Why are only 13% of physics PhDs to females?

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When during your career do you anticipate starting a family?

During PhD program
During postdoctoral position
After receiving tenure
Don't plan to have a family
Total votes: 31

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Why are only 13% of physics PhDs to females?

Postby theorygirl » Mon Feb 26, 2007 11:49 pm

Recently I read a really fascinating study. It featured a collaboration of women physicists from around the world brainstorming why so few women receive physics PhDs, often focusing on the difficulties of balancing family life with science careers. This is not a problem which is unique to the US. I was wondering if people (male & female) were interested in weighing in on this topic. Specifically, how does everyone plan to balance a successful physics career with an outside life or a family?

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Postby artist » Tue Feb 27, 2007 12:28 am

What about "don't know?"

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Postby somebody » Tue Feb 27, 2007 12:31 am

yeah put me down for dont know too

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Postby artist » Tue Feb 27, 2007 12:41 am

Also, I think there is something else in the physics community that is making it difficult for women to join. Other fields make family life just as difficult, but have more women. What makes physics different?

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Postby mathlete » Tue Feb 27, 2007 1:03 am

Cold hard truth? Females just aren't as good as men at physics (and math). Now don't go pointing out this lady or that who is a better scientist than I can ever hope to be. They exist. In fact, there are plenty of great female physicists/mathematicians. But on average, men are better at it.

OK attack me now.

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Postby artist » Tue Feb 27, 2007 1:17 am

You may be right that men, on average, are more adept at mathematics. But that proves nothing about women's natural potential. Just because black people make less money on average in the US than white people does not mean they are naturally less capable of making money. Just because there are a lot of latinos working for less than minimum wage at orange farms in Florida does not mean that latinos have a natural urge to handle oranges more than anybody else. There are a lot of subtle reasons (and many not so subtle reasons) why certain groups of people are less well represented in some areas of society than others. This has nothing to do with natural capability. It has to do with sexism, racism, class discrimination, and other forms of prejudice. Many times this prejudice is unintended, such as when one has been taught by society that women are less capable at math and thus takes an opportunity to regurgitate those stereotypes on an internet forum. It's a small part, but just one more hurdle that an underrepresented group of society has to jump over to achieve their goals. The cold hard truth is that stereotypes carry a lot of momentum, and stopping them requires effort from everyone.

OK done attacking.
Last edited by artist on Tue Feb 27, 2007 1:19 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby likeafox » Tue Feb 27, 2007 1:19 am

didnt a huge review of studies just come out about how there isn't actually any evidence that there's a difference? i think it was after the whole lawrence summers thing. i think people perceive a difference and then they decide there must be an innate difference in ability. i dont think that's a good conclusion, especially because it probably just makes the problem worse.
in my experience in middle school up through high school the top students in math were always girls, and in high school my AP physics C class was mostly girls, so if I were to make a generalization based on my experience (well, until i got to college) i'd say girls are better at math and physics. :D

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Postby theorygirl » Tue Feb 27, 2007 1:44 am

I think some people (who shall remain nameless) like to post inflammatory statements like "women are just not as good at science and math" on forums like these just so people will rail at them for their chauvinist tendencies. Thankfully I am secure enough that I don't need to lash out at people for what I will presume to be ignorance and not spiteful behavior. Thanks to all the good people who responded with reasoned, well thought out arguments! :D

By the way, "don't know" is a good answer for the poll, it's actually what I would probably put right now. I'm trying to get an idea of peoples views on this topic cuz I'm not sure myself.

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Postby mathlete » Tue Feb 27, 2007 1:52 am

@ theorygirl

Sorry if you were offended, but the problem is you are taking it as "All girls are inferior to all men", which is not at all what I was saying. Furthermore, this isn't an attack on you personally, you're probably better at physics than I am. In fact, this isn't an attack on anybody.

In fact, it's pretty much fact that men are superior to women at visual- and spatio-temporal tasks, something which is essential for physics and math. Oh, and whoever commented on women being in your AP classes, women develop quantitative skills earlier than men, but men tend to have the advantage after puberty.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_and_in ... _abilities

I don't know why it's considered "chauvinistic" to state this, but hey... in today's world everyone has to be exactly equal otherwise it's racist and discriminatory, right?

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Postby somebody » Tue Feb 27, 2007 1:55 am

actually i dont think you can dismiss any possibility. men and women are different. whose to say that men aren't better than women at science and math, or that women aren't better than men, or that one sex is better at some parts of it and the other is better at other stuff. maybe men make better high energy theorists and women make better AMO experimentalists or vice versa. i dont think psychology has progressed far enough to answer questions on gender ability, but men and women are different so the question is really unanswerable. needless to say i think its been proven that both men and women are capable of being great scientists and there are many examples of both sexes making great discoveries.

with regards to the lack of female physics phds i think there is a manifold of reasons that have nothing to do with lack of ability.
1. there is a stereotype (right or wrong) out there held by many (men and women) that men are naturally better at science and math
2. this stereotype has caused a great discrepancy between the number of men and women entering the field and alot of college girls probably feel as comfortable in a physics department as a guy at the local basket bingo.
3. pressure to settle down and have a family before age 30 on girls
4. the fact that a woman on the track to a tenure faculty position doesn't appeal that much to a man at any point (unless she is very attractive). postdoc periods are unstable and you could move around several times before landing a tenure-track position. you don't really get a permanent position until you get tenure and you're probably in your early 30's by the time that happens, and most sucessful 30-something guys are more on the market for younger mid-late 20's girls.

i could write more but i'm done, by the way i'm a guy and everything i said is purely speculation but i think there's some truth in there somewhere

5. i'm going to throw in one more reason which i'll probably get grilled for, but as a guy i think its true (not just for me but alot of my friends and other guys i know, but not all). alot of guys are arrogant and given the choice would rather feel like the intellectually superior person in the relationship (especially in technical stuff) so i think some women feel like they would intimidate potential boyfriends/husbands by strutting around with a physics phd.

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Postby theorygirl » Tue Feb 27, 2007 2:49 am

@ somebody
You definitely have a great intuition for these problems and a lot of them were mentioned in the study to which I referred. I will try to get bibliographic info so others can check it out.
One aspect of this issue is that about about 50% of married women w/ physics PhDs are married to other physicists or scientists. Trying to find two tenured positions at nearby universities is a struggle. Also, women tend to follow their husbands to wherever they need to find a position or job, ruling out the possibility of extended periods of graduate study. Women are the traditional childcare providers, making it much more difficult for them to spend time doing research in that crucial period when they are trying to find postdocs and get tenure. Some of these traditions are deeply rooted in society. Perhaps if more men were willing to make sacrifices for the sake of their partner's career or take on childcare responsibilities, more women would feel free to consider careers in physics.

@ mathlete
I am not offended; I actually enjoy debates. I have just seen too many of these postings degenerate into a slugfest completely unrelated to the original topic and I would not want that to happen. You are entitled to your opinion, though I do not agree with it.

One final comment: the choice to pursue physics occurs largely in the late teenage years for many girls. Only 18% of the undergraduate physics degrees given out are to females, so the disparity already exists when these students graduate from university. Most 18 year old girls are reluctant to enter a field which is often perceived as "nerdy" at a time when they are often very self-conscious and very focused on things like appearance. I have actually had people act very surprised when I tell them I want to get a doctorate in physics. They say "Wow, a pretty girl in physics" as if they expect all women physicists to have no concern for their personal appearance. Who would expect self-conscious teenage girls to volunteer to enter a field where the (completely erroneous) perception is that women who excel in physics are ugly or dorky. This is a small factor, but I believe it is one of the many obstacles to attracting more women to physics. Mostly, I just think that these girls need more role models to show them that the multitude of stereotypes surrounding physics (including a difference in abilities between the sexes) are false. :)

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Postby schmit.paul » Tue Feb 27, 2007 3:02 am

While these are all reasonable arguments, I think we need to look a little farther back in childhood development do determine why women are under-represented in many technical fields. I have very strong convictions that our value system in this country (which is quickly spreading to many other post-modern nations), perpetuated by stimulus-driven media, underinvolved parents, and ambivalent primary and secondary education teachers, has created a social environment that shuns achievement at a young age and encourages mediocrity, minimalism, and conformity. And even the children that follow a non-conformist route more often than not opt to dress in gaudy, tasteless clothing and take up rebellious habits instead of seeking to elevate themselves above their peers academically. I know I am not the only person on this forum that was singled out at a young age for being an "overachiever." To some extent it is flattering to be noticed for being exceptionally smart, but then at times it is painful to realize one is being stereotyped into a certain category as your peer group starts to develop cliques. And I know whatever I went through with regards to battling with my self-image, weighing the consequences of continuing to do well in school vs. the alternative (blow off school and assume a persona more close to the midline), it must have been much worse for every girl that was faced with the same choice. One pitfall of growing up in this generation is that our technology has evolved along with our economy to cause our values to be more and more sharply defined by popular culture and media, while parent involvement has diminished and academic instruction has catered more and more to making sure every student merely satisfies a set of state-regulated, bare-minimum requirements. As I passed through elementary school, middle school, and high school and allowed my perfectionist ego to drive me to be very competitive academically, it bothered me to the core for my close friends (many of whom were sucked into the slacker culture as we grew up and were subjected to the same kind of socialization I'm talking about) and members of my peer group to constantly marvel at my success and say "i could never do that." Very few even seemed willing to try, as they were convinced that they were not "that kind of person." So, at least personally, I blame the underrepresentation of females in many of the conceivably male-dominated sciences on a kind of socialization that simply reduces the prospective pool of female students that even make it to the point where they are actually faced with a decision to follow science or some other career path---the majority of young females aren't even faced with such a decision because the majority of them have been brought up in a culture where the idea of doing science as a career isn't even a blip on their radar. Perhaps when a young male student is on some level ostracized for having high academic standards he is more likely to follow the same path despite any collateral loneliness, while a higher proportion of young female students adapt their behavior to gain acceptance from their peer groups (and we all know female peer groups are much more viscious and judgmental than a typical male peer group). This would make for an interesting study.

Anyway, I truly wish this wasn't the case, because I'm seriously tired of every damn physics class being a veritable sausage fest. As the workload becomes heavier and heavier and the free time dwindles, it becomes more of a nuisance that the one place you should always be able to meet new people (ie the classroom and the workplace) is so heavily male-dominated.

oh, and l have to say likeafox's point reflects my same experience, at least with regard to the very top 2% of my high school class....out of the top 11 GPA-wise, only 2 were male. But now that I'm in a science major at a large university this sort of ratio is something i could only dream about :-p

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Postby jackal » Tue Feb 27, 2007 4:01 am

This is a useful discussion to have. To my mind an 'aggressive' research culture, timing issues related to parenting and the fragile egos of some men are social factors that can be changed and should be subsumed by our concern for lost potential. As a society, it is in our interest to nurture and encourage talented minds regardless of their gender in the sciences and engineering as much as possible. It is our collective loss when a talented scientist who happens to be a woman, leaves the field because of these concerns, especially when they *can* be changed. It's not in our interest to worry about the purported effects of cognitive differences, when young women are bombarded with negative stereotypes and told that it's not possible to be a social confident woman and be a scientist. Our highest priority should continue to be to stimulate and encourage potential, and combat societal pressures that are unhelpful and damaging to our collective interest.

It is our responsibility, as students who believe and understand the importance and relevance of science (and physics!) in human progress, to effect that change, even if it's only on an individual level. Whether it's as mentors (formal and informal) or someday as parents, aunts or uncles of young women, this is an issue worth fighting for not only for "PC" reasons, but for genuine, tangible societal benefit. Perhaps, just perhaps, a hyper-aggressive and arrogant research and classroom climate *isn't* the best way out there to do science. Perhaps, toning down egos, while offering a more welcoming environment to some young women who may be intimidated (but should NOT be), will also yield a more productive, effective experience for -all- students and researchers. Nothing's written in stone here. What's worked in the past is not necessarily the best way to do physics.

It's appalling to think of all the wasted talent over the past hundreds of years because of our own silly prejudices. Even if you're averse to PC-speak on equality, I'm arguing here that it's an issue of wasting talent and intelligence. I also sometimes think of my younger cousins who are girls, or someday if I have a daughter; I want the very best for them, and would be horrified if they forsake their talents (if they happen to be there) in physics because of intimidation or stereotypes.

And, fyi, I'm a guy. Perhaps I'm against the crowd on this one, but I enjoy dating women more intelligent than myself,.. makes life more interesting and the conversations stimulating :)

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Postby tnoviell » Tue Feb 27, 2007 9:01 am

I plan on having a family right now...-swipes across table full of papers

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Postby astrobio » Tue Feb 27, 2007 11:37 am

I'd be interested to see whether we would see a difference in average family starting times if we split the survey by sex. However, given the imbalance in physics we're discussing in the first place, we might not have high enough female participation to make the sample size statistically significant. I guess it would also be interesting to see if the followers of this forum are an accurate reflection of the actual physics community, or if we have a higher/lower percentage of female participation.

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Postby Peter » Tue Feb 27, 2007 11:43 am

Last edited by Peter on Mon Mar 23, 2009 5:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby artist » Tue Feb 27, 2007 12:40 pm

I wonder if you heard about this but the distribution of intelligence among men is a wider gauss curve which means that there are more men with really bad mental capabilities which is balanced on the other side by higher number of excellent minds.

All that says is that men are given more freedom to study or slack, and women face more pressure to conform.

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Postby artist » Tue Feb 27, 2007 12:51 pm

schmit.paul, I totally agree with you on the societal pressures that make people conform. I was a slacker in high school and half way through college, and that was mostly because I rejected conformity. Little did I realize how conformist I actually was.

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Postby Peter » Tue Feb 27, 2007 2:10 pm

All that says is that men are given more freedom to study or slack, and women face more pressure to conform.
I suppose you can explain every difference with similar answers, not a very convincing argument...

Could you also explain why there are more men on the lower side as well?This is also because men are given more freedom to study? Yes we are exactly the same only society forces us to be scientist or discourages us from choosing this profession. This is ridiculous There is a significant difference between male and female brain, for women there is more connection between the two sides on the brain that is why they are so good at multitasking, male brain tends to be more specialized.

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Postby likeafox » Tue Feb 27, 2007 2:55 pm

i think this discussion is exhausting because nobody ends up changing their stereotypes if they have them, but i wanted to point out that i think the thing with the gaussian distributions had to do with IQ tests, so it doesnt really say much about mathematical ability, which is what we were discussing (well, assuming mathematical ability and ability to do well in physics are related also)
i think people have made good suggestions as to why there are fewer women in physics. it's much more complicated than "women arent as good at math than men"
i said before how the top 10 or so people in math in my middle school and high school were girls, but i think out of those, only me and one other girl are going into a scientific field. there must be something about the field that is not attractive to many females.

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pressure to conform + random comments

Postby theorygirl » Tue Feb 27, 2007 3:50 pm

It's funny, I was homeschooled by my parents for most of elementary school and all of middle school so I did not experience much pressure to conform until I attended public high school. My experiences as a homeschooler may be responsible for why I chose physics and math as a career; I was good at these subjects and I though they were enjoyable. I really had no idea that they might be considered male dominated fields or that I might experience ostracism among peers for excelling in them. When I got to high school I already knew I liked math, and a few snobby girls or jealous guys who would laugh at me for being a dork and always ruining the curve really didn't bother me. I had a strong sense of identity so I could do well in math, science, and other classes without feeling pressure to conform. If I had attended public school from 3rd grade to 8th grade, I might have had a different experience.

By the way, kudos to all the guys who like to date intelligent women! To those who haven't tried it, maybe you should... You might be pleasantly surprised.

Oh, and I am not some feminist that argues that men and women are completely equal. We obviously have different strengths and weaknesses and anyone who has had a long term relationship with a member of the opposite sex is quite able to name a few. However, I am a strong believer that many of those differences are cultural constructs rather than biological facts. You merely have to look at studies done in the early 20th century to see that there has been an increasing trend toward stronger opinions of women's intellectual abilities in general. One (bogus) study in the 1900s attempting to compare intelligence of men and women by comparing ratio of brain size to body size found that women actually had larger brains for their body size. Rather than state that this could imply higher intelligence (a dubious claim to begin with), the researchers merely mentioned that women were better at "crafts" and had to remember more for the daily upkeep of the house. Right.... As the playing field for women becomes more level, I expect we will be able to become more certain of which traits are biological differences and which are merely ingrained from an early age. I suspect that ability in math and science is one of the latter.

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Postby artist » Tue Feb 27, 2007 4:37 pm

I said: All that says is that men are given more freedom to study or slack, and women face more pressure to conform.

Peter said: I suppose you can explain every difference with similar answers, not a very convincing argument...

You're right, I can't prove that the reason for the broader distribution of male "intelligence" is due to more freedom. I simply meant to point out that you also cannot assume that the reason for this is that males are born smarter.

Could you also explain why there are more men on the lower side as well?This is also because men are given more freedom to study? Yes we are exactly the same only society forces us to be scientist or discourages us from choosing this profession. This is ridiculous There is a significant difference between male and female brain, for women there is more connection between the two sides on the brain that is why they are so good at multitasking, male brain tends to be more specialized.

You seem to have not noticed that I said "men are given more freedom to study or slack" (I admit I should have said "men might be given"). Nevertheless, my argument was meant as an example of one possibility to explain why the distribution of male "intelligence" was more broad. Not the only possibility.

It's just interesting to me that so many people assume that if something is true about men and women, that it must be that men and women were born that way. The other possibility is that they became that way due to factors in their environment, which no one here arguing for the higher intelligence of men has suggested.

I also want to point out that no one has defined "intelligence," it could be these tests are designed (intentionally or not) for ye old average American male to succeed on. Again, if that were true, that does not mean that men naturally score higher on such tests; it might mean that they have been trained through their environment to score higher on such tests. It's also possible it is a combination of both, or some other factor such as inaccurate score reports.

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Postby artist » Tue Feb 27, 2007 4:41 pm

There is a significant difference between male and female brain, for women there is more connection between the two sides on the brain that is why they are so good at multitasking, male brain tends to be more specialized.

I have heard something similar, that might be true. If you can show that male and female brains differ from birth, and that these differences are tied to differences in mental capability (which is not necessarily so, some parts of the brain are less relevant to intelligence), then that would be something. But you need to note that brains can change, and without showing that these differences are true from birth (or better yet, from the moment the developing child is either male or female), then your point is moot.

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Postby somebody » Tue Feb 27, 2007 5:01 pm

i think theorygirl is right with her assesment that science is losing potential females in college. on 60 minutes a few years ago i saw a study that said that girls and guys were relatively equal in terms of enrollment in AP math and science classes (i think there were more girls actually). so obviously there are alot of girls coming to college prepared to handle of physics cirriculum. i think the social pressures on female college freshman are the biggest thing chasing girls away from science. i think girls are more concerned with fitting in and finding friends, and being a physics major doesn't really help that because it sort of makes them look like an outcast, plus they miss out on stuff like going to mall and going out to lunch with other girls, which i think girls depend more on bonding than guys. i think a good example is at parties i've been at, guys socialize and make friends easily and have a good time with other guys who are complete strangers. but girls are much more likely to stick with their core group, and i think its more difficult for girls to find a core group as a physics major.

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Postby dbl » Tue Feb 27, 2007 5:39 pm

I don't know about your high school, but in my high school there were almost no girls in the physics or calculus ap classes. More so in the biology and chem ones though. I even remember the teacher of my precalc class begging one of the girls to take BC calc, but she refused (I think she did AB instead). Our BC calc class was completely guys if I remember correctly and the physics C class had maybe 5 girls out of 30 people (not sure about the phys B class).

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Postby somebody » Tue Feb 27, 2007 6:00 pm

the only evidence i have is what i saw on 60 minutes, i went to an all-boys high school so i dont have any direct evidence, its probably not hard to find statistics on these sorts of things if somebody is motivated enough, i'm not at the moment because i have to shoot a stupid photography assignment before it gets dark (stupid liberal arts schools with fine arts requirements)

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Postby qjc » Tue Feb 27, 2007 8:42 pm

Actually, the social pressures are not just that girls would rather go to the mall. In my advanced physics classes at a large public university there are generally only one or two other females in my classes. While a lot of the guys work together, or are at least friendly with each other, few of my classmates talk to me. Although I do very well academically and enjoy science and math very much, I sometimes question whether and to what extent I'm looking forward to a life of this type of social isolation. So I suggest the "outcasting effect" from within the scientific community/classroom factors in.

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Postby theorygirl » Tue Feb 27, 2007 8:52 pm

@ qjc
Physics does not have have to be isolationist for women! I am in a graduating class with a high proportion of females (around 20-30%). We collaborate on homework and even have coffee and time outside physics together. Also, some of my closest friends are actually guys in the physics dept. I am attempting to find a graduate school environment where this trend of cooperation will continue, and I don't think that is a naive expectation. Just know, there are places where it is different. When you visit graduate schools, make an attempt to bond with the other students to find out if the environment is welcoming rather than extremely competitive. The atmosphere won't change unless people (both women and men!) work to change it. So guys, if you want more women in your PhD programs, make an effort to be cooperative and friendly; after all the ability to work well with others in a research group is essential to success in physics. :D

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Postby newscience » Wed Feb 28, 2007 2:25 am

I agree that friendly and cooperative colleagues make physics programs (astrophysics in my case) more appealing to women. But so do excellent research opportunities and challenging science. I think all of these factors apply for both men and women- men aren't happy in antisocial environments either. This is what I hear from my male friends in programs where no one ever sees the sun!

I also know that some of the times I have felt least conspicuous for being female were while working on physics problem sets with male classmates. When the problems are that hard, you have to work together, and your gender just ends up getting totally ignored. Which is really freeing, in a sense.

I read an article by Janna Levin once (physicist/astronomer at Columbia) about how she responds when people ask her why there aren't more women in the sciences. She used to say all kinds of things, and then she changed her approach. She says now that she is not a sociologist, she is an astronomer. So, she shouldn't be held responsible for answering those questions any more than another astronomer; it is not her field of expertise. I've borrowed her approach, since I've been lucky enough not to experience any blatant discrimination. As long as I get a chance to do the science with cooperative colleagues of any gender, I'm happy.

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Postby lahardy » Fri Mar 02, 2007 8:46 pm

Here's my opinion:

Success in physics requires you to be good at (and enjoy) particular types of thinking: logical, analytical, spatial, etc. I agree that females are, in general, less likely to enjoy these types of thought processes and as a result spend less time doing them (and, as a result, are in general not as good at them).

However, this is NOT something that is inherently different about females. I think that the types of thinking that you enjoy depends very, very highly on what types of thought you were encouraged to do as a child. I don't mean to say that the parents of successful male physicists were particularly active in encouraging these thought processes. What I mean is that the parents of potentially successful female physicists are particularly INactive in encouraging them.

Take, for example, typical toys given to male and female children. Boys get Legos, Lincoln Logs, RC cars, bats/balls, etc; girls are given dolls, kitchen sets, EasyBake ovens, etc. The toys given to boys require them to build, structure, figure out how things work... My theory is that the way in which boys are encouraged to play influences the way they are encouraged to think. This just doesn't happen with female children.

What I would like to know is how many women in physics either a) had parents in a science, or b) shared toys with a similarly aged brother?

Any thoughts on this?

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Postby likeafox » Sat Mar 03, 2007 1:19 am

haha.... funny because:
1. i am female (going into physics)
2. both of my parents are statisticians/teachers
3. i have a brother 2 years older than me and i did play legos and other building games with him
4. i have 2 sisters both of whom are going into science/math (and my brother is too)

i just thought this was interesting given your post.

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Postby 03D3bb » Sat Mar 03, 2007 1:44 am

I am also a female, but going into astrophysics. Neither one of my parents ever attended school past elementary and I was only encouraged to do well in school, it didn't matter in what subject. Lastly, I never had toys to play with because we were too poor to afford toys, so I just watched t.v. all the time. I never felt like I was discouraged from the sciences because I was a girl; instead, I was encouraged because I was one of the few asian kids at my high school which was 98% white. The point is, there are always outliers and spending our time trying to answer this question is fruitless. As one poster before me stated, we're (future) physicists and it's not our job to try to figure out why it is that there are fewer women than men in physics. Our job is, to our best ability, create an environment in which anyone interested in the subject matter feels free to explore it.

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Postby hyejjjj » Sat Mar 03, 2007 2:05 am

Relating back to the toy issue... Girls are given toys that have characteristics of a human being: Barbie dolls, strollers with babies programmed to talk, home-making related things. It is then obvious that many girls will choose a career that is people-related: psychology, therapy, business, etc. Careers that require some amount of isolation, in particular the math and sciences, then become a farfetched choice for those who seek a career based on human interaction. On the other hand, boys are given toys that are "inanimate" and "fantasy" related: action figures, toy cars, robots, etc. Then it is not surprising, that males dominate fields such as the sciences or math. It has nothing to do with ability... but more so with how you grew up. Of course, this is strictly in terms of statistics.

Now, when it comes to the topic of ability, it is true that the brain anatomy of males and females differ. However, this does not correlate to the belief that males are more capable of doing physics. We all want to be the next Einstein. We all dream about becoming the next big-shot in physics. But the bottom line is... it's about doing what you love... what makes you happy. And if physics fulfills this criteria for either gender, then ability doesn't really become an issue since passion drives one further than ability. Remember, it's 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. If you're applying for physics graduate school, then you already have this minimal percentile of inspiration, at least in physics. So I believe it's meaningless to argue whether one gender is better than the other. In the end, it's about the amount of effort that you've put in to further yourself in your field.

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Postby theorygirl » Sat Mar 03, 2007 2:25 pm

About my background as a child:
1. My dad is a pharmacist and studied biochemistry
2. My mom is an english teacher
3. When I was little my main companion was my brother (now a first year engineering student), and we played with legos, etc. a LOT more than dolls. I also spent a lot of time playing in the woods building forts. I HATED barbies. I figured out at the age of 6 that the best thing to do with the barbies given to me by friends and relatives was to sell them in their original packaging at the neighborhood yard sale to buy other toys I liked better. I also got along better with boys my own age than girls when I was a child. I don't know if that is why I was drawn to physics, but I have never felt uncomfortable being a girl among guys.

I definitely agree about the points about the types of toys and methods of playing encouraged for each sex. Though they make up only a small piece of the issue, I think these are really valid arguments.

To those people who think it is not our job to ask why there are fewer women than men in our field, I strongly disagree. I don't think I should complain about it and expect to be given opportunities just because I am a woman; I want to be treated ( in terms of admissions and job considerations) just like my male colleagues. However, I do think that it is up to us (future physicists) to raise awareness for this issue. It won't change if people don't make an effort to change it. While there may not be lots of time for volunteerism in graduate school, women in physics could volunteer to give special talks to elementary and middle school students or do hands on activities with girl scout troops. I also want to explore this issue so that I am not biasing my own (future) daughters against math and science by emphasizing stereotypes through toy choices and my own expectations. If I get through grad school, I want to be a role model for girls, letting them know that it is possible to be a successful woman physicist.

I think this is a really interesting and worthwhile discussion to be having and I really appreciate all the great responses.

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Postby fizzics » Tue Mar 06, 2007 8:12 pm

Conversely why is the speech therapy field dominated by women?

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Postby quizivex » Sun Mar 18, 2007 2:11 am

sorry if something like his has been said before, but only about 13% of the students in my underaduate physics and math classes are female. Same thing in other schools, and since practically anyone who would ever consider being a physics major can get into college, the applicants were probably 13% women on a national scale also. So I don't think women's plans 'after' college are a factor here.

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just some heads-up

Postby phoenix » Wed Mar 28, 2007 9:42 am

i am always thinking...my high IQ probably doesn't get me anywhere...
sometimes, we should also question how the IQ questions are organized...
how those scientists think is the best way to illustrate math ability, spacial thinking...etc....
human are their own judge..and that can cause some problem...sometimes..
it's kind of pointless to talk about why there are so few women in this field..
socially, women have inborn responsibility, giving birth and nurturing a /some kid(s)...and if most of the female in physics field value their social role and responsibility more..or they think they are forced to choose the social role...that doesn't necessarily mean they are not capable of that...
too complicated question...and its just kind of worthless to talk about..
if you have made your mind, to dedicated to science, and make some difference, you will manage everything in you to do that...
if you have chosen to have a great family and devote to it, that's also an awesome choice...
if you want both..then good luck ..you will take a lot more with you....and this one is also for myself...good luck..me... =)

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