Across the calculus sections, women outperformed men on grades.

This post was originally published at Restructure!

Several recent studies have suggested that the gender gap in STEM fields is caused not by bias, but simply by different choices made by men and women. What the new research shows, Dasgupta said, is choice isn’t as simple as people think. “People assume that these choices are free choices, based on talent and interest and motivation,” Dasgupta said. “But these data suggest that the meaning of choices, of what it means to choose math or science, is more complicated. Even talented people may not choose math or science not because they don’t like it or are not good at it, but because they feel that they don’t belong.”

Inoculation Against Stereotype by Scott Jaschik (Inside Higher Ed)

There is a common belief among some computer geek communities that women are underrepresented in STEM because we just don’t like it, and so we should celebrate differences instead of making women “miserable” by “forcing” us into careers we “don’t like”. This study would debunk that myth, if only most men in tech who discuss the topic of women in tech actually did some research on it, instead of leaving comments that make male geeks feel good about themselves and rationalize the gender imbalance in “their” field.

For other male geeks who insist that there are hard-wired brain differences in men and women, and argue that women’s brains are hard-wired against understanding math and science as well as men (instead of hard-wired against enjoying math and science), this part of the article should be emphasized:

Skeptics might wonder if some of the [gender] differences [in engagement] among students relate to how well the students know the material. The researchers checked for that and found that, across sections, women outperformed men on grades. So the data point to women losing confidence with male instructors — even if female students know the material as well as or better than their male counterparts.

Link: Inoculation Against Stereotype (Inside Higher Ed)

6 thoughts on “Across the calculus sections, women outperformed men on grades.

  1. the scrum mistress

    I’m in software development and I don’t care what your gender is it takes a special kind of person to write code all day. And I don’t mean special as in impressive.

    Which is why I do system architecture and project management. Out of about 40 men there are 3 women in technical positions.

    Two are programmers and I am the only one in a vaguely leadership/strategic role. Yes there is marginalization but whether that is because I am a female or because I am not a programmer it is hard to tell. I am pretty sure the other two women get patronized as much as I do.

    I was recently passed up for a promotion in which I a pretty sure my gender was a factor. Women don’t do technology. The rest of the team are men. We don’t want a woman at our boys nights out. It wasn’t the only factor but if it factored at all it is wrong. And seriously they believe that Women don’t do technology because that is what they see. 3 out of 40.

    In which case I reverse that and say Men don’t do management. At least not that I can see. None of the men above me were considered for their position for their management skills. Because they seem to be non-existent. And the business suffers because of this. Are men hardwired against this sort of skill? Why is this skill not seen as being as useful as how to write code?

    For some reason being hardwired for math and science is seen as positive while not being inclined towards these disciplines is negative. Perhaps attitudes need to change towards the subjects rather than trying to prove one way or another that boys are better at math than girls.

    If math were not pushed as being the most positive skill and something like communication being seen as less useful then the men geeks surely would not cling so pitifully to their stereotypes. They would want to prove they were better communicators and leave the serious business of science, which of course requires no sort of creativity or communication skill, to the women.

    1. meaningless

      “leave the serious business of science, which of course requires no sort of creativity or communication skill, to the women.”

      I beg to differ, science in my opinion is definitely NOT devoid of creativity, it is QUITE essential to the life of a programmer specifically.

      I dig the idea of not putting a positive spin on career choices tho, It would be far easier to avoid issues of sexual diversity in certain fields by just encouraging people of all walks of life to do what they WANT, rather than artificially impose a higher status on some jobs.

      1. John

        Unfortunately, “what people WANT” is influenced by what they’ve been brought up to think it’s proper for them to want, so it’s not that simple!

    2. Restructure! Post author

      I’m in software development and I don’t care what your gender is it takes a special kind of person to write code all day. And I don’t mean special as in impressive.

      Wow, you’re dehumanizing geeks on a geek blog? I find it easy to write code all day. That doesn’t make me less of a person, but anti-geek sentiment is still so pervasive that people feel emboldened enough to leave anti-geek comments on a geek blog.

      They would want to prove they were better communicators and leave the serious business of science, which of course requires no sort of creativity or communication skill, to the women.

      Is this sarcasm? If not, it only reinforces my feeling that non-geeks see STEM topics as requiring no creativity, because they see geeks as less human (like mechanic robots instead of people).

    3. John

      I’d read some of what you describe very differently (if it’s not tongue-in-cheek).

      Yes there is marginalization but whether that is because I am a female or because I am not a programmer it is hard to tell.

      Not being a programmer would certainly be enough to explain that in many environments, particularly the really geeky ones where people are really enthusiastic about programming.

      I was recently passed up for a promotion in which I a pretty sure my gender was a factor.

      But it could be that being a non-programmer would explain that… it certainly would in the team I now work in: my boss will leave even non-programming management positions vacant rather than fill them with people who have never been programmers, because they need to understand, from real experience, how programming works.
      But I wouldn’t feel too bad about being passed over for promotion; promotion can be a way to get someone useless out of the way of the people who’re actually doing the work, so it could mean that you’re valued where you are now.

      We don’t want a woman at our boys nights out.

      Or they might not want a non-programmer at their programmers’ nights out, because they don’t want to have to divert from what they really want to talk about (and what forms their common bond) as an artificial accomodation for someone.

      Why is this skill not seen as being as useful as how to write code?

      I’m not sure whether this is a rhetorical question, but I think answering it as a real one may be informative: Because many programmers have a very negative experience of being managed by non-programmers. (Note the popularity of Dilbert cartoons among geeks.) Because sometimes programmers get together on weekend hackfests without any recognizable management, and get far more done than they can in a “managed” environment.

      If math were not pushed as being the most positive skill and something like communication being seen as less useful …

      I reckon most of the competent programmers I’ve met have, regardless of gender, been excellent and very creative and playful communicators; far better communicators than “management-speak” managers, whose “communication” is often obfuscation. But we communicate through IRC, not powerpoint.
      I don’t mean this as a personal attack (and I’m not one of these colleagues you’ve mentioned, so I know what you’ve written “isn’t about me”), but I feel strongly about the material you’ve written; strongly, as a geek, as a man, as a feminist.

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