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Author Topic: Gender Gap in education growing
philnotfil
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http://www.indystar.com/articles/4/206881-6024-009.html

quote:
Girls have eclipsed boys on state and national tests. They are more likely to stay in school and to graduate, and they demand less special attention than boys, data show.

That marks a dramatic turn from the time when schools were urged to nurture girls' brains instead of their baking skills. School officials and experts now fear the effort to pull girls up to an equal footing had an unintended consequence.

quote:
Early studies showed that girls mature faster than boys, develop verbal skills earlier and are conditioned to behave better than boys.

Today, some researchers link a gender gap in the classroom to a lack of male role models. The number of men who pick teaching careers is at a 40-year low nationally at a time when more children grow up without fathers. And some scientists believe decades of feminist-driven attention on girls has paid off.

Maybe we should try to help everyone, instead of one group or the other?
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Shane Roe
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Amen to that Phil.
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aupton15
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"Girls have eclipsed boys on state and national tests. They are more likely to stay in school and to graduate, and they demand less special attention than boys, data show."

I think this study is showing that girls are better-suited to the system of education than boys are at these ages. But I don't think there is particular favoritism being shown to girls in schools any more. I think the improvement is due to putting them in the same situations as boys, and giving them the same encouragement to pursue advanced courses. If we treat boys and girls equally in high school, I would not be surprised to see girls continue to have an edge in standardized test scores and graduation rates.

As for the boys' lack of role models, this makes some sense as well, though it is more speculative than the earlier information. Perhaps we will see a study comparing boys with a father in the home to boys without a father in the home and compare how they do in school, behavior problems, etc. They might even be able to tie in the bit about how less boys are choosing to be teachers. That would be an interesting follow-up.

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Everard
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To some extent I agree with aupton.
On the other hand, I also recognize that in a lot of places, teachers and administrators go overboard attempting to help girls, and this comes at the expense of attention to boy.

For example, when I enter into a physics classroom and have my first real class... women simply do NOT go into physics, for their careers. Its pretty pathetic how few women are in the field. As a teacher, part of my job is going to be to convince the girls in my classes that physics is a field they can succeed in if they want to, since our society usually tells them its a "man's" field.

However, in order to do that... I'm going to need to put girls in situations where they can succeed,both privately and publicly, which means that there are fewer of those public opportunities for boys, and thus, they are less likely to have the confidence to enter a field that is perceived of, and often is, very difficult.

Its a tricky situation, because there were legitimate inequities with education, but when you try to balance inequities, often you bring down the group that benefits, rather then bringing up the disadvantaged group.

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aupton15
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I wholeheartedly agree with the last lines of your post. In an effort to make equal, it is often irrelevant whether the equality brings down the quality. I think math and sciences (physics being a fun combination) are particularly lacking in women, so you get the situations where teachers are advertising for women to get into the field. I think we are in a situation now where we need to get away from this kind of behavior. I think we are at a place now where we can give boys and girls equal attention in the classroom and let them decide where to go from there. In something like physics or engineering, another thing to look at would be the hiring practices of businesses and institutions. Certainly there won't be anything like equal numbers in men and women, but you could see if qualified women are able to get jobs in the field. The idea that women don't enter the field could extend to the people doing the hiring, and that would be more of a hindrance than educational inequities at this point.
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philnotfil
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another thing to look at is that boys and girls are different and don't like the same things.

To me it seems that we should make sure that the door is open, and whoever comes through the door is welcome, but we don't need to be handing out candy or puching kids through the doors to fit our idea of equality.

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Everard
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The problem is, in many ways, the doors open or close at school, in very subtle ways. When studying high school physics, there are NO women who's ideas are in the curriculum, just as an example of how a door can be shut at school if you aren't careful.
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Godot
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Perhaps women are just smarter than men. I'd put my wife up against the brightest men on this forum or any other.

Maybe the earlier development (verbally, physically, etc.) for girls actually gives them an inherent advantage over the boys, especially in the early and formative soaking-up-new-knowledge-like-a-sponge years.

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Adam Masterman
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quote:
When studying high school physics, there are NO women who's ideas are in the curriculum
Your point is valid, but what about Madame Curie?
Adam

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Everard
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Yeah, you stick madame curie on the wall in a physics classroom to point out that women can succeed in physics. but, if she does manage to sneak into the curriculum, its usually as an "extra" at the end of the year, for maybe 5 minutes. College, yes, maybe you learn about her work.
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LoverOfJoy
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For the women on this board, does it really matter to you what gender a scientist is? It's not too uncommon for me to be unsure of the gender of a particular researcher. I often come across foreign names that don't imply (to me) any particular gender. And very often I don't even read first names (APA style has you put in initials for given names).

While I know that women are more prevalent in my field nowadays, I really don't know how many successful men there are.

I would imagine that most women realize that the world was a different place for women in the past. If I were a woman, I'd imagine that it wouldn't turn me off that historically speaking there weren't a lot of great female scientists in field X. Obviously things are different now and women are cropping up in every field. In some ways it could be exciting to be the first "great" female thinker in field X.

Back when I was a computer science major, my school told us that women in computer science were in demand and their female graduates earned $3k more than men.

If I were a woman I think I would have been encouraged by that rather than discouraged by the low number of women in the department.

In my study of marriage and family relations, most of my cohort are women. While there are times I wish there were more men in my classes I was also told that graduate schools in this field can give men a slight advantage in their efforts to have a "balanced" program. There are so many women applicants that they want to find some of those rare men.

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Adam Masterman
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Just threw that out since I remember learning about her, and I was an art major in college. As I said, either way your point remains about the sparcity of women in science.
Adam

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Gaoics79
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This is purely anecdotal, but in my high school, I noticed that the average girl seemed to be smarter than the average boy. However, all of the smartest students were boys. The true geniuses were almost always boys, even though the smart girls outnumbered the smart boys, and the stupid boys were often much worse than the stupid girls.

One interesting thing was that there were no female nerds. There were always awkward boys who read science fiction, played with chemistry sets, and by and large constituted some of the brightest students in the grade. There was no such equivalent group of girls. Perhaps there is something about social awkwardness that promotes genius? (or perhaps it is the other way around) Either way, I wouldn't count the boys out just yet.

On the issue of the lack of women in certain hard sciences (mostly physics, engineering, etc...) I don't think you can explain it away by pointing to a lack of female role models. Not too long ago, there was an equal dearth of female role models in law and medicine, but females now dominate both fields. The simple truth is plain to anyone who paid attention when they were in high school: girls don't like physics or chemistry, at least not in of themselves. (it is a bit different when the theory serves a more tangible purpose, such as medicine, which is very popular among women) Even the ones who excel at the hard sciences (such as my sister) don't really have any passion for them, in my experience. My sister was always better than me in science, but it was always me, not her, who begged for the chemistry sets, the books, the microscopes, etc... Some girls may be good at the academics, but they have no love for the science. They have other interests. There are exceptions, but they are rare. Is it biology, or simply social construction of gender roles? Who knows. One thing is for sure though: most male physicists and engineers would never exclude competant females from their field. I happen to be friends with an electrical engineering PHD, and I think he'd love to see some more women in his field. Far from excluding women, I believe most physicists would be ecstatic to have a woman's washroom not painted onto the wall [Smile]

[ January 06, 2005, 12:21 AM: Message edited by: jasonr ]

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kelcimer
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quote:
One interesting thing was that there were no female nerds. There were always awkward boys who read science fiction, played with chemistry sets, and by and large constituted some of the brightest students in the grade. There was no such equivalent group of girls. Perhaps there is something about social awkwardness that promotes genius? (or perhaps it is the other way around)
When given a lack of understanding of social things an individual will become more indepth with what they can understand. Science is very easy in this regard. It is simple to know all the rules. It's there in the books.

And there would be more female geeks if all the geek stuff wasn't masculine.

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Zyne
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Picking, perhaps... I would hope that there would be ample opportunities for all students to demonstrate their potential for success, not just for female studentsdo to do that.

I'm a girl and I loved physics and chem. I can use a microscope and a telescope (not quite at the same time, tho). The knowledge is not rare, the capacity to learn is ordinary.

Agreed on the field work--I know a ton of men who work in engineering areas of varying types, and I can't name one who would not like another co-worker or boss who was/is female. But "they" likely would and do support the institutional constructs that keep outsiders out of higher education.

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Gaoics79
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"But "they" likely would and do support the institutional constructs that keep outsiders out of higher education."

Are you speaking of outsiders generally or women in particular? If the latter, then I would think that a field should not have to adapt to be more attractive to girls. Either a field is attractive to you or it isn't; if you have any love for the field, you will adapt yourself to its peculiarities, not the other way around. I find the idea (commonly suggested by many well-meaning educators) of sciences tailoring themselves to more female sensibilities (I guess that means more pink circuit boards) silly and somewhat patronizing to women.

"And there would be more female geeks if all the geek stuff wasn't masculine"

Yes, and I'm certain there would be more football players interested in electrical engineering if only electrical engineering had less science and more tackling. [Smile]

[ January 06, 2005, 01:01 AM: Message edited by: jasonr ]

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kelcimer
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C'mon. When I say that, i'm not talking about the science stuff. Comic books dominated by boys. So are CCG's. So is most Sci/Fi. So is D&D. (though I still love being able to say that one of the best players I've had was a hooters girl) All the really geek hobbies are boy dominated. It's not as bad as it was but it is still the case.
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WarrsawPact
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kelcimer - "The Sims" is the beginning of the end for male domination of games. You'd be alarmed at how fast girls start picking up other games once the gateway has been thrown open for them. It's almost a cliche in the gaming community that if you're a geek who wants a girlfriend who will do things with you, start with the Sims and move to an MMORPG like EverQuest. From there they'll do anything short of "Leisure Suit Larry."
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Gaoics79
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I guess I see nerd as a uniquely male subculture. While there are women who participate (about 1 female nerd for every 20 male nerds, by my estimate) it's hard to imagine nerd activities ever becoming more female friendly without ceasing to be nerd activities. Honestly, while it might be possible to get women to enjoy The Sims or some other activities traditionally deemed nerdly, I don't think this will increase the number of female nerds. Nerds have a certain way of interacting with each other that I think is more than just the activities they choose to engage in. In fact, now that I think of it, this form of behavior is really a uniquely male nerd phenomenon. Even the most devoted female nerds I have known never had that uniquely nerd personality. Ever watched season 6 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Remember the trio? Those guys behaved in classic nerd fashion. The real giveaway was the constant argument over minutae. [Smile]

But anyway, speaking as a nerd, I don't know why anyone, male or female would want to be one. Nerds are social rejects and outcasts. I hate being a nerd. Nerds tend to be smarter in some ways, but when it comes to social situations, are dumber than lamp posts.

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philnotfil
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Girl nerds have different things to geek out about.

Boys and girls are different.

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FIJC
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quote:
"I'm a girl and I loved physics and chem. I can use a microscope and a telescope (not quite at the same time, tho). The knowledge is not rare, the capacity to learn is ordinary."
I hated going to the science class I had last semester. If I even came, I would typically come late, sit in the back, and text message all through the session.
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Robertson, Ugly and Nohow
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I think the reason women are succeeding more than men in schools is that they are more responsible, not necessarily smarter.

I know I'm stereotyping, but I think one advantage that women have over men is that they learn organizational skills at an earlier age. For biological reasons, they become proficient at calendaring before most guys are learning to brush their hair.

I think there are also current stereotypes in our culture that lend themselves toward women being more responsible than men (people often tend to become what you tell them they are). For example, in most family sit-coms, it's the husband who's the silly irresponsible one who the enlightened wife keeps in line(e.g. Cosby show, Home Improvement, etc.). This seems to be a role reversal of what we saw 30-50 yrs ago where the wife was generally the irresponsible comic relief (e.g. 'I Love Lucy', 'I Dream of Genie', 'Bewitched').

Because women are more responsible. they are more apt to do their homework, and study for tests. I think they're doing a better job of fulfilling their potential than men are (generally speaking).

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FIJC
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quote:
"I know I'm stereotyping, but I think one advantage that women have over men is that they learn organizational skills at an earlier age. For biological reasons, they become proficient at calendaring before most guys are learning to brush their hair."
Ha! Either my computer or my roomate map out my daily list...which is one reason why I think I am going to be a horrible mother. I am going to be one of those mom's that forget their kids.

quote:
"Because women are more responsible. they are more apt to do their homework, and study for tests. I think they're doing a better job of fulfilling their potential than men are (generally speaking)."
Ha!

[ January 06, 2005, 12:15 PM: Message edited by: FIJC ]

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aupton15
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FIJC, you might just be the exception to the rule. I'm relatively resonsible, and studied for tests in school, but most of my guy friends were never like that. I think the fact that girls mature faster has more to do with this than any innate ability. I think *most* girls just care more at 15 or 16 than boys do.
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Mr Xin Ku
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I remember back in elementary school they had all the girls and their mothers stay in class for a "tea party" (*cough* sex ed). Where were the boys? We were sent to the gym to play "slaughter ball." Maybe they figured we'd educate ourselves via magazines and dirty jokes, while the girls needed some affirmative action. That was probably 25 years ago, I suspect the schools have come a long way, baby.
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Brian
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Men are more physical, while women are more mental. In today's high-tech society, the redundant X-chromosome gets a chance to shine. I keep telling my wife that she has to take care of me, because men are becoming obsolete.
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Lewkowski
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Women and men are different.

I wish people would figure that out.

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aupton15
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I don't think anyone is arguing otherwise Lew. It's just a matter of HOW.
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IrishTD
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If they are so different, particularly in learning sytles, what is so bad about seperating the genders for teaching, particularly at the younger levels? IIRC (and I don't have much motivation to look it up today -- sorry), it's been shown that everyone tends to do better when classes are divided up by gender.

Of course, if you want to complain about the two genders not mixing, I'm sure some classes could be found where the differences in learning are minute (art/music possibly).

Edit: punctuation.

[ January 07, 2005, 03:25 PM: Message edited by: IrishTD ]

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LoverOfJoy
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Good question, Irish.

I wonder what impact, if any, separation of genders for teaching would have on later integration.

If, as you suggest, separation is particularly helpful in younger years then at what age should children be integrated?

Does the disadvantages of integration disappear at a certain age because it takes that long for integration to be successful or because of cognitive changes typical of that age group?

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LadyKat
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I was a nerd in high school, and I'm an engineering student now. I loved chem in high school, but had an awful teacher in college. I seemed to have a knack for it though, because I understood everything and got a B without really trying at all (the teacher was really awful). All of this and I'm still a chick.

P.S. I work as an Intern for an Engineering firm right now and the guys here would love to see more women in the field. I've heard them say that this is because we're better to look at [Wink] .

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rolva
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"If they are so different, particularly in learning sytles, what is so bad about seperating the genders for teaching, particularly at the younger levels? IIRC (and I don't have much motivation to look it up today -- sorry), it's been shown that everyone tends to do better when classes are divided up by gender."

Just yesterday they were talking on the radio about the College of St. Catherine here in St. Paul which is the largest women's college in the country.

In the interviews the students were talking precisely about how they gained more confidence in a women's school. One quote from a newspaper article was

quote:

... the college helps women "develop independent judgment and assume leadership roles rather than simply defer to men."



[ January 07, 2005, 04:53 PM: Message edited by: rolva ]

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philnotfil
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Ran across another article, didn't feel a need to start a new thread for it:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A57611-2005Jan7.html
quote:
Frederick County would seem to be an unlikely venue to launch a controversial approach to education. Last year, for example, almost 76 percent of its fourth-graders tested at levels of proficiency or above in mathematics on state exams, and more than 79 percent tested at those levels in reading.

On test scores, however, educators discovered a gender gap in reading.

"We noticed our girls were doing fine. Lo and behold, it was the boys who were performing pitifully," Twin Ridge Principal H. Peter Storm said.

Third-grade boys and girls were less than a half-percentage-point apart on reading and mathematics tests. By fifth grade, however, a gap had opened in reading, with 93.5 percent of the girls meeting standards vs. 83.5 percent for the boys.

A committee of parents and educators researched same-sex classes, and the Frederick County Board of Education unanimously approved the experiment in March. Candidates were selected at random; their parents were allowed to opt out.

"Until the No Child Left Behind Act, these programs were seen as illegal," said Sax, who operates a family practice in Poolesville. "Now, they have finally come out of the closet."

Sax argues that same-sex education is justified by a growing body of scientific research showing differences in the structure and cognitive abilities of male and female brains that translate into differences in learning styles.

"We're at the point where we've identified more than 100 differences between the male and female brain," said Michael Gurian, a Spokane, Wash., writer whose book "Boys and Girls Learn Differently" (2001) was instrumental in Frederick County's decision to try same-sex education. He rejects the idea that segregating students by sex and styling their classes differently is a return to sexist practices.


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rhymes with tequila
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Eh, even if there are general differences in the way that boys and girls learn, the correlation isn't perfect. Much better (and also much less likely to be illegal) would be to pick two teaching styles (call them M and F if you'd like), and then test students individually to determine if they respond better to M teaching or to F teaching.
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noah
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Interestingly enough, my seventh grade teacher told me something interesting about teaching boys and girls. This teacher had taught the same group of students for fifth grade and sixth grade, and he moved up with them to seventh grade. Suddenly, the girls stopped raising their hands in class! They also stopped giving answers voluntarily, and possibly even deliberately got questions wrong (it's hard to be sure). Finally, my teacher sent the boys away and asked the girls why they were doing this. They said it was because they wanted boys to like them, and apparently they thought boys liked girls who where dumber than they were, who could be easily dominated.

I can't, of course, guarantee that this is a widespread trend, but I think it might help explain why there are male nerds, but few female nerds.

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rhymes with tequila
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I had heard anecdotal evidence of that too, noah. Also read somewhere that some women have trouble reaching orgasm if they are with a man they consider less intelligent than they are.
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FiredrakeRAGE
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There are very few women in the engineering field at my University. This is particularly true in the Computer Engineering field. I am unsure if the 'voluntarily playing stupid' theory is correct though. Some young men might find smart women threatening, but I believe that by the time guys reach college they've seen the light. More to the point, most male nerds (I speak from personal experience) tend not to give a crap about the opinions of others. I fail to see why the same would not be true on the other side of the gender-gap.

--Firedrake

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philnotfil
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@Noah, it isn't just anecdotal, Some folks in Britain actually just published a study on it.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1423032,00.html

quote:
IT REALLY is brains not brawn that women look for in a man. An exhaustive study of people from primary school to middle age has proved that clever men are much more likely to marry than those with lesser intelligence.

But for female high-flyers, the reverse is true. Their chances of walking up the aisle are considerably lower than those of classmates who left school at 16.


quote:
“The finding that IQ in early life appears to be associated with the likelihood to marry is important because factors in childhood may determine a person’s marital status in adulthood, which may in turn influence future health and mortality,” says the study, to appear in the Journal of Personality and Individual Differences.

For boys, there is a 35% increase in the likelihood of marriage for each 16-point rise in IQ. For girls, there is a 40% drop for each 16-point increase.



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philnotfil
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The president of Harvard feels that boys and girls are different and, not surprisingly, the girls jumped all over him to tell him he was wrong.

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/18/national/18harvard.html

quote:
he president of Harvard University, Lawrence H. Summers, who offended some women at an academic conference last week by suggesting that innate differences in sex may explain why fewer women succeed in science and math careers, stood by his comments yesterday but said he regretted if they were misunderstood.

"I'm sorry for any misunderstanding but believe that raising questions, discussing multiple factors that may explain a difficult problem, and seeking to understand how they interrelate is vitally important," Dr. Summers said in an interview.

Several women who participated in the conference said yesterday that they had been surprised or outraged by Dr. Summers's comments, and Denice D. Denton, the chancellor designate of the University of California, Santa Cruz, questioned Dr. Summers sharply during the conference, saying she needed to "speak truth to power."

Nancy Hopkins, a professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who once led an investigation of sex discrimination there that led to changes in hiring and promotion, walked out midway through Dr. Summers's remarks.

"When he started talking about innate differences in aptitude between men and women, I just couldn't breathe because this kind of bias makes me physically ill," Dr. Hopkins said. "Let's not forget that people used to say that women couldn't drive an automobile."

quote:
Not all reactions were negative. Some female academics and the organizer of the two-day conference that Dr. Summers addressed on Friday at the National Bureau of Economic Research, a nonprofit economic research organization in Cambridge, defended the remarks as a well-intentioned effort to speak candidly about the persistent underrepresentation of women in university departments of mathematics, engineering and physical sciences.
quote:
"I began by saying that the whole issue of gender equality was profoundly important and that we are taking major steps at Harvard to combat passive discrimination," he recalled in yesterday's interview. "Then I wanted to add some provocation to what I understand to be basically a social science discussion."

He discussed several factors that could help explain the underrepresentation of women. The first factor, he said, according to several participants, was that top positions on university math and engineering faculties require extraordinary commitments of time and energy, with many professors working 80-hour weeks in the same punishing schedules pursued by top lawyers, bankers and business executives. Few married women with children are willing to accept such sacrifices, he said.

Dr. Hopkins said, "I didn't disagree, but didn't like the way he presented that point because I like to work 80 hours a week, and I know a lot of women who work that hard."


That last bit that I bolded is from the lady that walked out partway through. How could you be so mad about something that you would walk out, but not have disagreed with what was being said?
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Jordan
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I'd like to know, why is it necessarily bad that women are 'underrepresented' in science or engineering courses?

I recall a theory which speculated that 'nurture' might actually be exaggerating relatively minor contributions by 'nature.' Simply, it stated that even if one child only had a modest (genetic) advantage over other children, that advantage would be noticed and encouraged to become something more than it was. Therefore, slight differences between boys and girls will magnify such that, once they reach high-school, they'll start to go their separate ways.

- Jordan

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