Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A New Frontier for Title IX: Science

Looks like the perceived "discrimination" and imbalance of women in the sciences are getting some attention in the US Congress.

It is still highly controversial, of course, on whether there really is some form of bias, intended or not, against having women in science, and especially in physics.

They remain a minority in the physical sciences and engineering. Even though their annual share of doctorates in physics has tripled in recent decades, it’s less than 20 percent. Only 10 percent of physics faculty members are women, a ratio that helped prompt an investigation in 2005 by the American Institute of Physics into the possibility of bias.

But the institute found that women with physics degrees go on to doctorates, teaching jobs and tenure at the same rate that men do. The gender gap is a result of earlier decisions. While girls make up nearly half of high school physics students, they’re less likely than boys to take Advanced Placement courses or go on to a college degree in physics.

These numbers don’t surprise two psychologists at Vanderbilt University, David Lubinski and Camilla Persson Benbow, who have been tracking more than 5,000 mathematically gifted students for 35 years.

They found that starting at age 12, the girls tended to be better rounded than the boys: they had relatively strong verbal skills in addition to math, and they showed more interest in “organic” subjects involving people and other living things. Despite of their mathematical prowess, they were less likely than boys to go into physics or engineering.

I think that there is one important point that those who are trying to push a policy one way or the other onto this group of people, who are scientists. These scientists tend to also be experts in the nature and validity of the "evidence" being used. So don't expect them to simply sit back and accept all of these various conclusions being forced onto them. If you think that there's a valid evidence for something, it better be something stronger than just some anecdotal evidence, or else it will be challenged.



Mahendra said...

Do check this debate on a similar subject:


I also take this opportunity to thank you for this brilliant blog. It' priceless!!

Anonymous said...

Good luck trying to explain to anyone that no serious argument can be based on anecdotal evidence. The typical reaction is that of feeling insulted by the fact that you don't "think their experience is worthy"...

Anonymous said...

On the subject of girls and physics - it looks like more girls than boys caught a goof that Stephen Hawking made - http://www.prlog.org/10113653-city-of-bexley-to-honor-physics-students-for-catching-stephen-hawking-error.html