Re: women in science, part 2 of ???

7 Oct

So I’ve gotten a lot of feedback/had many good conversations from my last post and the article linked there.  One of the things I do as a TA in math is teach discussion sections, and I’m part of a pseudo-experimental program that emphasizes collaborative learning.  This afternoon we’re having a discussion on that very article, which is why I labeled this post part 2 of ??? because I suspect there’ll be more points this afternoon.  Plus I still need to read some related  articles that friends have sent me.

My fellow grad student Alex summarized/projected a great point from this article that I want to share because I liked it so much.  Here’s one school of thought: math/science graduate school is very hard and there’s no need to encourage people to pursue it, as Roger Howe says in the article; the idea is that only people who think they can do it/want to do it should do it.  But women may want to do so but think they can’t, as the author did, because women internalize failures (“you’re telling me this is hard?  That means you think I can’t do it.  I guess I’m just bad at this.  I can’t do this.”) whereas men externalize them (“you’re telling me this is hard?  Thanks for the warning, I’m still going to do it.”)  Obviously these are huge generalizations, but I liked this dichotomy a lot because it points out the flaw with using a unilateral approach for both genders.  We treat little girls and little boys differently, but somehow expect that we can say the exact same thing to 21 year old men and women and they won’t react differently.

Okay way too many other things to respond to but guys I should go back to math.  So here’s just one other thought, my reaction to this article, sent to me by my friend Max.  Here’s his concluding paragraph:

Most people go to work primarily in order to earn a paycheck. Workers prefer a higher salary to a lower salary. Jobs in science pay far less than jobs in the professions and business held by women of similar ability. A lot of men are irrational, romantic, stubborn, and unwilling to admit that they’ve made a big mistake. With Occam’s Razor, we should not need to bring in the FBI to solve the mystery of why there are more men than women who have chosen to stick with the choice that they made at age 18 to become a professor of science or mathematics.

So this person’s explanation for why there are more men than women in sciences is that science is a bad job, and capable women make smart decisions and go into law, medicine, industry, anything that pays better.  There’s more to say on this article, but for now, here’s a blog post asking why there aren’t more women in law.  Essentially, the question now is, where are the women?

I’ve asked that question before.  It was in the summer of 2008, when I was doing an independent research project in Vietnam.  I was walking outside a lot and interviewing people in schools, cafes, and on the street, and I definitely noticed that while you’ll see plenty of men driving motorbikes, sitting at the outdoor coffeeshops, drinking beers at the pubs, or eating meals at the food-to-go stands, you’ll see very, very few women who aren’t working at those places/selling things at stores.  Where are the women?

Isn’t it weird that I ask the same question for these two different contexts?


3 Responses to “Re: women in science, part 2 of ???”

  1. Lan October 12, 2013 at 1:22 am #

    Some women are enjoying life by baking delicious cookies inside the house, or in their brain. Some fear the ultra violet rays and choose to stay inside the house. Some think men are aliens so they dare not go out, avoiding confrontation. The list is long though limited by individual mental delusion.
    I like math because it nourishes my brain. I did not like math when I failed calculus three times. I think there are ways we can savor math beside counting coins. What if everybody’s math leveled up? We’d conquer the final frontier!!!

    • yenergy October 14, 2013 at 10:43 am #

      Thanks mom. You don’t make any sense but I love you!


  1. Surprisingly emotional reaction to being a woman in math | Baking and Math - October 28, 2015

    […] without tearing up when I tried to say something about how women need that bit of encouragement (I wrote in my last post the thought on internalizing vs. externalizing) and how much more it means to women.  It […]

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