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Math Education

The Myth of the Mathematics Gender Gap 588

Posted by kdawson
from the where-we-haven't-looked-yet dept.
Coryoth writes "The widely held belief that there is disparity in the innate mathematical abilities of men and women has been steadily whittled down in recent years. The gender gap in basic mathematics skills closed some time ago, and recently the gap in high school mathematics has closed up as well, with as many girls as boys now taking high school calculus. Newsweek reports on a new study published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that begins to lay to rest the remaining argument that it is at the highest levels of mathematics that the innate differences show. Certainly men dominate current academia, with 70% of mathematics Ph.D.s going to men; however that figure is down from 95% in the 1950s. Indeed, while there remain gaps in achievement between the genders, the study shows that not only are these gaps closing, but the size of the gap varies over differing cultures and correlates with the general degree of gender inequality in the culture (as defined by World Economic Forum measures). In all, this amounts to strong evidence that the differences in outcomes in mathematics between the genders is driven by sociocultural factors rather than innate differences in ability."
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The Myth of the Mathematics Gender Gap

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  • Taking vs Excelling (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tanktalus (794810) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @02:33PM (#28186503) Journal

    I don't really care whether there is a gap or not, but I am a stickler for accuracy. Taking the course is not the same thing as passing or excelling. It's an important metric, but not the only one. Perhaps we have a "traditionally disadvantaged" group being pushed, in the name of equality, into an area they dislike because it doesn't come natural, and they're barely passing. That's not success - that's a failure because these people probably would be more successful in life playing to their strengths rather than weaknesses.

    I'm not saying that's the case. But it's a plausible explanation for the results in TFS, while not dismissing the myth, I'd say they have to do more work and study to proclaim this myth busted.

  • by Red Flayer (890720) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @02:39PM (#28186583) Journal

    How about showcasing the widening gender gap in BA/BS degrees in Western culture? Women are earning more degrees almost across the board, and yet there is almost no measures being taken to call attention to that disparity.

    There are more moderately-high paying jobs not requiring a BA/BS degree that men traditionally hold, rather than women. Building trades, for instance.

    And since women tend to work less than men (as a whole, due to traditional family roles), some of them have the luxury of more time for education.

    FWIW, since this is a relatively recent development, I think it's fine... it'll help undo centuries/millenia of male domination in Western culture.

  • by Rycross (836649) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @02:43PM (#28186649)
    True, although I just realized that I don't actually know whether there's a scientific basis for that thought. I recall reading that men build muscle mass more easily than women, but I have no idea if that has been empirically tested.
  • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @02:45PM (#28186671) Homepage Journal

    Try reading TFA instead of just TFS. It goes into a reasonable amount of detail, and should help dispel some of your doubts. (Unless, of course, you're already determined to reach the opposite conclusion, in which case there's no reason you should confuse your pretty little head with facts.) Girls perform at least as well mathematically as boys in a number of countries, including those where there's a lot less worry about "traditionally disadvantaged" groups than there is here in the US. You'll have a hell of a time pinning this on political correctness in Korea ...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @02:46PM (#28186697)
    That kind of thinking is always warped: There are too many black in prison, but not too many in the NBA. Hmmm.....
  • by VinylRecords (1292374) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @02:47PM (#28186701)

    I was a sports broadcasting and psychology double major in my undergraduate studies. When I was taking sports broadcasting classes it was a total sausage fest. Thirty guys talking about sports in an academic environment as if it was a locker room. Meanwhile in psychology it was always majority female in classrooms ranging from 60% to 90%. It was because sports writing and reporting is a male dominated field, whereas psychology was a necessary field of study for many female students who wanted to teach elementary or middle school, a field traditionally occupied by women. Also my school was 60% female so a typical class would have 60% women which really emphasized how incredibly one sided sports broadcasting was a major regarding gender divide.

    While men and women solve problems differently, our brains are made up differently so that is to be expected, most studies conclude that even though we solve problems differently men and women reach the same conclusions eventually but they take different paths. Both genders are equally smart but think differently to solve the same problems.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_and_intelligence [wikipedia.org]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_differences [wikipedia.org]

  • by Lord Ender (156273) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @02:52PM (#28186753) Homepage

    These days, women are intentionally given advantages over men, so it is NOT fair to say that women have proven equality with men.

    For example, my school had all sorts of scholarships available only to women (not men). It had free math tutoring for women (not men). It had many programs available only to women to help them academically and financially.

    If women want to display equality, they need to compete on equal ground.

  • by davidwr (791652) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @02:56PM (#28186817) Homepage Journal

    By the time you are 20, your brain has gone through several "windows of opportunity" which are the best time to learn specific skills. For example, the window of opportunity for foreign languages for most people is in preschool.

    If a given culture discourages certain members from learning certain skills until after the window closes, these individuals are now stuck with what might as well be an innate disadvantage in that area.

    For these individuals, it's not important whether they could have been good at this or that if only they had taken classes when they were younger, the important thing is that if they do try to learn it, it will be relatively hard for them.

    Plus, there's the whole issue of experience, someone who starts learning a skill at age 5 will have a 15-year head start on someone who starts learning a skill at age 20.

    --
    As societies, we need to accept the fact that there are very few if any things beyond giving birth or being a wet-nurse that either gender has an inherent advantage in if both are given equal opportunity and encouragement when they are young. All or almost all "gender-specific" advantages are created by the environment in which we live.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @02:58PM (#28186841)

    This is an extremely dishonest story which does not address the most basic issues involved.
    What Summers said at Harvard is supported by the evidence and remains the best explanation
    for the "gender gap." Indeed, he felt confident that he could "get away" with his statements
    because the evidence is so overwhelming and the facts so obvious.

    Consider any number of physical traits the measurement of which is not controversial
    (for instance, height, weight, ratio of arm length to leg length, etc.) A few empirical observations
    can be readily made:

    (1) the distributions are roughly Gaussian --- this make sense as these traits are controlled
    by multiple genes and some version of the central limit theorem is operational

    (2) the means vary by gender and ethnicity

    (3) the standard deviations vary by gender and ethnicity

    (4) a pattern quickly emerges: for virtually all traits the STANDARD DEVIATION
    of the male distributions is somewhat larger than the female distribution --- although
    not by much. Again this makes some intuitive sense --- men are biological more expendable
    then women so more variation in male traits can be tolerated.

    I can hardly be expected to believe that physical traits (the measurement of which is generally
    not controversial) are unique in having property (4). Especially when the observable
    data available for mental traits exhibits a difference in standard deviation.

    This difference in standard deviation predicts what we see in practice --- if we set
    a high threshold and look at the number of men and women with ability above
    that threshold we expect the ratio of men to women to be large. Because this
    is an effect of differences in standard deviation, it is not observable near the
    middle of the distribution --- only at the tails.

    There are many many articles which conclude that there is no gender gap
    in mathematical ability because the mean of the male and female distributions
    are the same or similar. I am not familiar with every such article,
    but every one I have read --- including the two famous Science articles ---
    presents observational data showing a difference in STANDARD DEVIATION.
    An issue none of them seem to address.

    Incidentally, any one familiar with the error function can easily
    see that the variations in the ratio of men to women whose
    mathematical ability exceeds a given threshold by ethnicity are
    also predicated by this approach (to startlingly high accuracy --
    do the math!) This again follows simply from the fact that
    the mean and standard deviation of biological characteristics
    vary by ethnicity

    Everything I have said can be verified to a ridiculously high level of
    certainty by someone with basic knowledge of Stat 101 and a copy
    of Excel.

  • by DigitalReverend (901909) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @03:08PM (#28186971)
    I think men are just getting less intelligent and they think differently than they used to. You see, in the 200+ year history of our country, we've sent our strongest, mentally stable and most intelligent men to die in wars and left the weaker and less intelligent and mentally unstable at home to breed. Through unnatural selection, we've thinned our own gene pool. The male gender has become more effeminate and now it seems they think like women instead of men. It's not the women who are getting smarter, it is us men are are getting dumber.
  • by onkelonkel (560274) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @03:13PM (#28187031)
    There is a branch of Applied Science where discrimination and outdated sexist attitudes still rule. The gender balance there is so heinously skewed that no other explanation is possible. There are those that suggest that perhaps persons of the under-represented gender simply aren't interested in this profession, or perhaps they lack the skills to do well, but clearly they are just making excuses for the sexist bigots that still dominate this field. I'm talking, of course, about the School of Nursing, where only 5% of the graduates are men.
  • by Red Flayer (890720) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @03:28PM (#28187251) Journal
    Good point.

    But I'd like to add that the pace of societal change has, IMO, increased rapidly since the advent of mass media and the internet.

    The Cosby show probably did more to help reduce racism against blacks in the US than any other single thing in the last 2-3 decades. Numerous shows depicting women in positions of power have done the same for women.

    But, in the end, I think we're very limited in how fast change can happen... it's a generational process. I find it amazing that some of the people in the highest positions of political power now, basically formulated their prejudices before the end of segregation in the US. I wonder what the US will look like re: racism when today's kids are 70 years old? How much would the R&B/Hip-hop movement to rural areas & the burbs affect their ideas of race?
  • Maybe... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @03:31PM (#28187299) Journal
    it's just that men are getting dumber. We have lower enrollments in college. We tend to sit around and watch TV/play video games more than women do. Just a thought.
  • by j. andrew rogers (774820) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @03:33PM (#28187325)

    The article is confused about where most of the real differences are purported to be.

    No one credible claims that females have less ability to learn mathematics or crunch numbers in most cases, which is what this article is contesting. In other words, they built themselves a strawman. The differences involve application, not learning.

    What *is* credibly claimed, in the sense that there is not insignificant quantities of direct and indirect evidence in literature, is that females are markedly poorer at certain classes of applied mathematical problems, notably applications involving complex, high-dimensionality metric spaces. Females understand the mathematics just fine, they have relative difficulty applying it to real-world problems when system complexity exceeds a certain threshold. This is largely attributed to male brains having more neurons dedicated to conceptualizing and manipulating spatial relationships.

    There are real differences, but it is mostly in specific areas of the applied side and there is a relatively straightforward causal theory related to brain structure. That people feel it necessary to repeatedly trot out the strawman that women have less ability to learn math while conveniently ignoring supportable arguments for differences in practical ability reeks of a political agenda. There are other biases in application spaces strongly favoring females that also have straightforward causal links related to differences in brain structure but which say nothing about the ability of males to learn.

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @04:10PM (#28187921) Homepage

    And while I'm at it, who's working to close the gender gap in sanitation workers?

    Warren Farrell [wikipedia.org] is a somewhat controversial author on men's issues who has actually spent quite a bit of time exploring this exact question. He proposed, with appropriate evidence, that while women have made great strides in reducing the effects of the "glass ceiling", they tend to ignore the "glass floor" in which men tend to occupy undesirable and often dangerous professions. Examples of these sorts of male-dominated professions include sanitation workers, miners, construction workers, oil rig roughnecks, sailors, farm laborers, police officers, firefighters, and lumberjacks. The reason he proposes for this is really quite simple: the women most involved in feminism tend to be fairly wealthy, and that means that the millions of working-class men in those undesirable professions are essentially invisible to them, whereas the men who are at the top of the food chain are very visible to them, creating a perception that all men are doing better.

  • Draft women? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sjbe (173966) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @04:12PM (#28187943)

    If women want to display equality, they need to compete on equal ground.

    That presumes that the ground IS actually equal which I would argue it probably is not equal - not yet anyway, though it is headed in the right direction. Nevertheless I agree with your sentiment that for true equality to exist the playing field should be level and many old prejudices need to die. Personally I'll concede that things are equal or nearly so when women in the US have to register for the draft.

    I've always found it ironic that most women who claim to be for equal rights never seem terribly eager for certain dangerous responsibilities that should go with those rights. For example I see no logical reason why women in the US are not forced like the men to register for the draft. Women clearly are capable of serving on a voluntary basis, and most of the jobs in the military apparently can be performed admirably by either gender. Yet I've NEVER heard a single self-described feminist clambering for the right to be drafted into military service. Sometimes rights come with ugly responsibilities. Seems like a double standard to me.

  • Media propoganda (Score:2, Interesting)

    by CherniyVolk (513591) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @04:13PM (#28187979)

    This is media propoganda, through and through. It's insulting even.

    Women in math? The "gender gap" between women and men in math, even "basic" math has "closed"? BULLSHIT!

    First, "calculus" is not "basic math". It's not needed for most academic majors, nor is it a requirement for entry to so much as a community college. Perhaps, "General Math" is a "basic" math. Perhaps, Pre-Algebra is a "basic" math. But, most certainly, any level of Calculus is NOT a "basic" math.

    Secondly, I have been in five higher education institutions spanning two different countries and have majored in Math in particular along with engineering courses. I also took Calculus in High-school... when I attended a high school that even HAD the course (not all American high schools offer calculus).

    First, anything past Algebra I and Geometry in highschool and you are officially a nerd or geek, therefore you probably have less options of having a girlfriend. The girls have no interest in that sort of thing, nor any male that has such aptitude. If they did, such classes would have a fair number of girls in them, just to be in social alignment with the males fully able of completing the courses. But, look no further than media entertainment, and frankly, being a nerd or smart isn't "hip".

    Ok, so that's more of a social outlook on the issue, and it is. Can girls do the calculus? Maybe, but most don't even if they could, most don't even try or think such a task is even credible to endure.

    As a result, any claims that there are a lot of girls in a high school calculus class, is just that a claim. I dare any of them to actually, physically, literally walk their ignorant butts into a random high-level math class and count with their index finger the number of girls in that class. (This will render a far higher count than if we subtracted the ugly girls from any "attractive" girls.)

    Now, walk to college. This will be easy as randomly roaming the halls of a high school might have the police arresting you. But you can stand around and most colleges and universities. The gap is closing? Bullshit, if anything it's getting wider.

    Of all the years and all the courses of math above Trigonometry I have took, maybe two girls total I might have personally dated . Including all "females", less than ten total. Two of them, were the professors. My Linear Algebra professor was a female, a rather attractive one too. But, the numbers are there, per raw experience. And it only got worse in college and at the highest levels of math females are virtually extinct.

    My gripe about all this, is that they should actually do something to make girls look at being smart as an advantage to life. Instead, if one has a cute ass, they'll just leave Calculus to the nerds and hope her boyfriend becomes a NFL star. Regardless if she could have passed a calculus course, the fact she didn't makes her dumb all the same and since she's among millions of other girls the end result is well reflected that women can't be counted on when it comes to mathematical abilities.

    They want people to believe there are females in these math classes even if they aren't actually physically present. For most people never take calculus, and now they face the few that have and might call them sexist if they announce "uh... I only saw a handful of girls in any of my classes when getting a Masters in Mathematics".

    They want more girls in math? They need to come up with something that actually makes girls consider it as a useful tool in life. As it is now, 10,000 dollars for a hard and burdensome education or an easy and highly profitable breast augmentation? You decide, as inherently lazy humans, which many girls might opt for.

  • Re: men vs women (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @04:29PM (#28188171)

    I'm 5'7". That's the same height as Florence Griffith-Joyner (aka Flo Jo). Back in high school I could run faster than Flo Jo did in her 100m and 200m world records. Two problems: (1) I'm not a woman, and (2) I wasn't quite fast enough to compete with the 6'+ men that dominate mens sprints (Hint: 5'7" is ~75%ile for women, but ~25%ile for men).

    I've observed over the years that speed divided by height is fairly consistent for top performers(*), regardless of gender. So I'm confident in saying that I think a 6'2" to 6'5" woman could beat Usain Bolt's 100m and 200m world records. The problem is that there are very few women that tall, and most of the ones that tall aren't very coordinated.

    (* Usain Bolt should be able to run 4% faster if he took some time to work on his stride; compare the videos of Michael Johnson's 19.32s 200m world record in 1996 vs Usain Bolt's 19.30s 200m world record in 2008, and then compare their heights.)

  • Re:Just a thought (Score:3, Interesting)

    by story645 (1278106) <story645@gmail.com> on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @04:53PM (#28188519) Journal

    Women were designed to have children, not be breadwinners. That's primarily the man's job.

    And they can't do both because? A bunch of my friends are supporting their husbands (it's a cultural thing in certain branches of orthodox Judaism that has to do with learning Torah all day) while having tons of kids. One of 'em had her first while getting her engineering degree and had 2 more while working on construction sites. Lots of girls I know manage at least two before their husbands ever start working. It's difficult, but doable.

  • Re:...or maybe (Score:2, Interesting)

    by cha5on (1219926) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @04:57PM (#28188581)

    I call bullshit.

    From TFA:

    In both cases, countries with as many or more girls at the upper extreme tend to be those with the greatest gender equality, such as Germany and the Netherlands. . . . If the differences were innate, they should show up in every culture.

  • by ViennaSt (1138481) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @05:10PM (#28188747)

    ...as many girls as boys now taking high school calculus

    My problem is the number of **attractive** girls taking my class. There are girls, and then there are girls.

    No, the problem is whether or not it is **American** girls in these classes and in this study. Look at the swarms of Chinese and Indian females that take up these majors in the American universities. You'll find that these cultures don't have this "gender gap" or separation with these subjects. This may be due to these cultures not having the option of taking the social sciences. I would like a breakdown of what race/culture make up these woman that are obtaining these Ph.D. If it is mostly foreign born, then we are looking at a socialized root of the mathematic gender gap problem--not an anatomical/physiological difference that develops in male and female brains that causing the difference in mathematic performance.

    Also, Winny from the Wonder Years got a Ph.D. degree in math. She's hot.

  • Brain specialization (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wonkavader (605434) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @05:18PM (#28188849)

    This is missing an important point.

    Males have greater brain specialization. (In particular, right handed males have the most.) This is why savants are more likely to be male. Head injuries to males (and especially right-handed males) are more likely to cause the complete and utter loss of some function.

    So you can have female savants, you can have female geniuses, you can have just as many females doing just fine in math, but the overall likelihood is that at the very top of the field, where the people are often badly broken people who specialize in math and seem oddly incapable of anything else, the ratio of males to females will be higher.

    Is this a societal phenomenon rather than a genetic one? While it might be a mix of factors, you absolutely cannot argue that male brains are just like female ones. You need only look at the prevalence of autism in males vs. females to see this. (Unless you're going to argue that autism is all about rearing technique -- in which case we ought to be dressing all our children uniformly in pink.)

  • Re:...or maybe (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kklein (900361) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @06:01PM (#28189339)

    Also, it's not entirely the fault of men. I think women have almost just as much to do with the problem.

    I don't know how I will be modded for this, but yes.

    Statistics on child-rearing consistently show that women do the bulk of it (not a value judgement; that's what the numbers show). In my own case, my mom has more education than my dad, and I would say their relationship is pretty equal (if not tipped toward my mother in most things), but yes, she is the one who raised me and taught me values about the world, etc. My dad wasn't absent or anything, but he was the guy who taught me how to do stuff--build things, fix things, make bad puns. It seems that this is the norm, from the sociological data I've seen.

    How is it, then, that women find themselves the victim of "social gender roles?" Men, I think, in a very real sense, do not make society. Women do. Women raise kids and instill values in them; men's behavior is almost entirely based on doing things that will score and keep women. If mothers raised children with egalitarian values and young, fertile women did not hook up with guys who had sexist ideas, guys would fall into line almost immediately. Think how quickly the American image of men changed from "strong and silent" to "soft and sensitive" in the 90s. We were told that's what gets girls, and next thing you know, guys are bawling over every damn little thing. Eventually this started annoying women and there was a backlash in recent years, asking where all the "real men" (look at that choice of adjectives, ladies) went, and guys of the current young generation aren't so weepy as we Gen-Xers were. Guys do what they are told.

    Again, in my own case, every time I run into a sexist idea I may have, I think "hmm, where did that come from?" and I remember being taught it by my smart, well-educated, empowered mother.

    I think women have a lot to do with the problem, and can do a lot more than men can about it, in the long run. Guys are puppets.

    Finally, I also have to echo someone else's comment above: Just let people choose what they like. I want to be sure that people are all given equal opportunities so that they can do that, but I don't think that's going to lead to 50/50 gender representation in every field, and that's okay!

  • by Estanislao Martínez (203477) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @06:26PM (#28189597) Homepage

    Women tend to gravitate towards fields which there is a degree of socializing, such as education, medicine (Regular and veterinary), and communications. Men tend to gravitate towards either exciting fields, or fields which they feel will be financial rewarding.

    You're missing the point by a mile. TFA isn't about whether this is so, but rather about why this is so. There is a relatively prominent set of people who insist in attributing this kind of thing to innate differences between the genders; TFA is mentioning studies that rebut that claim, and rather support the counterclaim that the differences are due to culture.

    There is a separate question here that TFA doesn't discuss, but which your quote does bring up: pay differences. I'm not going to argue this one way or the other, but there's a question to be asked as to what extent men gravitate towards those jobs because they're financially rewarding, versus to what extent the jobs are financially rewarding because they're done by men. I know it's hard to think of the latter alternative, but basically, it comes down to the power to set the relative prices for different kinds of labor being overwhelmingly in mens' hands.

  • by Stuntmonkey (557875) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @07:02PM (#28189953)

    There are a couple of things being conflated in this type of research, which to me muddies the water. One question has to do with performance of people not too far from the median. For this question, I believe it's reasonable to look at how achievement test scores vary with factors like gender, race, culture, nationality, socioeconomics, and so forth. The original research cited here involves data of this type. And the conclusion isn't so surprising: Female performance relative to males is very situationally-dependent. Anecdotally one only needs to look at the gender gap (if one exists) in east Asian students vs. the gender gap in white students. *Maybe* white women are at some genetic disadvantage relative to asian women -- again relative to their respective male counterparts -- but it seems unlikely relative to a cultural factor.

    What these lines of research don't really show -- because there isn't enough comparative data available -- is what are the external factors that most correlate with the gender gap within different groups. Is it culture that drives the variation? (Asians have higher expectations on daughters? Asians don't propagate the "geek stigma" as much for girls?) Is it economics? (Poorer people cannot educate all their kids, so preferentially educate the boys?) Or something else? Who knows.

    The second question being conflated is performance at the far, far, end of the performance spectrum. Fields medal winners represent the 99.999+ percentile. Who knows what defines people out there? There aren't enough of them to really study as a statistical emsemble. It's fair to say that at the high end of any performance curve, a lot of things have to come together simultaneously: Raw talent, motivation, opportunity, persistence, environment, dedication. It could be for example that men have no more innate ability than women, but are just more single-minded in their approach to life. I.e., more men than women are willing to do what Andrew Wiles did, namely hole up in an attic for 10 years to prove Fermat's Last Theorem (with a low probability of success).

    Finally, I think with regard to this sort of research it's important to maintain a dispassionate attitude. When I get the feeling the authors are trying to *advocate* for a particular conclusion, that makes me a bit queasy. There seems to be this unstated assumption that an unequal outcome is indicative of unequal opportunity. Would anyone argue that the relative lack of white men in the NBA is indicative of low opportunity or discrimination? Probably not. Perhaps white women don't pursue math at the highest levels because they simply don't want to, compared with other uses for their time. Is this a bad outcome? Within the scientific enterprise it's a very slippery slope to start asserting value judgments about these things.

  • Re:...or maybe (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ChatHuant (801522) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @07:08PM (#28189999)

    There are various studies showing that women make less than men for the same jobs, and this is blatant discrimination

    I haven't seen those studies, so I don't know what methodology they're using. I have seen numbers like 70% bandied about (women being paid 70% of the amount men get for equal work).

    So my question is: if that's true, why would any businesses bother hiring men at all? If you can get the same work by hiring just women and paying them 30% less (or even 10%) you have a crushing advantage over the competition, especially in low margin businesses. I can't believe all employers (including women business owners and hiring managers) are uniformly sexist. I'd expect the market to force the equalization of pay to work. So why the contradiction?

  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @08:11PM (#28190501)

    Food is not meaningfully limited, relative to current population levels (all modern starvation is political in nature, more humans are overweight than underweight, total farmland needed has been shrinking for years).

    Have you been living under a rock? People are starving all over the place, especially as crops are being used more as fuel now instead of food, causing prices to rise beyond the poor's ability to afford it.

    Most humans are NOT overweight, just humans in 1st-world countries where there's plenty of crappy, artificial, processed food.

    Energy is not meaningfully limited, relative to current population levels, we just prefer cheap oil to more scalable solutions such as nuclear and solar. We're no where *near* using the amount of energy we could get free from the sun without even putting collecters into orbit.

    Nuclear and solar aren't used more because they're expensive, and solar's efficiency isn't good enough yet. Expensive==resources. Putting collectors into orbit? Now you're talking about speculative future technologies. The fact is, right now, energy is highly limited, unless you happen to be rich. In the future, when your orbital collectors are in place, then we can revisit this topic.

    Fresh water is not meaningfully limited *globally*, as we have lots of power available, though there are certainly local areas where significant infrastructure would need to be developed to support additional population. Still, there are enough areas globally where there's no meaningful limit that it's not a bound on global population growth.

    WTF??? Fresh water most certainly is limited in most places on the planet. We do NOT have lots of power available.

    This is ridiculous. You are obviously living in your own fantasy land, and it's pointless to even discuss this with you. A simple google search can easily disprove your assertions.

    Do you also believe the earth was created 6500 years ago?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @08:34PM (#28190645)

    I'm Indian and we have a lot of the same thing. Hell there are lots of places where all girls get free education, forgot about special scholorship programmes.
    However the harsh reality is that if you charge those parents one unit of money for the education of a *girl* they'll put her right back to washing and cleaning up. They already need heavy subsidies to get the boys to school and lots of convincing to even send the girls, any expenses means a lot of girls going without education. Mostly rural areas but jackasses are everywhere, even in cities, to a lesser extent.
    Sure it may be diffferent in America, no parent is going to keep their kids from school but once they get there your corporate culture has fucked with kids brains quite a lot already feeding them stereotypes up the wazoo. Ultimately it's the kids responsibility to choose the path that's right for them and boycott the industries that tried to get them to be only homemakers but it does affect.
    Those scholarships would get more *talented* women into fields where they would otherwise might not have gone. It may be unfair to men, it certainly will be some decades down the line when the gap has closed entirely, but for now it really isn't since they are just making up for the cultural handicap that you've given your girls.
    There is also a very important distinction between your post and the one below, the first is a somewhat slanted approach at trying to achieve equal results though inequal opportunity, the one below is trying to force equality without merit.

  • Re:...or maybe (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fractoid (1076465) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @10:18PM (#28191409) Homepage
    The difference is that the lonely female TA just has to wander down to the local bar wearing a tight top and by the end of the night she'll have half a dozen offers. A lonely male TA, on the other hand, will just be one of those dozen offers, and his odds aren't good, so when that hot chick in his class offers to sex him up in exchange for a few extra days to work on her assignment... well who knows, maybe she had a crush on him anyway?
  • by moosesocks (264553) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @12:15AM (#28192071) Homepage

    For a variety of reasons, my school [wm.edu] tries to shoot for a 55/45 female-to-male split.

    However, the applicant pool is split 65/35 (F/M)

    In other words, admission for females is considerably more competitive than it is for males.

    In my experiences as a student (I recently graduated), I witnessed virtually no anti-female sexism, but plenty of anti-male remarks, many of which were praised and even applauded. (I find it very difficult to take Women's Studies seriously as a field of study, particularly at the undergraduate level. Studying gender would be much more appropriate, and less prone to bias)

    Don't get me started on the processes that take place if a male is accused of sexual assault. The male student is given virtually no opportunity to defend himself, even in light of a complete lack of physical evidence (the Duke lacrosse incident is a good example of this). We also received some of the most offensive "sexual assault prevention training" that I could possibly imagine.

    At one point, we were asked to respond to a multiple-choice survey asking us if we'd sexually assaulted a woman A) 0-5 times, B)6-10 times, C)10-15 times, or D)15+ times. (Also, according to the survey and training program, rape apparently only occurs within the heteronormative ideal)

    But, yes. In Mathematics and Physics (my field), you do have fewer females than males. Although there isolated incidents of legitimate sexism, I believe that the reasons are largely historical, and will disappear with time. As more females trickle into the field, the field becomes increasingly attractive to other females.

    I believe much of the gender disparity in these fields stems from the fact that up until the past decade, Physics and Mathematics were dominated by the huge influx of professors who graduated immediately following WWII. Given that there were comparatively few hires in these departments until that generation began to retire, it's no surprise that that generation's cultural standards lingered around for much longer in those departments.

  • by bogjobber (880402) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @12:45AM (#28192211)

    FWIW, since this is a relatively recent development, I think it's fine... it'll help undo centuries/millenia of male domination in Western culture.

    No, you are wrong. This is a terribly serious problem.

    This isn't simply a case of more women getting degrees. It's also that fewer males are getting degrees. Look at the dropout rates in high school for men vs. women, particularly among inner city kids and many ethnic minorities. It's absolutely devastating.

    And this isn't about jobs, this is about education. The solution to "centuries/millenia of male domination in Western culture" isn't to make all the men uneducated idiots. That solves nothing, and I think it's reasonable to expect it to make the problem worse.

    We need a serious men's education movement in this country. How many sociologists are doing gender-based research on men's issues vs. the number of them who research women's issues? I know they're out there, but from my experience in college and my (admittedly limited) experience with the field, I see the numbers are massively skewed towards women's issues. And I don't mean this in a Rush Limbaugh reverse-racism reverse-sexism sort of way. But how many universities or colleges have a men's studies department?

    We need to have an honest and frank dicussion about the existence of these problems in order to understand how to reverse these trends.

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