Monday, June 2, 2008

Women Aren’t “Naturally” Bad At Math = DUH

A fewe months ago, I went onto my soapbox about women in engineering after reading an very disturbing article that presumed women needed special curriculum in order to succeed in math and scientific fields.

At lunch today, I read another article over at Ars Technica, “Why Judy Can’t Add”. The punchline: A huge international study has found that lower math scores in women is a mainly social phenomenon (ie – it is directly proportional to the amount of gender equality in the societies tested).

This confirms yet again, that expectations matter.In my case, my parents, my teachers and my classmates all had very high expectations regarding my intellectual abilities. I didn’t realize until I got to college and especially when I got out in the workplace how rare that can be.

For most, little girls learn it’s unfeminine to be intellectual or more specifically mathematical from the adults around them. That subtle education affects their schoolwork and testing. The result is a gap in performance that “everyone” knows is because women aren’t as good at math as men. Which the next generation of women sees as reason to not fully apply themselves to mathematics because if it’s biology, then it doesn’t matter how hard they study, right?

Perhaps the self-esteem movement isn’t completely unfounded. Confidence in yourself is well and good but it has to be based in a real ability to perform. Maybe instead of hyping the more generalized self-esteem we should be emphasizing analytical skills and intellectual esteem in and for our young women. It also couldn’t hurt to remind them of women who are clearly intellectual success stories.

No comments: