Monday, August 10, 2015

Barbie doesn't like math

A study indicates that it's not male oppression keeping women out of STEM:
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, Engineering and Maths (STEM) areas - and thus, don't find themselves with jobs at tech companies, in IT etc - is quite simply that they mostly don't know enough maths to do those courses.

"It is all about the mathematical content of the field. Girls not taking math coursework early on in middle school and high school are set on a different college trajectory than boys,” says economics prof Donna Ginther.

Ginther and a colleague, Shulamit Kahn, examined statistics on young women's maths qualifications and mathematical requirements for college courses in America. Put simply, they found that absence of women studying a given course can be accounted for simply by the fact that most young women don't know much maths.
It's also why they don't write hard science fiction. As I pointed out ten years ago.

30 comments:

verusconditio said...

And I already hear the screech of feminists claiming that high schools are holding back girls who are interested in math, because a girl who is not interested in math and wishes to follow something she might actually like will hurt their feelings.

~ Stingray

Cail Corishev said...

It goes deeper than not being good at it (though that's true), which is why forcing girls to take more math classes won't change anything. It's that they don't like it. They don't like doing math-y stuff; they don't see the point of it; and they don't want to spend all day in a room full of people who do like it.

I tutor a girl who's pretty good at math. No savant or anything, but it comes easier for her than it does for most kids, and sometimes she makes one of those leaps where you can tell she "gets it" and isn't just mechanically following instructions.

So she's torn, because she still just doesn't like it. She enjoys the praise she gets for doing well, and she kinda gets into it in class when her mind is working through problems, but if you told her she could drop the rest of her math classes (she just finished Algebra I), she'd be happy. When you think about it, that's not normal: people usually like to do things they're good at, for several reasons. But that rarely applies to girls and math, because their distaste for it outweighs their skill. It's like me being really good at shoveling manure: while I'm doing it, I can enjoy the application of skill and the anticipation of a clean pigsty, but that doesn't mean I want to make it my career.

The second-smartest kid in my grade school class was a girl. She went to a major university on a full-ride scholarship and got a civil engineering degree -- which she used for a few years until she got married and became a stay-at-home mom. I think she might even homeschool now. That's good news -- but she could have done all that without college, and a man whose life ambition was to build bridges could have had the college spot and the scholarship.

It shows one of the two likely results of "investing" in more math education for girls: scholarships being wasted on girls who won't use them; and women working in fields they don't like, so they spent much of their effort trying to turn them into something else.

Cail Corishev said...

"Girls not taking math coursework early on in middle school and high school are set on a different college trajectory than boys,” says economics prof Donna Ginther.

This is a lie anyway, isn't it? How many middle-school kids have a choice about what classes they take, especially in core subjects? I just checked my local public school's web site: 3 years of math required for high school graduation, and they "strongly encourage" a fourth. Just like when I was in school 30 years ago: everyone takes math every year up to 11th or 12th grade.

I guess now some kids take a remedial arithmetic class in 9th if they aren't ready for Algebra I (in my day they would have been held back a year), so by 11th grade they've only taken Algebra I and Geometry and can stop there. But that's the only difference, and it only affects the kids who are so bad at math that they're still struggling with arithmetic after 8 years of it.

There might be some gifted kids on an advanced track now, but no one's "not taking math coursework early on in middle school," are they?

Trust said...

The demand freedom, get it, choose ti write shit like Twilight, and choose to fuck douchbags.... then complain about their absense in science fiction and the poor quality of men.

As usual, the problem isn't their options, it is their choices. But somehow it isn't their fault

Quadko said...

Wait, the political left insists on having kids handed to them from preschool on. But they complain they can't get girls to have enough math? What are they doing with them all that time?

b1bae96e-6447-11e3-b6bb-000f20980440 said...

Women don't want to do math. Even women that get math. Would love to see the data on people that got 5s on AP physics exam. I suspect for every 20 males in STEM 10 years later there is 1 woman.

That's good news -- but she could have done all that without college, and a man whose life ambition was to build bridges could have had the college spot and the scholarship.

Could she have? How was she going to be placed into proximity of her husband who provides enough security for her to dedicate herself 100% to family? I mean I get the logic behind it, particularly at the extremes such as doctor with its 8 additional years of training, but you need to empathize with the girl. If she wants to dedicate herself to the family she is still going to want the best deal she can find. A decent looking, family oriented, non-dull male with the ability with top 10% provider capabilities isn't going to make to graduation before somebody locks him down.

hank.jim said...

Women do math, but its in the finance and business fields. There are no shortage of women in banking and accounting. Maybe this is the difference. Men who don't enter the STEM field may enter business and finance too.

Cail Corishev said...

Could she have? How was she going to be placed into proximity of her husband who provides enough security for her to dedicate herself 100% to family?

I don't know what her husband does or where they met. But before women started going to college and entering the workplace in droves, white-collar men managed to find wives, which means interested women managed to come into proximity with them somehow. I think they still could.

Doug Cranmer said...

"Women do math, but its in the finance and business fields."

Except that's not mathematics, it's arithmetic. Big difference.

Cail Corishev said...

Women do math, but its in the finance and business fields.

That's really arithmetic, not math, so that makes a difference. They can handle it because it doesn't get into the abstract stuff; and when I think about the women I know who are in those fields, they spend more time talking to people than dealing with numbers. The accountant who does tax preparation, for instance: she chats with a dozen or more people every day, while she types some numbers into a computer program and lets it spit out forms for them to sign. I'm sure she had to plow through some math classes to get there, but she doesn't use it now.

Corvinus said...

Women don't like dealing with math any more than men like dealing with clothes and shoes.

hank.jim said...

Arithmetic is math.

Cail Corishev said...

Steve Sailer has talked about how there used to be a lot of women in computer programming, back when COBOL was popular. But there wasn't much abstract about the programming they did. It was basically writing reports, except once you designed the report, the computer filled in the data for you. That's very different from what most of us think of as programming today in languages like Lisp and C and their descendants, which get very abstract with things like recursion and closures. And that kind of programming -- the kind that is to COBOL what math is to arithmetic -- has always been entirely dominated by men.

It appears to be the abstract, pure logic stuff that repels them, not the counting or lining things up in columns.

David-093 said...

"Arithmetic is math."

It's also sexist.

QED

Cail Corishev said...

Arithmetic is to math what spelling is to language.

Polynices said...

I knew a few women in college that were math or engineering majors. All quite attractive -- they were, no kidding, sorority girls -- and quite bright from what I could tell. They "belonged" in STEM majors insofar as anyone does. But guess what? They all got married, worked a few years, and quit to stay home and have kids. None of them are using their degrees today, 20 years later.

Funny how that works.

Cail Corishev said...

Yep. It's one thing to be good enough at something to get good grades at it for a few years. It's quite another thing to do it 9-5 day after day, year after year. You don't do that unless you like it -- or you have no other options, but women almost always do.

Corvinus said...

They all got married, worked a few years, and quit to stay home and have kids.

Raising sons to be the next generation of engineers is possibly worth the educational expense, at least if they homeschool.

b1bae96e-6447-11e3-b6bb-000f20980440 said...

don't know what her husband does or where they met. But before women started going to college and entering the workplace in droves, white-collar men managed to find wives, which means interested women managed to come into proximity with them somehow. I think they still could.

You mean back when only the wealthy sent their sons to college and daughters to finishing school in relatively equal numbers, and marrying your high school sweetheart was a thing? Or the single women went to work in the secretary pool (which doesn't exist thanks to computers anymore) to get them near high status men?

Oh and then never mind the Marriage 2.0 no fault divorce dynamics in play. At least in theory, a woman with a college education has a more favorable outcome in the divorce rape dynamic than one that doesn't so long as the student debt isn't excessive.

hank.jim said...

High School doesn't teach college math to earn the STEM degrees. The truth is women can apply to engineering and science fields, take the math courses like any other male student, and earn their degrees. It is just hard. There are many male dropouts. Its an issue of numbers. If more men are enrolled, more men will graduate. Women graduate too, but at lower numbers. Also, the issue of male versus female doesn't explain why minority men do worse. Its as if being black or Hispanic ensures they won't enter the field.

You can't force anyone to be motivated to do math and science. STEM is difficult. Nonetheless, math is overrated since I haven't touched calculus since I graduated. It's nice to know, but there are plenty of computer programs that do the math for you. You just have to understand the principles behind it. The movies that show people scribbling formulas on a black board is not how most people work.

Once hired, the jobs are cushy. Doesn't require much effort to keep your job. That's why I wonder why women drop out. Is it that hard to do your job? Evidently, women struggle or prefer to work with more interpersonal interactions. Sigh.

James Sullivan said...

I've always been mediocre in reads to Mathematics. But I dated a girl way back who was an engineer (civil). And I noticed one day that she was actually terrible at arithmetic. Worse than me terrible.

I asked her how she could be an engineer and be so bad with math.

"That's what Excel is for!"

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Conscientia Republicae said...

Having more homeschooling moms with STEM degrees helps bridge the science gap for their kids when they get into hugh school.

Stephen Barringer said...

"It appears to be the abstract, pure logic stuff that repels them..."

I don't know that I would say "repels" so much as I would say "simply doesn't engage to the obsessive degree that truly high-level success/investment requires".

The thing about the "patterning" mindset (which is what I've always called the knack for figuring out abstract relationships between properties and within processes) is that the people who are really good at it are good at it because they can't not think that way. It literally dominates and structures their entire consciousness; patterners think and see the world in patterns. Somebody who doesn't have that instinctive compulsion may, by force of discipline and intellect, nonetheless accomplish the same results, but it's the difference between work and play: if you get the opportunity to do something else with a better cost-profit/enjoyment ratio, you stop.

If anyone ever figures out how to impart that kind of compulsive drive where it simply doesn't exist, we will have a much better potential future for society.

Stephen Barringer said...

"It appears to be the abstract, pure logic stuff that repels them..."

I don't know that I would say "repels" so much as I would say "simply doesn't engage to the obsessive degree that truly high-level success/investment requires".

The thing about the "patterning" mindset (which is what I've always called the knack for figuring out abstract relationships between properties and within processes) is that the people who are really good at it are good at it because they can't not think that way. It literally dominates and structures their entire consciousness; patterners think and see the world in patterns. Somebody who doesn't have that instinctive compulsion may, by force of discipline and intellect, nonetheless accomplish the same results, but it's the difference between work and play: if you get the opportunity to do something else with a better cost-profit/enjoyment ratio, you stop.

If anyone ever figures out how to impart that kind of compulsive drive where it simply doesn't exist, we will have a much better potential future for society.

Cail Corishev said...

"Repels" might be too strong a word. I was thinking that the women I've known who were "good at math" in school, such as my two sisters, viewed it much as I view dressing fashionably. I can learn the current rules of fashion, understand how to coordinate colors, recognize quality tailoring, and so on. I've done so enough that I don't dress like a social ignoramus, and if I needed to excel at it for the purpose of passing a test, I suppose I could.

But it has no deeper meaning for me. It's just a set of arbitrary rules, something that you learn and apply because you're expected to, but that has no value in and of itself. It's certainly not something I'd do for my own enjoyment, or that I would practice in hopes of becoming a better person in some way.

I think that's how they see math: they learn how to do it in school because they have to, and if they're smart and care about getting good grades, they can excel at it. But they don't see the point in it; it seems like a bunch of arbitrary rules and formulas that someone invented for the sake of making students do it. They'd never work out a math problem for fun or spend hours on a logic puzzle.

If they're good enough at it to command a good salary, they might get a job in the field, but as you suggest, it won't fulfill them. They'll just be going through the motions, so to make the job fulfilling, they'll try to make the office more social and chatty. One of my sisters works as an accountant, and when she talks about how she likes her new job, it's all about the people, not the work.

Joshua Sinistar said...

Oh my Goddess! This patriarchy in Math is breaking the happiness of the little Princesses! Well, for the Honor of Greyshades, She-rara must ride her happy unicorn into battle with the He-Men of male domination! Why can't someone come up with a form of Math that doesn't have all those boring numbers? Certainly there doesn't need to be precise measurements does there? When you bake a cake in science class you don't need to measure the ingredients. A pinch of this and a dash of that a bottle of pepto and a quick trip to the doctor, its not rocket science! What is there to space anyway? Are there other world's than the Great Goddess Gaia? Heresy, dick! If androids dream of electric sheep they can use a windmill like the Netherlands! Dam them if they won't!

ScuzzaMan said...

I think it is also part of human psychology that we are good at the things we enjoy and we enjoy the things we are good at. (It's a self-reinforcing feedback mechanism)

And because the IQ curves for men and women are different (women fatter in the middle and men fatter at the ends) the intelligence necessary for enjoying mathematics occurs in greater proportion amongst men than women.

ergo ...

RC said...

It's a fat society that can spend so many resources solving problems that don't exist across so many domains and yet still manages to feed and clothe the nation. It's impressive that things have carried on so long.

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Civilization ismwhen younhave monogomy and polymaths,

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