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Show ALL Forums  > Science/philosophy  > Why aren't there more women involved in math and science?      Home login  
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 TheGeek33
Joined: 4/3/2009
Msg: 1
Why aren't there more women involved in math and science?Page 1 of 10    (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
Why aren't there more women with careers that involve math and science? There have been lots of initiatives to help girls choose these types of careers. I have a hard time convincing my nieces about the importance of math and science though they seem to be more interested than my nephews so maybe there is hope for the future.
 TheGeek33
Joined: 4/3/2009
Msg: 2
Why aren't there more women involved in math and science?
Posted: 7/2/2009 1:52:09 AM
I think it is more cultural. If you look at other countries like Russia there are much more women that study math and science though that number has gotten less since education is more expensive. I don't think there is anything genetic about it. Womanhood and rationality aren't necessarily mutually exclusive or at least I hope not.
 In2wishen
Joined: 6/20/2009
Msg: 3
Why aren't there more women involved in math and science?
Posted: 7/2/2009 3:55:51 AM
Tell them without math and science they'd be shivering in a dark cave right now skinning rabbits.

Besides, math is only a fraction of science.
 ultimatrix
Joined: 1/12/2009
Msg: 4
Why aren't there more women involved in math and science?
Posted: 7/2/2009 6:57:48 AM
Lets also keep in mind that typically women are not encouraged in these fields. Family, school and culture all play a part. I was actively discouraged in pursuing my interest in physics by a high school teacher who didn't believe that women should be in science. Didn't matter, I became a lawyer, but I still cruise the quantum websites now and again...
 GeneralizingNow
Joined: 10/10/2007
Msg: 5
Why aren't there more women involved in math and science?
Posted: 7/2/2009 7:51:49 AM
It's just a PR slant. Women ARE involved in science, but when it is a subject that is mostly women, people define it as a "soft" science. Psychology, for example. Anthropology for another.

Each of which I have a degree in--each of which required chemistry and stats, which are "hard" sciences because you men play in them. My actual field of study was psychobioneuroscience/biopsychology/neurological bioscience (it goes through so many name changes I can't keep up). I studied physical anthropology, too, particularly cranial morphology (again, brain stuff).

I'm supposedly great at math--hate it, but great at it ( according to standardized tests and classes at uni).
 yna6
Joined: 1/21/2007
Msg: 6
Why aren't there more women involved in math and science?
Posted: 7/2/2009 7:53:45 AM
Well..considering the time and investment into these kind of courses...they can get pretty expensive. If a guy is geared towards that, and gets a career going in that field, chances are he's going to stick with it, or some related field where it won't be a total waste. Meanwhile a woman may use it too...but then decide to settle down, raise kids, blah, blah...so all that effort is wasted. Sure, some may decide that a career and child raising can be done at the same time...but not all. So more parents are likely to pay for a son's education, before a daughters, especially in the developing nations.
The same happens in the West though not to the extent it does elsewheres.
Also, a son is expected to help his parents...support them, etc, later in life, whereas a daughter may not be. So it pays a parent to invest in a son...not a daughter.
I've met some women who are totally competent on the mathematical field. Some guys too. In school, girls seem to excell a bit...at first...but the guys catch up (on average) fairly quickly.
 JustDukky
Joined: 7/8/2004
Msg: 7
Why aren't there more women involved in math and science?
Posted: 7/2/2009 10:38:55 AM
I know some women at the doctorate level in math & science. I will admit though, that they are a comparative rarity in those fields.

It could be argued that women have been the subject of discrimination, but I don't really think that's true. In general there are fundamental differences between mens' & womens' brains. Women have much stronger verbal skills than men and tend to navigate by landmarks. Men on the other hand, are far less verbally skilled, and tend to navigate by vector.

The difference in navigation probably arises from men being the hunters, who had to corner & kill the food, usually using spears. Also, they had to range farther afield to look for food, often in strange terrain. Moving targets and unfamiliar landmarks probably forced computation/navigation by vector on men through evolution. Women, being the gatherers likely didn't venture far from home and could most easily navigate using familiar landmarks to locate things like fruit & firewood.

Another problem that men seem to have is difficulty in communicating, even with themselves (I'm sure most women would agree). They tend to look at things less literally and compensate for the deficiency with metaphore and abstraction. These are positive boons in terms of logic and science, not to mention poetry. If I am correct in my assumptions, I suspect you will find that women (being so verbal and literate) would be more common than men as authors of books, but men, being more abstract and metaphorical, would be far more common than women as poets. So I think it's logical to assume that there will be more men than women in math & science, as even the women in those fields would probably admit that they think more like men do, than like other women.

In general terms, I would assert that men are more abstract in outlook than women, who tend to think in elaborately verbal, but concrete terms.
 Gwendolyn2010
Joined: 1/22/2006
Msg: 8
Why aren't there more women involved in math and science?
Posted: 7/2/2009 2:16:54 PM

Well , since we necessarily have to speak in generalities , the answer must be that womens' midns simply aren't geared towards these fields.


This answer is perfect because it perpetuates cultural stereotypes! For thousands of years, women were not allowed to get educations and when they did, they were told that they were better at being teachers and nurses rather than scientists and mathematicians.

And if anyone thinks those days are gone, all you have to do is read a quote like the one above--the idea that women simply CAN'T succeed in theses fields because of biological imperatives STILL exist.


It could be argued that women have been the subject of discrimination, but I don't really think that's true.


Thinking that it isn't true doesn't make it not true. Again, women are gaining ground, but there is still opposition.


The difference in navigation probably arises from men being the hunters, who had to corner & kill the food, usually using spears. Also, they had to range farther afield to look for food, often in strange terrain. Moving targets and unfamiliar landmarks probably forced computation/navigation by vector on men through evolution. Women, being the gatherers likely didn't venture far from home and could most easily navigate using familiar landmarks to locate things like fruit & firewood.


Before there were settlements, societies were nomadic, necessitating the movement of the whole tribe, not just men. Even after the first settlements came into existence, tribes still moved for various reasons, including winter vs. summer camps.


If I am correct in my assumptions, I suspect you will find that women (being so verbal and literate) would be more common than men as authors of books, but men, being more abstract and metaphorical, would be far more common than women as poets.


A gross assumption and generalization. Again, women were not educated for hundreds of years. In the late 1800s, Hopkins wrote that writing is a man's profession and talent. Women who were taught to read and write were limited in where and how they could express themselves. Women who wrote usually were "Anonymous" or used male nom de plumes. For decades after its inception, only men were in the literary canon. Hundreds of men have written successful novels and many women have written successful poetry (but not as many because women were not published as were men)--but consider this: in the 1970s, I received a BA in English literature and NEVER heard of one of the greatest female poets of all time, Hilda Doolittle. Her work was not taught alongside the works of Eliot or Thomas even though it is equal to their genius.

Your statement also discounts the metaphorical, abstract facets of prose--symbolism is not confined to poetry!
 greg14229
Joined: 5/24/2008
Msg: 9
Why aren't there more women involved in math and science?
Posted: 7/2/2009 2:57:37 PM

I also believe that historically a lot of women didn't get their due, and a lot of famous men stood on not-so-famous shoulders


lol, why do so many people just pull ideas out of their arse??

actually, in studies, women test as good in mathematics as men...except for one area....spacial recognition....women have a harder time imagining 3 dimensional space than men. At least according to studies.

as for why less women are in mathematics...it probably mostly has to do with lack of interest and stigma. Nothing to do with intelligence.
 JustDukky
Joined: 7/8/2004
Msg: 10
Why aren't there more women involved in math and science?
Posted: 7/2/2009 3:11:13 PM
Thinking that it isn't true doesn't make it not true.


I was thinking in terms of more recent history, not a hundred years ago, when women were considered the property of their husbands and not allowed to even vote. I can only speak about Canada's educational system, but I would say that for the last fifty years, there has been no discrimination against women in terms of science/math education that I can see. This necessitates (in my mind) a different explanation for the unequal representation of women in the sciences.

There may be sociological reasons, such as adherence to traditional roles & societal programming, but even that (I suspect) isn't the total explanation. quite simply, there are physical differences between male & female brains. Certain centres are larger or smaller by comparison and these centres correspond to differences that I would call genetically (and therefore evolutionarily) based. Hence my hypothesis.

Please note that my assumptions leave plenty of room for "overlap" between the sexes on an individual level, so the presumption cannot be made that a woman needs a lighthouse to navigate, or that a man needs an interpreter to even think. We are only talking about slight differences which may manifest as preferences in education.

Why did you get a BA in English? Why not Physics, or Mathematics? Surely you know that there are far more women getting degrees in English than in Math. Why didn't you get your degree in Math? Don't you like it? Were you the subject of educational discrimination, or did you just have a preference for English literature? (for my own part, I hated English and only took such courses as I was forced to - I loved math though)

Getting back to my evolutionary arguments (I don't think they've been sufficiently explored, or refuted):


Before there were settlements, societies were nomadic, necessitating the movement of the whole tribe, not just men. Even after the first settlements came into existence, tribes still moved for various reasons, including winter vs. summer camps.


Yes the whole tribe moved, but who do you suppose did the navigating, the women (who mostly gathered near to home base), or the men (who likely had to venture far afield hunting)? Are you aware of any "uncivilized" societies where the roles were switched? If not, I would contend that this state of affairs goes as far back as the apes we evolved from, and could well explain the brain differences that appear to result even today in sexually biased choices regarding education and career.

But hey...What do I know about such things?...When asked to write my sex on a document, I usually check both M & F, or put "unsure" and let them figure it out.
(For some reason that never went over well with "matchmaking" services.)
 farceur
Joined: 5/3/2009
Msg: 11
Why aren't there more women involved in math and science?
Posted: 7/2/2009 3:23:47 PM
Certain kinds of thinking happen differently by sex, generally speaking, so what you have as the result of male biased education traditions is subject matter and education methods favoring men's strengths. Males are better at imagining geometry, spatial relationships, the stuff of conceptualizing physical systems and phenomena. Women are better at abstraction. The sciences that rely on concrete modeling come easier to men, while the ones that fathom intangible or abstract knowledge come easier to women. A man would be the architect for a city, planning its spaces, streets, buildings, drainpipes, bridges, and vending machines. The woman would be the city's policymaker, creating the laws, contracts and social organization that are the social infrastructure of civic life. If you want things made right and run right you would have men make things and women decide how they are to be used. The current state of affairs has men predominant in areas best done by women. The ideal of equality and choice is great, but at the same time, when there are built-in strengths it might make sense for those to be acknowledged, at least, and promoted when possible.
 Gwendolyn2010
Joined: 1/22/2006
Msg: 12
Why aren't there more women involved in math and science?
Posted: 7/2/2009 7:43:15 PM

Why did you get a BA in English? Why not Physics, or Mathematics?


I am 56 years old--when I was six (50 years ago) and in the first grade, the teacher told the class one day that ANY little boy in the room could grow up to be president some day. That didn't hold true for the little girls. Heck, we weren't even told that we could grow up to be the president's wife.

I have a natural talent for writing, but so do many men. Throughout elementary and high school, I was told that women were not good at math or science and the emphasis was put on teaching, nursing, being a secretary, etc. Girls were required to take Home Ec to prepare them for marriage; boys took auto mechanics and drafting. Because I was in a low socioeconomic strata, my guidance counselor suggested that I go to cosmetology school instead of a university! This was despite the fact that I had a high ACT score.

There have been advances in women entering fields that were previously closed to them, but if you think that prejudice and stereotypes still don't exist, you are wrong. And the advances are much more recent that you think.


Yes the whole tribe moved, but who do you suppose did the navigating, the women (who mostly gathered near to home base), or the men (who likely had to venture far afield hunting)? Are you aware of any "uncivilized" societies where the roles were switched?


Actually, I have no idea who did the navigating, and this still begs the question of whether navigating is/was an inherent trait in men or whether it was from experience. I also wonder how far afield the men went--animals often follow the same migration routes from year to year.

Who led Lewis and Clark through the wilderness of the North American continent? A woman!


Where did I say that ?


Here:
the answer must be that womens' midns simply aren't geared towards these fields.


That is an either/or fallacy and a hasty generalization about the minds of both sexes.

You also said:


Naturally there must be more to it than that but it seems reasonable to hypthesize that males with the ability to devise new and better methods of defense (defending everything from territory , materials , the group itself) would have an evolutionary advantage over others.


Sheesh--men have an evolutionary advantage over "others"? The only "others" are women.
 ItsMargo
Joined: 4/24/2007
Msg: 13
view profile
History
Why aren't there more women involved in math and science?
Posted: 7/2/2009 8:34:43 PM
I've found the education system doesn't have the bias that it once did. My daughter is in the 98th percentile for visual/spatial and most maths and sciences come easily to her. Even though they were actively recruiting for girls, she was the only girl to join the student IT department in grade 9 and she dragged some of her female friends kicking and screaming into the robotics club just so she wouldn't be the only girl. That suggests to me some of it must be social.
 Mikezt
Joined: 7/6/2008
Msg: 14
Why aren't there more women involved in math and science?
Posted: 7/2/2009 8:45:45 PM
I work with many women in math and science, I'd say almost half and half.
 GeneralizingNow
Joined: 10/10/2007
Msg: 15
Why aren't there more women involved in math and science?
Posted: 7/3/2009 8:45:32 AM

It's not a conspiracy , it's womens' own choices. What we're supposed to be discussing is why they make them as they do.

If choices are limited, it directs which choices one makes. The "glass ceiling" is cracking, but it's not shattered yet. The biological differences in humans are minimal--each gender can do what the other can do, so to me it's a moot point. In general, men are stronger, but not every man is stronger than every woman. What the glass ceiling does is limit OPPORTUNITY. And the discussion isn't about "why women choose" it's about "why aren't there women who..."

I'll tell you a story. When I was younger, I needed a job. I was tall and very strong, and a great worker. I applied for a job as a groundskeeper at the university. The guy told me to my FACE that he didn't hire women because "you're too pretty to get dirty". Today, I notice quite a few smaller, weaker women are groundskeepers. It's the times and attitudes that have changed, not the work.

Still today, the Army won't even allow women to TRY for the Rangers--not even to TRY out to be on the team.

That being said, if I have a choice, I am NOT going to take a dangerous job over a non-dangerous job, even if it pays more. Not everything is about money.

I've already stated that women are overwhelmingly represented in psychology and anthropology, and there are nor more female doctors than male doctors. Why is it that you all seem to think these are not "science and math"? (Hint: the glass ceiling is about attitude as well)
 Super Ryan
Joined: 9/15/2007
Msg: 16
Why aren't there more women involved in math and science?
Posted: 7/3/2009 9:07:16 AM

Besides, math is only a fraction of science.

What!!!

Math is the language of science, it is not a part of science.
And just like there is many fields of science, there are many fields in math.
_______________________________________________________

As for the OPs question. I think it is exactly what other posters suggested; culture discourages women to excell in math and science. But this is changing, and there is no reason why women cannot succeed in the fields of math and science.
 Mojo4Free
Joined: 6/23/2009
Msg: 17
Why aren't there more women involved in math and science?
Posted: 7/3/2009 9:58:02 AM

Lets also keep in mind that typically women are not encouraged in these fields.
LOL... that's it... blame mom and dad and the whole neighborhood you grew up in. I think you're honest in your comment, however, you're just repeating what you've heard.

What that should read is: People don't expect much from women, are offered an easy way out, and most women take it. Ya... I know.. that's harsh. But men would too, only they are expected to go the extra mile, to be driven, ambitious, take risks. HUGE risks in all areas of life. If women were expected to do the same, they would also be going to school longer (they are now actually), inventing things, starting businesses, making scientific discoveries, etc. There would be 50% representation in all fields. Including politics, sciences, truck driving, and yes... ditch digging too (ya.. I know.. it's hard). People are lazy by nature. Only expectations and hunger keep us from sitting on our behinds. But attitudes have changed in the last 10 years spurred on by women's studies. So expect your life expectancy to drop and match men's.

Math isn't hard. For women or men. It's practice. Don't believe anyone who says differently. Trust me on this one. I know. lol. If I'm an employer, and a I need a mathematician, I'll take the one who knows it best. If you want to be hired, you'll have to kick butt and be better than the rest. And there's only one way to be the best. Work longer and harder than everyone you know.

Oh... you want a life... lol. Well you can't have both. At least not in the early years. People shouldn't be allowed to have kids before they're 30 anyway.
 scorpiomover
Joined: 4/19/2007
Msg: 18
view profile
History
Why aren't there more women involved in math and science?
Posted: 7/3/2009 3:20:16 PM

Why aren't there more women with careers that involve math and science? There have been lots of initiatives to help girls choose these types of careers. I have a hard time convincing my nieces about the importance of math and science though they seem to be more interested than my nephews so maybe there is hope for the future.
1/3rd of my degree in maths was women. The only difference was that nearly all chose to become accountants, rather than do a Masters or a PhD.

But the news reported recently, that with the current trend, there should be more women doctors than male doctors, by 2011, or 2015. So I'm not sure that this is the case.

However, there is a general lack of interest in mathematics and in science, among the young, in men and women. That might be what you're seeing. Part of that in the UK is because graduates are coming out with debts of about £30,000 (US $49,002), and doctors are coming out with debts of £40,000 (US $65,336) on average. But 25% of graduates are not getting graduate-level jobs. With the credit crunch, it's become far harder for graduates, because companies aren't hiring them, except for in the armed forces. So a lot of people are re-thinking if going to university is worth it.

As to why less women are might be avoiding mathematics and science as careers, UK studies have shown that women are choosing jobs where they will be feel comfortable to take time off for pregnancy, and for a family. If you want to be in those fields, then tenure becomes an issue. It takes years to get a decent position in a faculty. You cannot just take off a few years for having kids, and then come back. I don't know why women find it easier in other subjects, like psychology. But maybe it's because they already favour flexibility. After all, psychologists go on 6-month rotations while they are training, and they don't treat the same people for years anymore in the NHS. 10 sessions in a few months, and then they'll move on, and probably never see the patient again. So it's probably a lot easier to drop out of psychology for a few years, then come back when the kids are ready to start kindergarten.

Actually, one of the biggest problems we are facing, is that men are finding themselves squeezed out. Because of the prior experiences of discrimation against women, better paying jobs are being highly encouraged and supported in women, but not in men. Men are finding that they are told that women can do twice the work of men, and have to be twice as smart as men, to get half the pay, and that they do it, which sends men the message that women are far smarter and more productive than men. They are also told such messages as "women need men like fish need a bicycle", which sends men the message that they are unnecessary in this world, and therefore, unimportant. But men are NOT saying "men need women like fish need a bicycle". So women aren't getting the same negative messages. On the contrary, society is now telling women they can be anything they want to. But when it comes to men, they're not being told they could be anything at all. So men's self-esteem is lowering significantly. This is happening to such an extent, that it was reported a few months ago, that young women are more likely to get a good job in a city than a man. When sexual abuse is found, men are automatically assumed to be the culprit, and women are automatically assumed to be entirely innocent. So many men are avoiding any situations in which they might have contact with children, as a result. Primary schools are reporting they cannot get men as teachers. Voluntary groups who work with children are reporting that they cannot get men either. There is a definite push with women's rights. But it's been going on for nearly 50 years now, and it's reached the point at which men are finding a tremendous opposition in them taking responsible positions, especially with children. Expect more.

RE Msg: 11 by greg14229:
actually, in studies, women test as good in mathematics as men...except for one area....spacial recognition....women have a harder time imagining 3 dimensional space than men. At least according to studies.
From what I've read, men do better in general spacial recognition. But women do better in path-finding recognition.

One might describe the difference between the 2, as men are better at imagining space, and women are better at working out orbits, and general movement patterns of stars, spiral arms, galaxies and the like.
 In2wishen
Joined: 6/20/2009
Msg: 19
Why aren't there more women involved in math and science?
Posted: 7/4/2009 4:20:38 AM
Math is very much a part of science. In fact, math is a science all its own that is used in problem solving in virtually all other sciences. It is a science of numbers and their operations. Math brings logic to measurements.
 JustDukky
Joined: 7/8/2004
Msg: 20
Why aren't there more women involved in math and science?
Posted: 7/4/2009 5:44:29 AM

math is a science


Given that science is the philosophy of nature (and used to be called natural philosophy) and given that mathematics is not a product of nature, I would say it's erroneous to call math a science. It is more correct to call it a philosophy.
 scorpiomover
Joined: 4/19/2007
Msg: 21
view profile
History
Why aren't there more women involved in math and science?
Posted: 7/4/2009 6:56:26 AM
RE Msg: 27 by JustDukky:
Given that science is the philosophy of nature (and used to be called natural philosophy) and given that mathematics is not a product of nature, I would say it's erroneous to call math a science. It is more correct to call it a philosophy.
Many universities regard it as both, a philosophy, and therefore an artform, and a science, because it follows rigorous reasoning, and applies often to real life. That is why it was one of the few degrees in my university, in which you could get a BA or a BSc, simply because you asked.
 JustDukky
Joined: 7/8/2004
Msg: 22
Why aren't there more women involved in math and science?
Posted: 7/4/2009 9:09:53 AM

Many universities regard it as both, a philosophy, and therefore an artform, and a science, because it follows rigorous reasoning, and applies often to real life. That is why it was one of the few degrees in my university, in which you could get a BA or a BSc, simply because you asked.


That's why I prefaced my statement with "I would say", to make it clear that the issue is a contentious one and that it was my opinion only (which I justify with my arguments); not necessarily the only one on the matter.
 abelian
Joined: 1/12/2008
Msg: 23
Why aren't there more women involved in math and science?
Posted: 7/4/2009 4:34:40 PM

There have been advances in women entering fields that were previously closed to them, but if you think that prejudice and stereotypes still don't exist, you are wrong. And the advances are much more recent that you think.

That isn't sufficient to explain it. The fact is, few women CHOOSE to go into math or science despite incentives to do so. At the academic level, a qualified woman has an advantage in math and physics simply because many departments WANT to hire a woman because there are so few. Peruse the ads for academic positions and you'll find the ads target women. However, the majority of women applicants are not from the U.S.
 scorpiomover
Joined: 4/19/2007
Msg: 24
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History
Why aren't there more women involved in math and science?
Posted: 7/4/2009 6:33:04 PM

That isn't sufficient to explain it. The fact is, few women CHOOSE to go into math or science despite incentives to do so. At the academic level, a qualified woman has an advantage in math and physics simply because many departments WANT to hire a woman because there are so few. Peruse the ads for academic positions and you'll find the ads target women. However, the majority of women applicants are not from the U.S.
This study might go a bit towards explaining things:
Whereas research indicates that women and men are earning their Ph.D. degrees at similar rates, the research also indicates that women often face unique challenges when embarking upon a career in academia. Some of these challenges include motherhood, working in a male dominated field, retention, and earning tenure. Mason and Goulden (2004) found, for example, that women having a child within five years of earning their Ph.D. are 30% less likely than women without children to obtain a tenure-track position. Of women who had children early on in their careers, 56% earned tenure within 14 years of obtaining their Ph.D., whereas 77% of men who became fathers early on earned tenure.
http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p_mla_apa_research_citation/1/7/1/7/2/p171725_index.html
 scorpiomover
Joined: 4/19/2007
Msg: 25
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History
Why aren't there more women involved in math and science?
Posted: 7/5/2009 8:10:30 AM

There are professions with low male representation as well, but for some reason no one ever highlights that fact.
The news was mentioning how the British government is very very concerned about the fact that there are very few male primary school teachers in the UK. It means that young children have lots of female roles models from school, but few male role models from school. That's a worrying fact for those people who are growing up with very poor male role models in their life, outside of school.
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