Why Do Women Turn Their Backs On Science?

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by rasmasyean, Mar 6, 2009.

  1. rasmasyean macrumors 6502a

    Jul 11, 2008
    This week, the American Psychological Association released a new study on why women are underrepresented in the so-called "STEM" fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, particularly in their most math-intensive reaches... (more)

    Personally, I agree with Lawrence Summers who suggests women are intrinsically less capable in these fields. And I don't think those "Ph.D. physics type" women should be offended...rather, they should just recognize that they are unique.

    What I have observed personally, and also statistically backed up, is that women are attracted more toward social type jobs and jobs that directly help people. Mathematics related work are often more isolated. For many women to go into these types of STEM scientific fields, it then becomes a matter of living their life "out of character". And when people discover this, they are unhappy and don't go that path. You have to look also at the biological fields where there's more than enough women. These jobs are often less "mathematical" and directly help people.

    There are many other biological reasons why women should be more social and less logical, that can be traced back to evolutionary theory. There are exceptions of course, just as there are male nurses and botanists. Why don't be start suggesting that more men go into THESE fields???

    Furthurmore, I don't think this statement counts:
    "One tally showed that 27% of French physics Ph.D.s were awarded to women versus 13% of U.S. physics Ph.D.s, with presumably no biological differences between French women and their American sisters. "
    Everyone knows that Americans are one of the STEM shyest nations in the modern world and you have to compare apples to apples to make it fair. What a stupid comparison made by the author.

    Just wondering what some of the thoughts here are. :)
  2. erickkoch macrumors 6502a

    Jan 13, 2003
    I am a scientist and most of my coworkers (and classmates in college) in clinical lab science are women. My field, like nursing, is dominated by women.

    They are also mostly Asian in my area of So Cal, but that's another thread. :p
  3. Sdashiki macrumors 68040


    Aug 11, 2005
    Behind the lens
    How is "technology" a tenet on par with the other 3?
  4. CalBoy macrumors 604


    May 21, 2007
    Then you are working in a place that is an exception, not the rule.

    This male dominance of the scientific fields has been a problem for many decades, and despite our best efforts to understand the problem, no progress has been made.

    The only thing I can come up with essentially goes along with how boys and girls learn differently. Boys by their nature are more likely to want to build things, play with mechanical devices more, and try to engineer things (ie boys play more with Legos).

    Boys also have stronger innate spacial reasoning skills, and their greater likelihood to play video games probably enhances these skills as they mature whereas girls don't have their skills developed further.

    If we want to see change in this regard, fathers should teach their girls as much as they do their boys about mechanics and devices. The question is, will the girls be interested?
  5. leekohler macrumors G5


    Dec 22, 2004
    Chicago, Illinois
    Exactly- I don't think it's an issue of capability, but rather desire to enter these fields. I just don't think the interest is there as much for women. I could be wrong, but that's my impression.

    That said- I wish I were better at math. Physics has always fascinated me, but I can't wrap my head around the math. :(
  6. CalBoy macrumors 604


    May 21, 2007
    Same with me.

    I like to conceptually learn about physics and biology, but the math is always a limiting factor for me.

    I think that's why I like studying law/politics. There's plenty of concepts to master, but very little math. :p:eek:
  7. Rt&Dzine macrumors 6502a


    Oct 8, 2008
    From personal observation. I took about 4 college level math classes that usually had more men than women and the top student was usually a woman. This probably means absolutely nothing, but the thread topic got me thinking about it.
  8. Raid macrumors 68020


    Feb 18, 2003
    I wonder if they actually asked women why they didn't want to be in a field riddled with socially awkward, and hygiene deficient males? ... If we are going to stereotype women as being "intrinsically less capable in these fields" why not stereotype the men in those same fields? ;)
  9. BoyBach macrumors 68040


    Feb 24, 2006
    The idea that women are incapable of practising, or understanding, science is utter bollocks.

    It's a result of the long ingrained societal/cultural discrimination which says that science and engineering are topics for men, whereas our delicate women should only do the touchy-feely subjects.

    I cannot believe that this prejudice still exists and that the then President of Harvard would continue it. What year is this?
  10. CalBoy macrumors 604


    May 21, 2007
    That is oversimplifying the issue.

    It isn't that women can't be good at science, the question is why don't they enter the field in the same rates as men?
    Girls have been less proficient in math and science for quite some time, and there are concerted efforts to encourage them in these fields. The problem is a lot more complex than mere misogyny.

    Repeated early childhood studies have shown less spacial reasoning and mechanical reasoning skills in girls than boys. What we need is a constructive plan that can increase women's interest in math and science.
  11. Gelfin macrumors 68020


    Sep 18, 2001
    Denver, CO
    I'm not saying anybody's right or wrong either way, but I don't know how you filter out the residual cultural bias as a confound. The hard sciences carry a certain stereotype.

    Computer Science carries the same stereotype in the US to perhaps an even greater degree, but I don't think it's lack of talent or innate lack of interest, as I've worked with a number of astoundingly good women developers, almost universally from outside the US. The few American women tend to fit a super-geeky stereotype, but the foreign women skew more "normal." They don't seem to interpolate a consistent personality type from a career choice or vice-versa.

    That's only whatever the plural of "anecdote" actually is, of course, as is the fact that I know several biologists almost all of whom are women, but I remain skeptical (not to be confused with denialist) about any claims of innate leanings.
  12. .Andy macrumors 68030


    Jul 18, 2004
    The Mergui Archipelago
    As a personal anecdote in the biological sciences I've not noticed anything like women being intrinsically less capable. The only thing that is a recurrent impediment to a woman's career is the increased pressures of having a family. There is far more pressure on them physiologically/psychologically in having children. Employers or those holding the keys to a woman's career progression can also hold them back/not give them the same opportunities given the expectation that they'll have maternity leave and or change their work priorities after having children. Luckily this is changing.
  13. ravenvii macrumors 604


    Mar 17, 2004
    Melenkurion Skyweir
    Hey, sorry everyone for going off topic, but I couldn't send you a PM. I'm wondering if you don't mind if I ask a question or two about CLS? I'm curious about it. You can send me a PM. Sorry if I'm a bother!

    Apologies again everyone!
  14. erickkoch macrumors 6502a

    Jan 13, 2003
    That may be true in physics and chemistry, but not clinical science. Women dominate in that field of health care. I've worked in 3 different hospitals including one of the nations largest (LAC USC Medical Center) and by far most of the lab personnel were women.

    The history behind it (according to my instructors) is that traditionally women were discriminated against in getting into medical school (not true any more). Pre-med women with backgrounds in biology and microbiology, had few options in the medical field if they couldn't be doctors and didn't want to be a nurse. Also, in the early 1900's women were trained by the bacteriologists of the day to do diagnostic lab tests during epidemics. The jobs were traditionally low pay and considered "womens work".

    I googled it and found an article that also mentions that it is traditionally a female field from the Bureau of Health Professionals.

    Edit: I forgot, I also briefly worked at a public health microbiology lab, same thing, mostly women.

  15. CalBoy macrumors 604


    May 21, 2007
    Well there's not much more to that then is there? :)

    I was aware of women's domination in healthcare, but I'm not fully abreast of male/female ratios in other aspects of laboratory work.

    However, the problem of women in other fields of science, especially the ones that use more math and engineering, is still a real one.
  16. erickkoch macrumors 6502a

    Jan 13, 2003
    Ratios in the labs I've worked in are typically 7 or 8 to 1 female to male.

    In math and engineering you are absolutely right, hardly any women. I have family members who are engineers, IT types, etc. None are women. It seems anything involving higher math chases them away. It make sense, I got into clinical science in part because my math skills are relatively weak. Calculus causes my brain to overheat.

    edit: I realize that is only anecdotal evidence, but still seems to be true.
  17. CalBoy macrumors 604


    May 21, 2007
    My math skills are also quite weak and that's part of the reason I prefer the social sciences. However, as a relatively social person, I do better in professions that require lots of social contact.

    The issues surrounding this are complex, and to be sure there's a lot we don't know about how girls and boys learn differently, let alone why.
  18. branjosef macrumors 6502a


    Oct 18, 2007
    I actually know alot of women are extremely intelligent within these fields and I think historically many women were discriminated against and forced to work behind the scenes in lesser roles just because of their gender. Gender has no implication on intelligence nor the ability to retain information. Intelligence is not inherent. I will agree though that I think Americans are behind the curve in certain fields, but at the same time, we excel in others. Some of the best doctors and Engineers can be found here. Some of which are also women. :)

    I also that some of the males in positions of authority within these fields add to the minority status of women as they have preconceived notions as to their intellect thereby limiting their ability to break into certain jobs, although it is becoming less as we progress forward as a culture.
  19. 63dot macrumors 603


    Jun 12, 2006
    Being a science techie type of guy, I think there are several reasons from what I have seen. My theories are those of a baby-boomer and I admit things could have changed vastly since that time. OK, here are my guesses w/o any form of judgment.

    1) parents don't support early ideas of their daughters wanting to be engineers or scientists (just as most would probably not buy a barbie doll or dresses for their son)

    2) by the time the girl gets into school, teachers skew more toward boys in science and math classes

    3) there could be a hidden stigma against women entering those fields, and more in the USA than in some other countries

    4) if a woman makes it into those fields, they are more likely passed over for promotion whether they have the skills or not

    I think it's a problem that requires a multi-pronged approach from childhood through college through one's entire working life. The USA can look to other countries that have more female scientists and engineers per capita and learn from their model of socialization and learning.
  20. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus


    Jan 9, 2004
    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
    I've also, for what it's worth, seen a fairly opposite pattern, both in physics and engineering, as well as in psychology, of women leaders in the field (particularly at the level of graduate education) inadvertently sabotaging the careers of lower level women. This is much harder for me to understand, although it's a fairly prominent pattern -- essentially everyone I know who's been to grad school in the sciences has seen examples of it. It's gotten to the point where there are not infrequent discussions of the wisdom of a female graduate student working for a female advisor in cases where there aren't a lot of other great examples of trajectories of women who've emerged from that lab.

    What seems to happen in a lot of the cases is that the advisor becomes really concerned (I think it really is well intentioned) that the female student won't be competitive unless they're micro-managed to very high standards in lots of different areas of their professional and quasi-professional activities. What this leads to is the female graduate student getting lots of unnecessary oversight or meddling into their lives (in one case I knew, it came to the level of lots of unnecessary discussions of what constituted business casual attire in a person who was very reasonably dressed). In most of these cases where I see this, the same female advisor treats their male students completely differently, and almost invariably, the track record is that that female advisor's male graduate students end up being quite successful and her female graduate students have exceptionally high attrition rates.

    I don't think that pattern is the dominant reason this whole process happens, but I think it is one of the problems, alongside a host of others.

    I think there are also a lot of complexities in how an insurgence of women into a field changes that field as a labor market and ultimately serves or doesn't serve women and men who are in that field. In my example, I've been in a field where men are generally over-represented today (engineering) and now in a field with the opposite (psychology, although my specialty area, falling farther on the neuroscience end of the spectrum, is somewhat less so). Psychology made this transition relatively of late. One thing that happened was that, as more women entered the field, they started accepting labor arrangements men would not have been able or willing to -- in some cases, unpaid assistantships that force them to continue living with their parents, paid PsyD programs that take advantage of their students, extremely low paying post-docs and residencies, and lots of other abusive work arrangements. Men don't accept these arrangements as often not only because they known better from having a longer collective experience in the workforce, but also because they typically don't have fallback wage earners, and can't just drop off the money-earning grid for five or six years.

    So, in the time that psychology has seen more and more women enter into it, these kinds of bad labor arrangements have blossomed. Ultimately, this disserves both men and women in the field, as it endangers the wage-earning potential of the whole field.

    I'm not trying to blame women with either example. I think more that the situation is complex and a one-dimensional characterization of it won't fix it. There are men and women in authority who sabotage the careers of women entering these fields. There are lots of structural obstacles. I think women sometimes also inadvertently sabotage their own careers, in ways that men do not, not generally because they're smarter in any way, but for other systemic reasons.
  21. it5five macrumors 65816


    May 31, 2006
    New York
    I think you're probably on track here. Despite what the OP believes, the 27% (France) compared to 13% (US) is quite telling. I'd think that our conservative society and it's love of gender roles have more to do with it than anything else, especially some outdated belief that women are somehow "less capable" in these fields.
  22. 63dot macrumors 603


    Jun 12, 2006
    People based on race or gender may have a harder time breaking into some fields.

    I don't see a whole lot of Asian writers or copywriters. Many from India may get a programming or technology job but rarely a position in marketing. Men are often not found at the Macy's makeup counter. Why few or no African-American Senators? Many of these issues are not capability based but gender/race roles. With such hard times, employers should be very open minded and get the best candidate, not always the most traditional candidate.

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