Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
Education Math Science Technology

Women Skip Math/Science Careers To Have Families 616

hessian notes a Cornell survey, published in the Psychological Bulletin, of 35 years of sociological studies that concludes that women tend to choose non-math-intensive fields for their careers not because they lack mathematical ability, but because they want flexibility to raise children or prefer less math-intensive fields of science. "'A major reason explaining why women are underrepresented not only in math-intensive fields but also in senior leadership positions in most fields is that many women choose to have children, and the timing of child rearing coincides with the most demanding periods of their career, such as trying to get tenure or working exorbitant hours to get promoted,' said lead author Stephen J. Ceci... The authors concluded that hormonal, brain, and other biological sex differences were not primary factors in explaining why women were underrepresented in science careers, and that studies on social and cultural effects were inconsistent and inconclusive. They also reported that although 'institutional barriers and discrimination exist, these influences still cannot explain why women are not entering or staying in STEM careers,' said Ceci."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Women Skip Math/Science Careers To Have Families

Comments Filter:
  • by blahplusplus ( 757119 ) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @08:19AM (#27199065)

    ... for on average a lot less pay, I think that's the biggest problem. Why pay a north american a decent middle class wage when you can farm science, technology and engineering careers to lower wage countries?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tyrione ( 134248 )


      Nothing chaps my hide more than some pin dick getting paid 20-30% more for a basic business management degree over hard science degrees of all engineering fields.

      It glorifies the drunk frat boy and mocks the rest as if they don't have the brains [intuition] and maturity to realize they worked tenfold more to receive far less.

      In 1972 the average starting wage for a mechanical engineer [b.s.] was 31K USD. In 1990 it had virtually remained unchanged.

      Who in their right mind wants to become fiscally insolv

  • News film at 11.
    Well, at least it's becoming okay again to point out what is incredibly obvious to everyone, except feminists with an axe to grind.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Woah! Women, put the axes down. Your man will handle the grinding around here, thank you very much.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Y'all never read the darn articles.

      What they've found is that the difference in representation isn't justified by biological differences OR barriers and that the child rearing social role plays a big factor.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by PastaLover ( 704500 )

        I still don't understand why it's so hard to combine child rearing with a career though. One of the above posters might have hit on it with his suggestion of extending paternity leave. There's, after all, plenty of young doctorate students out there with kids, so why should it be so much harder for a woman?

    • Paternity Leave (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Iskender ( 1040286 ) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @08:56AM (#27199237)

      Re:Men and Woman are different..... News film at 11. Well, at least it's becoming okay again to point out what is incredibly obvious to everyone, except feminists with an axe to grind.

      I don't really see how that follows. The article and summary say:

      The authors concluded that hormonal, brain, and other biological sex differences were not primary factors in explaining why women were underrepresented in science careers,

      But women have to stay home with kids, right? Well, this gets us to a more balanced conclusion: increase paternity leave and/or make it compulsory, and the effects of one sex happening to be the one manufacturing kids will be greatly mitigated. In other words, the mostly arbitary decision that women have to stay home with the kids is the greatest problem (women don't have to be at home 24/7 to provide breast milk, either.) If both parents take the hit, the system will have to choose between adapting and just throwing away talent.

      For an example of how much a society can do for both parents, check Sweden's stats here: [] . Spoiler: 480 days paid paternity leave. (disclaimer: I'm not Swedish)

  • by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @08:26AM (#27199099)

    Well, gee, that's good news . . . I thought women avoided such careers because of all the geeky males that tend to gravitate towards math/science careers.

  • Wow... they could just Ask Slashdot.

    • No kidding. I want whatever amount of federal grant money that go into this sorta "study" switch to digging ditch and filling it back in. Now that's an honest, pointless job creation program.
  • Erm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kaiwai ( 765866 ) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @08:40AM (#27199163)

    From the "I thought feminism meant female equality with males" file and the interesting part was the bottom 'recommendation':

    "The authors recommended that universities and companies create options for women with math talents who want to pursue math-intensive careers. These could include deferred start-up of tenure-track positions and part-time work that segues to full-time tenure-track work for women who are raising children, and courtesy appointments for women unable to work full time but who would benefit from use of university resources (e-mail, library resources, grant support) to continue their research from home."

    Ah, so when feminists talk about 'equality' what they really mean is, "we want special treatment so that we get equal outcomes rather than equal opportunity based on the same starting point". Silly me, and to think that I thought feminism was all about equality with males in regards to the same starting point and a meritocratic system where skills and knowledge are the basis of advancement forward rather than the old boys network.

    People wonder why I given feminists as much credibility has hearing Saudi Arabia preach about human rights, tolerance and respect.

    • Re:Erm (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jcr ( 53032 ) < .ta. .rcj.> on Sunday March 15, 2009 @09:07AM (#27199307) Journal

      Silly me, and to think that I thought feminism was all about equality with males

      It was, but it's following a common pattern of reform movements. Back when the movement started, the issue was obtaining equality before the law. That's been achieved, so the reasonable people have moved on to other pursuits, leaving the dregs behind. It's similar to the way that the leadership of the civil rights movement degenerated from MLK to the likes of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.


    • Re:Erm (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Heather D ( 1279828 ) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @09:17AM (#27199349)

      Feminism isn't being hypocritical here so much as its being incompetent. Not that that makes a big difference in the results. The solution, at least from a feminist perspective, would be to get equality in gender roles instead of trying to monopolize the nurturing role as well as expand into the provider role.

      That is, if feminism is serious about this it needs to accept that it's a good thing for a man to provide the primary child care, get child support, etc. This isn't very popular among feminists let alone the mainstream.

      Something has to give but most women that I know won't budge on this issue. At this point I'd say resistance to change comes more from women than men even with all the Mr. Mom jokes

      • Why is it a good thing? Is it bad for a woman to work? What about get an education? If she doesn't work why does she need to be educated? You haven't articulated your argument fully.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Heather D ( 1279828 )

          Why is it a good thing? Is it bad for a woman to work? What about get an education? If she doesn't work why does she need to be educated? You haven't articulated your argument fully.

          I was referring to the fact that its so one-sided. If a woman quits or takes a leave of absence to care for her children she's a good mother. If a man does it he's a 'couch slug'. Yes that's sexist but it does reflect the mainstream opinion more closely in my experience

          Most feminists that I know do not differ in this preconception. That is, they're about as rigid and resistant to change as the conservatives are in this matter.

    • Re:Erm (Score:5, Insightful)

      by forand ( 530402 ) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @09:36AM (#27199425) Homepage
      As a male in trying to start a career in the hard sciences I have to say that there is little or no leeway given to those trying to have kids, regardless of their gender. I find this incredibly frustrating because I do want to have kids before I am 40 (i.e. have a tenured position) because it is healthier and safer for both my wife and child. This was something that was NOT the case when my Profs. were in my situation because women were assumed to be homemakers. This tells you two things: 1) that by and large professors in some of the hard sciences (math intensive in particular) are generally older (>50) while they were hired when they were in the 20-30s. 2) That the full magnitude of what we were giving up to go into the hard science of our choice was not clear until we were far along in our education (think 3-4 year of grad school). While I agree that people should be able to choose to not have a career to raise a family the fact of the matter is that the hard sciences are losing out because they are so inflexible. They are unable to attract younger brighter Profs. because people either leave the field for industry to make more money and have the ability to have kids or just get out of the workforce entirely to raise a family. In the long run this will hurt us all and treating it a simply as you have is not going to help solve a true problem: the aging of the hard sciences in academia. Now with all of that said: the policy of departments should be gender neutral so that I can take of time to raise my kids as much as my wife can. There is no reason to make it woman specific.
      • Re:Erm (Score:4, Insightful)

        by HuguesT ( 84078 ) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @10:10AM (#27199631)

        Thanks, very good point. In general the "hard" sciences nowadays are very competitive and short-term goals oriented: publish, get grants, churn out PhDs, etc. This is by and large leading to conservative science. It is now too risky to spend a few years thinking about a deep problem and come up with tentative answers. Universities want to see large numbers of publications.

        So this is hurting everyone in the middle-to-long term.

    • You know, some of us believe in a thing called not being an ass. It's why stores should have wheelchair ramps. Sure, if the disabled guy wasn't disabled he could walk up the steps, but given that he is disabled should we really refuse a reasonable accommodation? We might use your logic to say that slavery is good because being black and being white are not equal starting points. Unless you can clearly state what equality in starting points means your idea of equality is meaningless.
    • You get the same from many "unequal groups". I tend to avoid the term "minority group" because, by law of nature alone, women are no minority.

      Any time someone from an "unequally treated group" gets set back, there is two possible outcomes. Either he sees it as it usually is, simply that he didn't win. Sometimes, though, you get to hear that this must have happened because he belongs to that group. Be it because of his/her gender, race, religion or sexual orientation.

      "You have to take me because I'm black, a

  • by shmooattack ( 1482261 ) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @08:48AM (#27199213)
    Where this trend really starts getting scary is in the field of medicine. While medical schools are trying desperately to accept increasing numbers of women (often more than 50% to compensate for those that don't continue on to practice) many of the women that do finish choose to raise a family during their time of residency (or soon after). This leaves women with less actual medical experience, and generally lowers the overall quality of care.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Doesn't a doc have to finish her residency? So, if she gets pregnant and takes maternity leave, she'll just have to come back and finish? I don't get how it reduces the quality of care.
      • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @10:22AM (#27199709)

        I don't get how it reduces the quality of care.

        There is a tradition of enforced medical malpractice, at least in the US, of requiring residents to work 36 plus hour shifts. Kills thousands to millions of patients due to malpractice directly resulting from sleep deprivation. Anything that interferes with the sleep deprivation and its related malpractice is a "reduction in the quality of care". It's 1984 new-speak not the truth, which is why you don't get it. Most licensed day cares are not legally allowed to hold kids for 36+ hour shifts so something has to give, and oddly enough some moms prioritize their kids above their job.

  • Women do not enter science because they don't like to focus for long periods on one objective at the expense of all others. The like to "multi-task".

    Being obsessive about a single concept for years is a male phenomenon, and is pretty essential to leanring/practicing science. Men see this type of focus/obsession as a desirable attribute, women see it as perverted.

    As my mother said "Women are not just men with grapefruit up their jumpers". However, this, like reality in general, is not politically correct,

    • Hm, yes I'd have to agree. I'm always getting that 'You're obsessed.' bit. I plan things out. I organize and focus on one task for a while then I move to another task. I've always seen this as multi-tasking but apparently real multi-tasking means doing a half-dozen things at once and none of them particularly well.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I read an article a few week ago that the reason women aren't doing math/science is because *they don't like it*. i.e. The jobs in those fields suck.

      After 10 years as an engineer, I concur.

  • Where's the "Duh" tag on this one? Really, are we just figuring this out?

    Yet another case of blaming others (like educators and CEOs for this one) for discrimination when the responsibility falls on the choices we make.
    • Considering the political and gender correctness of today, it is actually anything but 'duh'. It's quite couragous to dare to say something like this.

      It's one of the topics most researchers wouldn't want to touch with a ten foot pole. You may rest assured that this study will be under painfully detailed review and it will be drawn, quartered and hung (along with its maker) should there be the tiniest hint of a mistake. You must see the implications. Employers seeing this might be reluctant to hire a female

  • "because they want flexibility to raise children or prefer less math-intensive fields of science"

    Many tech jobs are great for people who want to work from home and/or have flexible hours, and many women who want to raise kids at home (like my wife) would kill to have those options. So the former sounds like a load of BS, while the latter sounds very accurate. I try just as hard to get my daughter interested in mechanics/electronics/computers as I try with my son, but she won't take an interest in it. She do

  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @09:11AM (#27199323) Homepage

    Women have different interests for their own reasons. Oddly, "researchers" haven't chosen to simple ASK women about their choices. The very notion that there is discrimination holding women back is nonsense and has been nonsense for a very long time. We've spend decades walking on eggshells trying to man women in the workplace more comfortable as a form of "affirmative action" to what end? A whole lot of hassle and needless tax benefits for "woman/minority owned businesses" and stuff like that? While we are compensating for the choices that people make, let's offer benefits to those who choose a particular religion to follow and whichever is the minority in a region, let's give them special privileges and tax exemptions. Also, let's put all "angry black men" who dress exclusively in "thug wear" into a special social category as well.

    I am sure I am offending lots of people and a flamebait is the destiny for this comment, but when it comes to choices that people make, it's time we stop compensating for these people. Religion is a choice. Family or career paths are a choice. How people adapt themselves into society is a choice. Let's stop protecting people from and compensating people for the consequences of their choices. No more tax breaks for churches and religious institutions. No more affirmative actions for women and black people. Let's give TRUE equality a chance and take these societal crutches away. There may have been a need for them in the past, but that need has very likely expired.

    • So when I choose to work in a dangerous mine, and lose an arm in accident I don't deserve unemployment insurance or to be judged on the same basis as everyone else when I try to get another job because I should face the choices I made. Society doesn't exist so that we can be assholes to one another.
    • by Thiez ( 1281866 )

      > Oddly, "researchers" haven't chosen to simple ASK women about their choices

      If they had, there would be a post just like yours except that it would be complaining that the women might have given socially acceptable answers instead of what they really thought. People tend to lie about their thoughts and motivations to be accepted by others.

  • It took a study to figure out that some people are more interested in having a family than they are in making sure the TPS reports are filed correctly?

    Good work. (Add sarcastic comment about another obvious fact here)


  • While I understand that there's good political hay to be made out of showing why women are treated unfairly, the whole glass-ceiling (at least insofar as salaries are concerned) thing was debunked years ago when studies on wage gaps corrected for overtime and willingness to travel.

    The simple fact is that in most nuclear families, the man is the primary wage earner, the woman the primary caregiver to the children. This is probably based on relatively obvious biological differences (the woman lactates, the m

  • not just women (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ghostlibrary ( 450718 ) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @09:24AM (#27199383) Homepage Journal

    It's not just women... whichever parent 'takes the hit' to raise the kids runs into this. It's the "kid track" (formerly 'mommy track'). Kids into schoolbus means I'm off to work, rush back before they get home, so less face time and less 'being seen'. It's never about the work.

    I've been advised (wisely) to never mention the kids... the other scientists with kids, it's like a secret club where you only talk to other parents least word get out you're soft. In fact, I've been asked by a boss when will my kids be old enough that I can 'get serious about my career' (meaning put them into aftercare so I can work 60+ hours). I have no regrets-- we make a choice, you can't have it all, etc. But it is real-- if you're kid-track, you're not career-track.

    Given the salaries in academia/science (medium-low) and that more women (statistically) achieving in the business workplace, more science guys (I predict) will be 'going domestic', so more guys will run into this too.

    And while I'm at it, what's with the lame acronomy for Stay At Home Dads, it makes us all sound sahd. Besides, if you work 3/4 time or a rushed 8 hours, you're not staying, you're just at home when K12 is not in session.

    an At-Home Dad (AHD, similarily to ADHD probably intentional)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That's very much like what I've seen going on, overall.

      I have no kids, but at my office there are a couple of 'At-home Dads', and it's true that the 'kid-track' people in general put (and are expected to put) a lot less time beyond working hours into all of those things that occur mostly outside working hours, like frantically writing crap for last-minute deadlines and attending every conference you can think of/find an excuse and funding to go to. When school's out they disappear for weeks at a time. Somet

  • Intrinsic Asymetry (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stuckinarut ( 891702 ) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @09:46AM (#27199471)

    I think all these discussions skip over the fundamental fact that women are the only ones biologically capable of bringing a child into the world and the 9 month investment that requires rather than the 9 minute (assuming 8 minutes of foreplay) investment from a man.

    Yes there will be women quite entitled to skip the whole process entirely. There will be others who will happily give birth and immediately go back to work leaving someone else at home to look after the child be it a stay at home dad or paid nanny. Many many more will enjoy motherhood and accept the hard work raising a child can be.

    Evolution has made it so that women are naturally more bonded to their children and want to look after them and for good reason so the species can propagate.

  • Sexism or not? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mi ( 197448 ) <> on Sunday March 15, 2009 @10:20AM (#27199693) Homepage Journal

    intrinsic differences in the abilities of men and women were a factor in why there were more male than female sciencists and engineers. [...] differences in commitment in terms of time and flexibility [...] also contributed

    The above opinion was deemed sexist [] enough for the person holding it to resign as Harvard's President in 2005.

    But this one:

    because they [women] want flexibility to raise children or prefer less math-intensive fields of science.

    is just fine?

  • The Problem... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by N8F8 ( 4562 ) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @10:48AM (#27199865)

    The problem might be that we have developed a work-life that is inherently incompatible with a decent home life. Maybe women just make a rational choice on different priorities. Not far from the article's suggestion but I'd go further and recommend changing the workplace for everyone.

You know, Callahan's is a peaceable bar, but if you ask that dog what his favorite formatter is, and he says "roff! roff!", well, I'll just have to...