Forbes just ran an article about Lawrence Summers’ comments and yes, it’s written by a right wing capitalist ideologue publication (the author is Dan Seligman whose name, at least, sounds Jewlicious), but heck, it’s got some fascinating info in it. For example:

1) A 2001 survey conducted by the National Science Foundation established that there were 285,500 individuals with Ph.D.s working as mathematicians, computer scientists, physical scientists and engineers, and only 11.5% of them were women.

2) In the index of a math text the names attached to mathematical discoveries–Gauss, Euler, Riemann, Newton, Legendre, Poisson, Fourier, Cauchy and so on–almost invariably belong to men.

3) Since 1938 only 3 of the 335 winners in the prestigious William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition have been women. The test, whose graders do not know the names of the contestants, is one of ingenuity, not knowledge, so a possible lack of access to advanced math courses is not very relevant to the outcome.

and

r male variability in intellectual skills. In math and many other disciplines men are overrepresented at the extremes: more gifted students but also more who are learning-disabled. On the math SAT men are 30% more likely than women to score in the 600 to 649 range. But they are 150% more likely to score over 750. And, as noted, they are 11,067% more numerous among Putnam winners.

and

A final reason for the shortage of women in math and the physical sciences is a lack of female interest in the core content of these fields–many of which tend to emphasize abstract and mechanical themes. Studies matching equally gifted men and women, all of whom have the ability to make it in the physical sciences, have shown that the men are about eight times as likely as the women to enter these fields. The talented women repeatedly look around for something else, preferably involving disciplines affecting human beings (like, say, biology).

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themiddle

8 Comments

  • I don’t know…you think that maybe it’s not a female-male thing but a feminine-masculine thing? It just happens to be that most women are feminine and more men are masculine, but it’s not that it’s a strictly defined

    final reason for the shortage of women in math and the physical sciences is a lack of female interest in the core content of these fields–many of which tend to emphasize abstract and mechanical themes. Studies matching equally gifted men and women, all of whom have the ability to make it in the physical sciences, have shown that the men are about eight times as likely as the women to enter these fields. The talented women repeatedly look around for something else, preferably involving disciplines affecting human beings (like, say, biology).

  • I didn’t finish that…
    I just mean that sure, more men excel at that and more men are interested, but not because it’s “a man’s thing” but because it’s more appealing to those who are more masculine. More men than women are masculine, hence the reason those traits are thought of as “masculine.”

  • Just an observation:

    In Israel, when high-tech was booming (status and $$$, sory NIS, NIS, NIS) in the late 90s, girls and boys went to university to learn it. Since there’s no doubt that here in Israel, girls generally are smarter (I’m only using higher marks as a gauge here, NOTHING else) and that there are more girls on campuses than guys (55:45), and compu sci faculties drew a lot of females as well (not a majority, but not a marginal amount either). Later in the workplace, many of these women realized that they are not happy in a geek’s world. Some love it, some stay for the money, and some can’t stand it and quit for other jobs. Many have decided to ease back on the stress into dead-end IT jobs because of the flexibilty and the stable hours (little overtime and opportunity to leave early to be with the kids).

  • The data Summers pointed at could account for smarter women who nonetheless do not fill top math jobs. If men have a larger standard deviation in math performance, then the smartest in mathematics will be mostly men even if women are generaly smarter than men. That is because top math jobs don’t go to smart people, but to people who are a few standard deviations from average in mathematics. When you are dealing with such small numbers and such high aptitude, it would not be suprising if very small differences between men and women have a large impact on sex disparity in such a population. I am generally sexist in that I believe that women are generally both harder working and smarter than men, AND that the smartest mathematicians are generally men.

  • Nontheless, my sexist views would never lead me to presume anything about any particular individual. There are much better ways to evaluate a person’s aptitude than merely noting their sex.

  • Muffti wants to know, ‘what’s wrong with being sexy’?

    (10 points for getting the Spinal Tap reference)

  • I don’t believe a single one of you have ever been to school, let alone inside one of them.

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