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Women in Science: Against All Odds

Women in Science: Against All Odds

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Women in Science: Against All Odds

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  1. Women in Science: Against All Odds Rosalind Chait Barnett, Ph.D. Community, Families & Work Program Women’s Studies Research Center Brandeis University Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  2. There are at least three gender stereotypic beliefs that are widely held, often repeated, and taken to bolster the idea that women’s under-representation in math and science is inevitable. Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  3. Women have never made it into the ranks of the most accomplished mathematicians and scientists. • Innately, women don’t have what it takes to succeed in math and science. • Women’s brains, cognitive skills, motivations, and hormones are deficient. Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  4. Women have never made it into the ranks of the most accomplished mathematicians and scientists. Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  5. European Renaissance: 14th -17th Centuries Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  6. Amazing abundance of male super-star scientists Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  7. Pierre de Fermat (1601 - 1665 ) generally regarded as the greatest number theorist of all times Nicholaus Copernicus (1473 - 1543) called the founder of modern astronomy Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) called the "father of modern observational astronomy", “modern physics", & the "father of science". Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) one of the most important scientists in the field of astronomy, having been the first to explain planetary motion v Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  8. Gottfried Leibniz (1646 - 1716) best known for having invented differential and integral calculus. René Descartes (1596-1650) is one of the most important Western philosophers of the past few centuries. During his lifetime, Descartes was just as famous as an original physicist, physiologist, and mathematician Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) the greatest mathematician of his generation and considered one of the foremost scientific intellects of all time. Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519) v Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  9. During this extraordinary period, what were the women doing? Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  10. Elite women had only two life options: • An arranged marriage • Life in a convent Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  11. For elite women, annual pregnancy was the general rule; contraceptives were not widely introduced until the 18th century. Fraser, A. (1984). The weaker vessel: Knopf. Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  12. What was convent life like? Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  13. Is it any wonder that the pursuit of science was then and has continued to be deemed a male pursuit? Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  14. With the Protestant Reformation and the decline of convent life, other obstacles to women’s education emerged in Europe and in the U.S. Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  15. “As the brain develops, the ovaries shrivel” (Fausto-Sterling, A. (1985). Myths of gender. New York: Basic Books) “Education will undermine their health and that of their future children” “Education will decrease their willingness to do housework or obey their husbands” “Education will lead to their inclusion in men’s activities and to taking over men’s jobs” v Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  16. Are universities hostile places for women faculty? Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  17. Does the peer-review system evaluate women and men on an equal basis? Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  18. Two Swedish scientists noted that female scientists applying for prestigious fellowships at the Swedish Medical Research Council (MRC) during the 1990s had been less than half as successful as male applicants. Wenneras, C., & Wold, A. (1997). Nepotism and sexism in peer-review. Nature, 387(22 May), 341-343. Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  19. Three subjective evaluation parameters: • Scientific competence, • Relevance of the research • proposal, and • The quality of the proposed • methodology. Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  20. The inference is that women earned lower scores because they were less productive. But were they? Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  21. Did men and women with equal objective scientific productivity scores receive the same subjective competence ratings by the MRC reviewers? NO! Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  22. Figure 1: The mean competence score given to male (red squares) and female (blue squares) applicants by the MRC reviewers as a function of their scientific productivity, measured as total impact. One impact point equals one paper published in a journal with an impact factor of 1. Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008 Wenneras, C., & Wold, A. (1997). Nature, 387 (22 May), 341-343.

  23. To be awarded the same competence score as a male colleague, a female scientist would have to produce approximately three extra papers in high-impact journals such as Nature or Science or 20 extra papers in excellent specialist journals such as Atherosclerosis, Gut, Infection and Immunity, Neuroscience or Radiology. Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  24. In sum, a female applicant had to be 2.5 times more productive than the average male applicant to receive the same competence score. Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  25. This study provides direct evidence that the peer-review system is subject to sex bias. Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  26. Women don’t have what it takes to succeed in math and science! Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  27. A meta analysis of math aptitude scores from 4,000,000 students, found that sex differences were tiny. Hyde, J. S., Fennema, E., & Lamon, S. J. (1990). Gender differences in mathematics performance: A meta analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 107(2), 139-155. Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  28. Gender differences in mathematics performance Number of People Effect size = 0.15 Source: Hyde, J. S., Fennema, E., & Lamon, S. J. (1990). Gender differences in mathematics performance: A meta analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 107, 139-155. Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  29. Tests compared math scores of grammar school kids in the U.S., Taiwan and Japan. Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  30. Spelke--five "core systems" at the foundation of mathematical reasoning. • First, a system for representing small exact numbers of objects — the difference between one, two, and three. (5 mos.) • Second, understanding numerical magnitudes — the difference between a set of about ten things and a set of about 20 things. • Third, a system of natural number concepts that children construct as they learn verbal counting. This takes place between about the ages of two and a half and four years. Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  31. Fourth and Fifth are systems first seen in children when they navigate: understanding the geometry of the surrounding layout and identifying landmark objects. • There is, she notes, a biological foundation to mathematical and scientific reasoning that emerges in children before any formal instruction. These systems develop equally in males and females. • “There’s not a hint of an advantage for boys over girls in any of these five basic systems.” v Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  32. Are Boys Better at Representing Numbers? Average performance High performance No. Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  33. High performance Average performance Are Boys Better at Representing Objects? No. (Spelke, LaMont & Lizcano, aggregated data) Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  34. 3 year-old children No male advantage on average or at the highest levels. Are Boys Better at Learning to Count? Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  35. Map-Reading Children typically begin to understand map tasks at about 4 years. Considerable variability in map reading at all ages. Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  36. 4 year-old children No. Are Boys Better at Map Reading? Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  37. Women’s brains, cognitive skills, motivations, and hormones are deficient. Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  38. Brain Structure Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  39. “men have “systemizing” brains, whereas women have “empathizing” brains” (Baron-Cohen, 2003, p. 27) Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  40. Brain Structure – Simon Baron-Cohen, The essential difference: The truth about the male and female brain. New York: Basic Books, 2003. Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  41. Brain Structure • “The brains of men differ from the brains of women in several ways. Men have larger brains with more neurons (even correcting for body size) though women have a larger percentage of grey matter. Since men and women are equally intelligent overall, the significance of these differences is unknown.” - Steven Pinker Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  42. Cognitive Skills Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  43. Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  44. Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  45. In the experimental group, both male and female college students improved with training on the mental rotation test.However, females showed greater improvement than males, such that the prior gender differences were substantially reduced on the mental rotation task. Feng, J., Spence, I., & Pratt, J. (2007). Playing an action video reduces gender differences in spatial cognition. Psychological Science, 18(10), 850-855. Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  46. IMPLICATIONS • Visuospatial skills can be learned, they are neither innate nor immutable. • Training with an appropriately designed action-video game could play a significant role as part of a larger strategy designed to interest women in science and engineering careers. Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  47. All students with low scores on a test of visuospatial ability were encouraged to enroll in a course to improve these skills. Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  48. The gains made by students on these spatial-skills tests as a result of participation in the course were statistically and materially significant. Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  49. Hormonal Differences Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008

  50. Boys’ higher level of testosterone causes them to strive for dominance, exhibit more aggression and competition. Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism April 11, 2008