Anna Gregoline | January 18, 2005
(link)

While he didn't mean to start such a shit-storm, I think it's interesting that many of the men there feel his comments were "blown out of porportion."

I certainly would have blown up too if I was sitting there listening to someone tell me that women are probably just not as smart as men in science fields.

Jackie Mason | January 18, 2005
[hidden by request]

Anna Gregoline | January 18, 2005
I would think the fact that women are often discouraged in math and science more because of social attitudes rather than ability. My friend Katie was one of two women in the Electrical Engineering department at college - that doesn't feel so good sometimes.

Todd Brotsch | January 19, 2005
Seeing as how Mr Summers was asked by the people incharge of the confrence to be contriversial I belive he did that with flying colors.

Scott Hardie | January 19, 2005
When I was reading the first half of the article, my suspicion was that the controversy was on target — sexism shouldn't be met with silence, but it's not like the man's being run out of town for one lousy remark, Trent Lott style. Then I arrived at the part where Summers actually got to defend himself, and I realized, he just plain doesn't get it. There is a real gender disparity in the field, and it is a topic worthy of discussion, but no positive result can come from talking about "biological differences" as the cause, especially since as a phenomenon, they are probably imagined by men. I could go on about the wrong-headedness of his statement that married mothers do not consider their careers to be important, or the age-old implicit suggestion about barefootedness and pregnancy, but frankly I have better things to do with my time.

Todd Brotsch | January 19, 2005
Not to start an entire shit-storm.....but I am so good at doing it. What is wrong with the theory that possibly men are more apt at a certain mental capacity than women? Of course not discounting that women are better at things as well. To say that men and women are different by only a chromosome seems to be an understatement.

Denise Sawicki | January 19, 2005
Well, Todd, I actually agree with you that it's worth investigating. Also, the author of the article said that more boys than girls tend to score very high and very low on standardized math tests, so what he was saying wasn't entirely negative towards women.

Anyhow, I woke up early and was composing a long post in my head, so here goes...

I think it's entirely reasonable to investigate the idea that some differences between men and women are influenced by biology - for instance, the tendency for women to spend more time than men caring for children. It seems to follow naturally from the whole childbirth thing, which they say leaves the mother with an especially strong bond with her children. Now, the woman doesn't have to be the primary caregiver all the time. For instance, if I was ever to have children, I imagine I would have a house-husband - unless my partner accidentally wrote a hit song before that time...

I read a rather interesting book one time (link) which stated that women tend to be paid less than men largely because of a "motherhood tax". Chlidless women apparently are paid close to the same, but mothers tend to have a variety of factors causing them to be paid less: 1. They're more likely to have taken some time out of the workforce for maternity leave and raising young children, so they didn't have as much time to get ahead in their careers, 2. When both parents are working, the woman is more likely to go home by 6 to serve dinner for the kids, or to stay home on days when a child is sick, and some employers only reward single-minded dedication to the career with no breaks for this kind of thing. There was some evidence presented that men who have taken on the role of primary caregiver are also punished in their salaries.

Now who knows, this might be considered a terribly sexist book (I'm not really up on this kind of thing), but at least it is written by a woman...

So I guess I didn't see anything in the article saying that "mothers do not consider their careers to be important" but rather something like what was stated in the book I reference above.

Um, honestly, I don't think there's anything wrong with wanting to spend some time with your family if you have one.

I was a woman physics major but I admit I've been pretty oblivious to the differences faced by women because I was always too consumed with trying to overcome the differences faced by painfully shy people. For instance, when I took my shift in the tutoring room and students would come in and ask me "where's the tutor" rather than considering the possibility that it might be me, I figured it was probably due to my lack of a take-charge personality. When it came time to apply for grad school, rather than being discouraged from going, I was basically told that I had to go even though I didn't want to, because I'm a woman and I should show women that they can do things like that. I guess I didn't especially enjoy the assumption that if I didn't want to go it must be because I'm a woman rather than the life-or-death reasons I stated at the time. But there always do seem to be programs singling out women and minorities and trying to get them into fields like these so I think it's possible that a lot of women just happen to want to study something else...

Scott Hardie | January 19, 2005
Todd: Because it's a dead-end. To blame the disparity on biological difference is to imply that the disparity cannot be overcome, because that's "just the way it is." But guess what, the disparity is still there. That reasoning also supports gender-typing in our society of the boys-play-with-guns, girls-play-with-dolls variety, which forces some people to grow into certain roles that don't suit them very well. It might be that biology really does make men better at science, but since only something bad (gender-typing) can come from blaming biology, why do it? Why not seek causes that are actually soluble?

Denise: "...many professors [work] 80-hour weeks in the same punishing schedules pursued by top lawyers, bankers and business executives. Few married women with children are willing to accept such sacrifices, he said." Unless the author of the article has misrepresented Summers, his message is that male scientists are willing to make their careers a priority in their lives, and female scientists are not. No wonder the female scientists started walking out; it's insulting. That's doesn't necessarily make it untrue, but there are much more fair ways to say it than to suggest that women simply will not take careers seriously.

Anna Gregoline | January 19, 2005
(link)

It's experiments like the above link that show me it's not so much biology as it is social constructs.

Denise Sawicki | January 19, 2005
I went to college so I wouldn't have to work 80 hours a week, but I guess I'm just lazy that way...

Amy Austin | January 19, 2005
I'm not taking any particular "position" here... merely making observations.

I really appreciate Denise's well-written willingness to play "devil's advocate" -- as do others, I'm certain -- and Scott makes good sense to argue the futility and detriment of such a stance... I think most people do recognize gender-typing as a "bad thing".

However, I cannot at all conclude the same things as the writer of that article, based on the *very* simplistic experiment set-up described. A handful of Asian women taking math tests is far from being conclusive enough to make a compelling case for anything to me other than the efficacy of using the right affirmations for the right situation... or racial stereotyping, if you really want to push an issue! They don't even mention the third (control?) group's scores... how were *they* in comparison to the other two??? I'm betting that there wasn't much between the two "non-Asian" thinking groups, since they don't specifically state that the "women" group fared poorest.

And as someone who was on the math honor society in high school -- and who even decided before 9th grade to take a summer school course in *algebra*, of all things... just because I thought it might be a boring summer and that it might be nice to get ahead on math credits -- I am completely appalled by the author's hypothetical, yet somehow universal, experience of a kid going to dad after hearing mom mutter how bad she is at math!!! Puh-lease!

Not only does the article quickly assert that all those "...reprehensible representations of women and girls on MTV or BET, in teen magazines and in OXY advertisements..." (a statement that can include the broadest wealth of things!) can be easily written off and dismissed as only mildly influencing and easily discriminated by youth to not be reality, but this is his strongest statement to the "other forms of transmission [that] are much more powerful and far-reaching" -- a weak statement that may or may not be heard by any kid? *I* certainly never heard it. In fact, I never really approached my parents for help on homework of any kind... and I didn't know many others who did.

Furthermore, I think that -- unless they happen to be in a field where they actually *use* the higher math and/or stay sharp on the subject for years to come -- ANYBODY's mother OR father might be a tad overwhelmed by helping their kid with such homework! If any gender stereotype is proven to me by Mr. Alessandroni's example, it's that men might make a stronger attempt to look like they know what they're doing... a la "can't stop and ask for directions" syndrome... ;>D IF E & I ever do have kids, they -- without a doubt -- will know who is better equipped to assist in what. For, while he knows more about anatomy and medical biology than any kid will ever have to know in middle/high school, he would immediately direct all math problems my way.

Is it possible that the onslaught of puberty (biology!) might have more to do with it than the author -- or anyone else -- seems to think? Perhaps. But I am more inclined to agree with Denise in that I just don't think many women find these subjects that appealing beyond primary education. All of *my* high school higher math classes and Mu Alpha Theta had equal -- or even greater! -- numbers of women. The valedictorian and one of the two salutatorians of my class were female. I saw nothing about middle/high school that forced anybody down any pre-determined path, and as Denise mentions, there are, indeed, plenty of programs out there for women to take advantage of, should they choose to do so... even for single mothers/women "over the traditional age" -- try finding such a thing for men!

Perhaps the real answer is actually socio-biological. Maybe there are a whole lot of women out there who are actually driven to other choices by their "maternal instincts" in a culture/world that continues to prize procreation (as if the human race were in any danger of dying out), while a few of us (in greater numbers every day, I hope) actually stop to *examine* these urges and choices before following and making them.

Anna Gregoline | January 19, 2005
That doesn't really make a whole lot of sense to me. Women, by the time they are making life choices, have already turned away from math and science - that's shown by how few women are in those disciplines in college. What's happening in the lower grades that is making women not take these paths?

More interesting articles on this subject:

(link)

(link)

(link)

Facts about gender equity related to mathematics education:
(from the above link)

Women make up 52 percent of the U.S. population and 45 percent of the work force.
In 1988, only 16 percent of scientists, 6 percent of engineers and 4 percent of computer scientists in the U.S. are women.
There are no gender differences in mathematical problem solving until high school, at which time differences favoring males begin.
During the middle grades (6 - 8), young girls begin to make selections that limit their opportunities in mathematics and other technical fields.
Girls consistently equal or exceed boys' achievements in mathematics and science as measured by scholastic aptitude, achievements tests and classroom grades.
Girls and boys are taking approximately the same number of math courses; however, girls are less likely to take Trig or Calculus.
Within mathematics classes, boys tend to receive more teacher time and attention than girls.

And, to be fair, here are ways different methods might hurt boys in the classroom:

(link)

There's a lot of conflicting data out there! But something is happening.

Jackie Mason | January 19, 2005
[hidden by request]

Amy Austin | January 19, 2005
Amen, Jackie.

Anna Gregoline | January 19, 2005
Maybe it's because it's the stuff they feel they can "teach?" And fair or not, it's easier to get a job with math and science involved than pure art, for example.

Although I agree wholeheartedly - arts and music and whatnot are of utmost importance and I think it's a crime when they are cut.

Dave Stoppenhagen | January 19, 2005
Seems to me that schools disregard english and a lot of the basics. I knew people in the Navy that didn't have any kind of concept of grammer and spelling. But then again they had no concept of right and wrong either but that's a social issue.

Anna Gregoline | January 19, 2005
English IS really falling by the wayside, isn't it?

I have a teacher-become-friend who was always shocked at the grammar and spelling and poor IDEAS put forth in COLLEGE term papers - she secretly showed some to me and I was shocked as well. I'm not sure how these kids got into college, much less get out with a degree. And the amount of the same sort of thing I encounter in a professional environment daily frightens me.

In fact, the entire school system these days frightens me.

Mike Eberhart | January 19, 2005
I was the same way when I got out of high school. I couldn't write a paper well to save my life. Because of that, I had to take 3 remedial english classes in college before I could even get to the normal level english 101 & english 102 classes. That set me back about a year or so. Anyway, I feel my writing is much improved.

Dave Stoppenhagen | January 19, 2005
I don't know if Scott or Lori would agree with me but to me it seemed like our english teachers didn't give a shit, and St. Charles is ranked pretty well. At least it was back then.

Jackie Mason | January 19, 2005
[hidden by request]

Anna Gregoline | January 19, 2005
So do I. I'm entirely on the creative spectrum - English, music, art.

Denise Sawicki | January 19, 2005
I don't know if my English teachers cared about good writing but they sure drilled into our heads the idea that in every paper you have to have an attention-getter, a thesis statement, exactly three supporting paragraphs which are all mentioned in your thesis statement, etc etc... Writing naturally was rather frowned upon since the whole thing was supposed to be exactly 5 paragraphs and 7+ pages. It's what ultimately drove me to pursue science ;-).

Lori Lancaster | January 19, 2005
[hidden by request]

Anna Gregoline | January 19, 2005
I understand why they do that, but it is frustrating. Sometimes I think that we just don't have enough TIME for education these days. Teachers don't have enough time with students (particularly high school) to teach properly.

Dave Stoppenhagen | January 19, 2005
I didn't have Mr. Reed as a teacher and you know how I was towards the last 3 years of High School. Still can't tell you much at all about those 4 years as I have no clue.

Lori Lancaster | January 19, 2005
[hidden by request]

Lori Lancaster | January 19, 2005
[hidden by request]

Denise Sawicki | January 20, 2005
Anna, you posted some interesting articles and of course it is important to investigate the effects that societal expectations have on women's perfomance in science and math.

I am hoping my style of "debate" doesn't seem dismissive to people here - the truth is I am not a debater at all. I actually hate getting involved in debate so I tend to stick to lighter topics of discussion and ignore the politics and factions among members of this group. When I state my piece on something more important, like in this thread, I know it tends to be only tangentially related to the topic at hand. I just sometimes have the desire to let out some of my feelings from my own twisted viewpoint, and I know I don't speak for society in general.

I guess I wouldn't have noticed things like teachers spending more time helping male students since I probably never raised my hand anyhow. Furthermore, growing up as someone who was nearly deaf to the voice of society it just seems odd to me that society would have such a big influence on women's decisions as to what to study. Perhaps society was whispering in everyone else's ear things like, "Boys won't like you if you're good at math" but I didn't hear. If I'd gotten the message, who knows, it might even have influenced me. (I did, however, hear the message about boys not liking you if you're tall and flat chested, but that's irrelevant). I was pretty insecure in high school. Letting something like that influence me at this point would seem ridiculous but it might have had more weight then.

Still, if you ask a lot of college women now why they are not majoring in science or math I think they'll answer that they don't like it or they're not good at it or they want to prepare for a job in some other field. A lot would probably in fact be rather offended by the idea that they might have made such a potentially important decision so as to appear more feminine.

I'm sure I'm vastly oversimplifying.

At heart I guess I'm an idealist and I'd like to see a world where women and men can pick whichever course of study they please and don't have to be the subject of extensive programs trying to get the enrollment in every subject to be 50-50.

Kris Weberg | January 20, 2005
You're not oversimplifying, but you're psoing a personal, anecdotal experience as a refutation of a social science theory and ignoring the idea that we aren't always aware of just why we make the decisions we make.

Denise Sawicki | January 20, 2005
That post was not meant to refute any theories, it was just meant to state where I'm coming from so I have less likelihood of appearing like a hateful sexist bitch. Anyway I'm afraid I have a pretty good, though still unpopular, theory which I may get around to formulating sometime when I'm out of work unless I hear a chorus of "shut up"... sorry, this topic is kind of close to home in a couple of ways and I can't believe I didn't think of this alternate way of looking at it sooner...

Anna Gregoline | January 20, 2005
Oh, you're not a hateful, sexist bitch! Not at all.

I do think you're oversimplifiying just a little bit.

"Still, if you ask a lot of college women now why they are not majoring in science or math I think they'll answer that they don't like it or they're not good at it or they want to prepare for a job in some other field. A lot would probably in fact be rather offended by the idea that they might have made such a potentially important decision so as to appear more feminine."

That's not really what I'm saying - I'm saying that women are subtly discouraged from math and science by unconscious actions of teachers and possibly even by the WAY math and science are taught - making them boring or not good at it. If you think about it, math and science ciriculums for years were probably created by men - perhaps the style of teaching doesn't reach as many women as men. Who knows?

Honestly, I don't think any of this is conscious or malicious. Just that something is going on where women aren't becoming interested in math and science in the numbers that boys do...and that we can probably change that, and should try.

Denise Sawicki | January 20, 2005
I acknowledge that women and men might have different learning styles and it's worth trying to figure out how to get women more interested in math and science and it's worth encouraging them to pursue these fields. (If men and women learn differently, though, are these differences biological? Or did men and women learn to have different learning styles? This makes my brain hurt.) The following discussion is not meant to refute these arguments, rather it is meant to be an additional thing to consider.

To me a more perplexing question than "Why are so few women in math and science?" is "Why do so many men choose careers that require 80-hour work weeks?" Many people, both men and women, are surely energized by their jobs and enjoy putting in so much time, however, I think some people feel they need to attain such high-powered careers because if they don't, they will be considered a failure. I think that society places this kind of an expectation much more heavily upon men. Some men may well have preferred to paint, write songs, teach grade school, or whatever (just some random examples, I'm not meaning to imply that these things are easy) but instead felt pressure to get a job that might be viewed as more prestigious, such as doctor, lawyer, or Ivy-league professor. A man is afraid he will be viewed as wimpy if he is sensitive and artistic and open with his emotions, so he focuses all his energies on work... A man who does not easily slip into the mold of a high-power professional may become depressed... men have much higher rates of alcoholism and completed suicide and men are less likely to seek psychiatric help when they do become depressed...

For those women who truly have a passion for a career such as this, by all means, encourage them to pursue it, but I don't think anybody, male or female, needs to be seen as a failure if they want to be a homemaker or if they want to work a more modest 40 hour week and have more time for family. I think it's a fallacy that everyone can find a job they will adore and excell at. To some people, family is more important and a job is just what enables them to keep living in comfort with their families. I know to me it is much more important to have a quality relationship with those I care about and I think that would be tough for me to do if I worked twice as much as I do now. That's just me though. With my emotional problems I probably can't handle as much as a normal person. I work 40 hours a week and could readily support a family on my income. It seems too good to be true and perhaps it is, perhaps I will wake up one day permanently out of a job and wish to have my life back so I could study for one of those 80-hour jobs...

I think a man choosing to major in English or Philosophy is far more likely to have parents at home violently disputing his decision, asking him how he expects to support himself with such a degree, than is a woman in the same situation. If men felt more free to pursue these kinds of things, I believe things would even out a bit, though doing various things to encourage women to pursue science would probably help, too.

It's terribly politically incorrect to suggest that societal expectations may have negative effects upon some men as well as some women. A friend of mine quite possibly would not have been kicked out of school if he hadn't written about ideas such as this. I'm rather fed up with this kind of political correctness (of which I am not accusing anyone on TC!) But as I'm not in school and I'm female, perhaps I can get away with it a little better.

I do think society would find a way to function just fine if people were a little "lazier"... in the US we have far more material goods than we could possibly need and I think a lot of things would be better if people had more time to connect with each other on a human level... once again though I'm just being an idealist.

Anna Gregoline | January 20, 2005
Ow, that makes my brain hurt too.

I think it's been studied to death - but I'm not sure on the outcomes. I remember something that I think said that women and men innately learn differently, but that's hard to prove too, I imagine.

"It's terribly politically incorrect to suggest that societal expectations may have negative effects upon some men as well as some women."

It is? I don't think so. I even posted a link that talked about how boys might be getting short-changed in some classes now.

I think Americans are lazy enough. I was watching American Idol last night (one of my guilty pleasures) and I was thinking about how sad it is that so many people hang on to this "rags to riches" ideal...so many people, when told they weren't going to be put through to the next round because they sound like screeching marmosets, said things like, "I'm going to make it! I'm going to be rich! I'm going to BE SOMEBODY!"

How about finding a job you like, or even one you don't mind? How about starting a family and enjoying the simple pleasures in life? If you're constantly focused on "making it" someday, you're missing out on the ways you can "be somebody" in your own life. Being somebody has become synonomous with fame, like people can't be important to others unless they are stars. I find it terribly sad, especially for some of the very poor people profiled, ones who are literally at the end of their ropes financially. I understand that it must be a very desperate thing, and perhaps they can only see one way out and that's to ride some sort of ability (that they have deluded themselves into thinking they have) to the top...it's not that easy.

I know I don't know these people or their situations, but it just seems strange to hitch all your dreams to a "becoming famous" bus as a way out of whatever it is you find yourself in. Life doesn't work out the way we dream sometimes, but that doesn't mean you can't grab a nice little corner for yourself.

Denise Sawicki | January 20, 2005
True, there are plenty of lazy Americans who refuse to do any job that's mildly unpleasant to them in some way. I meant lazy in the sense of picking 40-hour-a-week jobs.

I don't know, I guess that stuff I was saying is politically incorrect in some circles since the person I mentioned had people writing to the school paper to compare him to Hitler for saying nothing more extreme than I was saying there.

Anna Gregoline | January 20, 2005
Jeez, what a freak. Hitler?

School paper might explain it though - sometimes college (I'm assuming?) students just want to get up in arms about something, anything.

Denise Sawicki | January 20, 2005
Grad school, and I think it was "white supremacists" rather than Hitler, sorry.

Anna Gregoline | January 20, 2005
Ah, still silly!

Jackie Mason | January 20, 2005
[hidden by request]

Denise Sawicki | January 20, 2005
I know that a lot of countries have more vacation time and shorter hours, that's what I meant by we could afford to be lazier. I don't know, I guess I was just somewhat alarmed by the idea that not working 80 hours a week = not taking your career seriously. I better quit checking here, though, or I could well be accused of that.

John E Gunter | January 20, 2005
Think of it as corporate America greed. Course 40 hours a week isn't to bad, I mean come on, weren't they working a 50/60 hour work week during the 30s and 40s here in the U.S.

I'm sure Kris knows the answer to that or can look it up easily enough. Me, I must be a European at heart, cuz I'm too lazy to research it. ;-)

John

Kris Weberg | January 20, 2005
The concept of a 40-hour work week is really a 20th century idea. Before the 20th century, many workers essentially worked as long as they had to; and of course, agricultural labor was pretty much dawn to dusk.

Anna Gregoline | January 20, 2005
So we should be grateful if we only work 40 hours, I guess.

Personally, I only NEED to be here for maybe two, but I'm required to be here for 7.5. I don't get it.

Jackie Mason | January 20, 2005
[hidden by request]

Denise Sawicki | January 21, 2005
The concept of "work" didn't exist before the agricultural revolution. Sometimes I wish I could go back then. But I can't start proseltyzing the gospel of Daniel Quinn or I'll really look nutso :)

Are you required to look busy for the full 7.5 hours? That's the tough part in such situations, not that I would know such a thing personally of course :)

Denise Sawicki | January 21, 2005
By the way, Scott, if you're getting the idea that I took personal offense to the comment that you have to work 80 hours a week to be serious about your career, that's not the case. It just seems like a rather alarming and unnecessary amount for the average person to work, to me. It's all good, hope I haven't said anything too terribly foolish. I'm not really serious enough about the quality of my comments to edit them down to maximum inoffensiveness at all times (though I do make use of the Edit a Comment feature frequently).

Scott Hardie | January 21, 2005
Me? No. It's all good. Your comments are well-reasoned. I have a lot more that I'd like to say in this discussion, but every time I type something it winds up being about my current employment, and I just won't cross that line.

Anna Gregoline | January 21, 2005
Smartly so, Scott.

Denise Sawicki | January 21, 2005
I realize that is smart


Want to participate? Please create an account a new account or log in.


Other Discussions Started by Anna Gregoline

Gay Marriage

I think we've mentioned it in passing, but I couldn't find an official thread here about gay marriage. Go »

Compensation

"Professional athletes and entertainers are among the highest paid people in this country -- and justifiably so. Go »

Girl Scouts Boycotted

Wow. People are pulling their children out of Girl Scouts because of the Girl Scouts "cozy relationship" with Planned Parenthood. Go »

Useless

Ok, here's a flip - what has been the most USELESS invention of the twentieth century? Go »

Madder Cows

This is a good start to testing of Mad Cow disease. But it's not even enough. Does anyone find it disturbing that most animals in the food supply are tested for nothing before being added to said supply? Go »

Lost World

What's the most expensive item ever lost or stolen from you? What was the most meaningful? What do you lose or destroy chronically? Go »