back to article New study into lack of women in Tech: It's not the men's fault

A new study into causes of the scarcity of women in technical and scientific fields says that it is not discrimination by men in the field keeping the ladies away. Nor is it a repugnance felt by women for possibly dishevelled or unhygienic male nerds. No, the reason that young women don't train in Science, Technology, …

  1. Cari

    "...it happens a lot earier than college"

    Yes! Unfortunately, for the impatient types that want the imbalance "corrected" Right Now, addressing the real cause would take too long.

    1. PatientOne

      "...it happens a lot earier than college"

      It starts at home with the parents and how they encourage a child. Girls tend to be told they are smart and clever when they do something, where as boys are told they tried hard. This leads to girls giving up when things get difficult and boys keeping at it in order to succeed.

      This is then reinforced at school - teachers offering different praise to girls than boys, and so the problem persists. Ultimately it results in girls not trying as they don't like failing where as boys keep pushing until they get it right.

      Fixing it early means we won't see any change for years, and there is no real fix for those who are making the choices now.

      1. Petrea Mitchell
        Flame

        Re: "...it happens a lot earier than college"

        "This is then reinforced at school - teachers offering different praise to girls than boys"

        Or just offering flat-out bigotry. When I was in grade school (primary school, elementary school), the teachers were very clear that only boys were supposed to be good at math. Luckily, I hated that school and thus felt no need to conform to their expectations.

        (The teachers were equally clear that only girls were supposed to be good at spelling and composition, with equally predictable results.)

        1. noetherian rings

          Re: "...it happens a lot earier than college"

          Were the teachers making "it clear that only boys were supposed to be good at math" male or female? I'm really curious. I did not encounter a male teacher until high school. The math teachers there however were evenly split and they seemed truly interested in the math and with encouraging others to love the subject matter. And this was back in the late sixties and early seventies. I can hardly believe that good teachers would fail to nurture talent wherever they found it. Perhaps teachers are worse now.

        2. CarbonLifeForm

          Re: "...it happens a lot earier than college"

          I realize this is n=1, but my wife, whose father is a chemist, decided to go into social psychology. She took chemistry and hard maths in high school and university. She never once heard a teacher or professor say women shouldn't go into science, directed at her or at any other girl in the classroom. Nonetheless, she was only one of three girls in advanced girls in high school advanced chemistry.

          Well, considering my wife's observations, perhaps we can day it's n>1.

    2. dan1980

      @Cari

      "Unfortunately, for the impatient types that want the imbalance "corrected" Right Now, addressing the real cause would take too long."

      And this is the case with nearly any real or perceived issue that governments put their noses into. They are stuck in the mentality of election cycles and partisanship and very, very few have any real interest in fixing anything. (And those that do tend not to advance to positions where they can affect any change.)

      In this instance, I believe the 'problem'* is a self-perpetuating one and thus one that will only get fixed gradually. It's also quite possible that it is related to sexism but I contend that it is not related to sexism today - at least not in a major way.

      While I think it is perfectly possible that innate differences in gender contribute at least part of this, I suspect that it is a hangover from earlier times when women just didn't go into these fields and were not generally considered as good as the men.

      The next generation of girls were raised by mothers who didn't have any real background in 'STEM' and as they were growing up, there were very few female role models in those areas. As it was more acceptable for this generation to be educated similarly to males and work in whatever fields they wanted, more did end up in these areas. Their children would be a bit more likely and so on.

      In other words, the environment in which girls are raised and the visibility - or not - of women in these areas is a contributing factor to how interested they will be in STEM.

      In that sense, I can see some benefit in artificially trying to boost the numbers of women in these fields as seeing more women in these professions will have a flow-on effect.

      BUT, it can't be fixed just by doing that - you need to tackle it from all sides, especially by trying to get girls interested in these subjects early on.

      * - I don't actually believe it is a 'problem' per se - after all, is it really some great societal ill that there aren't many female coders or sysadmins? Are there women out there who have missed out on a life of fulfillment because they never cared for maths at school and thus never even considered a career in technology or physics or engineering? Maybe but no more so than there are people of all stripes who 'missed out' on a life of celebrity because they were born into a middle-class working family of no great creativity or who missed out on being high-paid footballers because their parents were academics.

    3. Tom 13

      Re: "...it happens a lot earier than college"

      Unproven and doubtful.

      People keep pretending we're living right after the 1960s. It is now 2015. I would say my US middle school classes were evenly balanced between the men and the women. And yes, I was in the highest academic group at my school. We were all taught algebra at the same time and we all progressed through geometry, trig, and calculus. As these were essentially the required track for academics, the numbers in those classes didn't change. I will observe however that for the only optional math class I took (probability and statistics), the numbers fell off by about half.

      Now when you look at the sciences it is a whole other story. There we had some flexibility. While everyone took something they called Earth Sciences (I can't even recall exactly what they taught in that one) and Chemistry, in the following years we had choices of Biology, Anatomy, Physics, Nuclear Science, Geology and Astronomy. A fair number of the women ditched Physics in favor of Anatomy and there were none in the Nuclear Science group. Sadly it turned out the Geology and Astronomy classes were the ___ for Jocks classes.

      When I got to college, there was one woman in my Astronomy group and maybe three in our Physics (boffins not engineers) group.

      Whatever choices they are making, it is NOT societal pressure which contributes to them. The only ones pressuring anyone are the ideologues who are committed to the idea that the science must equally represent women even if the women are freely choosing otherwise.

  2. Charles Manning

    How about construction then?

    Construction, roadworks, rubbish bin operators, truck drivers. mechanics carpenters... no maths required there, yet not many females in those occupations either.

    Let's just face facts. Different jobs appeal to different people and for some reason or other the set of people who are drawn to STEM is typically male.

    This is not necessarily a problem and doubtlessly any PC government program to intervene will just end up causing more problems than it solves.

    1. itzman
      Paris Hilton

      Re: How about construction then?

      its a bit of a self fulfilling thing: after all who wants to go into a profession dominated by the opposite sex?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How about construction then?

        Me!

      2. P. Lee Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        >who wants to go into a profession dominated by the opposite sex?

        ME!

      3. Khaptain Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: How about construction then?

        Aren't the majority of business dominated by one sex ? (Ironic, but this is just pure mathematics)....

      4. Bloakey1

        Re: How about construction then?

        "its a bit of a self fulfilling thing: after all who wants to go into a profession dominated by the opposite sex?"

        i remember the 'good old days of the eighties' I saw many a job advert along the lines of:

        "Male or Female bricklayers wanted. Must be willing to strip to the waist in summer".

        I kid you not.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How about construction then?

        Unless you really hate the opposite sex, or you're homosexual, why, why should you really want to go into a profession dominated by the same sex???

        If I knew I would have ended up in a male only environment working in IT, I would have reconsidered my choice, thirty years ago!!

        Usually when a sex dominates an environment, bad behavioiurs are amplified, and good ones softened.

        1. boltar

          Re: How about construction then?

          "If I knew I would have ended up in a male only environment working in IT, I would have reconsidered my choice, thirty years ago!!"

          How could you not have known? Didn't you notice the lack of girls on the courses you did or in your first job?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: How about construction then?

            Unluckily, I'm mostly self-taught in IT. Then, I had to start to work in IT our of necessity... but the first job was not so bad from this perspective, it got worse later.

    2. Charles Manning

      Re: How about construction then?

      The main point I'm trying to make is that these gender biasses are just natural and we'll break things if we try to force then to obey some idealogical ratio.

      Back in the 1960s, medical doctors were almost exclusively male. Until then there had certainly been a socailly driven gender role bias that made medical doctoring a male profession. By the 1980s there was a large % of females in medicine. When I was at university in mid 1980s my gf was a medic. Around a third of her class were female. Now over half the medical graduates are female.

      From that you can see the effect of Western women's lib which opposed gender bias in the late 1950s/ early 1960s. There was a lag for the changes to be felt, and the early 1980s was when the change came through.

      So why did the same happen in engineering? It would be absurd to say that medicine was given the nod, but the patriarchy held on to engineering as a male domain.

      Nope, the restrictions were removed. Engineering etc just has less appeal for women as a group.

      1. The Packrat
        Unhappy

        Re: How about construction then?

        I've found that people are quick to think that there's one, and only one, cause of a problem/issue instead of the possibility that multiple factors play a part. I'm sure that lack of appeal is a major factor, but so too is lack of encouragement/support during the formative/developmental stages. Math can be very hard for some people, ridiculously easy for others, and somewhere in between for the rest of us. Depending on where you fall in ability the kind of support, or lack thereof, can be a major contributor. Of course some individuals will manage to persevere in their goal(s) in spite of any obstacles, but how many of them are there and how many just give up, or never even try, and do something else? True equality comes not from having some near perfect 50/50 split, but from ensuring equality of access so that those who would, could pursue those goals...

    3. boltar

      Re: How about construction then?

      "This is not necessarily a problem and doubtlessly any PC government program to intervene will just end up causing more problems than it solves."

      Isn't it funny how the "equality" compaigners never make a fuss about the lack of men in nursery school teaching or nursing or elderly care etc etc? Seems to me the fuss about a lack of women in IT is just an excuse for self righteous right-on whiners and complainers to justify their otherwise pointless existence by making a fuss about a non issue.

      1. 2+2=5 Silver badge

        Re: How about construction then?

        > Isn't it funny how the "equality" compaigners(sic) never make a fuss about the lack of men in nursery school teaching or nursing or elderly care etc etc?

        But they do - you just don't hear about it here. My other half is a teacher: the TES and the NUT rag regularly run articles about the lack of male teacher role models at infant and primary level. IIRC they also diagnose the problem as boys being steered towards "traditionally male" occupations, the irony being that they are in a better position to do something about it.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: How about construction then?

          "My other half is a teacher: the TES and the NUT rag regularly run articles about the lack of male teacher role models at infant and primary level. IIRC they also diagnose the problem as boys being steered towards "traditionally male" occupations, the irony being that they are in a better position to do something about it."

          Wait...what? It's all the fault of female teacher steering boys and girls into stereo-typical roles but Libbers blames the men in STEM related positions for oppressing the weaker sex?

    4. PatientOne

      Re: How about construction then?

      "truck drivers, yet not many females in those occupations either."

      Originally this had something to do with the lack of power assistance on the steering making it very difficult for a woman to control a HGV. These days, with modern trucks, it's much easier and we do see more women driving trucks. It's still seen as a 'male dominated' job, of cause, but nothing like it once was.

      1. dan1980

        Re: How about construction then?

        "Originally this had something to do with the lack of power assistance on the steering making it very difficult for a woman to control a HGV. These days, with modern trucks, it's much easier and we do see more women driving trucks. It's still seen as a 'male dominated' job, of cause, but nothing like it once was."

        Well, in Australia and the 'mining boom', we have seen that lots of the people driving the big dump trucks (which are electric) are women.

        As told to me by a friend driving one, the view is that women are the more careful drivers, which is a useful trait. Unfortunately, that's sexism because it is impossible to say that women are more careful without asserting that men are less careful. That's how comparisons work!

        But maybe this, like the lack of women in STEM areas is down to upbringing as well. Perhaps - and I am only speculating here - the interest in big machinery and trucks and so forth that many boys have means that they get a thrill out of driving these machines whereas women aren't really fazed and to them it's just a job and so they do it without injecting any excitement and thus are more careful.

        1. Mayhem

          Re: How about construction then?

          The mining companies did a *lot* of trials and analysis, and found that men in general are heavier on the throttle, which puts more wear on the tyres. Since the main cost associated with the big mining trucks is tyre wear, the hiring companies were instructed to pick the candidates with the lighter touch, which was predominantly the females in each intake. If you're only picking 3-5 candidates, and there are 60 applicants, even if only 10% are female, you'll get a lot more coming through the system.

          Yes, a driver might earn $100,000/yr, but each tyre on a big caterpillar is currently costing between $90-150,000 and you need 6 on a truck.

          Apparently underinflation also burns up to 15% of tyre life - it's something they *really* pay close attention to.

        2. Tom 13

          Re: women are the more careful

          That is not merely an assertion but a statistically proven fact. US insurance companies couldn't make money selling car insurance to women at lower rates than men if women weren't more careful drivers. Yet they did so for decades, including the so called sexist 50s and 60s. They only stopped when some male got his panties in a bunch and sued for sexual discrimination. Now women subsidize male insurance.

  3. Mahou Saru

    I wonder will Sir Tim get an apology now?

    Hmmm this science doesn't agree with your "science"?

  4. graeme leggett

    question

    is there a similar explanation for differences in number of women in STEM in other nations?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Media stereotypes?

    How many TV progs, Newspaper pages etc etc are given over to Fashion, makeup, hair care etc. (The only way is Essex etc etc etc)

    IMHO these all seem to gove off an image that it is 'not the done thing' for a woman to get their hands dirty. Many progs actually go out of their way to re-inforce the steretype view that a woman can't fix anything mechanical or electrical.

    With this and the bombadrment of 'Pink is wonderful and fluffy and girly' adverts that are aimed at girls is it any wonder that most women don't even give a nanoseconds thought to studying STEM subjects?

    That directly leads to the lack of women in Science, Engineering and Tech outside of managerial positions.

    It was nice to see a good number of Female Engineers working on Crossrail but sadly I have encountered very few women in my 40+ years of working life that were prepared to get their hands dirty.

    Those that I did work with were pretty good at their job.

    A sorry state of affairs.

    Looking on the bright side, both of my grandaughters are at Uni. One is taking Physics and the other Bio-Mechanical Eng. Sadly they are in the minority.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Media stereotypes?

      " 'Pink is wonderful and fluffy and girly'"

      The neighbours' kids were given a new ball which happened to be pink. A 6 year old boy handed it to a girl - saying "I don't like pink - it is for girls". Possibly nothing unusual in that - except he is the only boy in the after-school ballet class - by his own choice.

      1. Meerkatjie

        Re: Media stereotypes?

        I've seen parents rush over to stop their young children playing with gendered toys when they are the wrong apparent gender. Recently there was a male child playing with the princess lego set so the parent took it off the child and gave him the weapons of mass destruction lego set instead.

    2. sandman

      Re: Media stereotypes?

      My experience is rather different from yours, before I got involved in IT I spent many years as an archaeologist. Now that's a profession with a high percentage of women in it and they do get their hands dirty (and just about every other part of their anatomy). Being an idle sod I can't be bothered to find any stats, but again in my experience they also form a large part of the more scientific sectors of the archaeological world.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Re: Media stereotypes?

        In many jobs were women are the main force they gets their "hands dirty" - being a nurse, cook, factory worker (and even farmer worker) etc. requires to work with your hands, and often getting them really dirty. Probably some jobs were regarded too heavy or even dangerous for women, especially when machines were not available.

        Archaeology is a subject that was depicted by media as a woman acceptable subject since at least the invention of the exotic adventure novel - how to get the young beautiful heroine in some remote exotic location to be saved by the mysterious fascinating hero? What better than an archaeologist looking tor a forgotten town? Then came Lara Croft...

        Anyway Archaeology still requires little math. Linguistic skills may be more important, and languages always appealed to women. Also it requires patience - a lot of - and careful digging and handling. Qualities often easier to find in women than in men. Conservation and restoration are also jobs that attract many women, probably because it's something between arts and technology - still technology is a tool, not an aim itself.

        It's like photography - there are many women in photography - and it also requires good technical skills. Yet you will still see less women interested in the deep technical knowledge of image making - like Ansel Adams for example did to achieve his art - and more in using it as a medium only to reach an artistic/social/whatever result.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Media stereotypes?

          My wife taught archaeology for years. She found that most of the students in the class (of both sexes) had trouble with simple stats tests because they had absolutely no maths background.

    3. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Media stereotypes?

      I personally believe the Disney Princess factory should be nuked from orbit as it churns out a non-stop propaganda aimed at all ages from defenceless 2-3 olds upwards, but the US would probably see that as an act of war.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Media stereotypes?

        Still, it's funny how even accomplished women fall into the "princess mania" when, for example, the day of their marriage come. And how they can drool over their photos for the years to come...

        Heck, people like wedding planners (and all their supporting services) and photographers can earn a (good) life from that mania alone! Very few escape that plague.

      2. Mark 85 Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Media stereotypes?

        Oh... I don't know that it would be declared "an act of war". I'm all for it myself and feel there should be an ample reward involved. But.. even this agreement will be seen as an act of terrorism. Hmm.. I hear something flying low overhead...

      3. LDS Silver badge

        Re: Media stereotypes?

        It's not only that. Look at all the Hanna Montana, Violetta & C. show silliness - hey, if you want to be someone you have to be a singer/actress/dancer/model! Math? Sciences? Nahhhh! They make your skin too pale, and to use a keyboard you need to trim your fingernails!

        It's not strange all these characters are female and aimed at girls (of course knowing boys will also watch them for the "esthetic" part...)

        You become really someone only if you appear on TV. American Idol, X-Factor and other stupid shows are on the same wavelength.

        And it's not strange most of the audience of those shows is female (and often, the winners....). It's an auto-feeding mechanism. It's business, and it works well - who cares of the future of millions of women who will never become famous actresses/singesr/dancers/models? Also, if you work in the showbiz it's good, because you can even exploit easily many of them... and if you work in the showbiz there's a good chance you have very little ethic also...

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Media stereotypes?

      30 years ago when I was at university (I shudder when I say that) there were - and 'class' size was around 30 students - 4 women in the Chemistry course, and 2 in the physics course.

      Across the university campus (which had no arts subject) the ratio of men to women was worse than 10:1, the only course where women were in a majority was pharmacy.

      thankfully times have changed.

    5. Dan Paul

      Re: Media stereotypes? EXACTLY, but they'll deny it.

      The media is the greatest purveyor of propaganda there is. They have been responsible for more sexism than any individual. However, none of the brainwashed will ever recognize that fact.

      Between soap operas, "reality" tv and womens magazines there are fewer good role models and ideals being proposed than a bus load of sex offenders would.

      Congratulations on your grandchildren. Looks like they were raised right despite society's influence.

  6. Richard Jones 1
    Happy

    Not Quite The Same Every Where

    Some years ago I worked in an overseas country not famous for developing the rights of women. New work roles were being developed for the first time and filling them was proving a challenge. The first few women taken on in the programming and support roles proved as a group, considerably better than the men who had been tried in the roles. More careful, more adaptable and all round more reliable at doing what was required.

    Perhaps they saw it as an opportunity in an otherwise, (for them) narrow field.

    I guess the narrowness of choices here is why we have no female bus drivers, or truck drivers at all - oh hang on who's driving that bus?

    1. Lionel Baden

      Re: Not Quite The Same Every Where

      I would say that the selection criteria is completely different.

      You pick men who are already all in the field, so you end up with average Joe Bloggs,

      Advertise select position for 1 or two female staff ... Get the elite.

      Either way, who cares how many are in the profession, so long as its open as a choice to all.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not Quite The Same Every Where

      I understand what you mean, but in some countries there is a very different social structure and different expectations. In some countries I've seen men exploiting women skills to do less work themselves, and hiring women for many tasks because men were usually less willingly to study hard, work hard, and less willingly to take orders, especially from someone they might feel inferior in "social" status - because of family origin, age, etc. Usually, I found a male "boss", several women working in delicate roles (often requiring good results at school, like business/law knowledge, foreign languages knowledge, etc.), and then men in lower roles but requiring far less responsibilities and knowledge - in some countries often drinking their wives wages too...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Always thought this...

    All the places i have worked in IT have had female tech people, less numbers than male, but there nonetheless.

    Also women use IT in non-technical jobs like anyone else and in their personal lives like anyone else and they are no better or worse at using IT than non-technical men. It is simply that they don't want to do that job... whats so hard to believe... I don't want a job in fashion because i think its nonsense (wearing what someone tells you because everyone else is), not because i think its a female (or gay) dominated industry although it is.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Always thought this...

      In the 1960s the computer industry had many women - in programming and tech support they sometimes outnumbered men. Only in hardware engineering departments was it unusual to find a woman. Computer operators were often male - but in those days there were restrictions by some companies on women working night shifts as operators.

      Most of the women I worked with had studied maths to "A" Level - but that was often the minimum selection criterion for men too. A university degree was favoured by some development departments but the subject was largely irrelevant. One woman I knew had a degree in Chinese but had failed to get into a Foreign Office career.

      The balance changed drastically after about 1980 - possibly as the entrance criteria shifted to favour degrees in computer science. Women were apparently not choosing that subject.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Re: Always thought this...

        I don't believe it was CS degrees - I believe it happened when home computers broke the CS barrier for many well before university. Before, outside universities, government or big companies, access to a computer was impossible but for a very few lucky ones. In turn, it made a career around computers just a kind of career as any other.

        Unluckily, home computers were too often seen and aimed as boy toys - like Meccano or game consoles (although my sister had her own favourite games) - and became soon associated to the nerd stereotype. It is true that when I was a teenager in the '80s, there was already very little interests by girls in computers which became availabe - but for some games they may have liked, usually those where you weren't shooting at something. The "art of programming" never touched them much.

        I wouldn't have really cared if my sister had used the computer to make fluffy unicorns play with pink smiling balls instead of spaceships hunting ugly aliens - she would have mastered programming anyway. The good of computers is you can program them to perform what you like.

        But she studied maths just to pass her grades, and was never interested - like her female friends - to "play" with it outside school.

        Anyway, home computers flooded the market with males who already mastered computers well before entering any uni - and often choose a CS career because of they early interest in computers.

  8. Chairo
    Devil

    Aww

    that's soo unfair, to counter gender studies with actual math. So boring and male! Chauvinism at it's worst!

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: Aww

      The trick cyclists have fired back with a statistical broadside.

      http://www.sciencemag.org/content/349/6246/391.3.full

      Expect a nerdy slap fight imminently....

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        Re: Aww

        From their response, their last line is what convinced me that they are talking rubbish:

        "In light of these analyses, the claims we made in Leslie, Cimpian et al. (1) remain valid as originally stated: Fields whose practitioners idolize brilliance and genius have fewer women."

        People who actually knew what they were talking about would not say "we don't like the statistical analysis on this paper which contradicts ours, so ours is definitely true." It's a massive logical flaw that if the proof of the statement is false then the statement itself is false.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maths != IT

    While good maths is essential for some branches of STEM related careers - for others it is hardly needed.

    Most IT roles have no maths involved - or hardly any basic arithmetic. Maths is my poorest subject - yet in 45 years of IT trouble-shooting and development it was never a handicap. It was surprising how few of my colleagues in recent years had any idea how to handle simple binary arithmetic - something I learned on entering the computer industry after leaving school.

    What has been useful in my IT career was my schoolboy knowledge of physics, chemistry, electronics, and English essay writing.

    1. Mahou Saru

      Re: Maths != IT

      Well it depends by what you mean by most IT roles... I've been in 3rd line IT support for many years and tbh I just google, copy and paste, err I mean I diagnose the problem and identify what technical solutions are available. Now if I was to lets say get into any type of development and I mean the building blocks that we apply to create a "solution" then I would think that maths especially sadistics would be very important.

      1. Toastan Buttar
        Devil

        Re: Maths especially sadistics would be very important

        Sadistics is hugely important if you're applying to be the BOFH or the PFY.

        1. cortland

          Re: Maths especially sadistics would be very important

          THERE'S a Freudian slip!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Maths != IT

      I've only been in IT for 27 years, and I think I'd be better at it if I were better at math.

      I only failed Calculus II 5 times before giving up...

    3. Esme

      Re: Maths != IT

      Plus one from me - I've known some decent programmers with a decidedly dodgy grasp of maths over the years. Provided you can get your head around Boolean algebra/Venn diagrams, you should be able to get your head around programming, and those two aren't exactly high-level maths, now are they? Ability to program is more to do with an ability to think in the abstract, to bear in mind how this construct which one can't touch or see relates to and communicates with these other abstractions, and how the whole caboodle relates to something in the real world that is of interest to us - and that's exactly the kind of thing, like geospatial awareness, that may well show marked differences between the genders. Add to that, irrespective of ability, there's also the matter of interest in the subject. If ability went hand in hand with interest, I'd be a famous historian by now - I have the interest,but not the ability though. Whereas I had the mathematical ability to be a payroll clerk back when such things were still mostly done by humans, but utterly lacked the interest.

      Off on another tangent, re the pink/blue thing, I find arguments it amusing given that up until the 1920's it was pink for a boy and blue for a girl. And I've never seen any attempted explanation as to why UK society (at least) switched to pink for a girl/blue for a boy within just a few years.

      1. cbars

        Re: Maths != IT

        I think operating under that philosophy is ill advised. Programming without a good grasp of mathematics is like driving without knowing the highway code. It can be done, and by looking at those around you, you can kind of get the gist of what you're supposed to be doing. But you have no way to self regulate, and no absolute reference you can check against. That's fine for batch scripts, (aka driving about in a field), but keep those guys away from anything complicated.

        Anyway, that's a loose analogy and I was really replying about the blue/pink comment.

        I remember reading somewhere that pink was a boys colour pre WW2; just as gay rights were kicking off, and homosexual men starting wearing little pink ribbons to identify themselves, the Nazi's got wind of it and started pushing the girl=pink propaganda to undermine them. As well as identifying 'them' in concentration camps with pink triangles.

        All in all a nasty business. As for why it happened in the UK: there are nasty people still spouting old Nazi propaganda now, I can only speculate but I would guess that some 'homophobic' people simply picked up the Nazi rhetoric for their own ends.

        Colors are beautiful, and we shouldn't try to personify them or gender stereotype. People will anyway.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Maths != IT

          >>I think operating under that philosophy is ill advised. Programming without a good grasp of mathematics is like driving without knowing the highway code.

          Can you explain this to me?

          Programming is just telling the computer what to do, not unlike explaining to another person how to do something. This is a day-to-day activity that people accomplish instinctively without any knowledge of math.

          I've been a professional programmer for nearly 20 years and it's vanishingly rare that I need to know any math beyond the four basic operators to get my job done.

          I have occasionally written a program to SOLVE a math problem but this is obviously a different thing entirely. If anything, I had to resort to programming due to my LACK of math knowledge.

          1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

            Re: Maths != IT

            Some of the worst coders I've come across are those that while they were highly qualified on the maths front just couldn't think in a logical manner and could barely break a task down into manageable steps even with help. The most polite way to describe it is that their code was not fun to review or work with in any manner.

            Not to say that being good at maths means you can't be a good developer, just that one doesn't equal the other.

            Then there are the mathematical zealots who will swear blind that developers will be out of a job "real soon" because of 5GL or whatever inane bit of crap they've been told by another maths zealot. While it is true that limited scope computer algorithms can be defined mathematically, as soon as a system extends beyond the mundane, let alone anything event driven, requiring user interaction or where different systems interact, the required mathematical scoping would be so complicated and unweildy that no system could ever be developed in a reasonable time frame or at a reasonable cost. The fact that such a system would likely never be remotely efficient was something entirely lost on these idiots and on the rare occasion that they recognised the efficiency problem their response was either "systems will be faster, it won't matter" or "the designer can design for that" (a.k.a. a developer).

          2. Tom 13

            Re: Can you explain this to me?

            As a theoretical matter, it's important. As a practical matter it isn't.

            The most obvious example can be found in sorting algorithms. To conclusively prove one algorithm will always be faster than another you need to know the maths to derive the equations. In practice you can compare them and conclude the quick sort is best for large amounts of data. But here's the real rub, you only need one or maybe a few people who are good at the maths to PROVE the method. After it has been proven you can pass it out to the non-expert math people and they can use it as easily as the expert math people.

          3. JimWin

            Re: Maths != IT

            It depends on what you want your program to do. Modern software is very capable for a wide range of applications from trivial to highly complex. Some applications *do* require a good grasp of maths, others not. However, all programming requires the application of logic (hence flow charts, analysis tools etc.) and logic is defined by maths. Programming also allows sequential logic such as decision trees. Like a lego kit, you can make software to do whatever you want. But some programming is mathematical by its nature. So IT *is* maths, but of a specialised kind. IMO, it is helpfull to understand the maths so you can a) be precise about the problem you are trying to solve, b) you can effectively and efficiently implement the software and c) you can prove to yourself and other parties that your program does what it claims to do. I agree that Maths != IT, but IT = Maths.

    4. Jay 2

      Re: Maths != IT

      Agreed. Fortunately for me my CompSci degree at Aston Uni was one of the few which didn't require A-Level maths. There was some maths, sorry Modelling And Simulation, in the course but I managed to scrape through.

      Meanwhile in the 20-odd years since as a sys admin, I don't think the lack of (A-Level) maths has hindered me any.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Maths != IT

        "There was some maths, sorry Modelling And Simulation"

        LOL, on our course it was called "Quantitative Analyses. I'm guessing that marketing types were involved in the course descriptions. Or it was an early attempt to attract women by hiding the "nasty mathematics"

    5. Bernard M. Orwell Silver badge

      Re: Maths != IT

      This whole report flies in the face of my personal experience, so I too shall call shenanigans.

      I suffer with a problem when it comes to basic arithmetic; it's a form of minor dyslexia associated with number itself. Simple problems can confuse me no end, and learning the "rules" of arithmetic has proven difficult throughout my life. My mother in law, a professor and tutor in mathematics demonstrated that I didn't have a problem with "maths" by giving me several simple tests which showed that when presented with a complex mathematical problem, I was able to solve it in a logical pattern. The MiL showed me evidence that many great mathematicians were able to solve problems through a process of creating the tools they needed, mentally, to cope with a deficit in arithmetic skills.

      In addition to the mother in law, my wife is also a mathematician, and her brother and my sister in law are both maths teachers. I, on the other hand, am an IT professional with comprehensive programming experience, working at a relatively high level in the public sector. Guess who the family come to with their IT issues?

      I solve mathematical problems using the techniques I've learnt from coding; my coding ability doesn't depend on my maths acquired from formal schooling in any way. If you need any particular mathematical skill in coding circles, its probably useful to understand a modicum of algebra and have a rough understanding of Boolean logic.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    *warning - anecdotal evidence*

    Having worked in the far east for several years....the relative abundance of women in technology organisations, more or less parity...suggests to me that this is more a cultural issue, than gender one.

    1. Tomato42 Silver badge
      Boffin

      or maybe in far east the women have less choices of jobs that will provide for themselves so they choose the best paying ones, not the ones they are most interested in?

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        This may come as a surprise, but Far East != third world.

        These aren't people struggling to put food on the table.

        1. CP/M-80

          Well, if we are going to be pedantic (and a little pedantry on a Monday morning is no bad thing) ... I understand the original 1950s definitions were something like:

          First World - America and her allies post WW2, generally capitalist

          Second World - Russian and her allies post WW2, generally communist/socialist

          Third World - the rest of the world - South America, Asia, Africa.

          Though obviously the term has changed in use over the years and I guess many people who refer to the "third world" couldn't actually say what the "second world" is.

          1. Tom 13

            @CP/M-80

            No wonder you're confused. You never had the right definitions in the first place or the reasons for their origins.

            First World - Europe essentially tracing back to the ancient Greeks. Excludes Egypt and the Middle East even though you can trace Greece back to them.

            Second World - The US and maybe Canada if it doesn't get included in First.

            Third World - Everybody else.

            First world is there because that's where the explorers who were writing the history books came from.

            Second World is the region the explorers successfully colonized. The maybe on Canada is because of it's ties back to the UK and the fact that they didn't do the Revolution thing like the US did.

            Third world is everybody else.

            Yes, it is an ethnocentric view of the world. All histories are.

    2. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      warning - anecdotal evidence and small sample

      In my dealings with Far Eastern IT workers I've formed the impression that the proportion of young people who choose IT because it's a good job is higher than it is in the West. Neither group is struggling to put food on the table*, but I suspect that Western schoolchildren get much more "just do whatever makes you happy" career advice. It's not a cultural difference in the kind of work you do, but in the constraints on your original choice. This may also explain differences between European countries.

      * I can't help finding this amusing. "I really wanted to be a seamstress, but my family was so poor that I had to stay on at school studying study maths to A level, take a 3-year CS degree, then slave away writing computer programs all day."

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Guys in the US still get pressured to bring home the bacon, even if they could try to marry a woman with a suitable job.

        Personally, I think I would've been happier as an Artist. I always enjoyed the visual and performing arts far more than solving math or computer science homework problems, but unless you're willing to sell out, being an Artist rarely pays well. So, rather than starve, I chose to take the advanced CS degree. At least I can still go do those artistic things that I enjoy in my spare time and now I won't have to worry about trying to get someone to pay for them.

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge

      The cultural one is the bigger issue. After WWII, here in the States, the women who had been working in the mills, building tanks and airplaines, etc. basically were told "thank you.. now go home so the men coming back will have a job". That mindset got established hard in their generation and it still prevails.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It may be a little contentious

    but I suspect the cause is Man-made Global Warming.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It may be a little contentious

      Because of course it could never be Woman-made Global Warming ;)

  12. wowfood

    Simpsons did it

    I remember watching an episode of the simpsons a while back where lisa was annoyed that girls weren't being taught maths at the same level as the boys were, so she disguised herself as a boy and snuck into barts math class.

    I know it's not entirely relavent to this, but it kind've is.

    1. CarbonLifeForm

      Re: Simpsons did it

      Much as I like The Simpsons, as an American and father of a boy not much younger than Bart Simpson is eternally portrayed to be... I'd be hard pressed to take its storylines seriously as a proxy for understanding American education. ;-)

      It's a good show though. Funny.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Today at the Macumba Night: IT ladies coding shamelessly

    "it is not discrimination by men in the field keeping the ladies away"

    I always wondered whether performing as a stripper opened up a vast untapped vistas of progressive egalitarianism and made that job attractive?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Today at the Macumba Night: IT ladies coding shamelessly

      you mean like truck driving and coal mining?

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Today at the Macumba Night: IT ladies coding shamelessly

        When I worked down the pit it was still illegal for women and children to work down the pit. I've a feeling it still is.

  14. Yugguy

    They could have a point

    My 9 year old is good at maths - she is at a level a year or so ahead of her school year.

    But she just doesn't enjoy it, so I doubt she'd ever go for a career in which it was needed, or even if she will persue it after the compulsory GCSE level.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: They could have a point

      > But she just doesn't enjoy it

      She's actually not good at math. She will regress toward the mean soonish and by surpassed by the boys presently NOT good at math,

      Terry Tao is good at maths.

  15. Alan Brown Silver badge

    "maths is hard" says Barbie

    The real problem is that teachers who are poor at math are expected to teach it and they pass their prejudice onto children who subsequently do poorly at math.

    The surprising part is how many do well IN SPITE of poor teachers - and those tend to be the kind who are on the autistic spectrum who like numbers and focus on them no matter what.

    To fix the problem, fix the teaching. There's no inherent reason why mathematicians should predominantly be socially unaware misfits, it's all down to a lack of inspiration at young ages.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: "maths is hard" says Barbie

      It's not only teachers, often are the parents themselves. Too many parents raise children telling them "math is (too) hard", and show by example they had grown up anyway without it. And that, unluckily, happens more in the mother-daughter relationship than in the father-son one. Especially since even most men successul at math, are not anyway likely to choose their partner on a math skill basis...

      Moreover usually male children are more likely to explore knowledge domains their fathers didn't, female ones are less likely, probably because for them is more important to look like their mothers than for boys is import to look like their fathers - often what they want is exactly to look *unlike* their fathers.

      I believe male individualism plays a big role in this, while lack of it hinders to think more freely.

    2. dogged

      Re: "maths is hard" says Barbie

      > and those tend to be the kind who are on the autistic spectrum who like numbers and focus on them no matter what.

      Wait, hold on... I'm pretty much self-taught in maths because our primary school just let us work through a book and take the next one. I had no idea I was doing the A Level syllabus at 11 because how would I possibly know?

      I resent the implication that I have some form of mental disability just because you think Maths is hard.

      "Oh, you learned maths despite your teacher not understanding it? So you're some kind of fucking Aspie, right?"

      Actually, no. I learned English too. Some kids don't need hand-holding.

      1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

        Re: "maths is hard" says Barbie

        It's not so much that maths is hard, more a case that thinking is hard.

    3. Tom 13

      Re: "maths is hard" says Barbie

      I have to agree with this observation. I trace my dislike of math back to my 4th grade teacher who yelled at me for the way I did my math problems. I did the work in my head for short problems (I mean really, how hard is it to do 11 x 4 = 44 in your head?). She insisted I had to write it out. I also have some genetic issues. I'm ever so slightly dyslexic with a tendency toward photographic memory. The problem doesn't present itself so much with words where there are usually sufficient characters for me to auto-correct my most common mistakes, but it's killer when you flip the 1 and the 5 in 4315987634.

  16. damworker

    But the non tech subjects are sooo much harder than engineering

    I've seen this argument at my kids school. The humanities are more relevant because they are more about people. The girls only school my 2 girls go to doesn't offer an ICT GCSE because it's "just what people do all the time" (actually I kinda agree) but then so is reading and writing and it is seen by everyone as important to get a decent pass in English. I was surprised that they also place much more importance on textiles and cooking classes than my son's mixed school did.

    I think a major part of the problem is that most teachers are drawn from arts subjects not tech and don't value science.

  17. Sean Houlihane

    Subject specialism is a factor too

    Having had the discussion, in a STEM club, about how a physics degree was relevant to an engineering job, I think there is a view being taught by both parents and teachers that GCSE/A-level choices are absolute pre-requisites for specific careers. This may work against the more generalist (and more demanding subjects) like maths, and also present a barrier to someone without an early CS qualification who might consider moving towards that field. Maybe girls select their career choices differently at the point where they start to choose subjects, or are reluctant to move away from their first subject choice at a later date.

    Its worth noting that the gender bias only exists in certain cultures, and isn't particularly an issue of technical complexity in a career.

  18. fruitoftheloon
    Thumb Up

    Wifey's viewpoint...

    We were visiting my sister & family a while ago, when brother-in-law suggested we might like a popular tv programme called 'big bang theory' or somesuch.

    I have never seen so much mental diarrhoea in my feggin' life, the blokes are stereotypical nerds, and the 'eye candy' must be thick.

    Sister and brother-in-law were surprised when we pointed out how these stereotypes may impact the development of their young girls...

    Btw wifey has a Masters in Nuclear Medicine & Astrophysics (apols as I can't remem the exact wording).

    More to the point she also on an almost-regular basis gives presentations to young kids, explaining the science and showing them animated live CT scan data and visualisations of how the Linear accelerator delivers the cancer treatment etc.

    The feedback from the kids (especially girls) is awesome to behold.

    Cheers,

    Jay

    1. SJG

      Re: Wifey's viewpoint...

      I think you'll find that The Big Bang Theory progressed rather quickly to the point where there are just as many female as male scientists. Interestingly the actress playing Amy the neuroscientist is actually a neuroscientist in real life https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mayim_Bialik.

      1. fruitoftheloon
        Thumb Up

        @SJG: Re: Wifey's viewpoint...

        Sjg,

        Thanks for the added info.

        Cheers,

        Jay

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wifey's viewpoint...

      Guess you really missed what "The BIng Bang Theory" is about... which shows having masters is often different fron being clever and open minded - and could even make you shortsighted... just like Sheldon Cooper, I'd say....

      1. fruitoftheloon
        WTF?

        @AC: Re: Wifey's viewpoint...

        Ac,

        err no matey, she has the big job and bits of paper that relate to her sciencey-physics job.

        I found the programme to be utter shite, like many folk, I have limited 'discretionary' time to spend in front of the gogglebox, hence this prog didn't make the list; but if you like it, that's fine by me!!

        I in no way implied that NO ONE ELSE should like it, 'tis that funny you talk about being open minded eh?

        I wish I were able to sum up someone I hadn't met so quickly like you, with no evidence or objective opinions from which to base my conclusions on, god YOU ARE SO CLEVER

        Also what is with the AC?

        Have a nice day!

        Jay

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Wifey's viewpoint...

      "I have never seen so much mental diarrhoea in my feggin' life, the blokes are stereotypical nerds, and the 'eye candy' must be thick."

      I used to think that, then my wife started watching it and "made" me watch it with her from the beginning (she caught the "bug" from her 80yo mother who loved it). Penny, the "thick eye candy" is a deeper character than she first appears, eventually ending up as a high powered pharmaceuticals sales rep earning significantly more than her experimental physicist fiancée.

      The character evolution/development is very slow, spanning multiple series, which is actually a refreshing change from so many TV series where they are so unsure of getting renewed for a new series that they rush everything into the first series then scramble for new material when they do get the next series commissioned.

      Still, all that considered, if you don't like the show then you don't like the show and I'm fine with that.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oof, careful El Reg. This is not the accepted narrative.

  20. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    I'll believe in equality

    when I see a woman robot tech lying under one of the wretched things having oil dripped on them from a leaky hose, then for good measure having to pull a dead pump from an ikky coolant tank and fix the thing, while having the boss standing behind them all day going "time is money time is money time is money"

    Boris

    <<not had a good day

    "wheres the shower icon?"

    1. Wommit

      Re: I'll believe in equality

      Boris, I've worked with women in engineering and IT. Strangely they're just like men, good, bad, amazing & appalling each in turn. I've been under the aircraft with them as oils and other strange & possible toxic materials dripped down, and I've shared an open office with them, and coded & developed systems together.

      Overall, I'd prefer to work with someone who knew their job, irrespective of race age gender species etc etc.

  21. Jason Bassford

    Which says nothing...

    The "study" shows almost nothing at all. Merely that women don't know enough math to take courses in university. All of the original questions still stand. Why don't they know math? Stopping at just the reasoning behind the course admission process is lazy. In fact, if women are culturally discriminated against in such a way that they're steered away from learning math - this study is just as bad as anything else. It ends up presenting something that's almost blindingly obvious and then washes its hands of all social responsibility.

  22. The Dude

    Throw more tax money at the problem.

    Not the patriarchy or misogynists, then?

  23. CommanderGalaxian
    Stop

    Don't Worry!

    This is all a much ado about nothing. The politically correct have a solution - boys too are now being told that they don't need to bother studying maths and science at school if they want a career in Science or Technology or Engineering or Medicine.

  24. MrXavia
    Holmes

    Its the mothers fault mostly...

    Mothers don't buy geeky toys for their daughters, they buy barbie, dolls, etc...

    Boys get toy cars, lego, nerf guns, computer games... Toys that encourage competitiveness and creativity.. Girls get pink things that encourage playing house...

    I don't have a daughter, but if I did, she'd be the toughest & smartest, little girl on the playground...

    1. Dan Paul

      Re: Its the mothers fault mostly...

      Don't you know you can also buy them things like Barbie cars, Nerf "Rebel" (Pink bow and arrows), various female oriented computer games. EVERY toy vendor has products now to counter the "Patriarchy". I think Barbie even has a "dysfunctional family" category now. Just the thing to spur more discontent and divorces.

      None of which are really any different than the "male" counterparts toys except the color and backstory is clearly for girls and not boys. Must be sexist.....off with our penises then.

    2. Davincian77

      Re: Its the mothers fault mostly...

      Boys and girls are biologically different. Girls are more interested in Dolls and talking to other girls because women have evolved to be more socially oriented providing the tribal social glue.. Boys are interested in toys, weapons etc because men have evolved to be the warriors, protectors, hunters and builders.

      No amount of political correctness and attempted social engineering will change this.

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: Its the mothers fault mostly...

        While boys and girls are biologically different and it's been proven that there are differences between male and female brains and how these changes take effect at different points in our lives (puberty, pregnancy / parenthood, etc) these differences are broad generalisations such as "spatial awareness" or "empathy / social skills" and these general traits are usually found to be compensatable through learning.

        Such core general traits can usually be attributed to "hunting" compared to "nurturing" activities that are usually segregated in most human societies to males hunting and females nuturing. Some of this just logic as a heavily pregnant female or one tending to a baby just isn't going to be as good at hunting compared to another individual that isn't so encumbered but it's also comes from observation of remote and largely untouched human tribes who still operate this way of segregating male and female duties.

        Social learning happens at a very early age and a key aspect of social learning is learning how to interact and how to "fit in" with peers. For example at this age if a lot of girls are pushing prams and playing with dolls then most young girls will do so too because they observe what is expected of them so they can do the same and therefore fit in with them. This doesn't mean that young boys at this age won't be found playing with dolls and pushing prams (I know a few that just love it) but when faced with their peers who don't do this these boys will usually change to fit in.

  25. Paul Renault

    How about a link to the study, eh?

    Don't be _that_ online magazine, ElReg!

  26. David L Webb

    Not sure about lack of mathematical knowledge being the reason

    I did a Mathematics degree at Manchester University in the early 80s and as I recall the male/female ratio was pretty even. I don't think you could say the same for engineering or physics but the fact that it was the case with Mathematics suggests that lack of mathematical knowledge wasn't and probably still isn't the reason.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Not sure about lack of mathematical knowledge being the reason

      This is true, but what career path they chose after university? I saw many of them seeking a teaching job later - heck, my Physics department had also a "didactic path" for those wanting to be teachers - and most of those following it were women. Most women wants to have children - it's the DNA - and consciously or unconsciously prepare themselves for a job who allows them that easily.

      I had more female math teachers than male ones - including at the University, and a couple of them were truly excellent ones, far above their male counterparts. The most dreadful I had, a linear algebra professor - was a male - someone I still wonder not only how he become a professor, but why he ever attempted to study math...

      1. Tom 13

        Re: Not sure about lack of mathematical knowledge being the reason

        I had more female math teachers only until I reached high school. There the numbers equalized, but the men were superior teachers. In college the numbers were again about equal. I might give a slight edge to the women, but that may also have been a function of class size. The men were teaching classes of 250, the women 80. Eventually I got it though my thick skull that no matter how hard I worked at it, arithmetic and I didn't get along and my schooling didn't cover some key formulas I hadn't learned to recognize (any rotated curves, everything we did was along X or Y and they claimed the rotation was obvious, it's not).

    2. Tom 13

      Re: Not sure about lack of mathematical knowledge being the reason

      When you plot the data for men and women separately there's a statistically significant and observable difference between the two curves. The curve for women has a higher mean (for all subjects) and a lower standard deviation. Which means that when you are looking out at the tail ends of the curve, you tend to have more men. So if you're looking for the top 1% of the population it tends to have significantly more men than women. So on average, women are smarter, but at the exceptional levels you find more men.

  27. Iagree

    Having seen how women are treated by those in IT I disagree with this piece.

    How many times have people called up IT, gotten a woman and inwardly groaned?

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think they should pay and promote women more, http://www.catalyst.org/knowledge/womens-earnings-and-income.

    The answer I would predict to this would be that women need time off for babies, assuming all women have babies and that men don't have paternity leave.

    1. Tom 13

      Re: gotten a woman and inwardly groaned?

      Only when I knew the woman was the one who stood in the way of the junior male tech implementing the MS documented fix that kept the ServiceDesk nose deep in tickets for the first two weeks of moving to a new network. Stations were 9x and servers were W2K. The servers timed out the network connection and dropped it. Junior male tech found the tech article where you used regedit to adjust a value on the server. Woman insisted you NEVER want to use regedit to fix a problem, you always want an official patch.

      On the other hand, I loved the female supervisor we hired and stayed with us for about 2 years before moving on because our company was so dysfunctional. I was RIFFed about a year later and it is one of the best things that ever happened to me.

  29. DCLXV

    Of course, blame math

    The real culprit is the garbage standards and byzantine [dis]organizational structure of educational institutions in the West. For one, math is not altogether that difficult to grasp. I would expect most people can hack it because it's just abstract thinking, something most are already accustomed to doing at some level. The problem there is the gobshites clogging up the teaching profession; people who really have no business teaching and cause people to be disinterested in mathematics because they themselves are uninteresting people who do not have the communication skills to properly explain mathematical concepts in a way that a layman can actually understand and learn from. Hence tutoring.

    What compounds that issue is that the kids are hamstrung by post-secondary institutions that arbitrarily decides what they will permit you to get an education in depending on your high-school credits. That in turn creates an endless stream of business for the trade schools where people who have been pigeonholed into some worthless arts degree and subsequent dead-end career are able to get a second chance at doing STEM without being hobbled by their marks from high-school.

  30. Davincian77

    The actual truth

    The simple truth is that there are more highly intelligent men than there are women. This is an irrefutable fact.

    The IQ distributions in all major IQ tests are markedly different between men and women, on average men and women are roughly equal but women's IQs are more grouped around the middle whereas men's are more spread across the spectrum, meaning there are more stupid men than women but a lot more highly intelligent men than women.

    This is because the bigger the difference between men the easier it is for women to select the smartest mates and the best selected from an evenly spread group is going to be much more intelligent than the best selected from an average group thus humanity's intellectual evolution advances more rapidly via natural selection.

    With greater variety amongst the males, natural selection has more to work with.

    Add to this men's higher propensity for left brain, mathematical endeavours and the field is inevitably going to be dominated by men.

    No amount of political correctness can change this fact.

    1. cortland

      Re: The actual truth

      AFTER age 15, and that is interesting. See http://www.iqcomparisonsite.com/sexdifferences.aspx

      Personal observation; I can't STAND women who use what I'll call the "dumb blonde" tactic to attract men.

      Possibly relevant anecdote: Asperger's syndrome didn't help _me_; when a female colleague in an R&D department appeared at my cubicle to ask for help connecting a TV antenna at home, I reminded her she was an engineer, then asked if she was trying to perpetuate a stereotype. My brother, who seemed to attract exotic girlfriends, laughed uncontrollably when I described that later.

      1. DougW
        Pint

        Re: The actual truth

        I met my first girlfriend by fixing her compooter. Turned out the power cord fell out.

        Sadly it was not a trick.

        Yeah...... not enough Scotch in the world to make that relationship work.

  31. cortland

    It's the teachers

    Even boys; a truly dreadful teacher destroyed any early interest I had in in maths and number play, and I never did catch up. I was still smart enough to work around that on my own (NB: still with dismal marks) and had a 30 year career in engineering after I retired from the military, without a degree nor even any engineering coursework; THIS boy read dictionaries and encyclopedias (and a lot of other books, too) for enjoyment -- and played with with electromagnets.

    https://www.wisconsinmedicalsociety.org/professional/savant-syndrome/resources/articles/hyperlexia-reading-precociousness-or-savant-skill/

    1. DougW

      Re: It's the teachers

      I had a teacher constantly write me down for poor penmanship. So I started to only print.

      Also had one that tried to talk me out of a typing class because, "only girls type". Glad I told that teacher to f-off.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maths should be obligatory

    Kids are not going to know what they want to do later in life but dropping maths at the first opportunity closes many, many doors in engineering, science, and IT (wherever that may lie).

  33. AndyDent
    Mushroom

    Quick Fix

    We don't have to fix the math background, just the math requirements.

    Yes you need math for some fields such as Graphics and core Computer Science.

    However, the vast majority of business development and software engineering requires only simple algebra. Ironically, these fields are more about language skills and communication (so the courses should reflect that).

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Math

    I studied Physics in college and went on to become a LHC researcher - all without the benefit of understanding calculus. Granted, my results are often deemed "unconventional" [guesswork], but we have to shake up the status quo.

  35. DougW
    Childcatcher

    math is over rated

    All a STEM degree does is prove you are capable of learning. At least I've yet to do any tripple integrals at my dayjobben. It's all in expectation and drive. The female engineers around me are capable but some seem to lack self-confidence. They have to get over the idea that if they are blunt or demanding it's "that time othe month" in others eyes. Either press forward or fail.

    The two that took my advice now make more than I do. :/ Yet I still mentor those that listen.

    Thinking back to grade-school there were idiots I knew were going nowhere and those that did well. It was all about an active pursuit of education. But now that everyone is a special cookie and trophys get presented for existing, I fear for the future.

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

      Re: math is over rated

      Reminds me of my father saying that the true function of school was to teach you how to learn.

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