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An article came out a few months ago, and I really like a lot of the points it raises. It’s a review of Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender and research on sex/gender differences in general. Basically, the article challenges the idea that innate sex differences are linked to real-world accomplishments, which has been raised by many scientists and a certain ex-Harvard University president. This idea is often used to explain why there are disproportionately fewer women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields than men.
That idea seems to ignore all the literature that’s out there on stereotype threat and other cultural and sociological factors that could contribute to observed differences in cognition between the sexes. According to a neuroscience major and third year med student (a.k.a. my sister), it’s really hard to tease apart whether differences in cognition are innate or a result of environmental factors. In fact, it’s probably both.
Through my conversations with Filipino friends who happen to be female and scientists, I also learned that there is no gender gap in the sciences in the Philippines. There are an equal number of men and women at every level of the pipeline, and my friends didn’t hear about the “leaky pipeline”* until they came to the U.S. for graduate school. This blew my mind because I moved to the U.S. when I was 18 so I’m only familiar with the scientific community in the U.S. I’m pretty sure that humans from the Philippines aren’t all that physiologically different from humans in the U.S. It also makes me wonder if there are other countries with equal numbers of men and women at top positions in the STEM fields.
Also, isn’t there a leaky pipeline in business and finance, in politics, and in showbiz (more women in front of the camera than behind the camera or producing movies)? My money is on the larger systemic issues in our society.
*“Leaky pipeline is a metaphor that denotes the success of women in getting credentials for a career but not advancing in it. For example, the pipeline may be full of women receiving the Ph.D., yet the pipeline at several junctures seems to be leaking as few of these women get a tenure track position and even fewer get promoted to associate professor; the fewest of all are promoted to full professor.” – Iowa State University’s Women’s/Gender Studies Program