May 19, 2008

Who knew?

Here's a funny article from the Boston Globe on the Larry Summers Quandary: Why have women professors made so much more progress at Harvard's Law, Business, and Medical schools than in its mathematics and engineering departments? It's a good article, but what's amusing and depressing is how hard the journalist has to work to explain concepts that should be bleeding obvious to any college student, much less the college professors who will be most professionally interested in this topic.

The freedom to say 'no'

Why aren't there more women in science and engineering? Controversial new research suggests: They just aren't interested.

Elaine McArdle

WHEN IT COMES to the huge and persistent gender gap in science and technology jobs, the finger of blame has pointed in many directions: sexist companies, boy-friendly science and math classes, differences in aptitude. ...

Now two new studies by economists and social scientists have reached a perhaps startling conclusion: An important part of the explanation for the gender gap, they are finding, are the preferences of women themselves. When it comes to certain math- and science-related jobs, substantial numbers of women - highly qualified for the work - stay out of those careers because they would simply rather do something else.

One study of information-technology workers found that women's own preferences are the single most important factor in that field's dramatic gender imbalance. Another study followed 5,000 mathematically gifted students and found that qualified women are significantly more likely to avoid physics and the other "hard" sciences in favor of work in medicine and biosciences.

It's important to note that these findings involve averages and do not apply to all women or men; indeed, there is wide variety within each gender.

Wouldn't it be great if supposedly educated people knew that goes without saying?

The researchers are not suggesting that sexism and cultural pressures on women don't play a role, and they don't yet know why women choose the way they do. One forthcoming paper in the Harvard Business Review, for instance, found that women often leave technical jobs because of rampant sexism in the workplace.

But if these researchers are right, then a certain amount of gender gap might be a natural artifact of a free society, where men and women finally can forge their own vocational paths. And understanding how individual choices shape the gender balance of some of the most important, financially rewarding careers will be critical in fashioning effective solutions for a problem that has vexed people for more than a generation.

A few years ago, Joshua Rosenbloom, an economist at the University of Kansas, became intrigued by a new campaign by the National Science Foundation to root out what it saw as pervasive gender discrimination in science and engineering. The agency was spending $19 million a year to encourage mentoring programs, gender-bias workshops, and cooperative work environments.

Rosenbloom had no quarrel with the goal of gender equity. But as he saw it, the federal government was spending all that money without any idea what would work, because there was no solid data on what caused the disparity between men and women in scientific fields.

Perhaps spending $19 million was the point of spending $19 million? Economists are supposed to think about self-interest and incentives, but they tend to act as if a disinterested pursuit of truth is all that matters in academic politics.

To help answer the question, Rosenbloom surveyed hundreds of professionals in information technology, a career in which women are significantly underrepresented. He also surveyed hundreds in comparable careers more evenly balanced between men and women. ...

Personal preference, Rosenbloom and his group concluded, was the single largest determinative factor in whether women went into IT. They calculated that preference accounted for about two-thirds of the gender imbalance in the field. The study was published in November in the Journal of Economic Psychology.

It may seem like a cliche - or rank sexism - to say women like to work with people, and men prefer to work with things. Rosenbloom acknowledges that, but says that whether due to socialization or "more basic differences," the genders on average demonstrate different vocational interests.

"It sounds like stereotypes," he said in an interview, "but these stereotypes have a germ of truth."

What exactly does the word "stereotype" mean these days among the educated? Something that we all know is true on average but only bad people mention? But do people really know that they are lying? I don't think so.

By the way, what I'm increasingly fascinated by how unrebellious, how credulously trusting of authority the post-1960s generations have turned out to be. They go to school, get told obvious lies, then they go out and repeat them over and over and over. The idea that you can't trust anybody over 30 is totally foreign to the youth of recent decades. Perhaps the reason for this stability is because the schools are run by 1960s People, and the 1960s People discovered exactly what callow youths want to hear.

In the language of the social sciences, Rosenbloom found that the women were "self-selecting" out of IT careers. The concept of self-selection has long interested social scientists as an explanation for how groups sort themselves over time. Since human beings are heterogeneous, self-selection predicts that when offered a menu of options and freedom of choice, people will make diverse choices and sort themselves out in nonrandom ways. In other words, even given the same opportunities, not everybody will do the same thing - and there are measurable reasons that they will act differently from one another.

It's striking how the concept of "self-selection" has to be spelled out as if it's some conceptual breakthrough in String Theory, rather than the most obvious thing in the whole entire world. This shows how lacking in basic tools our intellectual discourse is these days. My best guess is that the stupidity of modern intellectual life largely has its roots in group differences in IQ, crime rates, and the like.

The concept of self-selection sets off alarms for many feminists.

Indeed. Rational thought in general terrifies feminists ... and rightly so.

But self-selection has also emerged as the chief explanation in other recent studies of gender imbalance, including a long-term survey done by two Vanderbilt researchers, Camilla Persson Benbow and David Lubinski.

Starting more than 30 years ago, the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth began following nearly 2,000 mathematically gifted adolescents, boys and girls, tracking their education and careers in ensuing decades. (It has since been expanded to 5,000 participants, many from more recent graduating classes.) Both men and women in the study achieved advanced credentials in about the same numbers. But when it came to their career paths, there was a striking divergence.

Math-precocious men were much more likely to go into engineering or physical sciences than women. Math-precocious women, by contrast, were more likely to go into careers in medicine, biological sciences, humanities, and social sciences. Both sexes scored high on the math SAT, and the data showed the women weren't discouraged from certain career paths.

The survey data showed a notable disparity on one point: That men, relative to women, prefer to work with inorganic materials; women, in general, prefer to work with organic or living things. This gender disparity was apparent very early in life, and it continued to hold steady over the course of the participants' careers.

Wow. Who knew?

Here's something more interesting:

Benbow and Lubinski also found something else intriguing: Women who are mathematically gifted are more likely than men to have strong verbal abilities as well; men who excel in math, by contrast, don't do nearly as well in verbal skills. As a result, the career choices for math-precocious women are wider than for their male counterparts. They can become scientists, but can succeed just as well as lawyers or teachers. With this range of choice, their data show, highly qualified women may opt out of certain technical or scientific jobs simply because they can.

So, if you are, say, Margaret Thatcher, and have an Oxford degree in Chemistry, well, that's nice but you have other options in life.

Why this difference? There's a big surplus of males in Benbow and Lubinski's sample of the mathematically gifted, so this suggests that women who are good at math tend to be good at math because they have a high overall g factor. In contrast, males tend to have more specialized mental skills useful in math, such as 3-d imagination skills, which doesn't correlate as highly with the g factor as most other cognitive traits.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

49 comments:

Anonymous said...

I strongly recommend Susan Pinker's book, _The Sexual Paradox_ to everyone in the Stevosphere. Yes, she's Steven Pinker's sister.

Amit

mnuez said...

Totally OT but i just read up on the south African violence and I want to note that the reaction of the crowd seems to be, more or less, a rational one. The foreigners are taking their jobs and depressing wages - in precisely the same manner as they do in the good ole US of U. Of course the greater enemies are their wealthy countrymen (of any race) who have all of the capital that they so desperately need in order to be able to keep their children alive but who prefer to spend that capital on multitudes of servants and backyard swimming pools... but the Wealthiers aren't too fetching a target. As in our own country (and every other that I know a sufficient amount about), the well-to-do share some tiny percentage of their wealth with a few lower-classmen in exchange for those lower-classmen defending them from the jealousy/hatred/survival-attempts of the mob. That being the case, it seems to me to be shockingly rational to engage in a bit of terror to scare away the foreign labor source in order for their to be more jobs (at higher wages) available to them.

I'm not discussing anything even remotely related to morality here. I'm simply pointing out that my perfunctory analysis of the thing leads me to believe that this war on foreigners is indeed likely to be (nothing is certain of course - unintended consequences n' all) in the rational self-interest of the violent... unlike, say, joining some arbitrary side of a war in some other African country where you're more likely to die than to have your situation improved.

mnuez


(P.S. It happens, I believe, to be entirely irrelevant to the subject of my post but being as the topic is South Africa, I may as well mention that I spent a few months there some years back and am as familiar with the place as a foreigner can be expected to be. A few souvenir-impressions: You can live like a KING on a yearly salary of 30K a year. You KNOW that you're white in that country. Witnessing the poverty of people in the townships will lead you understand many things. If you yourself haven't faced a black man with a gun you know at least two dozen people who have. The physical beauty of the place will change your impression regarding the value of living in an American metropolis. Finding yourself in an American-style mall where ALL of the White People (salespeople, store-owners, sluttily-dressed teen girls, mothers with strollers, running kids, office-workers, mall managers, etc.) are played by Black People is momentarily surreal and forces you to smile as you enjoy what seems like a hallucination of some alternate reality.)

BGC said...

SS said: "It's striking how the concept of "self-selection" has to be spelled out as if it's some conceptual breakthrough in String Theory, rather than the most obvious thing in the whole entire world."

Thanks Steve - that made me laugh out loud - a brilliant comment!

John of London said...

This is not all wrong, but there is not going to be a one-line explanation of why there are fewer women in science, and "because they prefer people subjects" doesn't do it.
I think different science and engineering subjects have to be considered separately. Many decades ago I was a nuclear physicist, and I would say a factor discouraging women was the very family-unfriendly work ethic. Interestingly (and please remember this was long ago) an American visiting researcher seemed to like this; he would go home for dinner then come back to the lab, as he said, to get away from his family. It would be false to say this only a women's concern; plenty of male physicists would have preferred to have more of a life. But medecine is reputedly just as tough and if anything more sexist.
I now work as an engineer in industry and encounter lots of women engineers; so if women are under-represented in academic engineering departments the reason may be in those departments.
I believe that people who study Computer Science must have outlying personality traits, and you don't have to decide if it's inborn or upbringing to concede that there may be differences in the personality distributions of men and women.
Incidentally, the only famous women philosophers are moral philosophers. With possibly the tiniest smidgen of prejudice, I believe that the desire to study philosophy is a personality defect from which women are happily free.
May I recommend "Prophets Facing Backwards" by Meera Nanda for (among other things) its exposition of the liberating role of the physical sciences for women and for oppressed groups, and the utterly reactionary role of "advanced" philosophical critiques of science.

dearieme said...

"a natural artifact": that's an interesting concept.

bjdouble said...

Steve is apparently unfamiliar with the societal uses and benefits of the "polite fiction."

Here's one description:

"It's something nobody believes, but we all pretend to because it makes life so much easier. My favorite example was of a Pygmy couple. Pygmy divorce involves quite literally breaking up the home: the couple tears apart their house (it's easy - the houses are made of leaves) and once it's down, the union is dissolved. One anthropologist was watching a long-married couple have a fight. It escalated until the wife threatened to leave, and the husband yelled something along the lines of "Fine!" and there was nothing the wife could do but start tearing down the house. She began tearing the roof off, clearly miserable. The husband looked wretched too, but at this point neither could back down without losing face and by now the whole village was watching.

Finally, the husband called out the Pygmy equivalent of "You're right, honey! The roof is dirty! It'll look much better once we get those leaves washed!" The two of them started carrying leaves down to the river, soon with the help of the whole village, and then washed and rebuilt the whole roof. When the anthropologist later discreetly asked how often one washes the roof, everyone looked at him like he was a complete doofus."

thoughtfulape said...

Note the obligatory reference to women with high mathematical aptitude equal to talented men having additional skills as well. The article writer is well aware of how close to the edge of the PC rulebook he is. Thats why he has to play up 'the women are more talented really' stuff to avoid appearing pro-men or anti-feminist.

The ideological framework MUST be upheld.

David said...

In other words, even given the same opportunities, not everybody will do the same thing

Burn this witch at the stake NOW.

Whatever the feminist reaction will be, it is sure to be hysterical. After all, someone is sticking his head up and disagreeing with the "consensus." Cluck-cluck-BWAAAWWKKK!

Robert said...

“Perhaps the reason for this stability is because the schools are run by 1960s People, and the 1960s People discovered exactly what callow youths want to hear.”
The 1960s People are the most narcissistic generation ever. I don’t know if this has anything to do with it but possibly it affects their confidence in doling out the b.s.. This apparent confidence could cause young people to see them as more right than other older generations who have been made out to be buffoons. As a member of a generation that grew up in the 80’s, I remember teachers who were 1960s People being very self righteous and pious about any social type subject. One 1960s People teacher told our class that he went into teaching because he “wanted to change the world.” A group of people so full of themselves as the 1960s People generation could also be very persuasive to younger, more inexperienced youth. The earlier generations just did not push themselves this way.
Also today I saw an article about the “fact” that girls have caught up to boys in math and science in grade schools. The premise was that girls were unfairly shooed away from math and science in the past and it caused a disparity in the math and science scores of girls, but since the 80’s they have caught up. It was an up date to the How Schools Shortchange Girls report from the 90’s. I don’t remember girls being shortchanged. If any girls were treated badly it probably was due to the fact that they were not popular, the same as boys who were treated badly. The woman who was the spokesperson of the group assured us men that we did not have to feel any resentment because of this though.

Jonathan said...

Larry Summers once noted that he had tried gender-neutral upbringing on his little daughter by giving her toy trucks to play with. She immediately pretended they were dolls and named them "daddy truck" and "baby truck." This stuff is hard-wired into women, just like working with tools and inanimate objects is wired into the brains of men. Our intellectual elite knows this but can't deal with it for political reasons.

Anonymous said...

Marxism makes you stupid.

PS mnuez, you have no manners.

Anonymous said...


One forthcoming paper in the Harvard Business Review, for instance, found that women often leave technical jobs because of rampant sexism in the workplace.


Quite frankly, my experience in starups is they are generally not qualified for the positions. I have seen very few really good females in technical positions, but I have seen some.

Anonymous said...


I strongly recommend Susan Pinker's book, _The Sexual Paradox_ to everyone in the Stevosphere. Yes, she's Steven Pinker's sister.


Actually, she;s not in his class.

J. said...

Good article, thanks for reference.

"Rosalind Chait Barnett, at the Women's Studies Research Center at Brandeis, says that boys and girls are not, at root, different enough for such clear sorting to be seen as a matter of "choice."

Oh brother. Oh sister. Why are the most stubborn of these gender-equity assholes Jewish women? How many great Jewish female theoreticians have there been? Answer: two. How many great Jewish male theoreticians have there been? Answer: too many to count!

Adjunct question: how many female engineers, theoretical physicists has Israel produced? Answer: no more than any other developed society.

Rosalind, you’ve got your work cut out for you. If the Jews can’t mass-product gender equity in science, who can?

Anonymous said...

There is one field that is dominated by men but where women have a very significant physiological advantage.

Fighter pilot.

One of the major aptitudes in a modern fifter pilots the ability to "pull Gs". The female body appears to be inherently superior in this regard. Certainly the ability to remain concious when your adversary blacks out in a dog fight confers a very substantial advantage.

Yet there are not very many female fighter pilots. Why? Go to the mall look at the kids around the shoot-em-up video games. No girls.

Little girls it seems don't wistfully fantasize about growing up to be a fighter pilot.

Pat

Half Sigma said...

Women who are mathematically gifted are more likely than men to have strong verbal abilities as well; men who excel in math, by contrast, don't do nearly as well in verbal skills.

This means that women who do well in math do so because they have a high g (general factor of intelligence), and not a high specific factor of mathematical ability.

It would be interesting to study the career choices of a group of women whose distribution of g and math ability were the same as the group of men in the study.

Anonymous said...

The broad intellectual strengths and weaknesses of men and women are pretty obvious to everyone with common sense. All the same, it is a good sign that studies are being conducted that sort out and investigate the details and many dimensions of male-female intellectual differences and/or preferences. When done properly, such studies even liberals can't deny!

Anonymous said...

mnuez,
Very good point of view and I personally appreciate all of your contributions. Be sure to read, if you haven't already, the article Steve linked to yesterday about Postville, Iowa. It's about illegal immigration, but sheds significant light upon the wealthy. It also shows just what you describe: a collusion between the dirt poor foreigner and the wealthy American citizens that destroys a culture and starves the regular guy.
BTW, on your observation about the beauty of S.A. It's funny, after reading, "The Africans" and "World on Fire", one realizes that violence against market dominate minorities is so utterly predictable, it begs the question, "Why on earth do these people stay?"

Anonymous said...

Steve,
I see your point on how ridiculous it is for the writer to spell out such elementary concepts, but I'm personally so thankful to see romanticism coming to an end that I don't get to upset over it.

It may have been this blog that linked to it, but if not, check out Charles Murray's latest on education:
http://www.newcriterion.com/articles.cfm/The-age-of-educational-romanticism-3835

Justin Halter said...

"Indeed. Rational thought in general terrifies feminists ... and rightly so."

Steve, your skill at creating succinct and powerful prose is awe-inspiring. Have you ever looked into becoming a speech writer for politicians? Is it possible to make good money doing that?

testing99 said...

Typical Communist nonsense from mnuez. Any regime allocating capital by fiat becomes nothing more than a landed estate updated to the Communist Royalty. See the Castro, Kim, Mugabe, etc. hereditary rule.

South Africa is poor because the South Africans suffer from Big Man disease. Women select the biggest Big Man, who is more violent and intimidating than others, and "spreads his seed" among many, devoting nil resources to his children. Who in any case grow up in a culture valuing violence and intimidation rather than cooperation, learning, education, deferred gratification.

Africans CAN likely lift themselves out of poverty, but it will take exceptional leaders and focused efforts to change their culture to cooperation, education, and less violence. I am not optimistic on that score.

This is the central problem of elites -- refusal to acknowledge the dominant effect that culture plays on people and their societies.

Women love status, power, wealth, and relationship stuff, so naturally they eschew in the main anything "nerdy" for "sexy" stuff involving medicine and relatively high prestige. It's why soaps feature hunky doctors earning lots of money in hospitals, instead of nerdy research scientists expounding abstract theories and living lower income lives.

Perhaps not as bad as in Africa, but notable nevertheless, female selection is ruling out nerdy/abstract thinking in favor of Big Man types who might be socially dominant but unable to produce technology.

Glaivester said...

Steve is apparently unfamiliar with the societal uses and benefits of the "polite fiction."

It's something nobody believes, but we all pretend to because it makes life so much easier.

Except that polite fictions don't work when you are expected to act like you do believe them, and when policy is built around the idea that they are true.

A polite fiction that women like math-nd-science-related fields as much as men is fine, as long as it is acceptable to have gender imbalance in these fields due to a complementary polite fiction (say, if a business has 90 men and 10 women at a position, it pretends that it has 50 of each).

But when you are actually expected to get results based on the polite fiction being true, you are in trouble.

steve wood said...

I'm shocked - shocked! - to learn that it might not be "rampant sexism" causing the surplus of male fighter pilots and female kindertgarten teachers.

Actually, in the most modern version of Received Opinion, it's just the fighter pilot world that's sexist. A few decades ago, feminists insisted that women were confined to a "ghetto" of female jobs like child care and teaching. However, nowadays only the most extreme, and therefore outre, feminists can ignore the fact that many women consciously prefer warm and fuzzy jobs. In fact, whole new professions, such as that of Child Life Specialist, have been invented so that middle-class women can go to college and have professional careers doing classically feminine things. Oddly, the absence of men in these fields is not taken as proof of anti-male sexism or gender stereotyping, while any M:F ratio of >0.5 is taken as prima facie evidence of same.

The article does not go into reasons for the self-selection, presumably based the author's wise assumption that discretion is the better part of valor. However, there are at least two strong explanations:

1. Many women choose careers paths that will allow them to step back from the competitive workplace for several years when the children they hope eventually to have are young. There are many ways to do this, some having greater long-term impact on the career than others; but there are some fields - academic careers in laboratory research is one - that absolutely do not lend themselves to such a plan. That will tend to steer women away from these professions toward those that are more forgiving of time away from the workplace.

2. People enjoy working in congenial environments. Male and female workplace styles and behavior tend to be different. A woman who works in a mostly male environment will need to have a thicker skin and care less about touchy-feely stuff than most women, or she will be miserable. Similarly, a man in a mostly female environment will need to curb his tongue and restrain his natural impulse to make unilateral decisions lest he be scorned as "arrogant"; and he will have to think a lot more about trivial emotional matters than he is naturally inclined to do, or he will be called "insensitive." It's not surprising, therefore, that most people will tend to sort themselves into workplaces that are either mostly of their own sex or else so sex-integrated that neither style dominates.

(Typically male styles of interaction are invariably deemed to be wrong and requiring of correction; typically female styles are never so deemed. Therefore, we see plenty of complaints about women being oppressed in mostly male environments but almost none about the reverse, even though it can be quite oppressive.)

When you put these tendencies together, some areas are just bound to remain mostly male, even if you think the relevant talents and abilities are evenly distributed in the population.

David Davenport said...

One of the major aptitudes in a modern fifter pilots the ability to "pull Gs". The female body appears to be inherently superior in this regard. Certainly the ability to remain concious when your adversary blacks out in a dog fight confers a very substantial advantage

Do you have any evidence for that assertion?

If so, please share.

Lucius Vorenus said...

j: Oh brother. Oh sister. Why are the most stubborn of these gender-equity assholes Jewish women? How many great Jewish female theoreticians have there been? Answer: two.

#1 = Emmy Noether
#2 = ???

Were either Marie Curie or Sofia Kovalevskaya Jewesses?

Anonymous said...

Why dont these idiots find something useful to do??? The economy's falling apart,and theyre F-ing around with "gender" this and "gender" that,and oh my have the poor dear girls "progressed enough??

Lucius Vorenus said...

Pat: Yet there are not very many female fighter pilots.

Allow me to introduce you to Kara Thrace.

In all seriousness, though, do we really want our little girls to dream of growing up to be vicious, ruthless, cold-blooded, emotionless, utterly analytical killers?

Because combat can't possibly get much more furious, more terrifying, or quite frankly, more inhuman, than two jet pilots going at each other in a supersonic dog fight.

eh said...

men who excel in math, by contrast, don't do nearly as well in verbal skills.

Exactly what is the comparison here? Never mind.

I studied mathematics and can say that I never met anyone who was decent in the subject who did not also have very good 'verbal' skills. Past a point math is nothing but 'word problems', i.e. constructing proofs, which not only must be written down clearly and convincingly, using flowing logic, but also often must be defended verbally. I found that math teaches you how to think and present a coherent rational argument better than any other subject.

Lucius Vorenus said...

Half Sigma: It would be interesting to study the career choices of a group of women whose distribution of g and math ability were the same as the group of men in the study.

steve wood: In fact, whole new professions, such as that of Child Life Specialist, have been invented so that middle-class women can go to college and have professional careers doing classically feminine things.

God it's depressing that the working assumption is that women will have "careers".

We don't want women with triple-digit IQs having careers - we want them making as many babies as is humanly possible.

But the modern world pigeon-holes & straitjackets these poor girls into the nightmare of careerism, and the demographic collapse of the civilized world continues to accelerate into chaos, death, and oblivion.

SFG said...

Oh brother. Oh sister. Why are the most stubborn of these gender-equity assholes Jewish women?
And people wonder why the intermarriage rate is so high...

Scott said...

"Indeed. Rational thought in general terrifies feminists ... and rightly so."

That's a truism if I've ever heard one!

steve wood said...

I said: Oddly, the absence of men in these fields is not taken as proof of anti-male sexism or gender stereotyping, while any M:F ratio of >0.5 is taken as prima facie evidence of same.

I meant "ratio of > 1:1." Apparently, I lack typical male math skills.

glaivester said: A polite fiction that women like math-nd-science-related fields as much as men is fine, as long as it is acceptable to have gender imbalance in these fields due to a complementary polite fiction (say, if a business has 90 men and 10 women at a position, it pretends that it has 50 of each).

But when you are actually expected to get results based on the polite fiction being true, you are in trouble.


Up to a point, we do operate under the polite fiction. Note that hard-science faculties and IT staff are still overwhelming male. There's a lot of hot air discharged on the topic, there is a fair amount of time and money wasted on "affirmative action" activities, and a few women get jobs they might not otherwise have been qualified for. But, otherwise, the dominance by males in math and science continues, just as elites everywhere are still mostly white despite decades of affirmative action.

I'm not saying that sex-oriented affirmative action hasn't had a detrimental impact in many areas; it has had adverse effects on college athletics, for example, and some claim that parts of the military have suffered. What I'm saying is that most people live in the real world, where sex differences are tacitly acknowledged and accepted even while lip service is paid to absolute parity.

Carolyn said...

Am I the only female engineer who reads iSteve?

That article is right on the money. All the gifted, top-10 girls I graduated high school with went on to law school, medical school, etc. rather than become engineers.

I decided on engineering because my dad was one. If I had to do it again, I don't know if I would. I find a lot of it rather boring but I like the money. I also didn't like the other nasty backstabbing girl-shit I had to put up with in high school so I knew I didn't want to work in a female-dominated workplace.

I've seen a stat that said 75% of female engineers have a father or brother who was an engineer and I've found that to be anecdotally true.

I graduated high school in 1982 and am tired of reading about sexism as to why females don't go into science or engineering. I really can't recall any overt sexism in either my academic or work career. Girl power was pretty front and center when I was in school and workplaces were getting whipped into shape in the 80s. Swimsuit calendars in your cubicles were big no-nos. Every company I worked for was eager to hire and promote females.

Anonymous said...

Pat sez:


There is one field that is dominated by men but where women have a very significant physiological advantage.

Fighter pilot.

One of the major aptitudes in a modern fifter pilots the ability to "pull Gs". The female body appears to be inherently superior in this regard. Certainly the ability to remain concious when your adversary blacks out in a dog fight confers a very substantial advantage.

Yet there are not very many female fighter pilots. Why? Go to the mall look at the kids around the shoot-em-up video games. No girls.

Little girls it seems don't wistfully fantasize about growing up to be a fighter pilot.


Actually, Pat, that's a myth too. That is, that women are physiologically suited because they can stand higher Gs before blacking out.

The problem is, that being a fighter pilot requires more than just being able to stand high Gs in those turns.

In addition, they have to have the strength to move arms and even heads during those high G maneuvers, as well as the ability to think quickly about what the enemy is doing spatially.

Check out the Swedish airforce report, I believe it is, that studied such things.

Anonymous said...

In support of previous post, see for example Military Aviation Physiology.

It was the Finnish Airforce not the Swedish Airforce.

Note, that while the provision of female friendly G suits was an issue, the physiological issues discussed can be seen in motor vehicle accidents.

Anonymous said...


Every company I worked for was eager to hire and promote females.


Heh, in fact, females in the various engineering fields can expect better starting salaries than males these days.

Black males can expect even better starting salaries.

Anonymous said...

"Because combat can't possibly get much more furious, more terrifying, or quite frankly, more inhuman, than two jet pilots going at each other in a supersonic dog fight."

No offense, but I wish you were right. You should see what goes if you are in the infantry in Iraq. I should have joined the AF! I always knew my brother got the smarts.

Argent Paladin said...

Please allow me to distill and apply the thesis of one of the most politically incorrect books ever written, "Why Men Rule" by Steven Goldberg.
Premise 1: Men have (much) more testosterone than women, on average.
Premise 2: Testosterone level correlates with competitiveness.
Conclusion: Therefore men are more competitive.
Corollary: Men will gravitate to fields that are more competitive (and especially to fields that have transparent hierarchies).
Sports, math, engineering, hard sciences, litigation, many areas of finance, etc are highly competitive and are also highly male dominated. Fields such as teaching, nursing, and other fuzzy fields do not have clear winners and losers and thus men are not attracted to them.
QED.
I think the premises are pretty irrefutable and the logic is air-tight. As medicine gets less competitive and as law expands, more women get involved. But surgeons are still overwhelmingly male as are corporate litigators (and Fortune 500 CEOs).
Therefore, men choose

headache said...

"By the way, what I'm increasingly fascinated by how unrebellious, how credulously trusting of authority the post-1960s generations have turned out to be."

Of course they are only trusting of a liberal government, i.e. one run by hippies such as Clinton, Blair and Schröder.

John of London said...

Argent Paladin has got it exactly wrong about science. The criteria of success are totally objective, so an overbearing "testosterone-fuelled" personality won't get you anywhere. The repulsive phenomenon of the "big swinging dick" is happily absent. Nor will any of the other factors , such as social class, that distort "meritocracy" in most fields.

Mary Pat said...

I am one of the girls in SMPY (how kids got picked: you scored >= 700 on the math section of the SAT before you were 13. I heard they lowered the bar -- unsurprising -- for girls at some point; needed a larger sample size, I suppose, but I got in the same as a boy would.)

And yes, amongst the math geeks, there were few girls, and in the geek camps they had for us, I was the only girl in the computer science class when I went there, and I think I was the only girl in the problem solving with pre-calc math class when I went there. Most of the girls I ran into at CTY were taking the lab science classes or the humanities classes. You had to qualify for certain classes with your SAT scores -- I did ok on the verbal (I was only 12, come on!) and could have done the humanities classes, but definitely preferred comp sci.

Later on, I did various "Chicks in Math" programs, and it was interesting to note that some of the women decided that the all-important Math Needs Chicks issue was Not Their Problem, and did something else, like become high school teachers or lawyers.

I'm still in a math-related career (I'm an actuary), but I had dropped out of grad school in math, though I got plenty of encouragement to go through to become a professor. Thing is, that life is not for me -- working on problems that maybe only 20 people understand and maybe 5 of them care. I'd rather deal with problems involving real money, where people may not understand what you're doing, but they sure do care about the results.

It annoys me that the people bitching the most about the "lack" of women in math/science fields don't care about areas with an "overrepresentation" of women.... and also, these women tend to be of some mushy-headed field themselves. If they think there should be women in math, why don't they do it themselves? I'm not going to make myself miserable just so some diversity officer can feel good about herself.

poor richard said...

Women have their own very nasty flavor of competition. "Backs-stabbing girl shit" as Carolyn said. Women never cease to amaze me with their capacity for undermining each other out of pure spite for little real gain. That's probably why some smart women become tom boys.

The problem with feminists is that they are not as advertised. They want to abolish femininity. Which is kind of hard, as femininity is what keeps the species going.

Far more damaging than the unsexy Rosie O'Donnell bulldagger types are the "Sex in the City" mouthy, shopaholic, ballbuster types who are actually pretty. Many secular-Jewish American women fit this role for some reason (probably why some Jews go Hasidic), but so do plenty of non-Jewish women. It seems like the more Scandinavian broads are some of the worst for this. Scarlett Johanson, who blatantly says monogamy is not natural and things like this. These Liliths do a lot of irreparable damage to the male psyche and the species.

headache said...

mary pat sed:

"I'm not going to make myself miserable just so some diversity officer can feel good about herself."

Nice one Mary!

Anonymous said...

"Larry Summers once noted that he had tried gender-neutral upbringing on his little daughter by giving her toy trucks to play with. She immediately pretended they were dolls and named them "daddy truck" and "baby truck." This stuff is hard-wired into women, "

well, she is Larry Summer's daughter. That's in the genes too, you know.
I was bored with dolls even though I had one or two (I was a girl, btw). However, I did vastly prefer stories about people to stories about machinery. Remember "The Little Engine that Could" -- I mean the personality made the story, and I THINK the little engine that could, was a girl in the story. At least the one that I read copywritten in 1950.

J. said...

"j: Oh brother. Oh sister. Why are the most stubborn of these gender-equity assholes Jewish women? How many great Jewish female theoreticians have there been? Answer: two.

#1 = Emmy Noether
#2 = ???"

Lise Meitner.

Lucius Vorenus said...

Carolyn & Mary Pat - I'm counting three kids for Carolyn and three kids for Mary Pat.

That's good, but is there any chance we could get just a few more?

We'll be praying for them out here in flyover country!!!

Anonymous said...

"That men, relative to women, prefer to work with inorganic materials; women, in general, prefer to work with organic or living things. This gender disparity was apparent very early in life, and it continued to hold steady over the course of the participants' careers."

And yet, when going in for a job interview, an applicant for any position - be it one primarily concerned with computers, chemicals, or people - is (rightly) encouraged to emphasize how much they LOVE WORKING WITH PEOPLE. Oh yes, I love it love it love it. That's why I want to be your sysadmin.

What gender are most HR people, by the way?

steve wood said...

We don't want women with triple-digit IQs having careers - we want them making as many babies as is humanly possible.

The boat has already sailed on that, lucius vorenus. You can't put the genie back in the bottle. Sorry for the mixed metaphor!

Anyway, the biggest enemy of natalism is not women in the workplace but the prolongation of adolescence - of which men are more guilty than women. For every woman out there postponing babies for her job, there is at least one man postponing marriage (or, if married, postponing babies even when his wife wants to start a family).

is (rightly) encouraged to emphasize how much they LOVE WORKING WITH PEOPLE. Oh yes, I love it love it love it. That's why I want to be your sysadmin.

Sysadmin may not be the best example here because system administrators actually do have to interact with users/clients, and it helps if they can do so without pissing everybody off. In science, however, at least in the medical school where I work, people skills are still pretty much optional.

What gender are most HR people, by the way?

This is a rhetorical question, right? You know they're overwhelmingly female. Men in HR, what few there are, tend to be "softer," non-competitive types - not necessarily gay*, although many are - but not high-testosterone alpha males, at least not in the workplace.

*OT, but I'm not convinced that gay men are significantly less competitive by nature than straight men. Openly gay men may choose to express the competition somewhat differently, but are they actually less competitive? If so, why?

Anonymous said...

The lovely story about the Pygmy couple is from Colin Turnbull's The Forest People.

It's an interesting thing about that rotating-objects-in-your-mind thing that we men can do but women mostly can't. I have known even a very bright woman cheerily admit that she can't do it, and ask a male colleague to help her read a road map because she's a girl! The spatial disability must be pretty specific though, because women drive perfectly well.

One thing that did occur to me when I read that Quentin Tarantino has an IQ of 160 was that if one were a young man with a good brain like that, which would you prefer? His life or that of a software nerd? Likewise, I suspect that a lot of smart girls, who can do maths pretty well, use that to help them get into something really nice, such as veterinary medicine.


Julian