July 31, 2014

SCIENCE: Isaac Cohen: An ‘Ether Of Sexism’ Doesn’t Explain Gender Disparities In Science And Tech.

The most relentlessly cited statistic was that women make up only 16% of the tech workforce. At first glance, this looks pretty lame. But once you catch your breath, you realize that most of these jobs require a bachelor’s degree in computer science. Women only earn 18% of such degrees awarded to United States residents. Not such a bad effort, then, by Google and company. Still, that didn’t stop the public shaming. Earnest apologies were issued, and calls were made for reform.

Who deserves the brunt of our collective outrage over these lopsided ratios? More importantly, who should be charged with fixing them?

One highly controversial theory — the one that got Larry Summers in deep trouble — argues that there are male advantages in math-related cognitive ability, especially at the so-called “right tail” end of the bell curve. But it’s not necessary to hit that third rail, because even the most capable women shy away from engineering and computer science.

To my knowledge — I’m biased — no school enrolls more fiercely intelligent women than Yale. Yet even there, women are only 18% of computer science majors. The figures are similar at other high-flying schools that admit the best and the brightest women. Not unexpectedly, the prevailing narrative at Yale is that these numbers reflect some kind of glaring injustice. But what exactly is Yale doing wrong? . . . In fact, despite the mainstream media’s insistence that sexism is rife, there exists very little evidence of pervasive bias. Studies occasionally pop up that point to overt or subtle bias in academic hiring or funding, but they are debunked as often as they are trumpeted. And the discrimination that social scientists claim to demonstrate is rarely strong enough to explain observed disparities.

One explanation I’ve seen is that most women don’t want to date science-and-engineering guys. Thus, they avoid those majors. . . . But read the whole thing.

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