Re: Re: Article on women and mathematics
- To: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Subject: Re: Re: Article on women and mathematics
- From: Erich Schubert <email@example.com>
- Date: Tue, 05 Apr 2005 02:58:36 -0700
- Message-id: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- In-reply-to: <20050306113311.GG18729@double-helix.org>
Sorry, I'm not subscribed. Just stumbled over this in the archives.
So no proper threading, sorry.
Some weeks ago, when I arrived here in Berkeley I also had the
impression that there were very few women...
This is somewhat regional IMHO: I have the impression, that in Munich we
have much more women in Math. Although many do not study math for a
Diploma, but for teaching. The reasons are in my opinion quite similar:
children are told their whole life that men are better at technical and
science stuff, women better at social things and languages. Although
brain scientists often say that this is true to some extend, (mostly
language/"emotional" skills vs. being able to focus on a single target
for "hunting", I've read about tests where kids were asked to collect
dollar bills flying down to them, and boys scored much better, because
they did not try to catch multiple at a time) I do not believe it.
And I think that math requires very much language skills, and definitely
not being stronger built...
Also, in my opinion there is a huge difference between math at the
university and "calculating" at school.
I remember having read, that during the first few days of our live, like
90% of our brain cells die. At the same time, the weigth of the brain
does significantly increase, as cells are getting interconnected.
(Sorry, I don't have a reference for this number. The book is on the
other side of the world probably, and I read it a couple of years ago.
also it was not a scientific report, so the numbers may well be wrong)
Other evidence is that there are just way to many brain cells as that
the DNA information can play much of a role - and many other differences
are already attributed to the gene differences.
If someone has evidence that certain connections to the brain come in
differently in sexes I may revise my opinion of course. Until then I
tend to believe that is much more of a cultural thing.
My sister (who studies electrical engineering) "learned" in a first term
lecture, that the first "Computers" were actually women. I guess it was
the army who needed people to calculate trajectories or such, and in the
lack of machines to do that, they discovered that women were very well
capable of doing these calculations... (yes, sometimes the army is not
Also, I read that ENIAC was at first programmed by women, and back then
apparently it was the same - "everybody" thought that women can't do
this as good as men. Pretty open discrimination back then, with no
"empirical" evidence possible (hey, computers were new back then)
Oh, and for the "womens ratio" in germany being not that bad I have also
one comment: maybe because everybody is nowadays being told that you
don't need math, and that doing to much computer science will just make
So I expect the average mathematical skills in germany to go down... and
this definitely is not due to more people taking certain hormones...
Oh, and Turing was gay, wasn't he? (yes, no statistical significance)
I remember he killed himself because of being discriminated... one of
the brightest mathematicians and computer scientists of all time.
Actually I guess that many people believe - probably related to the
'less attractive' claim above - that mathematicians are more likely to
be/become gay. Yes, what I wrote is bullshit. Probably as much bullshit
as this hormones thing...
Oh, for these studies, always look at the numbers. The newscientist
article mentions a study with 80 people. That maybe ends up with 20 in
each group. If you look at your friends, how much variance in their
map-reading approaches/skills do you see?
But actually I think their study supports my guess: after all, their
result is like "if you are on average more interested/exposed in
people/socials/language/fashion you are more likely to take one
approach, if you are more interested/exposed to
cars/machines/driving/building you more likely take a different
approach" - well, that is what I assume.
I would do an orthogonal study now - not dividing people by their gender
or their sexual preference, but by giving them slightly different
choices. Maybe not as obvious as the following: a car racing and a pop
concert ticket, a book on architecture and on plants, a box or a
sphere... you get the idea.