IF GIRLS HAVE SLIGHTLY HIGHER IQS AND GET BETTER GRADES, WHY ARE THEIR NUMBERS DISPROPORTIONATELY LOW IN MATH AND SCIENCE CAREERS?
I still remember learning in grade school that men were better at math and science, and women were better at English and art. The teacher (who was a woman), presented the information as a general fact--noting that these were just loose guidelines that could differ from person to person--and I didn’t question it for a second. You know, until I grew up a bit and realized the very premise was preposterous.
But as this infographic (which is really a narrative of sorts) shows us, it’s not enough to right the wrongs of gender perception when people grow older, the damage has already been done.
A lot of these facts are likely nuggets you’ve heard before, like girls performing worse on tests when they are required to mark their gender. But seeing each factoid lined up in pseudo-chronological order, from a grade schooler to a professional, it seems inevitable that women don’t stake their place in industries already dominated by men.
The picture is incomplete, of course. We don’t see how the comparative self-esteem of men evolves over the same time. But it’s safe to say that, when only 16% of students in engineering classes are women, we’re doing something wrong--especially when we can all benefit from some fresh perspective.
Twenty years or so after that day in grade school, I’m a writer and my wife is a scientist. I guess that, given these gender-professional norms, you could make a joke about who wears the pants in my family. But it could never offend either of us. No matter what we do, she’ll still be smarter than me anyway.
COMMENTARY: These are alarming statistics. Makes you wonder what is the underlying cause of the loss of self-esteem among females. Perhaps it could be that women simply do not care to pursue careers requiring too much math and science. There are fewer of those type of jobs, and many of them are in academia or technology centers like Silicon Valley, and they very often do not pay very much, than jobs in the private sector. Whatever the reason, it makes you wonder if the math and science "gap" that economists talk about and reasons why American universities are producing fewer engineers than China, Europe and India per capita is because of that gender gap in math and science.
In a blog post dated September 29, 2011, the U.S. is producing more science and engineer graduates (undergrad and graduate) in 2008 than they did in 1998. However, the state of science and engineering in the U.S. is still strong, yet the nation's lead is shrinking, according to the latest report from the National Science Board. Based on a wide range of data - from R&D spending to higher-education trends in science and engineering fields - the group's Science and Engineering Indicators 2010 report suggests that U.S. dominance of world science and engineering has deteriorated significantly in recent years, due in large part to rapidly increasing capabilities in China and other Asian economies.
However, U.S. high-technology employers have given our educational system a bad rap, claiming that we don't produce sufficient science and engineering students to fill their employment requirements. They always seem to bitch about the limitation on H1B visas. We have already outsourced nearly 20 million jobs overseas, and employers are trying to do the same thing by importing more science and engineers at lower wages. I remember a "60 Minutes" documentary about why they hire foreign engineers. They claim they are smarter. I think that's bullshit. The real reason is economic--they are cheaper. U.S. employers are using the H1B visa as a gimick to reduce overall science and engineering wages. I say, hire American, keep those jobs here, and provide incentives for U.S. students to pursue science and math courses.
It appears that the shortage of females in careers requiring science and math is not strictly a U.S. problem. A similar problem exists in India, a bastian of math and science graduates, and important source of software engineers for Silicon Valley. In fact, the percentage of females studying science, engineering/technology and medicine are in the low teens when compared to their Indian male counterparts. Only 15.8% and 16.5% of India's graduate and doctoral candidates are female respectively. It would not surprise me that similar numbers exist in Japan, a very male dominated society, but I don't have the data. If anybody does, post it in the blog.
Courtesy of an article dated March 21, 2012 appearing in Fast Company Design