The Larry Summers debate

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Women in Science; Dogma?

Postby Shawn » Tue Mar 01, 2005 11:01 am

"I think that is a fair statement. I personally did encounter social pressure to play dumb when I was in high school. I found that my blonde hair, high voice and other physical characteristics led to academic expectations that were very low. Then someone came right out and told me that boys didn't like girls who were smarter than them. When recounting this experience on the Mentornet discussion board, several other women reported similar personal experiences. I understand that there have been some studies showing that girls do better on math tests if there aren't boys in the room. "

The reason that your initial statement isn't fair is that you are implying that the pressure is unique to women.

" One interesting thing that came up in the mentornet discussion board was that a lot of us who are women in science now had at some point encountered some kind of social pressure to play dumb. Usually in high school or college. That would have a huge impact on how well your education goes."

It's not. Being a smart male makes you as undesirable to attractive women (in highschool) as does the inverse. The smart male (aka nerd) is also unlikely to have as many friends and is often ostrasized by his peers for not engaging in the typical male herd mentality.

Of course by wanting to date the head cheerleader or johnny football hero and not the nerd with a pocket protector you and I would both be guilty of the same bias that was imposed on us thus we subjected ourselves to that social pressure as a function of our own bias. Of course this is all a vague generalization and in many ways is based solely on our perception of what people want. My wife was the head cheerleader and the valedictorian and was quite popular with boys and girls alike (unlike myself).

It is my personal belief that if a relationship is going to be stable and work you should be intellectual peers. Of my freinds who married women or men who were obviously not on their intellectual level the majority of them are less happy with their day to day lives than those who married someone of a similar academic acheivement background.

developmental bio

Postby michele » Tue Mar 01, 2005 4:46 pm

That is an excellent question. There is actually quite a bit of social science literature on this. I won't overwhelm you with detail here, but let me refer you initially to the issue of the journal Osiris (volume 12, 1997) "Women, Gender, and Science: New Directions" edited by Sally Gregory Kohlstedt and Helen Longino, and specifically to the paper therein "Developmental Biology as a Feminist Cause?" by Evelyn Fox Keller (a paper that should *not* be taken as gospel, but in its own right is interesting). For a more to-the-point example, you might look at on Scott Gilbert's DevBio site. The article is a summary of another piece of Keller's work, looking specifically at Christiane Nusslein-Volhard. It's not the most rigorous analysis, but it gets at some of the bare beginnings of the "why women in developmental biology" issue.

If you're really interested in the general topic, you might look also at some of the history of astronomy, which among the physical sciences also has a disproportionately high number of female workers (but not as many female leaders).

Women in Science; Dogma?

Postby Kim » Tue Mar 01, 2005 7:52 pm

I think that generally now in high schools, boys are expected to be bad and rebellious while girls are expected to be obedient and diligent. They are the stereotypes. These different expectations have created different results for boys and girls in modern American soceity. They fit the traditional roles of male and female in society. Boys were raised as warriors while girls were raised as housewives. Somehow today apparently it is OK for a boy not to excel in high school. But a girl is expected to succeed. I have read data that show today most high school valedictorians are female. Girls outperform boys by a wide margin academically in high schools.

Male is the disadvantaged sex in American high school culture.
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Women in Science; Dogma?

Postby Kim » Wed Mar 02, 2005 8:57 am

MAY 26, 2003

The New Gender Gap
From kindergarten to grad school, boys are becoming the second sex

... emblematic of a stunning gender reversal in American education. From kindergarten to graduate school, boys are fast becoming the second sex. "Girls are on a tear through the educational system," says Thomas G. Mortenson, a senior scholar at the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education in Washington. "In the past 30 years, nearly every inch of educational progress has gone to them."...

At one exclusive private day school in the Midwest, administrators have even gone so far as to mandate that all awards and student-government positions be divvied equally between the sexes. "It's not just that boys are falling behind girls," says William S. Pollock, author of Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. "It's that boys themselves are falling behind their own functioning and doing worse than they did before."

It may still be a man's world. But it is no longer, in any way, a boy's.

If he falls behind, he's apt to be shipped off to special ed, where he'll find that more than 70% of his classmates are also boys. Squirm, clown, or interrupt, and he is four times as likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. That often leads to being forced to take Ritalin or risk being expelled, sent to special ed, or having parents accused of negligence. One study of public schools in Fairfax County, Va., found that more than 20% of upper-middle-class white boys were taking Ritalin-like drugs by fifth grade.

Not even science and math remain his bastions. And while the girls are busy working on sweeping the honor roll at graduation, a boy is more likely to be bulking up in the weight room to enhance his steroid-fed Adonis complex, playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City on his PlayStation2, or downloading rapper 50 Cent on his iPod. All the while, he's 30% more likely to drop out, 85% more likely to commit murder, and four to six times more likely to kill himself, with boy suicides tripling since 1970. "We get a bad rap," says Steven Covington, a sophomore at Ottumwa High School in Ottumwa, Iowa. "Society says we can't be trusted."

As for college -- well, let's just say this: At least it's easier for the guys who get there to find a date. For 350 years, men outnumbered women on college campuses. Now, in every state, every income bracket, every racial and ethnic group, and most industrialized Western nations, women reign, earning an average 57% of all BAs and 58% of all master's degrees in the U.S. alone. There are 133 girls getting BAs for every 100 guys -- a number that's projected to grow to 142 women per 100 men by 2010, according to the U.S. Education Dept. If current trends continue, demographers say, there will be 156 women per 100 men earning degrees by 2020.

Overall, more boys and girls are in college than a generation ago. But when adjusted for population growth, the percentage of boys entering college, master's programs, and most doctoral programs -- except for PhDs in fields like engineering and computer science -- has mostly stalled out, whereas for women it has continued to rise across the board. The trend is most pronounced among Hispanics, African Americans, and those from low-income families.

The female-to-male ratio is already 60-40 at the University of North Carolina, Boston University, and New York University. To keep their gender ratios 50-50, many Ivy League and other elite schools are secretly employing a kind of stealth affirmative action for boys. "Girls present better qualifications in the application process -- better grades, tougher classes, and more thought in their essays," says Michael S. McPherson, president of Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., where 57% of enrollees are women. "Boys get off to a slower start."

Righting boys' problems needn't end up leading to reversals for girls. But some feminists say the danger in exploring what's happening to boys would be to mistakenly see any expansion of opportunities for women as inherently disadvantageous to boys. "It isn't a zero-sum game," says Susan M. Bailey, executive director of the Wellesley Centers for Women. Adds Macalester's McPherson: "It would be dangerous to even out the gender ratio by treating women worse. I don't think we've reached a point in this country where we are fully providing equal opportunities to women."

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Women in Science; Dogma?

Postby Erica » Wed Mar 02, 2005 1:16 pm

"Male is the disadvantaged sex in American high school culture."

I strongly disagree with that statement. I am not a high school teacher or a developmental psychologist, but it seems that labeling boys as "rebellious" and girls as "obedient" is more of the same old gender stereotyping. It would follow that boys are "leaders" and girls are "followers". Plus, you are comparing honor roll girls with the special ed boys. It seems like that would be muddled with all sorts of confounding factors. How are boys and girls who are both in the honors classes treated? I had one math teacher who was trying to get me removed from the honors class, the only thing that kept me in was the fact that I was doing well enough academically that she couldn't. The following year one of my male honor roll friends went through his rebellious phase, his grades started slipping, and his English teacher did all she could to keep him in the honors classes. Granted, this is a personal anecdote that happened 20 years ago, but it seems from your article that even now colleges are giving boys a break. It seems kinda odd that colleges are willing to give male students a break for having a rebellious phase in high school but have seemed so reluctant to give women faculty a break for having a baby.

CHE online discussion transcript

Postby Emil Chuck » Wed Mar 02, 2005 3:10 pm

The Chronicle for Higher Education just completed an online discussion about the studies focusing on differences in men and women regarding math and sciance at . Glad to say I had a question put up. :)
Emil Chuck
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Women in Science; Dogma?

Postby Kim » Wed Mar 02, 2005 5:17 pm

I think the data also show that girls now dominate student body government in almost every high school in the US. Those girls will be the leaders of tomorrow. The only field that boys still enjoy their dominance in high school is sports.

I, however, do agree that woman scientists face more challenges than their male counterparts. But I think the leakage in the "pipeline" occurs after high school. For women, the leakage is marriage and the desire for a normal family life.

I think we should pay more attention to boys in high schools, especially African American boys. They are the ones at the greatest risks of being disfranchised in our education system.

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Suggestions to Breaking the Scientific Glass Ceiling

Postby Emil Chuck » Thu Mar 03, 2005 8:15 am

Another site I like to read up on is the Wall Street Journal's Career Website (, and they have an article on suggestions to breaking out of the rut of your job. The title and content suggests that these are strategies that specifically should apply for women, but I think it is worth stating for everyone.
Emil Chuck
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(Link) Suggestions to Breaking the Scientific Glass Ceiling

Postby Emil Chuck » Thu Mar 03, 2005 8:16 am

Whoops: here's the link.
Emil Chuck
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