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back to article Blokey atmos drives women away from sci/tech

A PhD student at Stanford has published research indicating that the low numbers of women in science, maths and engineering-related fields is not caused by any gender-related tendency to be bad at hard sums. Rather, the ladies avoid these fields of endeavour simply because there are so few females already present, and because of …

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The article doesn't support the conclusion

"The research demonstrates that ladies' fear/dislike of maths, science, engineering etc - and thus their under-representation in these fields - is not "endemic to women"

So girls 'fear' maths, but that's not edemic, it's just situational...

In that the situation where maths is involved scares them, so unsurprisingly they avoid it and hence there are less of them working in that field.

Is that reasoning circular or am I just dizzy for no reason?

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Anonymous Coward

Valid Target Group

So, women who are already in university, and have attended at least one engineering conference are less likely to find the field appealing. Of course, they have probably chosen a faculty by then, so I'm not sure they are the best people to start convincing.

Women who have not yet entered university have probably never even thought about what an engineering conference looks like. I would have expected their main indications about the sexual split among the boffin "specialty subjects" would come from movies, television, personal contacts, and books.

Maybe we should be comparing the tortured life of overworked forensic pathologist Sam Ryan (Silent Witness) with the constant parties of writer Carrie Bradshaw (Sex and the City), and seeing which career path is more appealing to teenagers.

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what a load

what a load of rubbish!

how come every male kid in the 80's spent hours glued to a C64(or similar), and no girls did. Were they scared of the male dominated industry then. No.

To put it a nice way , girls are less geeky.

luckily there alots of pretend sciences for them to play at , like the author of that report.

Now can someone explain to me why there are no female mechanics, plumbers, shelf stackers, joiners, builders, road sweepers, kitchen fitters or snooker players.

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Anonymous Coward

Hmm

The article certainly makes an excellent case for the benefits to society in moving women out of psychology and into the harder sciences.

"Psychological Science is ranked among the top 10 general psychology journals for impact by the Institute for Scientific Information."

When dropped from a standard height?

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Anonymous Coward

So...

If we put more masculine posters up in English and language classes men would be better at everything. Seems the right thing to do.

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What world do they live in?

These people are living in dreamland. I have never in my entire scientific or IT career been to a conference where there were as many as 1 in 3 women; 1 in 10 is more realistic.

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They need more of this..

Nonononono they're saying we should make sci/tech environments more actractive to girls. elg.

Test tubes covered in daisies and or bunny rabbits

Pink Desktop microscopes.

Caculators with built in SMS relay function.

Lab coats by prada.

mub - OMG I'm a sexist!!!

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Anonymous Coward

Female snooker players... (@what a load)

Apparently there are quite a few, and many, considering the reduced numbers, are on par with their male rivals. Of course, some observers have put the lower quantity of female snooker players down to a matter of physical restraints - e.g. parts of the female anatomy get in the way.

As for the others...

female mechanics - grease is a bugger to get out from under finger nails

plumbers - too many spiders

shelf stackers - too short

joiners - dust gets into hair

builders - wolf whistles within the site are too distracting

road sweepers - might ruin shoes

kitchen fitters - what? they get fitted?

I'll get me coat... and head out very quickly indeed!

(Seriously though, some of the above jokey reasons do cross the minds of women, though one point to take into account is that many women feel vulnerable on their own, and jobs that take them into unfamiliar locations where they are on their own are jobs that most will avoid).

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@ Mark

"how come every male kid in the 80's spent hours glued to a C64(or similar), and no girls did. "

I'm a girl and I spent many a merry hour glued to my C64 in the '80s (mostly unpicking BASIC games).. and yes, I'm now a "boffiness" (chemist).

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um?

So this Murphy concludes that women studying science and maths type things find science and maths type journals lying around offputting? Would suggest this would be good cause for them to retrain, then.

(and @Lazarus_mub - I'd prefer to have a lab coat by Vivienne Westwood than by Prada ;-) )

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Research?

Now I'm not a PHd but when I did research we also had control groups and did expriments from the point of view of the unkown, not having a preconcieved idea we're using junk sicence to back-up.

Personally I put it down to neandathal man (sp?) - where the hunter (man) can focus on his prey whilst the women folk look after the young uns so have a wide range of view to watch for predators - so behaviour is even down to a genetical level where if you look at the cone and rod distribution in the eye you can see men are better at focusing on one subject whereas women have "widescreen".

Such traits are even stereotyped in are every day world, where women get the image of being good multi-taskers.

But boffinery science comes down to focus, where men are better - girls may beat boys in the class room but that can be explained by many other methods (including the above) than what "rubbish" this womens sputing.

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Anonymous Coward

Waffle

Cobblers ... most of you are just projecting your personal beliefs on to a complex situation. Probably much to do with your geek based, no girlfriend lifestyles. Trust me, women come in many shapes and sizes, some of them can even code! I know, your shaking your head in wonder, but it is true.

For the record we teach quite a few women plumbers, we even have a course just for them. Building crafts is stuffed full of women.

Grow up and get out a bit more, trust me, it will be worth it.

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Anonymous Coward

And where is...

The research to see why men don't go into woman dominated fields, such as child care and of course housewifery, hehe that last one is a joke by the way :)

But seriously we need to be aware the pendulum swings both ways.

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girls ace boys at school?

I agree with the statement, however any reasoning is flawed. I've seen girls at school get high grades on course work papers because they had good hand writing, rather than their ability to actually write anything worth reading, or understand the points they are supposed to convey, yet they get high grades... The school system is deeply flawed, the grading systems used by teachers even more so. Remember that boys outperform girls dramatically in exam situations and girls have only gained a lead because of the higher reliance on course work. Course work = presentation not content, form without function.

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Anonymous Coward

Re. Waffle

Stereotypes exist for a reason they are not just pulled out of the air, yes there is exceptions but in general there is always an element of truth. Sure the entire insurance industry is based of stereotype, and if they are not true I shouldn't be charged more for being male.

Oh and girlfriends are over rated :) and with cheap air travel and a few sordid locations there is really no need at all for them :)

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This article...

...and the comments are precisely why more women don't go in to the sciences and you guys don't even know you're doing it. The whole tone is condescending.

There are two issues...

Firstly science is not cool period. The media always has the mad or evil scientist. I can't think of a show or movie where a scientist is shown in a good light. This media propaganda is evident in the closing of courses at universities due to lack of interest.

Secondly society subjects girls and women to a constant propaganda. We're not good at maths or sciences. All the media subjecting us to super thin bimbo models and going on about hair, clothes, cosmetics and so on. Hell all the commercials which tell us we must buy the latest gunk because its got loadsofbollocksian in it. Maths and science is for men we're told and the men believe it too.

I've stood at a car parts counter and watched guys come in and get served before me until I kick up a fuss at which point I'm the upity female. I've gone in to meetings with my male assistant and watched as they started talking to him and ignored me.

When you're the only female engineer in a room of male engineers it can be lonely. At best they could be talking among themselves about a football match or similar. At worst about some girl one of them met the night before. I can tell you how well it would go down if I started talking loudly about my period or whatever. I've taken to knowing a little bit about football, even though it doesn't really interest me, just so I can have some kind of conversation.

I actually enjoy my job (as a software consultant) but I can understand why women are dissuaded from entering maths, sciences or engineering as no one ever wants to be the minority.

And no I didn't spend hours glued in the 80's to a C64 because they were shit. I spent hours glued to a BBC Micro and a pile of electronics components when not having a life...

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boffinous

My new word of the day... Ta El Reg! :)

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Re. Re. Waffle

You're charged because, on average, men drive more miles. Actually if you look at average mileage vs costs women's insurance policies suck!

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Ahh, psychological studies...

should always come with the standard disclaimer: "The extrapolations drawn from this research can only be applied to white middle-class men and women (but mostly women at a ratio of 5:1) aged between 17-20 of at least moderate intelligence"

The reason: because these are the people who make up the sample which the results are drawn from - first-year psychology students.

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Thank you Cyberspice

I'm in total agreement. Frankly I'm always surprised when I do find that I have female colleagues at a site. There is very much a "locker room" atmosphere that can be off-putting even to man like myself who's not interested in sport and doesn't drink. Any women who is interested in the field and gets stuck in must be very determined and thick-skinned; it shouldn't really be that way.

My latest job I'm working with more women than I have at any previous job and they're no less competent than the men; I find comments that attempt to justify the status quo somehow quoting genetics and the like to be completely ridiculous. I acknowledge some biochemical and genetic differences between genders, but they aren't so dramatic that you cannot blame upbringing and society on the lack of female representation in the sciences.

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it's the environment

:-) ...and in other news, although stereotypical sordid girlfriends are unsurprisingly as sordid as the inhabitants of sordid locations reachable on cheap sordid airlines, we find that non-sordid girlfriends are not sordid and are in fact attracted to those who don't take sordid pleasure in the sordid inhabitants or sordid locations.

In all cases it's also the environment that attracts (or repels), not just the proposition.

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Anonymous Coward

Re Cyberspice

So guys can't talk about subjects they have an interested in and are just as openn to woman to like, i fear ur spreading some of that propoganda u talk about by implying girls don't like football or going out with girls for that matter ;).

As for periods considering there is no biological association between men and periods why would we be interested. I have 2 sisters and i know all i need to know or want to.

And i don't know where u work but to be honest i see very little of these sort of things where i am, more men sure but the women don't seem to be living in fear or anything.

And as a bootnote my most effective team leader was a woman.

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Constants?

How come social psychology is classed as a science? I was under the impression that scientific endeavours use constants as part of the process, the only thing in psychology that's constant is the huge number of words used to describe the simplest thing and usually based on an assumption. It may be a discipline but its not a science.

Incidently I would be delighted to employ women in the construction industry, if they can do the job, why not?

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Where the Boys Are

Workshop or home-Ec? That's how I got into engineering in the first place. Taking Workshop in high school. And got major harassment from most of the boys. But I was GOOD at it, and my teacher noticed. And while 30 years later the professional environment is much less hostile, in a semi-professional situation, the boys still prefer to show off their dicks while the men are busy chatting up the boffinesses.

I've enjoyed engineering but as a female it takes a tough skin and a tougher mind.

As for the acoutrements of technical work -- it's remarkable how many of may male co-workers shy away from my five-foot slide rule. I guess it's biggest one in the building!

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@Cyberspice, Anon, Sean Aaron, et. al.

I'm a guy, and let me say this loud and clear: When I'm at work, I don't want to hear about: the girl you got a lap dance from at the titty bar last night, your periods, your intimate medical troubles, who you think has a tight ass, or anything of the sort. It's just not appropriate in a professional environment. I don't care WHICH gender the topic is about. If I don't consider you a personal friend - which means we get together after work/on weekends on a regular occasion - then I don't want to hear those details of your personal life. It's not that I don't know such things exist, but that they don't belong at work.

On the topic of women in science and technology, I have a slightly odd background, but I can honestly say that about 1/3 of the best techs I personally know are women. On the other hand, about 1/20th of the techs I know overall are women.

-daniel

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Girls & geeks

I've heard a lot of the stereotype of "few engineering girls, those that are there are pretty and dumb or smart and ugly". I've seen pretty and smart enough out there. Back in high school there was a girl who was pretty, smart and was able to use her HP-49GX for complex calculations on the fly, *in RPN mode*. I mean, she was quicker mentally converting algebraic to RPN while feeding all this to the calculator, than me only inputting algebraic on my TI-83. 0wned. Also, she was one of the elite group of HS students that actually knew UNIX.

Anyway, male/female boffins may get along as long as conversations keep in a common theme: OS, programming, and most computer-related or comp culture related. I despise football (except during World Cups) so I tend to avoid that; but the one time I was really, really annoyed was during a 2 *hour* conversation about Saint Seiya. I just don't like that damned cartoon, drop it already!!!

Unfortunately, there is a tendency of male "geeks" also being into anime, and not always the kind that girls would be interested in. That matter by itself may act as a deterrent. Not only for girls, though.

I wish we had more boffinesses...

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@Cyberspice

"I've stood at a car parts counter and watched guys come in and get served before me until I kick up a fuss"

As a member of the male-side of the species, I had the same problem at the counter of a sewing/fabric shop. ^_^ For some reason the fact that I was there with two bolts of cloth in my hands did NOT mean I wanted to get served.

<sigh>"sexism in the workplace". I remember being part of an interview panel (looking for a new programmer), and the HR representative looking at us gob-smacked because we three male techs did not show any signs of caring about the gender of the applicants. Why should it matter? I wanted to find someone who would pull their weight and not cause *me* more work cleaning up after them.

And while we're on the "studies" subject, I remember a study done in Oz back in the late 80s which showed that girls in an all-girls school performed much better than girls in a mixed-gender school. I put it down to the fact that your average male teenager is not interested in a "brainy chick" and while it's possible to hide your brainyness when attending an all-girls' school, it's nigh on impossible to do in a mixed-school... and so in order to be "popular" the girls had to be "dumber" than the guys. <double sigh> I didn't meet any interesting girls until University.. Cute, yes, but not *interesting*.

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quick poll

Now let's see, here at el Reg, everyone is just a bunch of pixels. No threat right? Not an Einstein poster in sight. So let's see the approximate gender balance of the readership. I'm betting we get at least 7-1 for the blokes.

(Note that transgendered hermaphrodites should pick a category and stick to it.)

Maty. Male. Males 1-0

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Girls 'ace' boys.

There used to be a time, when exams were nothing but well, exams and the boys used to do better then girls, then not so long ago they started to put things into the exams that girls were good at and boys were bad at, like course work and all of a sudden the girls started to ace the boys.

I don't think this turn around has anything to do with girls trying harder than they used to an everything to do with exams being written for girls.

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@Sampler

Research has to be tailored to what is being studied. We can do lots of things quite conveniently in a chemistry lab, when the reaction takes a few minutes. It's a bigger challenge in biology and agriculture, when a phenomenon takes a year or longer to observe and a dry year or random swarm of insects can wipe out the whole effort for that year.

Then we get to humans, some things can take multiple (human) lifetimes. Many of the factors anticipated to be relevant can't be assigned at random. Home lives are controlled by other people. People have surgery. They get sick. They take vacations or get married right in the middle of the experiment, or their grandparents die. The best you can do is try to make the sample size so large that you hope most of the factors even out. And then sometimes you can't make the sample size large or random enough even to satisfy yourself.

When I was doing my PhD research, I worked in public schools. I assigned entire classes to control or experimental by flipping a coin, because I couldn't move students from one class to another. One of my allegedly cooperating teachers was profoundly unenthusiastic about having his semester plan disrupted for my two weeks of work. Another was so supportive and happy to participate that it was amusing. Nobody told me that one day when I had scheduled an important activity for all classes, two of the classes would be elsewhere doing an activity that had been planned at the beginning of school. There was no way to keep the members of the experimental and control groups from talking with each other. Lots of mail and phone calls to my major professor.

So we decided to take what we could get and write up everything in the results of the experiment. I didn't have the resources or another two years to repeat the experiment. My examining committee sympathized and agreed that things could have been a lot nicer, but complimented me on my honesty. As it turned out, the experiment didn't turn up a significant difference in any of the measures that would have been nice, but did show some differences in other measures, indicating that some of the factors were relevant. And I graduated.

Peace and significant differences to all of you.

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85% nurture, 15% nature

Howdy: As best as I can tell, any differences between the sexes are probably caused by an 85/15 ratio of upbringing and environment/ actual biological differences. A kid who is born with a penis is treated one way (blue, trucks, jeans, rough and tumble play, tool boxes for birthday presents) while one born without is treated another (pink, dolls, dresses, "act like a lady", and tea sets). It is nice to see that many parents are letting their kids decide what they want to play with (Little girl wants trucks? Fine. Little boy wants dollies? Cool.) and who they want to be (male, female, trans, genderqueer, whatever); as more kids are allowed to be and do what they want and are encouraged to develop their talents without the capricious nonsense of "gender roles" put on them, we might very well see more "boffinnesses" and greater gender variety in the trades. So let it be written, so let it be done.

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Think before you write

If Lewis, you substituted gender for race in your article you would realise how biased and prejudiced your rantings are

I thought this was supposed to be a serious newsletter

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