Wednesday, December 09, 2009

She figures there's way to go

The European Commission just published "She Figures 2009" (download PDF here), a summary of data covering aspects of gender inequality in the European Union. The statistics used in this publication are drawn from Eurostat, the European Commission services’ official data source and correspondents in various member countries.

I didn't read the full 160 pages, but here's two interesting figures. The below shows the percentage of men (yellow) and women (purple) in different stages of scientific career in science and engineering. From the left to the right the career level increases. The figure summarizes data from 2002 and 2006. While at the entry level there's 31% women (up from 30% in 2002), and at the PhD level the percentage has increased to 36% (up from 33% in 2002), at the level of tenured faculty there's only 11% left (up from 8% in 2002).



[Click to enlarge]

The other interesting figure is the composition of boards that are responsible for making decisions for scientific research directions such as scientific commissions, R&D commissions, councils, committees and foundations, academy assemblies etc (they are listed in the report in detail). The figure below shows the percentage of woman in these boards by country. From left (highest percentage) to right (lowest) we have Sweden, Norway, Finland, Croatia, Denmark, Bulgaria, Iceland, Italy, Slovenia, France. The last five are the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Israel, Poland, Luxembourg. The dark pink bars are the average values for several groups of countries in the EU.



[Click to enlarge]

Overall I got the impression the situation is improving, but very hesitantly so. Way to go Europe, way to go.

124 comments:

Tom Weidig said...

Hi,

can you also show us the timeline on the percentage of:

- relative life span

- adult prison population

- the ratio in developmental disorders (like mental retardation, dyslexia, stuttering, la Tourette syndrom)

- soldiers killed or maimed in service

- kindergarten and primary teachers

Andrew Thomas said...

If the numbers of women in science is small, I think it has far less to do with any prejudice they might encounter, but far more to do with the fact that virtually no woman I know is remotely interested in science and would rather have pins stuck in her than read a science paper.
So it's not prejudice by the institutions that is to blame, it is complete indifference by women from quite an early age I would suggest. So if you want to change that then you have to capture their interest at a very young age, get them playing with science toys when they're in the cradle, basically.

This was a big story here yesterday:

Male primary teacher numbers in Wales at five-year low. I know LOADS of women teachers, mainly of young children. This is what the women I know like doing. They're not interested in science at all.

Christine said...

Hi Bee,

It would be enlightening, if there were data for that, to have the statistics of married women and mothers following their careers around/after their graduate studies. I'm certain the drop in women in advanced stages of career, as shown in the first graph of your post, is correlated with marriage/children. The same statistics would show that men do not get their careers affected by marriage/children at all.

Christine

Bee said...

Andrew: Your statement "virtually no woman I know is remotely interested in science and would rather have pins stuck in her than read a science paper" is either an exaggeration or your female friends are not a good representation of the average EU population. It certainly does not agree with my impression.

There is some truth to this clichee, one can discuss the reasons back and forth (social, historical, genetic, probably a combination of these), but anyway, the fact is if you look at the first plot that the ratio of female students in science and engineering is at 30% and then drops to about 10%. You can't blame this drop on lack of interest since choosing the field of study clearly expresses interest. Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Christine,

Yes, that would also be my guess. Though part of the problem is also the male-dominated environment itself. I don't know of any statistics targeting this relation, but I know there's statistics showing that the percentage of unmarried/childless women is higher among those with an academic degree, so there is definitely a correlation between those factors. Best,

B.

Christine said...

I have a personal theory that many women are not interested in science because of the high pressure for them to play with dolls (barbies) and dress in pink. :) Seriously! Just enter a toy store, the boys have all the interesting stuff.

I have given an astronomy talk to children around 7-8 yo and boys and girls have shown equal interest; many girls came to me after my talk and said they wanted very much to be astronomers. If I get back to this class in a few years, I am certain that most girls have changed their minds and are more interested in their clothes and boysfriends more than anything else.

Chrisitne

Andrew Thomas said...

Christine: "I have a personal theory that many women are not interested in science because of the high pressure for them to play with dolls (barbies) and dress in pink. :) Seriously! Just enter a toy store, the boys have all the interesting stuff."

Yes, I absolutely agree. I think the attitude is set from a very young age, and is set for life. If attitudes are to change then they have to start very young.

Bee said...

Humm. Our server seems to have a problem, thus the figures are gone. Sorry about that. Hope they fix the problem soon.

Andrew: Both me and my younger brother had barbies. They had a tendency to end head- and legless if I recall correctly. 30 years later, I have a degree in physics, and my younger brother has a degree in mechanical engineering. I think blaming toys is somewhat too simplistic. Best,

B.

Bee said...

Let me add I didn't like barbies very much. They looked nice and they came with a lot of equipment so there was some collectors value to it. And then there was the peer pressure. But I liked soft and plushy things better, so the barbies ended up sitting around looking nice.

Andrew Thomas said...

Yeah, maybe. But I do think there are social pressures on girls, especially as they enter adolescence (as Christine suggests).

I would agree with Christine that young girls (<8 years maybe) are very interested (and I think I read that in a study). It's just when the peer pressure thing kicks in, and the images portrayed in the media about young women, that causes the problems.

Bee said...

Hi Andrew:

I think the influence of the media at that age is not the decisive factor. One thing for sure is peer pressure, the other factor is the availability of role models. What I have seen very frequently is if you ask young children what they want to become when they grow up is that they name the job of one of their parents or a close relative or friend (not so surprisingly). If in addition to that there are no female teachers in the natural sciences, it starts feeling unnatural that women work in these fields. My mother is a teacher for maths and biology and my maths and physics teacher grade 8-10 was a woman too. I do think this made a difference. Best,

B.

Andrew Thomas said...

I studied electrical engineering and computing at university, and there were maybe 35 men in the class and only 5 women. But the women were right up at the top of the class. Which makes me think it's only the very determined, top-class women (I won't embarass you Bee - it's just what I saw) that bother to stick with it and fight through such a male-dominated area.

Bee said...

Hi Andrew,

Depends on what you mean with "bother to stick." Some of them probably figure out they are after all not so interested in the topic, but the same is the case for the guys. A big part of the problem is that the education frequently prefers typically male traits, like eg self-promotion. Girls are generally more quite and more modest with their achievements. They will also often need more encouragement, especially if they are one of a few only who have "bothered" with science to begin with. At least that's been my impression. Best,

B.

Giotis said...

That's not Hungary, it is Greece. HR means "Hellenic Republic".

Christine said...

Eh eh, yeah, I recognize that my "theory" is quite simplistic. :) But I do like to blame on barbies and pink colored dresses when the matter comes up.

I must confess that I *did* play with barbies, but only because my sister liked them, and I played with her. She turned out to work with fashion as a profession.

But what I really liked was PlayMobil. I invented spaceships and travelled to distant planets (at that time, there were no PlayMobil featuring space travel themes, so I had to use the imagination and to improvise with other materials). I usually played PlayMobil with other *boys* in the neighbourhood; they *did* accept me very well, and today I think this is quite incredible, given what I observe in kids at that age (8-10 years old). My sister didn't like PlayMobil at all.

I also liked very much to play with animal toys.

Peer-pressure is indeed a very relevant factor. As I was (am) very shy, it ended up that it didn't matter much for me, and I was somewhat able to follow a deep interest in science for myself without much external interference.

Christine
PS - As a kid, I used to *read books* alone in some lonely corner at birthday parties!

Bee said...

Hi Giotis,

Thanks. I mistyped that. (I typed off the country codes first and then thought better use the full names and looked those up I didn't know.) According to the report "HR" stands for "Croatia" though and "EL" is Greece? (Page 131 of the pdf). Best,

B.

Bee said...

PlayMobil? No, Lego! :-)

Christine said...

Sure! PlayMobil *and* Lego!
And they were not pink!! :)

Uncle Al said...

One cannot sharpen social activism beyond a bludgeon to explain male dominance in personal endeavor. Men express an obssessive need to conquer. March or die.

Talent and ability simply are. Grab them no matter what the container. Defined cohorts historically demonstrate select dominance. Social engineering of outliers is diversity: dysfunction impressed as equity. American Blacks dominate professional sports. Near-zero professional swimmers are Black. Are ya gonna do something about it?

Handicapped parking is not a model of compassion. Handicapped parking is a restoration of God-granted freedom. It only exists in contrast to oppression.

Giotis said...

Yes you are right. According to the pdf, 'HR' is for Croatia and 'EL' for Greece. But Greece is not present in your Figure because there are no available data. Well that's embarrassing for us.

Anyway the name of GREECE for Greeks is HELLAS in the Latin alphabet and ΕΛΛΑΣ in the Greek alphabet. So I guess "EL" is some short of hybrid they use.

Bee said...

Well. Hopefully one day we'll have two-letter-codes for the European countries like the USA has for the states.

Arun said...

Dear Bee,

ISO 3166 has the standard 2- and 3- letter codes for the nations of the world.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISO_3166-1_alpha-2

You want a standard, we telco guys have at least one :) (Only way for our networks to inter-operate :) )

-Arun

stefan said...

Does the report comment on the maximum percentage for women at the graduate level? Does this mean that in recent years, the percentage of women among among beginning students has been dropping, or are there other reasons involved?

Cheers, Stefan

Steven Colyer said...

Yes, Go Go Europe, Bee. Go go. I wonder if the American percentages are similar. Hmm. I'll make a phone call tomorrow and report back.

Andrew Thomas wrote:

"I studied electrical engineering and computing at university, and there were maybe 35 men in the class and only 5 women."

That many? Well you're on the order of 8 years younger than me. My 1979 Rutgers Mechanical Engineering class had 2 out of 100. Maybe 3. I forget. But no more than 4. Four percent, tops.

So things are getting better.

Better, but the "glass ceiling" preventing women and minorities from rising higher than their abilities would otherwise dictate were they white men seems well entrenched.

But the glass is crack'd; here's hoping it shatters sooner rather than later.

Major credit for this should at least be partly shared by Betty Friedan, mother of Rutgers HEP Physics Head Dan Friedan. What "The Feminine Mystique" (1963) by Betty did to America's gender culture cannot be understated. And apparently, the rest of The West pays attention to what America is up to, as the global effects of America's recession seems to indicate.

Which surprises the heck out of us. I guess you folks like selling us stuff, since we buy/bought just about anything. Used to, anyway.

Low Math, Meekly Interacting said...

It's anecdotal, but I know a handful of women scientists who dropped out of their career track due to the demands of child-rearing. One they could survive, but two seems to be the breaking point.

The reason was the same in all cases: Men can't be pregnant and lactate, and once the parents get to two kids, the costs of daycare take such a huge bite of a typical science income that simply quitting and staying home makes a fair amount of sense.

At least in the U.S., where maternity leave and other support for young families is pretty pathetic. I think I've asked this question before: Aren't things considerably better in the EU? Don't many EU countries hold a job for a new mother for upwards of a year, with some level of compensation? Here, twelve weeks of unpaid leave is all that is mandated. After that they can fire you.

So, seeing the EU numbers, I do wonder if kids are really the whole story. In the US, it makes complete sense to wonder if the time and financial pressures of children are as much to blame as sexism. But maybe that's too simplistic.

So, unless I'm wrong about how much more

Bee said...

Dear Arun,

Right... I think that's the same codes they use at the airport. And that's why as far as American Airlines is concerned I'm from Georgia, which is somewhere close to Florida or so. Best,

B.

Bee said...

Dear Stefan,

Not sure what you mean with "maximum" percentage. Also, the report doesn't have timelines. The first figure above shows that the percentage of female students in science and engineering slightly increased from 02 to 06. The curve for all areas is on page 73. You can see there that at the beginners level, there are actually more women than men.

Let me just quote how they summarized that

"[T]he proportion of female students (55%) and graduates (59%) exceeds that of male students, but men outnumber women among PhD students and graduates (the proportion of female students drops back to 48% and that of PhD graduates to 45%). Furthermore, women represent only 44% of grade C academic staff, 36% of grade B academic staff and 18% of grade A academic staff.

The under-representation of women is even more striking in the field of science and engineering: the proportion of women increases from just 31% of the student population at the first level to 36% of PhD students and graduates but then falls back again to 33% of academic grade C staff, 22% at grade B and just 11% at grade A."

So it seems statistically seen I have a 50% chance to make the final step. Though the report doesn't break down science and engineering into fields. Also, from what I recall from the DPG statistics the fraction of women in experiment is higher than in theory. Best,

B.

Phil Warnell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

Interesting stats with my reaction being similar to Andrew’s thinking the numbers to be higher than one would expect rather than lower. Also from personal experience my oldest daughter completely finished a college level engineering course only never to enter the field in any capacity with relating to me the isolation she felt all through school as being her central reason.

Also anyone who might have read my bio will discover I work in the manufacturing sector and I can tell you that out of the seven engineers we employ only one of them being female. That’s not because we put up any barriers it’s simply because we don’t get many that apply. The one thing I can tell you is she to is isolated from the rest and frankly it’s not her fault, yet rather that of her colleagues with their Jurassic period mentalities. One thing I can tell you is out of the whole lot she is more the one to ask questions as to clarify things or have it be known there is something she doesn’t understand. The men on the other hand are more arrogant about what they know or rather the perception of it and therefore less likely to ask such questions and as a result make more mistakes. I always thought the only way around this is for more woman themselves to have an interest in becoming captains of industry, so as to be able to change this for themselves. Another thing I can tell you is that from my own experience if more did I have a feeling it result in having uncap a resource whose end result might surprise more than a few.

The bottom line for me, is I’ve always enjoyed working with intelligent creative women, as I’ve found more often than not they bring perspectives and approaches to things that otherwise would have been missed. Also I must tell you that from my own long experience in the more everyday working world and unlike what Uncle Al might have us believe, elevated testosterone levels have lead to have many more mistakes being made then solutions found . So my advice to the ladies of the world is not to simply want to be better represented within it, yet to strive to gain positions where they can actually shape it beyond just the political and financial realm. That’s s so in future when names like Ford, Edison. Jobs, Page\Brinn, Gates and others of the stripe are imagined, more female faces are attached to such images. That’s only to recognize as the old saying goes is one can only lead from the front.

Best,

Phil

Bee said...

Hi Phil,

Thanks for sharing your perspective, that's interesting. Best,

B.

Anonymous said...

Females remain under-represented in hard sciences, especially at higher levels. The simple direct interpretation of this fact is that there are more smart men than smart women. This is a consequence of the fact that males and females have on average the same average IQ, but males have a higher standard deviation.

Bee said...

Hey Anonymous,

Afraid to sign with your name? Define "smart." Best,

B.

Anonymous said...

hey Bee, by definition smart scientist is who produces good science. In hard sciences there is negligible doubt on what good science is. But women got parity in soft sciences, where discriminating good from bad is highly subjective.

The fact that reality is not politically correct has nothing to do with my name.

Bee said...

A) Define "good science."

B) Once you've done that please let me know what evidence you have that the capability to do "good science" is a consequence of a high IQ.

Andrew Thomas said...

Anonymous, unless you can quickly find a link to this research you're quoting then I hope Bee just deletes your posts.

(Anonymous, Here's a tip for you: there's no such study. What you have suggested is insulting.)

Andrew Thomas said...

Bee, just delete this guy's posts, please. You don't have to answer his nonsense.

Bee said...

Hi Andrew,

I'm not really following these studies, but for all I know our Anonymous commenter is correct with his assertion. He seems to be somewhat confused though about what this means and doesn't mean. Unfortunately, his confusion is a common one, thus I'd rather clear it out than silently delete it. Best,

B.

Anonymous said...

A) The distinction between "good physics" and "bad physics" is not a social construct that needs to be defined. Just print a paper and smell it: if you cannot tell if it is good or bad, please consider changing field.

B) come on. You wrote good papers, so it is likely that you are intelligent.

C) It seems to me that the issue is not fighting on details (otherwise please define "define"), but that you are not psychologically ready to consider the possibility that your ideology might be wrong. Despite his IQ, this happened even to Einstein, who died doing classical physics.

Andrew Thomas said...

Well, to be fair, I just had a sneaky look on Wikipedia (Sex and intelligence) and it does say: "Studies consistently show greater variance in the performance of men compared to that of women (i.e., men are more represented at the extremes of performance).", so I guess he might have something of a point which needs explaining away:

I think reason for the extreme male superstars of maths and physics is perhaps a result of the prevalence of certain mental illnesses in males such as autism (Paul Dirac), schizophrenia (John Nash), and Asperger's syndrome. The link is not between sex and intelligence (which I think is a nonsense), but instead the link is between genius and mental illness (which is fairly well established). I think that is what might be happening "at the extremes".

Bee said...

A) Please point me towards the evidence that mine, your, or anybody's olfactory sense is able to distinguish between "good science" and "bad science." You have made a claim, I asked you to explain what you mean with it. So far you fail to answer my questions.

B) Flattery won't help you. You haven't answered my question: What evidence you have that the capability to do "good science" is a consequence of a high IQ.

C) I am always willing to consider an opinion I hold is wrong in the face of evidence. But you are not providing such evidence. You are not even able to explain what you mean with your statement. Also, it is entirely unclear to me what "ideology" it is that I allegedly hold. With define I mean that you please formulate the claim that you have made in scientifically testable terms. I know how the IQ is measured. I didn't know what you meant with "smart." You explained it as the capability to do "good" science. I don't know how you measure that either. You are evading an answer.

Anonymous said...

Andrew: Nash did good science before getting ill, and Dirac grew with a French father that prevented him from speaking English. Anyhow, you cannot make a serious theory out of two persons.

If you really need to "explaining away my point" (rather than testing if it can be true), I suggest a better theory: good physics is negatively correlated with hemorrhoids, which are prevalent among females. In case you feel this insulting, please call the censor.

Andrew Thomas said...

At this point, I think Bee should reach for the delete button.

Anonymous said...

Bee, telling that good science is done by intelligent people is commonsense, so I evade defining "good" and "intelligent" because I think that this would lead nowhere. Sorry for that.

Maybe you could reformulate your point in a positive way: do you want to suggest that good science is done by idiots, so that it better for society that scientists be hired according to their sex/religion/ethnicity?

Christine said...

I would not jump to any conclusions without vast, detailed statistics, as well as holding a clear understanding of the functionality of the brain, specially taking into consideration possible gender differences. Yet, nothing of that would be of any use without an additional, clear understanding of social, historical and cultural issues inside and outside science, from childhood to adulthood.

We are not evidently ready at all for jumping to conclusions. If we want to be objective and scientific about this matter, then we need more work. Having said that, my previous "theory" was obviously meant to be taken lightly (although I would not disregard some possible elements of truth!).

Bee said...

Anonymous:

"Bee, telling that good science is done by intelligent people is commonsense"

Sorry, I don't accept arguments lead by appeal to commonsense. Further, you started up with claiming not that "good" science (whatever you mean with that) is done by intelligent people, but that the over-representation of men is caused by there being more men with an exceptionally high IQ. I hope you notice the difference between these statements.

"I evade defining "good" and "intelligent" because I think that this would lead nowhere. Sorry for that."

Then what was the point you were trying to make again? And what exactly was the evidence?

"Maybe you could reformulate your point in a positive way: do you want to suggest that good science is done by idiots"

My point is that I do not know what you mean with "good science" and thus do not know what your initial claim says. Meanwhile it seems to me you don't know yourself what you were trying to say.

Since this discussion is getting somewhat too stupid and I have to go now, let me just tell you where I think your mistake is.

1) You wrongly believe that a high IQ is the only criterion necessary to be a good scientist. And what I mean with good scientist is one who makes significant contribution to progress. If you insist I can explain what I mean with "progress" but it will take a while. (It's more complicated than one would think. I actually meant to write a blogpost on that at some point...)

2) You wrongly believe that the fact that the hard sciences are dominated by men is entirely due to their high IQ.

The first is wrong, the second is extremely doubtful. At the very least there's no evidence for that.

"so that it better for society that scientists be hired according to their sex/religion/ethnicity?"

I never said anything of that sort. I recommend you read this post before you continue assign opinions to me that I don't hold. Best,

B.

Arun said...

Bee,
It is very simple. If it is good science, then by definition the performer is intelligent, and by extension, has a high IQ. Einstein never did an IQ test. Since Feynman took an IQ test and scored 126 or there abouts - less than 2 standard deviations above average - he is by definition (and not by testing) high IQ, and IQ apologists say, oh, it was his verbal score or some other such thing and the actual test that he took is not indicative. (Why they don't eliminate verbal tests for everyone?)

-Arun

Andrew Thomas said...

I suspect the whole notion of "IQ" is flawed from a strictly mathematical or computational basis. After all, I would describe "IQ" as the "ability to solve problems" (that's what these IQ tests seem to be). But every human brain is essentially a computer which is an example of a universal Turing machine. As people here are probably aware, a universal Turing machine is capable of emulating all other Turing machines (all other computers - or all other brains!). What this essentially means is that any problem which could be posed in the IQ test could potentially by solved by the human brain (because is is a UTM). So the only real accurate measure of IQ as defined as the ability to solve problems is to say that all brains are equal.

You might protest saying, "Oh, but some brains don't seem to work so well, and they are slow". Well, it's true that some brains seem to run a bit slow, but we're not placing any sort of time limit here on the ability to solve a problem - they can take 20 years to solve it if they want. But of course, some people are lazy, or consider themselves to be "thick" and just use that as an excuse not to apply themselves, as they see being "thick" is the key to an easy life.

I think this is interesting: from a fundamental computational point of view, we're really all equal and the IQ test itself is dumb.

Steven Colyer said...

Anonymous, was Paul A.M. Dirac's father French? I thought he was from Switzerland. He taught French. He was Charles Dirac.

Andrew, nicely done on the IQ stuff. it matters only in getting one started in life. After that networking and knowledge take over (and and not destroying one's IQ via alcohol, pot, heroin, LSD, hash, etc.)

One's IQ diminishes over time in any event after the peak age of 27 plus or minus some years. Don't listen to Educational psychologists who say IQ is set for life. They are of low IQ.

Most women I've met are more intelligent than most men. For example, they're intelligent enough to choose to work on practical things with provable outcomes, as opposed to say ... String theory.

What was that book about DaVinci again that spoke of 7 different quotients? "IQ" measures only 2 of them: Math and Verbal. There are five others. Musical, Body kinesthetic (sic I'm sure) or something, etc.

Anonymous said...

Steven, you are right that Dirac's father was Swiss, but the story I told is true, see http://www-history.mcs.st-and.ac.uk/Biographies/Dirac.html.

Bee, the point was: you link to a EU report that tells: "The question is thus to know why women fall victim to such rarefaction: is it because of direct discrimination that derives from choices and decisions made by selection committees that are composed mainly of men […] The proportion of women among grade A academic staff was the highest in humanities and social sciences. In contrast, in engineering and technology, the under- representation of women was most striking. […] Proactive policies need to be implemented in order to balance out the unequal situation that continues to prevail in the academic sector."

Wrong.

Men still predominate at higher levels of fields where success criteria are objective because men are more likely than women to have the qualities that lead to success in different fields. This happens because, when considering distributions of such qualities correlated to success (e.g. IQ or other parameters that aim at defining and quantifying aspects of "intelligence"), the standard deviation among males is higher (typically by 10% to 20%) than among females. There is no point in complaining of being "victim" or implementing "proactive policies" against nature.

Maybe we can agree on the practical conclusion: hire the best people irrespectively of their sex.

Low Math, Meekly Interacting said...

I always find these threads so discouraging. I would be the last person to assert there are no gender-associated discrepancies that are due, on average, to innate differences. The truth is, I have no idea, so I wouldn't rule it out. What I do find completely implausible is the notion that innate differences can account for large disparities of the sort this study has quantified. 100 years ago, women in Western nations rarely went to university. Today, they're outperforming men at the undergraduate level. Genetic evolution cannot in any way account for this enormous change, and no one would seriously suggest the huge gap between men and women was closed in a century because women rapidly developed higher IQs. So why is it so hard to grasp that the results of this study are predominantly due to environmental pressures?

Gordon said...

Andrew: Genius has not been well established to correlate with mental illness. That is unsupported speculation on your part. Sure, there are examples, but those are anecdotal. Also, trying to pigeonhole past scientists with DSM-IV codes is silly.
Men are outliers in math ability.
Look at the gender of teams for the international math olympiads.
Where are the female versions of Ed Witten, Terence Tao, Alain Connes etc?

Bee said...

Anonymous: Of course I agree one should hire the best person irrespective of their sex. That I linked to the report and showed two figures from it which I found interesting does not mean I endorse every single word they wrote. Best,

B.

Bee said...

Dear Arun,

One would think so, but that's not the way IQ is measured in these studies. Is exactly why I say one has to be clear about what such results mean and don't mean. If it was that easy to find out who will make a good scientist then why isn't tenure just granted by IQ? Best,

B.

Bee said...

Andrew: There are as many IQs as there are IQ tests. They don't test for the ability to solve problems. They do usually have a part targeting this skill, but one can debate how much that is relevant for real live abilities. Besides this, these tests (if I recall correctly) also test verbal skills, common knowledge, short-term memory, and probably some other things, eg the typical little maths and logic problems that one often finds on the internet. Many of these characteristics, one should emphasize, can be improved with practice. This already tells you the outcome of the test isn't particularly useful to characterize a person's potential. Anyway, the bottomline is, as Arun said, the only way to know that somebody makes a good scientist is if they are a good scientist, period. There is no replacement measurement that can be made. Best,

B.

Donald said...

hi there! I am having problem downloading the pdf file. Can you check it out? thanks

Bee said...

The download works fine for me. It's 5.44 MB though, so will take a while.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Christine,

I certainly agree with what you said about gender in regards to aptitude as not being well studied enough to understand what if anything could distinguish between the consequences of nature and nurture. However what I think being more important to consider is what I was relating to Bee being there are areas of endeavour where women still have to make even a dent, yet could be considered among the most important of them all in the overall view. That to recognize that’s while It’s one thing to strive to understand the world through study and contemplation, yet quite another to be able and wanting to shape it to fit your own personal vision, which entails the types of people I was referring to.

After I commented last I had a closer look at the study that inspired this post, there to find the stats on women applying their skills and efforts to manufacturing and industry to be consistent with my own observations. It’s a common and oft time’s legitimate complaint among women to be living in an overly male dominated world, yet at the same time not often enough recognized that what world you live in should not be surprising to be one that best represent the ones who have built it. So my advice in such regard is that women will see little meaningful change in the world until they pay more attention and place more emphasis as to not only able to understand why it is the way it is, yet to also have a greater interest in terms of constructing one to better represents their own vision of how it should be in regards to both its function and form.

Best,

Phil

Andrew Thomas said...

Hi Gordon: "Genius has not been well established to correlate with mental illness." I can't help feeling that there is a form of connection between the sort of obsessive, socially-withdrawn behaviour (extreme geekiness, basically) of certain top mathematicians and the symptoms of certain male-dominated illnesses (autistic savants being an example). A recent example is Grigori Perelman who solved the Poincare conjecture but has now completely withdrawn from society and now lives in a flat with his mum. Basically, being a socially-inadequate emotionally-retarded nerd is a big disadvantage in many jobs, but in mathematics it seems like a positive boon! :)

This socially-withdrawn obsessive behaviour seems to be very much a male thing - you don't see many female trainspotters for example.

In fact, I would question the whole issue of how we define mild mental illness in that respect. I think Aspergers especially is often undiagnosed. I just don't think an emotionally well-balanced male would want to spend his life obsessing over a maths book - he'd be off shagging Marilyn vos Savant, the female mathematician with the highest ever-recorded IQ.

Bee said...

Andrew: You might find this interesting

Champions of the Lost Cause

Steven Colyer said...

Vos Savantian shagification, Andrew? Is that the direction this thread is headed? If so, of what value is IQ in love? Seems she was unlucky in love, having had multiple marriages and multiple divorces, as budding Physicist Tiger Woods is about to find out. Men tend to like their wives intelligent but their girlfriends otherwise, something Pauli found out the hard way. Read "The Moral Animal" by Robert Wright for more.

Anyway, as regards vos Savant, I find it interesting her maiden name is Mach. Any relation to Ernst Mach? I do like her opinion of IQ. From the Wiki article: "she values IQ tests as measurements of a variety of mental abilities and believes intelligence itself involves so many factors that "attempts to measure it are useless.""

Who had the highest IQ of all time? I nominate Carl F. Gauss.

Andrew Thomas said...

Hi Steven: "Vos Savantian shagification, Andrew? Is that the direction this thread is headed?" Yes, I do apologise for lowering the tone!

(My vote for highest-ever IQ goes to Ramanujan - incredible bloke).

Arun said...

Dear Bee,

Exactly my point. If it was that easy to find out who will make a good scientist then why isn't tenure just granted by IQ? What the IQ-metricians do is 20-20 hindsight - they ascribe high IQs to good scientists and then claim high IQ as a predictor.

-Arun

Arun said...

FYI, on women's success in areas with objective measures of success, here is a snippet from dslprime.com:

"Ed Whitacre, ex-AT&T CEO now running GM, fired CEO Fritz Henderson and replaced most of the top executives. Big Ed likes total control, so the firings weren't surprising. Bloomberg's Jeff Green and Katie Merx noted the surprising number of women newly promoted. Susan Docherty is now vice president vehicle sales, service and marketing. Diana Tremblay becomes vice president of manufacturing and labor relations. Denise C. Johnson, is now vice president of labor relations. Whitacre. long ago realized that resisting discrimination allows you to find better people. Ray Wilkins, a black man, rose to Group President under Whitacre and continues to run several business units. The other Bells are also more open than the typical U.S. company. Doreen Tobin recently retired as Verizon CFO, Virginia Ruesterholz is President of Verizon Services Operations and Shaygan Kheradpir is Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer. Sol Trujillo when CEO of Qwest said he wouldn't have been hired except for affirmative action, but the Bells always were far more open in hiring than most U.S. companies."

Bee said...

I think I've heard similar things about law. However, I'm quite skeptic about the possibility to objectively measure success in science (on short timescales) at all. In contrast, I sometimes think the problem is that people cling to such objective measures too much, which is to a large extend caused by too many applicants that have to be judged on in a limited amount of time. What I think would be helpful is to carefully chose who choses and give them time and space. I don't think somebody qualifies as being capable of identifying promising future researcher just by merit of being a successful researcher himself.

Gordon said...

Andrew: Stop putting your foot in your mouth. Marilyn vos Savant certainly is no mathematician. She is a self promoting writer who is bright, but who hypes her supposed IQ shamelessly. She likes math puzzles and likely studies IQ tests which can improve one's score. She wrote embarrassingly on Wiles proof of Fermat's last theorem. Read Stephen J Gould's "The Mismeasure of Man"
Women's brains are different from men's. They generally are better organisers and categorisers, but seem creatively limited other than in language and writing ability.

Andrew Thomas said...

Hi Gordon, I am sure there are differences between the brains of women and men. But, like I said, it seems to be the ability of certain males to work obsessively in solitary conditions (like I said - "geekiness") which gives men the edge at the top end of the spectrum. So I don't really see that "trainspottery" aspect of male behaviour anything to boast about. Women generally seem better emotionally balanced in that respect.

Robert L. Oldershaw said...

Have you considered that this whole discussion is a waste of time?

People who have a "position" on this issue are very unlikely to change it, no matter what arguments/facts you confront them with.

What is reasonable is to state your position once, clearly, and then move on to do something useful in spite of any advantages/disadvantages that might afflict you.

That's my take,
RLO

Andrew Thomas said...

I would agree Robert. I also think if we're ever going to aim to be truly "gender-blind" then we should perhaps stop collating these statistics about differences between the sexes. It should be like hair colour: no one would think of collecting statistics about how well ginger-haired people do in university.

Anonymous said...

Robert, unfortunately there is a ideology that tells that violent males oppressed females and this is the only reason why males outperformed females. I don't think it is a waste of time pointing out a different point of view. There are now scientific blogs written by females who spend their time in complaining, complaining, complaining about discriminations, as they apparently prefer to believe that their difficulties only exist because males are evil.

This is worrying phenomenon.

In the past, germans wanted to believe that they were oppressed. Poor people wanted to believe that they were oppressed. These ideologies evolved into nazism and communism.

Anonymous said...

I do think there is a definite correlation with marriage/kids and the dropoff.

Arguably the male dominated environment might have some effect -the opposite holds true in female dominated fields, like fashion design- But i'd guess the marriage factor is far and away the biggest problem.

Some time ago I read similar statistics on Ibankers. Same problem. Ridiculous 80+ hour workweeks, high stress and competitive positions. The dropoff rates were extremely high, but the difference between men and women was even larger.

Perhaps we should be asking the opposite question... Why are so many men, allowing themselves to stay in a field that carries such lifestyle sacrifice for very little financial reward? The Feynmann physics sex quote perhaps is apt..

Phil Warnell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phil Warnell said...

Hi Steve,

You asked: “Who had the highest IQ of all time? I nominate Carl F. Gauss.”

Like has been mentioned here already it largely depends on what you mean by IQ. Now in terms of being a significant intellect, Gauss indeed is an excellent candidate ,yet it could be argued that one to have extended greatly what he began, as to go on to make discoveries which still challenge both mathematicians and physicists alike, with that being Emmy Noether .

I find it then not surprizing that our anonymous friend’s protests form being reminiscent of many supposedly enlightened philosopher’s objections as to allowing her to lecture at the University of Göttingen, as it to being based solely on gender, to which David Hilbert responded , "I do not see that the sex of the candidate is an argument against her admission as privatdozent. After all, we are a university, not a bath house." . Apparently some here still suffer from the same confusion as to what the function of a university or research facility stands as being in terms of qualification.

Best,

Phil

Anonymous said...

An anonymous comment (not posted here before) - from your other blog postings you might be reading my job application right now. Not a big deal, but these things should be done right ;-)

Looking at the figures, they don't seem to correct for time-lag of events. 11% tenured faculty, whilst atrociously low, corresponds to a population that started their PhD's up to 50 years ago.

The 'Grade C' level of 33% in 2006 seems correspond quite nicely with the 2002 grad program numbers. ie if 10% of the population starting a PhD this year had trait X (say blond hair) you'd expect 10% of new postdocs in 4-5 years to have trait X if postdoc hiring were fair, for example. But if 4 years ago, only 1% had this trait (anti-blond sentiments that have since been eradicated!) you would see the figures say that this year 10% started PhDs, but only 1% started postdocs, even though the system didn't discriminate in any way.

To cut to the chase: We need to correct for time lag, or have population samples over a longer range to get some meaningful data. I'm sure that there are still hiring problems for women, but this raw data isn't worth much. To get a realistic model we'd have to have career tracked stats - % entering Phd, then that SAME population, what % enter postdocs, then faculty jobs etc.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Andrew,

”but far more to do with the fact that virtually no woman I know is remotely interested in science and would rather have pins stuck in her than read a science paper.”

I just wanted to make comment on what you said here as to extend the question asked by Christine as to what circles you travel in that would have you form such an opinion. That’s to say that from my own experience this disinterest in what I would call real science is pretty much universal among most people,regardless of sexual orientation with I feeling to being a good judge of such things since among the people I know I’m considered a bit of an odd ball to be so interesting. That’s not to say that those I know well are knuckle dragging non educated people, yet admittedly none are scientists.

On the other hand if you relate this to an interest in technology you might have a point, yet it’s more consistent with that little boy preferring the train set over one of those Barbies mentioned before. Finally, even those interested in technology most are so strictly from a superficial level, with few having any real understanding as to how any of it actually works or the science that inspired and facilitates it.

Best,

Phil

Gordon said...

Phil: I would not say that most people are unbiased ("disinterested"--you mean "uninterested") in real science.
I do find that most men are much more interested in science questions than most women (at least in chemistry, physics and pure math) Also, Emmy Noether is one of the very few women you could have mentioned, and though her theorem is incredibly important and beautiful, it hardly puts her in the
company of Archimedes, Euler, Newton, or Gauss ( I would put the first three first, along with Bach and Mozart).
How many women are interesting in talking about the nature of reality other than this blog author and afew others....

Steven Colyer said...

"How many women are interesting in talking about the nature of reality other than this blog author and a few others?"

A good question, Gordon. A very, very, VERY good question.

Quite a few others, is the answer.

Is there nearly enough? No, I don't think so. But, this whole "woman's liberation" thing is still in it's infancy. It's only a generation and a half old. Will it get as far as 50/50 male/female someday? Probably not, but it will get very close IMO. I have faith in that.

Let me give you an example. My youngest daughter is 16 now in 2009. She wants to be a doctor. She is brilliant, and there will be no roadblocks to her becoming one, based on gender.

But say she was born 53 years ago as I was, and at the age of say, 7, in 1963, she was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, and she said: a doctor.

The response, then, would have been Universal: the aunts, etc., would have said:

"Don't you mean 'Nurse" dear? Doctors are men. Nurses are women."

I remember 1963. I have seen in just over half a century, SO much progress in gender inequality. It's not complete heck no, but give it another generation. Much progress is being made, each and every day.

Cultures change, and they're changing at a faster rate than ever, thanks to this new technology.

Keep the faith. No worries, mates.

Gordon said...

Well, you are entitled to your opinion. I see it as more of the political correctness viral meme.

Steven Colyer said...

Gordon, pls try to stop using the ignorant term "political correctness," especially in the same sentence with the intelligent word; "meme."

PC is crap, it's pure communism, a theory that sounds great on paper but is worthless when applied to greedy humans with their self-important clan-based agendas.

Women are first and foremost concerned with Survival, the Survival of the clan, though the children, born or yet born, and therefore through THEM, the female caretakers, who traditionally have been THE caretakers of the children, before civilization decided to become ... civilized.

Survival first.

It has taken a long time for any woman to have the luxury to NOT make that priority number one, to be able to afford the luxury of thinking the big thoughts, knowing that someone was taking care of the Survival issues.

And that's good. Be patient.

Andrew Thomas said...

Hi Phil: "I would call real science is pretty much universal among most people,regardless of sexual orientation". Yes, I suppose you're right.

Phil: "On the other hand if you relate this to an interest in technology you might have a point". Yeah, I think that's what I was getting at. I mean, I work in a fairly techy office which a group of men, and the talk is often about computing, which moves into general technological talk about iPhones etc., but there is interest in, say, the LHC, and parallel universes/quantum mechanics get mentioned though only in a very superficial jokey way. But there is interest there.

For example, the current project we're working on seems pretty doomed to disaster already due to bureaucracy and bad management, so we often say "In a parallel universe somewhere, this IT Centre is a fantastic success due to its fantastic management" - which is so unlikely that it's probably the most convincing argument against the multiverse I have yet heard.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Gordon,

I’m not suggesting there aren’t biases between men and women, for if I did it would indicate I had lost all the advantages provided by the senses. What my arguments being is first I see no difference between the genders as to their interest in what makes things tick and secondly no one thus far being able to positively say (prove) what aspects of aptitude are attributes in terms of such discovery.

As for instance let’s consider the lady you are prepared to have summarily dismissed, as being simply an anomaly and look to what possibly it was that she had to bring to the table which were responsible for her discoveries. I would say for her to do what she did, one would have to had a powerfully logical mind coupled with a strong and innate sense of aesthetics, that in combination would have one wonder about the possible connections between symmetry and conservation. Now I see no evidence to have it understood there being a gender bias as far as logic is concerned, while on the other hand aesthetic sensibility definitely as being more often contributed to being the purview of women. So if you were asked to decide whether it would be more likely for a man or a woman to make such discovery, what would be your answer?

As an extension, many have argued that the reason(s) for the world is tied up between the recognition of truth and beauty as to understand the interplay between each. So following this down, let’s suppose both genders are equally concerned and able to distinguish truth, now given that it’s left to ask which gender one suspect would be more apt to understand as to recognize beauty? You might then counter as many have, that beauty is something which exists solely in the eyes of the beholder, while I would admit this may be true, yet then simply ask who the ones are more often caring to look. So from my own perspective, given the same initial conditions, men rather women have reason to fear they are inferior in having what’s required to do good science.

Best,

phil

Bee said...

Hi Phil, Gordon,

Phil's last comment restates what I said earlier in different words. Let me be clear on this: I do believe that there are hardwired differences between male and female brains and also between their interests and possibly talents. It would seem odd to me if it was not the case. After all your crumpled Y chromosome has even visible and audible consequences, so plausible it also affects your brain.

Not that I said "I believe" this to be the case. I don't think that the evidence on this is yet entirely convincing since it is hard to disentangle the environmental effects from the genetic ones. But that's not my area of research and I'm not an expert on this.

Either way, absent this knowledge, there is a priori no reason why women and men should be represented in any particular ratio in any field, and some part of the over/underrepresentation of women in different fields is probably hardwired. However, what I was trying to say earlier is that pulling out a single measure like the IQ does not explain anything since it isn't clear how the IQ impacts success in a particular research area.

Specifically as far as theoretical physics is concerned, and that is what Phil was also aiming at, it is entirely unclear to me why women should for evolutionary reasons be less skilled than men. This becomes particularly clear when you take into account that the women ratio in math tends to be higher than in theoretical physics, so you can't entirely blame it on the math skills either. Also in experimental physics the women ratio tends to be higher in theoretical physics. Frankly this sometimes makes me think there's something really sick with my area of research.

Anyway, what my post was about is actually not the unknown ratio that women "should" contribute to these fields if there were no social distortions on their choice. I actually think this whole concept is seriously flawed since arguably the social influence is relevant for people for how they chose to lead their lives. What my post was about instead is the drop that you see in the career stages (Figure 1). Since these women have already shown interest and qualified in their job, the reason here must be a different one. As several people pointed out above, the obvious reason is lack of family support. This is what my remark "way to go" aimed at. Best,

B.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Andrew,

It’s nice to hear that you’re able to reconsider your position as I was simple pointing out that one normally is only able to draw conclusions based on the data set presented. As for myself I’m a product of a family having four boys and one girl, going on to become the father of two girls and no boys. I’ve found this to have lent me in the overall a more balanced perspective. as to what each is better at and more concerned about.

There is however one relevant bias between the sexes that I would have to acknowledge being slanted more in the favour of women, with that being communication, which from all the observations I’ve ever made has this go to the ladies with little doubt. So we must decide, which if either to be the greater attribute regarding scientific discovery; for is it the communicating of thoughts and ideas or the contemplation of them, afforded by living in isolation from others. Here I would argue that like in many other things, the optimum turns out to be the best balance between the two, rather than the dominance of one.

So if I were to allow myself for a moment to think stereotypically, my advice for men is it would be better if they more often just shut up and listen, while with women to remind to leave time for themselves, as to be better able to consider what’s been communicated and learned. Admittedly, this may sound like a clique, yet it’s one honestly born out of my own considered observations:-)

Best,

Phil

Andrew Thomas said...

Hi Phil, what a tactful way of saying women talk a lot.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Andrew,

Perhaps, yet also equally a way to say that men don’t listen enough:-)

Best,

Phil

Christine said...

As several people pointed out above, the obvious reason is lack of family support. This is what my remark "way to go" aimed at.

Perhaps it is not always a case of lack of family support (when there is childcare involved) -- although this possibility may be predominant. Perhaps at some point the couple (*both* parents) comes to the conclusion that the mother is more suitable to take care of the children and make the sacrifice. Perhaps the mother accepts the sacrifice herself more immediately or easier than the father. Perhapst this would be more natural for the mother.

If we (the society) are willing to accept that possibility as a *natural* one, the more reason that there must be a special support to mothers as workers so that they can continue their professional activities without having to quit altogether.

I do not mean here that mothers should have a "special protection" in the sense of having more opportunities and exemptions over men; it's not to give them a bed of roses, but an adjustment to the fact that need support, e.g. excellent childcare support offered by the contractor, half-period work hours, etc. A lot to be discussed, specially in academia, I suppose.

Christine said...

Note: the italics in the first paragraph of my previous comment is quoted from Bee.

Bee said...

Researchers [collected] data on the chatter patterns of 396 university students (210 women and 186 men) at colleges in Texas, Arizona and Mexico. They estimated the total number of words that each volunteer spoke daily, assuming they were awake 17 of 24 hours. In most of the samples, the average number of words spoken by men and women were about the same. Men showed a slightly wider variability in words uttered, and boasted both the most economical speaker (roughly 500 words daily) and the most verbose yapping at a whopping 47,000 words a day. But in the end, the sexes came out just about even in the daily averages: women at 16,215 words and men at 15,669. In terms of statistical significance, Pennebaker [who lead the experiment] says, "It's not even remotely close to different."

From: Gender Jabber: Do Women Talk More than Men?

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Christine,

I find myself torn by your comment, first in acknowledging it would be good if women were afforded more time to explore their potential, yet equally concerned that the rearing of children be surrendered to those outside the family. You might deem it as a personal conceit, yet I’m convinced that thus far there has been no replacement found for the successful rearing of children consistently superior to that of a family. So for me we must find another way.

Best,

Phil

Bee said...

Hi Christine,

Yeah, is roughly what I mean. The problem with academia in particular is that once you're out, you're out. This means if the women choses to take care of the children it is hard to continue thereafter. This isn't only unfortunate for the mother it's also dumb because society has invested in that person, given her a good education, and then instead of making an effort getting the best out of this investment signals her "get lost." Example: in one memorable incident a male faculty member remarked on a woman's CV she hadn't written a paper for 2 years. Indeed, but she had 2 children during that time which kind of eluded his attention. See what I mean with once you're out, you're out? Best,

B.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

I recognize the study and have seen it before, yet would wonder if it more indicative to the requirements for aspiring to attaining a good education, rather than what the outcome would be in a greater, more socially significant sample. I’m not saying it’s wrong, just as like in Andrew’s experience is contrary to my personal observations. One thing I’m confident in is that science has the tools and ability to decide.

Best,

Phil

Bee said...

Frankly, in my experience chattability seems to vary much more between nations than between the sexes which indicates it's exogenous. There's also a bias in your's and Andrew's experience, that being you're both male. Possibly it's not that women chat so much, they just like to chat with you? But besides that I agree that studies on Texan college students might not be globally very representative. Best,

B.

Arun said...

CIP had a brief post: http://capitalistimperialistpig.blogspot.com/2009/12/old-battles.html. The upshot is that old prejudices die hard - even after a century, they persist in a significant political party. And women's admittance to Princeton, Caltech, etc. undegrad dates to less than 40 years ago. So I don't see any way yet to certify that all things are equal now for men and women in physics, and the outcomes are natural.

Christine said...

You might deem it as a personal conceit, yet I’m convinced that thus far there has been no replacement found for the successful rearing of children consistently superior to that of a family.

Hi Phil,

Of course nothing can replace family care.

As a mother having a child at the final months of my PhD, I had to require a suspension of my grant in order to nurse and take care of my baby. I had the support of my hunsband of course. I remember nursing my baby while at the computer writing a paper, even though I had no grant at all during that period. (A paper that was absolutely necessary in order to get my PhD, though).

It turns out that it is not simple. As Bee points out in an example, you may want to take my *own* example -- why do I have so few papers? I had this problem during a period after my PhD and postdoc in order to find a job. This was often questioned in job contests that I have applied (here in Brazil you have to go into written and oral exams, not only CV analysis in order to get a job in academia. My exams often turned out excellent, but not my CV in terms of number of papers. Even though the few ones were published in excellent journals).

So, it is not simple. I could have quit altogether, but I have persisted, and what I have now is a permanent job outside my main field of interest. My son stays at school all day, and I only see him after 5 pm during the week. I am certain that any good mothers out there in a similar situation would feel guilty for not having more time with their children, in order to stay (or stay somewhat close) to their carreers. I sometimes really want to quit altogether.

We try to give the best influence and education to our son while he is with us, and at the same time, the best schools, etc. We spent all money necessary for that. But you are ritht, it would be much better if he stayed with me.

It's not, however, a simple situation, that's why many mothers quit their careers.

Anonymous said...

I was a stay-at-home Dad for 15+ years. About 8AM to 5:30PM I was "on duty", and "on-call" for nights and weekends.

During that time I wrote some of my best papers on nights and weekends. Not to mention that I did some of my best thinking while "on duty". Nothing like hands-on study to learn about how nature actually works.

The fact that this meant that I could not have an academic career was not a disadvantage for me; it was a blessing.

This route is not for everyone, but fewer try it than would probably profit from it, as would science in general.

Robert Frost, Amherst, ;)

Gordon said...

Steven:
You think political correctness as a term is "crap" in your elegant lingo.
I do not. Along with religion, it is
a bullypulpit for basically saying that everyone is equal and plays on
rampant liberal guilt. Now white males are marginalised. Try to deny it. Med schools are overwhelmingly female, not due to merit, but to byzantine politically correct admissions policies. I have just said that at the outlier area of the Gaussian curve, men show up as better at math in the genius category than women. You are spouting the usual liberal guilt bullshit, that all animals are equal, but, as Orwell knew, some are more equal than others, the politically correct ones.

Andrew Thomas said...

No, not everyone is equal (i.e., has equal ability). Some men are stupid, some men are brilliant. Some women are stupid, some women are brilliant. So it's not possible to make sweeping statements about a man being better than a woman, or vice versa. I know some extremely thick men - and women. Every person must be considered on merit. Both men AND women are capable of making great contributions in physics, so let's just treat everone on merit, give no unfair advantages to anyone, and forget about the person's gender.

And take a chill pill, Gordon!

Giotis said...

Well this is a justified guilt. Have you ever wondered how many millions of women have suffered and are still suffering in the societies we men have built according to our convenience? Even in the modernized western societies women in many occasions are still treated as a merchandise. So you better think twice before you proclaim the innocent "white males" an endangered species.

Anonymous said...

Somebody said "the male dominated environment might have some effect -the opposite holds true in female dominated fields, like fashion design". As far as I know, even in this field the most successful persons are males.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Christine,

Well I can certainly empathize with the pressures of modern living today, with things not to different when my wife and I went through a lot to hold down careers while raising a family. However, what you and Bee have taken on brings with it a more unique kind of pressure, since for many such as yourselves it’s not just a job, yet also a passion. So in some respects for all that choose such a path and even more so for a lady, you inevitably find yourself torn between two passions, one in investigating nature’s truths and another with the callings of a more primal nature.

Now if one could be content just to dabble it wouldn’t be much of a strain, yet the commitment and effort required just to begin is indicative that’s just not enough. It may not be a direct compassion, but Einstein was known to have admitted he should have never married and had children, as having always known he could never be faithful to two mistresses. So Christine I wish you can find a balance to be struck that he was not able to manage. Then again perhaps this may be an advantage that a woman might have over a man in such circumstance, in having a heart large enough for two loves which demand much attention.

Best,

Phil

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Steven and Giotis,

I find myself not able to be angered by comments which indicate that those that made the remarks have never realized the total capacities of woman, as all I can manage is pity. This comes not by knowing science or from innately being fair, yet rather from having been married to a lady whose penetrating intelligence was among her greatest assets and thereby attractions. So just as good science is not simply seemingly logical conjecture, but rather science is only good when it not just able to recognize truth, yet understand as to appreciate how and why it must be. So to those that harbour such feelings I am truly sorry, since such convictions will only serve to have them not able to make one of the most important of all discoveries.

Best,

Phil

Christine said...

Hi Phil,

I forgot to mention that there is an important and obvious factor involved. What I write here is from the point of view of living in Brazil. Imagine parents at around 30 years old - there is the issue of having to work for a living. Except if they are wealthy of course. So there is a pressure to find a job. Here in Brazil, the pressure is even greater in the sense of finding a *stable* job. I have noticed for instance that "postdoc" is considered a job in the US. No one here considers a postdoc as a job, but just a grant to help one while finding a *job*. Postdoc is too much temporary. Parents with postdoc positions are in big trouble financially speaking. Having to raise children under this condition is quite fragile. But I have noticed that in the US whatever you do to earn some money is considered a job. Here we call such a situation "fazer bico". Something to avoid at all costs, but difficult to accomplish.

Concerning finding a balance, well, I suppose I have found one, but it is not the way that I have imagined.

Best,
Christine

Bee said...

Hi Christine,

Since you bring it up, the typical postdoctoral job-hobbing is also very uncommon where I come from. Take Stefan as an example. He started his job at a scientific publisher instead of making a postdoc. After two years, his contract became permanent. That's the norm, not an exception (though of course things are changing also in Germany). Most of my friends who left academia have a stable job, or are in a situation waiting for a non-permanent contract to become permanent. Basically the point is you don't lose your job unless you did something actually wrong (or your employer is in trouble, but that's a different issue). Now compare that to the situation of postdocs who get piped through n institutions and after this still have slim chances landing a permanent job. These are circumstances that I find not only degrading (thanks for the fish and good-bye), but also, in that extreme, non-productive. The people you keep in this "natural selection" process are those who are willing to move around and do a little bit of work with somebody here and somebody there. Question is of course is that really a selection which focuses on the most promising researcher? Best,

B.

Christine said...

Hi Bee,

You describe the situation and the problem perfectly.

One question is then whether this situation -- which is already fragile in general -- affects more strongly women in particular, specially those raising a family.

In other words, the "selection effect" is a general issue, but may probably affect women in a particularly sensible manner.

Best,
Christine

Christine said...

Bee wrote:

Basically the point is you don't lose your job unless you did something actually wrong (or your employer is in trouble, but that's a different issue).

That's the same "philosophy" here, but since there are few jobs available, Brazilians use a great creativity in order to earn for a living, so there is a lot of "informal" jobs/activities/services around. Since you have already visited Brazil, you may have clearly noticed these informal jobs -- or "bicos", as I mentioned previously.

"Jobs" here are usually secured under "contests" with exams and CV analysis, and it is normal to see hundreds or even thousands of candidates. For my own job, I had to "beat" exactly 86 candidates.

Best,
Christine

Steven Colyer said...

Men are from Fermiak, Women are from Bosonia

To master the human gender differences, I recommend Men are From Mars, Women are from Venus, to the young. For those who find that book Socratic Lite and with to dig deeper in Platonic fashion: The Moral Animal by Robert Wright and especially The Anatomy of Love by Helen Fisher. If you do so, you'll find:

Women have no more brain cells than men, but they have far more connections between their left and right brain hemispheres. What this means is that women are more inclined to naturally scan their environment at first; men to be task-focused. Both can do both of course, eventually. From this I conclude women are the more natural managers; men the more natural workers. There are of course many individual exceptions.

I was also a househusband for a while, and here's an interesting example of what I observed:

Take 4 toddlers, a 3-yr-old boy and girl and a 2-yr-old boy and girl, and put them in a sandbox with various toys. The two girls will play together in one corner, one girl calling the shots and the other girl following. They are sociable bosons. The boys will play each in his own corner with their Tonka trucks, usually front end loaders and backhoes, like asocial fermions.

Sooner or later one boy will enforce the "what's mine is mine and what's yours is also mine" philosophy, and take, or try to take, the other boy's toy.

That's when the crying begins.

Gordon said...

Those books are total dreck. I may have to reassess my views of male abilities.

Steven Colyer said...

Dreck, eh, Gordon-who-is-too-weak-a-person-to-use-his-full-name?

I suppose one would think so if one was so ill informed as you obviously are to not recognize Helen Fisher as one of the greatest Social Anthropologists of our age and Robert Wright as one of the greatest and best-informed writers of our age.

Bee, do you have some kind of "troll control" on this your fine website? Democracy is a fine thing, but isn't obvious how "Gordon" is hurting this website with his opinionated yet non-factual and indefensible remarks?

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Christine,

What you describe although certainly grim is pretty much as I expected. It’s a strange thing what the general public perception is in regards to what they imagine attaining a PhD brings compared to reality. They simply aren’t aware how hard it is to stay in academia, were even if one is fortunate in time to make tenure that it at best offers only a comfortable living, except perhaps for those in the rarefied air representing a handful. Then again this is nothing in comparison with what many with a lesser education and reasonable degree of due diligence manage in the financial or business sectors. No I’m afraid most don’t realize that academia is something you have to love first and foremost, with money not being primarily how success is measured.

I would guess also in terms of your country’s development places an additional strain as being a academic, since although Brazil’s star is rising in economic terms quickly, in some respects it is changing faster than many can adjust. It’s reminiscent of George Bernard Shaw’s observation regarding the rapid rate of change in such respect when speaking about the U.S. when he remarked "America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between". So let’s hope these words are heeded by the new nations of promise as to have them strive to have their level of civilization elevated at least as high as their financial stature.

Best,

Phil

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Steven,

”Bee, do you have some kind of "troll control" on this your fine website? Democracy is a fine thing, but isn't obvious how "Gordon" is hurting this website with his opinionated yet non-factual and indefensible remarks?”

I’m not certain what Bee might think .yet for me it’s hard to examine anything without first having a adequate degree of contrast and so if nothing else Gordon serves well to insure at least that.

Best,

Phil

Bee said...

Hi Phil,

I was thinking our Anonymous friend and Gordon make quite a good case demonstrating why the level of female participation we see in the natural sciences and engineering does not yet represent the actual interest among women. As long as there are men running around who can't figure out what the difference is between an IQ test and real life we will continue to lose excellent researchers. Best,

B.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

I most certainly agree, yet I wonder how he explains the great accomplishments of those such as Feynman and Crick, for who to many in terms of what is recognized as measurable intellect would be in the lower end of all of those currently engaged in active research. How then can they fail to at least pause to consider perhaps it might be resultant that such an assessment can’t be resolved in the context of black and white forming the contrast, yet the instruments sensitivity widen to recognize the spectrum is much broader then they realize.

Best,

Phil

Bee said...

That's because, as you certainly know, men were evolutionary trained to focus on the target and blend out the rest. They don't "pause and consider," they hunt down the bear and kill it.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

Yes I’ve read some research reports in such regard. Then it is indeed ironic that the same reason to have men to be more frequently colour blind would at the same time have them so gender sensitive. That would have Shakespeare remark that a rose in any colour would still have its beauty and resultant brilliance lost to many:-)

Best,

Phil

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

While just watching the Olympic torch celebrated in being run through my country, to reflect on the rise and fall of the civilization to which it echoes back. That’s to realize that although the Greek’s revered women for there aesthetic beauty, as to even come to worship them as being capable to be deities, they failed to appreciate them for what they offer in terms of intrinsic beauty as it relates to wisdom. It then leaves me to wonder, if they had managed to take this additional leap, would this have their civilization still to live on to be more then the simple remembrance of it’s flame.

Best.

Phil

Arun said...

Athena the goddess of wisdom, remained goddess only?

Helen Fisher may be great, but then so is Milton Friedman. Doesn't mean some or all their ideas are right. (I mentioned M.F. because his ideas took a recent hit from the real world.)

Arun said...

The problem with a lot of evolutionary stories is that they are just-so stories. Phil's comment "Then it is indeed ironic that the same reason to have men to be more frequently colour blind would at the same time have them so gender sensitive" makes that clear. You can understand the incidence of male colorblindness from X and Y chromosomes and not really from evolution.

The problem is thus: any feature or trait exhibited by humans is "obviously" the product of evolution, and therefore any story which makes the trait favored can "explain" the trait. A real scientific explanation would however have to do at least the following:

1. Show that the trait is a result of genes (and e.g., not cultural)

2. Show that natural selection really acts on the trait, in the conditions that actually prevailed during human evolution.

Needless to say sociobiology can do neither. So it can explain the "seven year itch" but it could explain the "five year itch" just as well. It doesn't explain why chimpanzees behave differently from bonobos; and it can't say whether humans should behave like either or neither. Sociobiology for most part has all the explanatory power of the anthropic principle.

Gordon said...

Steve: You actually are defending Gray's "Men Are From Mars and Women Are From Venus"??
And then try to ban people who disagree with your premises?
The blog would be pretty boring.
BTW, it should have been clear that I do not support IQ labelling-from Gould's "Mismeasure of Man" comment.
Hmmm, it would be hubris to think that I could "harm" this blog.
As someone said, "Take a chill pill".

Gordon said...

I do admit to behaving trollish...
Any male or female interested in the nature of Reality is OK with me.

"I want to know what
The whole show's about
Before it's out.
Piet Hein
Grooks

Steven Colyer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steven Colyer said...

Hey Andrew, what is your country up to? Male or female, the following announcement in the UK was made today, showing it's tough all over regardless of gender:

STFC slashes funding for astronomy and physics

16 December 2009
By Zoë Corbyn, Times Higher Education

Effort to plug £40 million hole will involve cuts in studentships, fellowships and grants. Zoë Corbyn reports

Deep cuts have been announced in funding for astronomy and physics research as the Science and Technology Facilities Council faces up to a major budget deficit.

Departments across the UK will be affected as the council attempts to plug a £40 million hole in its current budget and put itself on a more sustainable footing for the future.

Physicists and astronomers should expect a 25 per cent cut in studentships and fellowships and a 10 per cent cut in grants from next year.

The measures announced on 16 December also include the UK’s “managed withdrawal” from a wide range of internationally important projects.

But the effects of the funding crisis will be felt by other researchers too, after other research councils agreed a last-minute bailout package for the STFC worth £14 million.

The STFC, which will receive the money in 2010-11, also intends to make £11 million in internal savings.

The list of 24 projects that the STFC will withdraw from, marking a £115 million reduction over five years, cover astronomy, particle physics, nuclear physics and space projects.

Andrew Thomas said...

Hi Steven, yes I saw that: link

(Tiger Woods is learning physics)

Phil Warnell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phil Warnell said...

Hi Arun,

Well yes since evolution is a slow process, in complex life forms, it is difficult to be positive that a certain trait it resultant of a particular environmental influence. None the less the fact is far more men are colour blind then women, which brings with it advantage and disadvantage.

As for my comment regarding the role of women of ancient Greece in terms the expansion of knowledge, it is true that there indeed were female philosophers ,yet the vast majority of these were educated at home and did not attend formal schooling as the men were afforded. Now what this indicates you can take your pick, to either understand that women were marginalized by their society in such regard or that as men being not as intelligent as the ladies they required additional help:-)

Best,

Phil

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Andrew,

I find it strange that Tiger would need to read elementary books in regards to physics, since his success in golf seem to indicate he already has command of the basic knowledge in regards to the actions and reactions of the forces of nature. It then might be better to advise him that his understanding that could use some attention is that his preference for blondes is not indicative of either their abilities of discovery or as to how they might act or react to them:-)

Best,

Phil