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View Poll Results: Why are women underrepresented in the scientific professions?

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  • Biologically, women are not suited to scientific inquiry.

    1 9.09%
  • Biologically, women are not suited to the 'dog-eat-dog' environment of large enterprises.

    1 9.09%
  • Women cannot simultaneously succeed in a career and childrearing.

    4 36.36%
  • Culturally, girls are taught not to want to be scientists.

    5 45.45%
  • Realistically, girls have to work too hard to be scientists to make the option worthwile.

    0 0%
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Thread: Sociobiological reasons there aren't many women scientists

  1. #1 Sociobiological reasons there aren't many women scientists 
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    Before getting into sociobiological reasons why there are so few women scientists, let us look at the commonly-accepted reasons, and then see if there are biological underpinnings to these social realities.

    1. Secondary school girls are not encouraged to enter the math/science curriculum in grade school, discouraging them from the start.

    2. High school girls are trying not to stand out as too smart in order to not make boys think they are unattainable.

    3. Undergraduate girls are not discouraged from entering into any major, as they are thought to change their majors twice anyway, especially when there are so few female mentors/role models in the sciences.

    4. Graduate college admissions officers are leary about accepting girls who will not finish if they marry/have children.

    5. Girls who do get admitted are still less likely to receive funding for the same reason.

    6. Employers look at the possibility of having female employees quit or take significant time off to have children, or to follow husbands who get transferred.

    Is there a biological determiner of many or all of the above reasons for the underrespresentation of women in the scientific professions? Consider also that this disparity varies greatly from one science to another. Specifically, some sciences (e.g., physics, chemistry) seem to be more masculine than others (e.g., psychology, zoology). Sciences involving feelings or nurturing cute critters are perceived to be more feminine than other sciences which are more dispassionate. Is this because women are more nurturing than men are? If so, isn't this a biological determiner for the differences in gender representation?

    So far, I have only mentioned the sciences as methods of inquiry, but the scientific profession is more than science. Economics and politics are also in the picture. Are women as likely to 'toot their own horn' to claim credit for their work, or are they more likely to be 'team players'? Are women more competitive or co-operative? Are men as likely to accept a position in a firm working 'under a woman'? Are women as likely to bring the bucks into the institution? Again, these may well have biological underpinnings.

    What do you think? Do these questions make sense? Are there questions that I have left out? Let the debate ensue!


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  3. #2  
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    I think your point 6, the combination of having a carreer and raising children, is most important. Promoting an employee to a high position requires big investments by the employer, both financial (extra education) and regarding reputation (you connect your good name to senior employees). Any economics book tells you should only make such an investment when you're sure it will pay out eventually. The chance a female employee will leave before your investment has payed itself is statistically big.

    Regarding politics, there may be something else at play. Why do people vote for some person? Usually because they feel that person can defend their interest. Maybe men just seem more 'powerfull', more able to defend you (I'm talking psychology here :wink: )


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  4. #3  
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    You forgot to point out an option that women can not visualize 3D space as well as men can, this can help in problem solving. It's why women navigate more by landmarks and men can visualize the roads around them, and what direction they are headed and what direction they will need to turn. Many tests have been done that indicate women can not visualize this as well. Being a man I have to say I can visualize anything in 3D space.
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  5. #4  
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    First of all, great name, Thales!

    Biologically, female animals are the care-takers, the males are the hunters/gatherers. It seems to me that biologically, a male would have a higher 'Will to Truth' (with this I mean a philosophical drive, which can channel itself in a scientific drive). A man would have to scout the land in search of food, while the activities of a woman would remain with raising and feeling the young.

    Perhaps this is also an explanation for the landmarks/3D. A female must know where she put her young and such. For her, having landmarks are handier.

    A male must be able to know where there is food, and must thus be able to find his way through large amounts of terrain (for example the savanna) without too many recognizable landmarks.

    Sure, there are probably some cultural motivators. Behaviour is rarely just one drive, but my guess goes for women not being 'inquisitive' enough, and that they tend to (statistically) take care of their young.
    Perhaps this is also an explanation why there are so very, very few female philosophers.

    I'm male, by the way .

    Mr U
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  6. #5  
    2112
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    There are many scientific explanations for why women are the way they are. I think there will always be less women in professional roles because women are expected to care for the children whether that is their main goal in life or not, it takes a lot out of a person to care for a little person 24/7, unless you put them in daycare.

    I will offer personal experience. I don't know how all women are, but I know that I'm more than just a babysitter, even while watching my son. Like (In)Sanity was saying above, men are better at 3D spacial relationships and visualization, well I am better at that than most women I'm sure. I am the one who does all the handywork around the house, I troubleshoot the computer, I wire the entertainment system, research things before we buy them, I do many of the 'manly' tasks as well as being a mom. But I have noticed that other moms, and other women do not do these things, instead they go shopping, get their hair done, nails done, etc... I wouldn't mind doing that, but my first love is solving problems in my own home. I have heard that women are born business conisseiurs because they can multitask. I saw on a documentary I think on one of the Discovery Channels that like 5 women and 5 men were all given 10 tasks to do, some in order and some at random as they came up. Things like answer the phone, make popcorn, take care of the baby, etc... None of the men completed all tasks, but every woman completed every single one, so that make sense. But the women who are not hands on and ready to get their hands dirty to get something done aren't probably going to make very good mom's anyway. But we definitely know that it is a woman's choice whether she chooses a career or a family or both. There are so many ranges of what a woman can do, however I think the biological pull to be a mom full time will make mothers and women in the workplace scarcer than men for the longterm.
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2112
    There are many scientific explanations for why women are the way they are. I think there will always be less women in professional roles because women are expected to care for the children whether that is their main goal in life or not, it takes a lot out of a person to care for a little person 24/7, unless you put them in daycare.

    I will offer personal experience. I don't know how all women are, but I know that I'm more than just a babysitter, even while watching my son. Like (In)Sanity was saying above, men are better at 3D spacial relationships and visualization, well I am better at that than most women I'm sure. I am the one who does all the handywork around the house, I troubleshoot the computer, I wire the entertainment system, research things before we buy them, I do many of the 'manly' tasks as well as being a mom. But I have noticed that other moms, and other women do not do these things, instead they go shopping, get their hair done, nails done, etc... I wouldn't mind doing that, but my first love is solving problems in my own home. I have heard that women are born business conisseiurs because they can multitask. I saw on a documentary I think on one of the Discovery Channels that like 5 women and 5 men were all given 10 tasks to do, some in order and some at random as they came up. Things like answer the phone, make popcorn, take care of the baby, etc... None of the men completed all tasks, but every woman completed every single one, so that make sense. But the women who are not hands on and ready to get their hands dirty to get something done aren't probably going to make very good mom's anyway. But we definitely know that it is a woman's choice whether she chooses a career or a family or both. There are so many ranges of what a woman can do, however I think the biological pull to be a mom full time will make mothers and women in the workplace scarcer than men for the longterm.
    Women tend to make better managers, men are just very good at single task problem solving. Toss in presence of the opposite sex and we can't get anything done. The bottom line, have the women in charge, but keep them out of sight, smell, etc. I think it's why many intelligent boys get more done then intelligent men
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  8. #7  
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    I would say that the different outcomes of women in science are probably due to a combination of biological differences and cultural forces, and tracking any one down to a cause and effect sequence will be difficult. It is also a politically sensitive topic and men and women each strive for control over their destiny, usually at the expense of other individuals and opposite genders.

    Since the question was about science, Mr U made an interesting point that men might be more biologically driven to scientific inquiry than women. Since science is about understanding our reality, is there an implication that men have a greater inherent need for reality/truth. If we look to other disciplines that seek reality/truth like religion/cults etc, often in conflict with science, how are women represented? Once again cultural factors can obscure biology, yet I would bet that very few, or no cults, are headed by women. Religion is more difficult due to the length of history in which women have been formally barred, however startup religions like Protestantism, Mormonism were initiated by men. There was great pressure against these people to come up with an alternative reality, just as there was for great scientists like Galileo, or philosophers like Socrates.

    So while we can accept that women are culturally disadvantaged to do these things, we could also argue that anyone going for the top spots will be risking life and limb.

    The 'glass' ceiling that people complain is holding women back is, in fact, there to block all but the few who succeed. Boardroom cemeteries are mostly littered with male corpses, similarly in politics, religion, military and that is because most who strive for the top, are men.

    So, if women are less inclined to strive in reality/truth seeking systems, is this just because they are more inclined to seek vicarious power, or is there a morality question here?
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  9. #8  
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    I think women for the most part also tend to be busier during their normal lives then men do. The young man may have more free time then the young women. This lends itself a little better to be inquisitive and follow up on that desire for knowledge.

    I of course could be off base on this one.
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  10. #9  
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    Is possible that girls have a wee handicap because their inferior spatial orientation, but I think that an important factor to explain the difference in percentage is that a lot of girls are cowed by parents or teachers to follow an scientific career. I've known a lot of girls that are more intelligent than me, and many of them have been raised in model families, in which the parents are educated people that know that they shouldn't discriminate between the boy and the girl. Nobody can deny that machismo is still in vogue in a lot of parts of the globe, specially in muslim countries
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  11. #10  
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    It is indeed biological,social, and cultural engineering as others have stated.

    Since I was a young girl, I had wanted to study the sciences.
    I asked my parents for a chemistry set-- they gave me an easy bake oven instead

    I asked for a microscope-they gave me stupid freakin doll.
    So I took the doll and baked it in the oven!

    My teachers and parents tried to discourage my interests in science --tried to convince me to be a caregiver- blah,blah,blah...

    I ignored them and pursued my studies..
    Unlike most females, I don't enjoy shopping, nor do I like cooking,I don't get my nails done nor do I own 10,000 pairs of shoes !!
    :?

    I would rather be playing with my telescope,visiting the Museum of Natural History or play a friendly game of chess.
    (or morphing cyber flies and mice)

    Needless to say, I don't have that many female friends :wink:

    Melanie
    Our species needs, and deserves, a citizenry with minds wide awake and a basic understanding of how the world works. ~~Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World~~
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  12. #11  
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    Yea that's the spirit!

    I guess steriotyping is part of the problem. In some way it's a chicken-or-egg problem: female scientists are relatively scarce, creating the steriotype of scientists (and soldiers or busines-ppl) being guys, discouraging the next generation of girls to choose such a career. But I'm not pessimistic about the future. At the moment the sex-structure at my university (university of Utrecht) is 60% girls 40% guys. Good for me, more prey
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