discrimination against women, although I’m quite sure that this is only part of the reason and that discrimination plays a large role as well.

  82. John Morales says

    chrislawson,

    I am old enough to remember when girls did not do as well at school as boys.

    Yup. Me too.

    (Also: when I was at high school (South Australia, early-mid 70s), girls got to do ‘home economics’, boys got to do ‘workshop’ (i.e. cooking and sewing vs. woodwork and mechanics) — this was not optional)

  83. bryanpesta says

    PZ:

    I agree “you have to look at the data”. Did you read the study?

    Check out page 13 and 14—especially Table 2. It seems to show the *exact* opposite of what the authors conclude (so much so that I plugged some numbers into a stats program).

    For example, look at variance ratios (male variance divided by female variance) for the 2003, PISA, age 15 (or pick any column).

    Of the 22 countries, 20 show VRs higher than 1.0 (males more variable). One VR is exactly 1.0, and one is .95 (females more variable).

    The average VR is 1.158 for the 22 countries with a standard deviation of .103. The null hypothesis that males and females have equal variances is rejected (t, 21, = 7.2, p 1.0).

    There are about 110 VRs in table 2. Seems like 100 of them show VR’s greater one!

    The authors don’t even test this, or report means. Instead, they focus on how VRs change for tests within countries (not even sure what this demonstrates? It surely does nothing to test the hypothesis that men are more variable—wtf?).

    How can a math journal be this bad? Anyone point me to where / how I’ve misinterpreted?

    Here’s the raw data for column 1, table 2:

    1.18
    1.19
    1.24
    1.07
    1.06
    1.36
    1.10
    .95
    1.27
    1.29
    1.10
    1.19
    1.00
    1.16
    1.20
    1.20
    1.30
    1.10
    1.20
    1.10
    1.03
    1.19

  84. bryanpesta says

    Odd my cut n paste made a boo boo for the t-test results. Trying again: The p value is less than .0001. The effect size is also huge (d>1).

  85. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    My conclusion is that not all of the discrepancy of men to women PhD is due to discrimination against women

    The fact that taking time off to reproduce is a major obstacle to women completing PhDs bloody well is discrimination.

  86. says

    What’s particularly sad about this “variability hypothesis” nonsense is that it isn’t new, it never was anything but post-hoc reasoning, and it was long ago conclusively disproven.

    In the 19th century, the thinking used to be that men varied less than women, and therefor were superior, because it was thought that variation was a flaw. When Darwin published his theories in On the Origin of Species, however, the fact that variation is a positive was revealed. Thus, the same “thinkers” who had pushed this notion of male regularity, now switched over to arguing that men varied more than women, and were thus superior. Without any sense of irony.

    The whole notion of men having greater variability than women was conclusively disproven by Dr Leta Hollingworth in her studies in the 1910s. She found no evidence of any significant difference in variation between boy and girl babies, nor any significant differences in older children or adults that could not be accounted for by cultural factors.

    So, when people push this variability hypothesis, they are literally pushing an idea that has been debunked for nearly 100 years.

  87. Azkyroth says

    There are differences between how boys and girls behave at one day old, well before cultural differences could take effect.

    What differences would those be? “Cry, shit, and occasionally sleep” doesn’t leave a lot of room for gender-specific behavior.

  88. says

    There are differences between how boys and girls behave at one day old, well before cultural differences could take effect.

    See my post #77
    Kids do indeed behave differently from day #1 on, but only idiots who are not capable of looking any further than what’s between the legs of the child conclude that ths is due to their sex.
    Ya know, I have two of those kids who were different from day one on and they’ve drivted further apart with every day since. I’ve got the timid, shy kid, who’s rather careful and enjoys quiet games, and I’ve got the wild spitfire daredevil who hugs Irish wolfhounds and started jumping from 2m heights with less than 2 years. Only that both of them are girls.
    And if they were a girl and a boy, people would put down those differences to them being of different sexes. And if the shy kid were the boy she’d get scolded for being shy and timid, just like I see people jumping up and trying to stop the wild girl doing things while boys are doing the exact same thing next to her.
    And my friend has three boys who look so much alike that even the parents have trouble identifying them on a baby-picture if there’s nothing to indicate date or occasion.
    And they are very, very different, too. With the wild rascal, and the kid who loves dolls and soft toys, and the kid who’ll just charm you, snuggle with you and not move anymore until your arms fall off.

    +++++
    From Miss Daisy Cutter’s quote:

    The “pinkification” of toys has led to such horrors as these “Science Kits for Girls” (will it be the beauty salon or the perfume lab?). Because, you know, girls don’t do “proper” science, only girly science: even though a good proportion of those in the cosmetics industry, and perfumiers, are men.

    Not only that, you also can do proper science involving cosmetics, but somehow those kits don’t look like it.
    I remeber that one of my best science classes in middle-school encompassed the human skin, properties of water, oil, what emulgators do, the differences between normal oils and etherical oils and culminated in using that knowledge to make a skin lotion. Boys and girls loved it alike.

    And it’s not just a problem for girls: one mother on Twitter told me recently that her son would love a diary and a craft kit this Christmas, but the only ones she can find are pink. Male child, know your place! Feelings are for women! Also macramé!

    I’ve been wondering about that lately, because casual observation and talks with other parents tell me, that most parents are bloody well fed up with this, too, especially girl-parents. Sure, there are those who whole-heartedly endorse that, but it seems that the sheer lack of alternatives creates a feedback-loop with millions of well-meaning parents who actually don’t believe in pink=crafts=household=girls/blue=professional world=boys=science feeding into it.
    It’s not like boys don’t enjoy crafts. But they also get tought that pink sparkle is not for them (personally, I think that pink sparkle isn’t for anybody except Miss Piggy).
    I’ve been organizing crafts workshops for more than 5 years now, together with a friend, who also organizes a holiday childcare program so the parents can enjoy a bit of partner time. What we couldn’t notice so far was any remarkable difference between boys and girls, men and women. Some of the women had more experience with certain techniques, but that’s all.
    But what we always make sure is that our projects appeal to men and women, boys and girls alike. Sure, if we offered “making sparkling tiaras” we’d not see many men, but since we offer things like “wooden lanterns” (yes, there were also the sparkling unicorn fairy ones) or “celtic knotwork”, we see both sexes and genders. And I often have the feeling that the men are really enjoying the oportunity to craft something.

  89. Nimravid says

    bryanpesta, they were testing the hypothesis that differences in variance are innate rather than depending on cultural factors.

  90. Miki Z says

    bryanpesta,

    When you write

    The average VR is 1.158 for the 22 countries with a standard deviation of .103. The null hypothesis that males and females have equal variances is rejected (t, 21, = 7.2, p 1.0).

    you’re simplifying to the point that the statistics no longer represent what you seem to think they do. In particular, even if you reject the author’s careful explanation of what VRs would need to be present in order to validate the ‘greater variability hypothesis’, a t-test is not appropriate for this data set. It would, for example, give equal weight to the VR of Hong Kong (pop. 7 million) and Indonesia (pop. 239 million).

    This leaves aside the issue of what these VRs actually represent. The authors explain this, in detail with examples, on pages 13-15. Here is their conclusion:

    Thus we conclude that math variance ratios and gender gaps significantly different from unity and zero, respectively, are both largely consequences of the same sociocultural
    factors that differ among countries, some of which lead to different educational experiences and patterns of school attendance. This latter finding is reminiscent of the Hyde et al. [20] conclusion that the gender gap on the U.S. college entrance
    ACT examination disappears when sample bias is eliminated by testing all eleventh-grade students rather than just college-bound ones.

    One way to read this, which they explicitly suggest for quite a few of the included countries, is that the worst boys are encouraged to continue and the worst girls are encouraged to quit. This inevitably reduces variance among the girls’ scores, having nothing whatsoever to do with anything innate.

  91. Nimravid says

    I like “!=”. It’s like it expresses shock at the idea of equality. No doubt we’ll see plenty of examples on this thread.

  92. bryanpesta says

    Thanks for the clarification from the 2 or 3 posters above. So, the VR differences are large but statistically explained by the various cultural factors they looked at. In other words, at the country level, although males are consistently more variable then females, controlling for cultural stuff reduces gender (on vr) to non-significance. That’s interesting.

    I still don’t understand why this follows from a “males are more variable” point of view:

    Gender Gap versus Variance Ratio in Math
    Performance
    “Next, we tested the greater male variance hypothesis.
    If true, the variance ratios (VRs) for all
    countries should be greater than unity and similar
    in value. This is not what we observed.”

    They were greater than 1 in the vast majority of cases. Does biology dictate the VRs must be “similar” across all tests within and between countries? Not sure I follow.

  93. Miki Z says

    They were greater than 1 in the vast majority of cases. Does biology dictate the VRs must be “similar” across all tests within and between countries? Not sure I follow.

    In short, yes. If differences in variance are not culturally created, then the VRs must show similarity across all tests within and between countries because there is no plausible biological mechanism that would explain it otherwise. Such a mechanism would need to explain how political borders affect biology.

    There is a difference, as well, between “greater than 1″ and “statistically distinct from 1″. For some of the countries listed, the authors indicate that a VR as high as 1.08 is not statistically distinct from a VR of 1.

    If the report just said “huh, we don’t know anything”, it would still be interesting. But the authors do find a statistically significant correlation: the more equal the income distribution between men and women in a country — even after controlling for total income — the better the outcomes for both boys and girls.

  94. bryanpesta says

    Thanks Miki. Risk of belaboring:

    “If differences in variance are not culturally created, then the VRs must show similarity across all tests within and between countries because there is no plausible biological mechanism that would explain it otherwise.”

    What about measurement error? I bet you’d get different variances testing even the same students at two different times.

    Albeit, they did get variance in vr explained by their cultural factors. I’ll have to go back and look at how they quantified “similarity”.

    At any rate, thanks for your input!

  95. Miki Z says

    What about measurement error?

    Basically, this is handled in the statistical tests and lumped in with sampling error. The assumption on this is that there is no systematic difference between errors in data collected on one part of the population compared to another. There are populations where this is a serious concern (e.g. assessing intelligence among those with vision or hearing problems requires special procedures for obvious reasons), but if this is the case here it is (or at least so it seems to me) reinforcing the notion that the differences are culturally generated.

  96. says

    Mr Pesta: did you read the paper? The point was that there was so much variability in the variance. Unless you want to argue that the populations with low variance are a different species from the ones with high variance…

    It makes more sense and is far more reasonable to attribute the differences to cultural factors, as the paper did.

  97. bryanpesta says

    Mr. PZ:

    I had to read it twice actually– at least the middle part.

    The standard deviation in table 1, column 1, was .103– the mean VR was 1.16. That doesn’t seem like lots of variance in variances.

    But, point conceded, the VRs do correlate with the cultural measures they employed.

  98. Kierra says

    If they had a girl first, and then a boy, they are almost always pretty astonished at the difference of the two genders. Boys WILL be boys, and the difference is evident an an early age.

    Parents also tend to be astonished at how much their kids pick up on without being specifically taught. Is it therefore really that astonishing that boys figure out at an early age that behavior that isn’t tolerated from their sisters is shrugged off as “boys will be boys” when they do it?

  99. says

    Is it therefore really that astonishing that boys figure out at an early age that behavior that isn’t tolerated from their sisters is shrugged off as “boys will be boys” when they do it?

    And I pity them. Because as adults, unless you’re very high up at Goldman & Sachs, the behaviour they never learned to avoid isn’t tolerated anymore. That’s when you suddenly have agressive, undisciplined, authority-defying* teenage boys. Only it’s not sudden, they were agressive, undisciplined and authority-defying when they were 6, yet then it was just shrugged off as “boys will be boys.”

    *Not that a healthy meassure of that isn’t a good thing

  100. opposablethumbs, que le pouce enragé mette les pouces says

    Reminded me of a sad bit of PHMT – having been through the wringer and labyrinth that is negotiating the SEN (Special Educational Needs) support system in the UK, I spoke once with another parent whose nephew had been left with no support at all because his parents (I think it may have been both parents, but I’m not sure) were in such denial about his educational and behavioural problems. Which they wrote off to “boys will be boys”. The kid eventually reached adolescence having had practically no access to education at all, because his parent’s difficulty in coming to terms with the problem (understandable) was compounded by the way certain behaviours dovetail with gender role stereotypes. I’m not saying a girl exhibiting the same behaviours would necessarily have got the right help, but it would have been less likely to be ignored. P definitely does HMT.

  101. scenario says

    SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says:

    My conclusion is that not all of the discrepancy of men to women PhD is due to discrimination against women

    The fact that taking time off to reproduce is a major obstacle to women completing PhDs bloody well is discrimination.

    I fully agree that there is a lot of discrimination and that much if not most of the reason that there are less women going for PhD’s is caused by discrimination. I do not believe that discrimination is the only cause. This is just one of many possible reasons, probably a fairly minor one.

    Even if the two parents equally share responsibilities, raising a child takes a lot of time, patience, and money. Getting a PhD and raising a child at the same time would be even more difficult for a single parent.

    My point is that, in a typical man/woman relationship, men are a few years older then women and since the average age of the first baby is at the same time that the average person goes to school for their PhD. the older person in the relationship is more likely to complete their PhD. This would also hold true in a same sex relationship,the older partner is in a better position.

    Having cheap, safe day care would go a long way towards fixing this problem. It wouldn’t solve all of the problem because there are people like my wife and myself who decided that we would rather raise our children ourselves and give up some of the freedom we had to pursue other options.

    I am making the assumption that both partners want to get a PhD but since people tend to form relationships with people at the same educational level, this would be fairly common.

  102. Ms. Daisy Cutter says

    Kierra:

    Parents also tend to be astonished at how much their kids pick up on without being specifically taught. Is it therefore really that astonishing that boys figure out at an early age that behavior that isn’t tolerated from their sisters is shrugged off as “boys will be boys” when they do it?

    This commenter who replied to the article I linked earlier doesn’t seem to get it. Then again, she’s a leftie xtian, so she already has plenty of practice in ignoring facts.

  103. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    Agggh scenario why are you so dumb?

    This society is designed with men’s needs in mind. It is emphatically not designed around meeting women’s needs. THAT is the discrimination I was referring to: the fact that ensuring the continuance of the human race (not that that’s in question, but that’s a discussion for another day) is considered to be an annoying distraction from REAL work. The fact is that if we wanted to, we could organize society so that no woman would ever feel torn between getting a PhD and having a baby. Giving birth is a valuable service that women provide to society. Women don’t just do this for free, they are actually penalized for it economically, over and over and over again. That is fucked up.

    It goes far beyond day care centers. I maintain that women should be paid for giving birth, and anyone who raises children should get a stipend for that. Anyone who takes time off from work to care for their children should get a bonus and so on. Why aren’t we doing any of this? Because our society and economy are still operating under preceding generations’ assumptions, that men do valuable work while women stay home and raise children, not because it’s valuable work but because it’s their biological destiny and why should anyone get paid for that?

    Fuckwit.

  104. maureenbrian says

    Sorry, Ing, but all the research says that the more improvement there is to the economic and social status of women the fewer children they actually have.

    Check it out!

  105. elizanniebunning says

    Ms Daisy Cutter @114 made the following comment about my contribution to the New Statesman blog:

    “This commenter who replied to the article I linked earlier doesn’t seem to get it. Then again, she’s a leftie xtian, so she already has plenty of practice in ignoring facts.”

    She also left a rather unfriendly comment on my blog made last month on this subject at http://rephidimstreet.blogspot.com/2011/11/danger-or-not-of-gender-stereotyping-in.html and as I have replied in full there I won’t bore you all with it here.

    I will say again here that I cannot see what my political views have to do with the research I carried out! I don’t disagree that children pick up on all sorts of influences as they develop – the main concern in mine and others’ research is that these influences are addressed in a way that can rebalance trends – and if colouring building blocks pink and presenting ‘girlie toys’ in boy friendly colours helps, so be it whilst we look for other rememdies.

    I am that rare female who loves numbers and algebra. I have produced three children two of whom also love numbers and algebra, one who doesn’t. Two – also like me – also love the use of language and the written word. I could give you the statistical likelihood of which one out of the three would display both these characteristics and which gender that one is. [I have two girls and one boy] But there is no need to know which – it doesn’t matter. Because in their partnerships they have decided who stays at home with their children and who earns the housekeeping money. Their decisions are purely on economic grounds – who earns the most. And sadly that has nothing to do with who has the most educational qualifications or enjoys their career more highly – living in the South of England with high house prices has dictated who does what. Discrimnation? Yes indeed – but an economic one.

  106. elizanniebunning says

    PS I am still laughing at the words “leftie xtian” being used as an insult. Peace and Goodwill to you all. Really!

  107. twist says

    I am that rare female who loves numbers and algebra.

    We ain’t that rare.

    At least, I think we’d be a lot less rare if maths wasn’t presented to children as being boring and difficult and something for boys. Because having a penis is essential to being good at maths. Obviously.

    It’s awfully hard to maintain an interest in something when you’re being told that you’re just not biologically suited to it.

    If you’re dead set on seeing gender differences in your children, you will see them. It doesn’t mean that they’re actually there.

  108. elizanniebunning says

    @121 LOL. I take either word as a compliment actually! but then I have a sense of humour!

  109. elizanniebunning says

    @122
    “Because having a penis is essential to being good at maths. Obviously.”

    Luckily I was educated so long ago nobody thought to tell girls then that they were not good at maths.

    “It’s awfully hard to maintain an interest in something when you’re being told that you’re just not biologically suited to it.”

    Or if you are bloody minded its an awfully good way to get you interested in it!

    “If you’re dead set on seeing gender differences in your children, you will see them. It doesn’t mean that they’re actually there.”

    Bit like trying to knit smoke, that thought. All my children and grandchildren have never followed accepted patterns except I found it easier to interest the females in pink building bricks making fences for farms whilst the boys were playing with traditional colours and playing with the garage scenes. But nobody made anyone do anything and every now again one will drift across to the other and swap scenes. Bit like life really.

    The youngest grandchild – 8 months old – was given two Christmas presents today. One set of brightly coloured trains and one doll. No emphasis from parents or anyone else. never seen either toy anywhere else. Liked the trains but went beserk with the doll, kissing it repeatedly. Surprised all of us. Yes she is a girl but I think she probably liked it so much because it looked so real and she is so sociable. But that it is only MY theory…..

  110. twist says

    Or if you are bloody minded its an awfully good way to get you interested in it!

    Right. It must be ok then. How about we tell all people that they’re no good at sports? It would sure encourage them!

    The kids I’ve worked with have been pretty big on self-fulfilling prophecy. The ones who tell themselves that they can’t do it, or the ones who have been convinced by external influence that they can’t do it, more often than not can’t, or more to the point, won’t try.

    All my children and grandchildren have never followed accepted patterns except I found it easier to interest the females in pink building bricks

    If you’re trying to use this as evidence for a biological difference between males and females, bear in mind that until the early 20th century, pink was widely considered a boys colour.

  111. twist says

    How about we tell all people that they’re no good at sports? It would sure encourage them!

    Sorry, that should have said “tell all *insert ethnicity of choice* people that they’re no good at sports”

  112. elizanniebunning says

    @126

    “The kids I’ve worked with have been pretty big on self-fulfilling prophecy. The ones who tell themselves that they can’t do it, or the ones who have been convinced by external influence that they can’t do it, more often than not can’t, or more to the point, won’t try”

    I respect your experiences. I worked with children with Special Educational Needs and again some had issues with low self esteem and others had issues with over inflated sense of self. No general rules, each was treated as to their own needs. Just as in any class of pupils, all will use different learning styles [and this is not the place to go through the whole visual/auditory/kinesthetic learners discussion just for starters]

    “If you’re trying to use this as evidence for a biological difference between males and females, bear in mind that until the early 20th century, pink was widely considered a boys colour.”

    Goodness, you do seem to be determined to wilfully mis-read what I am saying. I am just stating what I think is ONE way to get around a certain problem at this moment in time.

  113. Ms. Daisy Cutter says

    Oh, dear, I left you an unfriendly comment in response to your gender-essentialist blithering, even though you linked to your blog on the Independent and therefore can be considered to have requested public comment. Boo hoo hoo.

    And, yes, imposing ideas of what boys “should” be like and what girls “should” be like is quite unprogressive. It’s unfortunate that not everybody on the left is committed to gender equality.

    Anyway, thanks for coming over here to pout, show off your meaningless anecdata, and in general act like the reality-resistant xtian you are.

  114. elizanniebunning says

    “Oh, dear, I left you an unfriendly comment in response to your gender-essentialist blithering, even though you linked to your blog on the Independent and therefore can be considered to have requested public comment. Boo hoo hoo.”

    Actually my reply was originally to a blog in the New Statesman although I am more than happy to discuss my opinions in public! I do consider a little less flaming to be the norm, however.

    “And, yes, imposing ideas of what boys “should” be like and what girls “should” be like is quite unprogressive. It’s unfortunate that not everybody on the left is committed to gender equality.”

    Show me where I have ever said this. My left leaning political views have nothing to do with the sociological research, as I said before. I believe in equality for all regardless of gender, ethnicity, political and religious views.

    “Anyway, thanks for coming over here to pout, show off your meaningless anecdata, and in general act like the reality-resistant xtian you are.”

    It is sad that you seem unable to accept facts that you do not like when they are the result of properly documents and instituted research. I have clearly differentiated between the primary research I did and later anecdotal evidence. In fact as you will no doubt know, anecdotal evidence [as long as documented as such] is permissible in research – however I used mostly primary source research carried out ‘in the field’
    for my project we a few secondary sources such as previously published theories and resources.

    The ‘reality-resistant xtian’ jibe I find rather difficult to answer. This seems to be a problem for you rather than me. You have obviously been to my blog and seen that on my profile I list amongst the facts about me the word ‘Christian’ is used along with other terms: “Wife, mother, grandmother, friend. Pacifist, socialist, christian.” No big deal really and very little to do with this or many other discussions. You brought it up – why?

  115. 'Tis Himself, OM. says

    The ‘reality-resistant xtian’ jibe I find rather difficult to answer. This seems to be a problem for you rather than me. You have obviously been to my blog and seen that on my profile I list amongst the facts about me the word ‘Christian’ is used along with other terms: “Wife, mother, grandmother, friend. Pacifist, socialist, christian.” No big deal really and very little to do with this or many other discussions. You brought it up – why?

    Because, quite simply, Christians are reality-resistant. You’re like the Red Queen in Through the Looking-Glass, believing seven impossible things before breakfast. There’s no evidence for your Christian gods* and many of your beliefs (virgin birth, redemption by deity sacrifice, an afterlife, etc.) are anti-reality.

    *Please don’t tell me you’re a monotheist, you’re not. You’ve got Yahweh, Jebus and The Spook, Satan is at least a demi-god, Catholics worship Mary as a goddess, plus there’s all the junior gods, only you call them angels and saints. When the Romans realized what a gold mine Christianity was and adopted it as the state religion, they incorporated much of their previous religious trappings into Christianity, including priests, temples, virginity cults, and polytheism. Christians pretending they’re monotheists is an example of Christians resisting reality.

  116. elizanniebunning says

    ‘Tis Himself, OM. says:
    “Because, quite simply, Christians are reality-resistant. You’re like the Red Queen in Through the Looking-Glass, believing seven impossible things before breakfast. There’s no evidence for your Christian gods* and many of your beliefs (virgin birth, redemption by deity sacrifice, an afterlife, etc.) are anti-reality.”

    There I was, quite happily discussing the supposed gender choices in toys by young children when other ‘debaters’ decide to go onto my blog [www.rephidimstreet.blogspot.com], read my profile, take one fact on which to ‘attack’ me rather than continue an interesting discussion. Fair enough if that is what they want to do – but I don’t have to carry it on here. Its not fair on others for a start!

    Furthermore please don’t tell me what my beliefs are – you have no idea to which ‘branch’ of Christianity I belong. And I will repeat that since they have absolutely no bearing on research undertaken in the subject matter undertaken I will not discuss them here. Elsewhere yes. Subject closed here.