January 17, 2005

Women in the Sciences

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at January 17, 2005 10:56 PM

Matt Yglesias has a funny yet insightful post on the recent infamous comments from Larry Summers:

Now in my experience with any dorky, male-dominated activity, the problem is this: Every time a woman begins to participate in the dorky, male-dominated activity, she is immediately pounced upon by dozens of dorky, unappealing men. Some people have sufficient commitment to electrical engineering (or blogging or philosophy or whatever) to press forward nevertheless. The faint of heart, however, are driven away by the nerds never to be seen again.

I'm impressed that a Harvard alum could so eloquently summarize the Caltech gender dynamic. After you read his post, follow the link to PZ Myers' equally good remarks on the subject.

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I find it really difficult to respond to remarks like Larry Summers' without thinking of myself as a case study, because one person's experience isn't terribly valuable when you're talking statistics. But I'll do it for three sentences anyway:
Sometimes I wonder why I didn't go further in math - having loved abstract algebra and number theory - or physics - or cs. I think it's that it's in my personality to want to study everything at once: hence neuro, where you can switch from psychological speculation to cell membrane physiology to network modeling. But instead of the PhD, where I would have been of the female minority, I'm going for an MD, where if anything women are gaining on men, at least in the non-surgical fields. This is because it's also in my personality to want more interaction with people, and more meaningful relationships with people, on a daily basis, than a lab can offer me. I am afraid that this is terribly female of me.

On the other hand, I've talked to a lot of women who heard "girls are better at verbal; boys are better at math" in elementary school, were irritated by it, and resolved to be good at math and science. So there's a bit of a positive backlash effect.

Anne Fausto-Sterling's excellent book should be required reading for those who are prone to make stupid blanket statements about the issue.

Posted by: phi | January 18, 2005 11:38 AM

Yeah, I wish there were more of those persistent nerds out there. :)

I find "normal" people to be unappealing. :)

I miss having kindred spirits around.

Posted by: Mason | January 18, 2005 7:04 PM
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