07 February 2011

Women Choose Their Destinies in Science

Since 1970, women have made dramatic gains in science. Today, half of all MD degrees and 52% of PhDs in life sciences are awarded to women, as are 57% of PhDs in social sciences, 71% of PhDs to psychologists, and 77% of DVMs to veter-inarians.* Forty years ago, women’s presence in most of these fields was several orders of magnitude less; e.g., in 1970 only 13% of PhDs in life sciences went to women (1). In the most math intensive fields, however, women’s growth has been less pronounced (2–4). Among the top 100 US universities, only 8.8–15.8% of tenure-track positions in many math-intensive fields(combined across ranks) are held by women, and female fullprofessors number ≤10%. _PNAS Ceci, Williams
Famous Women in Science
Is the relatively low number of women professors in math-intensive fields due to discrimination, or do women choose their destinies in their field of choice? A recent study published in PNAS suggests that the choice depends on the woman, and how she interprets her ensemble of personal and professional needs.
It's not discrimination in instances of different hiring, but rather differences in resources attributable to career and family-related choices that set women back in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, say Stephen J. Ceci, professor of developmental psychology, and Wendy M. Williams, professor of human development and director of the Cornell Institute for Women in Science, both in Cornell's College of Human Ecology.

The "substantial resources" universities expend to sponsor gender-sensitivity training and interviewing workshops would be better spent on addressing the real causes of women's underrepresentation, Ceci and Williams say, through creative problem-solving and policy changes that respond to differing "biological and social realities" of the sexes.

The researchers analyzed the scientific literature in which women and men competed for publications, grants or jobs in these fields. They found no systematic evidence of sex discrimination in interviewing, hiring, reviewing or funding when men and women with similar resources – such as teaching loads and research support – were compared.

"We hear often that men have a better chance of getting their work accepted or funded, or of getting jobs, because they're men," Williams said. "Universities expend money and time trying to combat this rampant alleged discrimination against women in the hope that by doing so universities will see the numbers of women STEM scientists increase dramatically over coming years."

The data show that women scientists are confronted with choices, beginning at or before adolescence, that influence their career trajectories and success. Women who prioritize families and have children sometimes make "lifestyle choices" that lead to them to take positions, such as adjunct or part-time appointments or jobs at two-year colleges, offering fewer resources and chances to move up in the ranks. _WomenInScience
From the abstract to the study:
Explanations for women's underrepresentation in math-intensive fields of science often focus on sex discrimination in grant and manuscript reviewing, interviewing, and hiring. Claims that women scientists suffer discrimination in these arenas rest on a set of studies undergirding policies and programs aimed at remediation. More recent and robust empiricism, however, fails to support assertions of discrimination in these domains. To better understand women's underrepresentation in math-intensive fields and its causes, we reprise claims of discrimination and their evidentiary bases. Based on a review of the past 20 y of data, we suggest that some of these claims are no longer valid and, if uncritically accepted as current causes of women's lack of progress, can delay or prevent understanding of contemporary determinants of women's underrepresentation. We conclude that differential gendered outcomes in the real world result from differences in resources attributable to choices, whether free or constrained, and that such choices could be influenced and better informed through education if resources were so directed. Thus, the ongoing focus on sex discrimination in reviewing, interviewing, and hiring represents costly, misplaced effort: Society is engaged in the present in solving problems of the past, rather than in addressing meaningful limitations deterring women's participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers today. Addressing today's causes of underrepresentation requires focusing on education and policy changes that will make institutions responsive to differing biological realities of the sexes. Finally, we suggest potential avenues of intervention to increase gender fairness that accord with current, as opposed to historical, findings. _PNAS
People tend to do what they are good at. A great deal of research demonstrates that at the most elite levels of math performance men outnumber women by as much as 7 to 1 or higher. Not only do math-proficient women tend to find themselves badly outnumbered by men in fields which are math intensive, but the higher testosterone levels of men in those fields tends to drive them to work harder over longer hours in order to achieve success -- even at the sacrifice of the men's personal and family lives. For men, it is a biological imperative to compete and excel.

For many women who happen to be good at math, other motivations and needs take precedence over the academic rat race. For women in fields dominated by other women -- such as psychology -- the competition is against other women who have lower testosterone levels like themselves. Stress levels are consequently not as high in terms of competitive performance anxiety -- although staff meetings may occasionally take on the ambience of a screeching cat fight. ;-)
Women who prioritize families and have children sometimes make “lifestyle choices” that lead to them to take positions, such as adjunct or part-time appointments or jobs at two-year colleges, offering fewer resources and chances to move up in the ranks. These women, however, are not held back by sex discrimination in hiring or in how their scholarly work is evaluated. Men with comparably low levels of research resources fare equivalently to their female peers. Although women disproportionately hold such low-resource positions, this is not because they had their grants and manuscripts rejected or were denied positions at research-intensive universities due to their gender.

Also, females beginning before adolescence often prefer careers focusing on people, rather than things, aspiring to be physicians, biologists and veterinarians rather than physicists, engineers and computer scientists. Efforts to interest young girls in these math-heavy fields are intended to ensure girls do not opt out of inorganic fields because of misinformation or stereotypes.

Also, fertility decisions are key because the tenure system has strong disincentives for women to have children — a factor in why more women in academia are childless than men. Implementation of “flexible options” to enhance work-family balance may help to increase the numbers of women in STEM fields, the researchers say. _SB
Women should be free to choose the nature of their careers, and not be pushed into career tracks which they feel do not suit them, by political feminists.

There is far too much denial of human biodiversity (HBD) inside politics, the media, and the academy. By denying the natural statistical diversity of human biology in the genders and other population groupings, these HBD deniers do untold amounts of damage to generation after generation of young people -- and to society at large.

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2 Comments:

Blogger PRCalDude said...

I'm with Elizabeth Dahlgren - the woman's place is in the home. In the work force, they seldom do real work - they mostly just manage paper and make sure people are reserving conference rooms correctly. Their true talents and aptitudes lie in the the domestic sphere, and our society has only declined since we've sent them off to work.

I'm also with Elizabeth Warren - 2 incomes are a trap as they've mostly been inflationary on home prices.

Wednesday, 09 February, 2011  
Blogger al fin said...

Since most western women are either childless or have only one child, it is unlikely that most women will spend their entire lives "in the home."

Those women who have at least 2 - 4 (or more) children, are likely to do so because they like children -- unless they are Muslim and must do as their husband-master orders them.

If a woman likes children, it is reasonable that her husband allow her to spend as much time at home as necessary to help them through the formative years.

Women should neither be forced into the workplace nor should they be banned, any more than men should be. No one in an open society should be given that much authority.

But special preferences and special promotional programs for girls and women are uncalled for, unless equivalent programs are available for boys and men.

Affirmative action has done as much as should be expected of it, and should be discontinued.

Sunday, 13 February, 2011  

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