The Math Gender Gap: Nurture Trumps Nature!!
(via TIME) - Rural India might not seem a likely place to study the roots of gender differences in math performance. But a new study of two tribes living in the northeast of the country offers intriguing evidence that biology alone does not determine women’s math aptitude (or lack thereof, as former Harvard President Lawrence Summers once infamously suggested) and that culture has a lot to do with the differences between the genders.
Read more: HERE
From the moment of birth to the moment of tenure, throughout this great developmental progression, there are unintentional but pervasive and important differences in the ways that males and females are perceived and evaluated.
What’s more, cognitive development is robust: boys and girls show equal capacities and achievements in educational settings, including in science and mathematics, despite the very different ways in which boys and girls are perceived and evaluated. I think it’s really great news that males and females develop along common paths and gain common sets of abilities. The equal performance of males and females, despite their unequal treatment, strongly suggests that mathematical and scientific reasoning has a biological foundation, and this foundation is shared by males and females.
The question is, Why are there fewer women mathematicians and scientists?
The patterns of bias that I described provide four interconnected answers to that question. First, and most obviously, biased perceptions produce discrimination: When a group of equally qualified men and women are evaluated for jobs, more of the men will get those jobs if they are perceived to be more qualified. Second, if people are rational, more men than women will put themselves forward into the academic competition, because men will see that they’ve got a better chance for success. Academic jobs will be more attractive to men because they face better odds, will get more resources, and so forth.
Third, biased perceptions earlier in life may well deter some female students from even attempting a career in science or mathematics. If your parents feel that you don’t have as much natural talent as someone else whose objective abilities are no better than yours, that may discourage you, as Eccles’s work shows. Finally, there’s likely to be a snowball effect. All of us have an easier time imagining ourselves in careers where there are other people like us. If the first three effects perpetuate a situation where there are few female scientists and mathematicians, young girls will be less likely to see math and science as a possible life.Liz Spelke in her 2005 debate with Steven Pinker in response to “public comments by Lawrence Summers, president of Harvard, on sex differences between men and women and how they may relate to the careers of women in science.”