Many people are unaware of the continuing bias toward females in the workforce and other areas
of life because the discrimination has gone underground, much like the Mafia. It is politically
incorrect to address this issue negatively. Having said that, I have concentrated on quoting
people in the academic field who are far more imbued in studies done on this topic. I know the
following quotes are long, but please stay with me as it is vital to the point I’m trying to make.
The journal I quoted from in my last blog blew my mind. I’d like to quote once again from The
Scientific American Mind, Volume 18, Number 6, December 2007/January 2008, an article
entitled, “Sex, Math and Scientific Achievement.” The authors are, Diane F. Halpern, Camilla P.
Benbow, David C. Geary, Ruben C. Gur, Janet Shibley Hyde and Morton Ann Gernsbacher.
“There has been one thorough study of the real-world peer-review process. Biologists Christine
Wenneras and Agnes Wold of Goeteborg University gained access to the Swedish Medical
Research Council’s data on postdoctoral fellowship awards only after a battle in court. Shortly
before the investigators published their study in 1997, the United Nations had named Sweden the
leading country in the world with respect to equal opportunities for men and women. Even so,
men dominated Swedish science. At the time, women received 44 percent of Swedish biomedical
doctoral degrees but held only 25 percent of postdoctoral positions and 7 percent of professional
“What Wenneras and Wold discovered was shocking. Female applicants received lower mean
scores in all areas in which they were evaluated: scientific competence, quality of proposed
methodology and relevance of the research proposal. It was possible that the women applicants
were less qualified. To test this possibility, the investigators computed scientific productivity
based on the applicant’s total number of publications, number of first-author publications, quality
of each publication and number of times other scientific papers cited their work. By these
measures, the most productive group of female researchers was rated as comparable in ability to
the least productive male researchers. All other women were rated below all the men. The
authors of this study concluded that the peer-review process in what is arguably the most gender-
equal nation in the world is rife with sexism. These results provide a strong rationale for making
the peer-review process more transparent. Despite these findings, which were published in the
top-ranked international scientific journal Nature, there has been no progress toward making the
peer-review process more open.”
There was a study done in the ‘80s to further understand this seeming disparity in the sciences
between boys and girls and it was mentioned in the same article.
“Data from the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth exemplify this phenomenon. In the
1980s one of us (Benbow), along with the late psychologist Julian C. Stanley, who founded this
study at the John Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth, observed sex difference in
mathematical reasoning ability among tens of thousands of intellectually talented 10 – to 14 –
year-olds who had taken the SAT several years before the typical age. “Among this elite group, no significant differences were found on the verbal part of the SAT, but the math part revealed sex differences favoring boys. There were twice as many boys as girls with math scores of 500 or higher (out of a possible score of 800), four times as many boys with scores of at least 600, and 13 times as many boys with scores of at least 700 (putting these test takers in the top 0.01 percent of 12 – to 14 – year-olds nationwide).
“Although it has drawn little media coverage, dramatic changes have been occurring among
these junior math wizards: the relative number of girls among them has been soaring. The ratio
of boys to girls, first observed at 13 to 1 in the 1980s, has been dropping steadily and is now only
about 3 to 1. During the same period the number of women in a few other scientific fields has
surged. In the U.S., women now make up half of new medical school graduates and 75 percent of
recent veterinary school graduates. We cannot identify any single cause for the increasing the
number of women entering these formerly male-dominated fields, because multiple changes have
occurred in society over the past several decades.
“This period coincides with a trend of special programs and mentoring to encourage girls to take
higher-level math and science courses. And direct evidence exists that specifically targeted
training could boost female performance even further.”
I would speculate that one of the reasons law, medical and graduate schools have welcomed so
many women is that they needed to fill seats. Tuitions since the 1980s have jumped dramatically
and perhaps that induced the institutions of higher learning to look at qualified women
differently. I hate to be so cynical, but it seems logical to me when so many people bought into
the notion of women being inferior in so many subjects, especially the sciences.
I mentioned before that although women comprise approximately 50 percent of law students
only 16 percent nationally achieve partnerships. The same statistic goes for medical students.
Only about 16 percent of women achieve status in the higher echelon of medicine (department
chairpersons, research, etc.), while the rest remain in the lower levels. The same could be said for
most previously male dominated areas of endeavor like Congress for instance where only 16.6%
are women. It is in the upper reaches of the above mentioned fields where the discrimination is
seen most clearly. Although there have been small changes, they are moving a lot slower than
most women would like – or I would like.
In order to achieve male/female equality, the male dominated world has to give up some power.
In marriages, men must participate equally in the domestic scene. Why don’t more wealthy law
firms, businesses and hospitals put in day care centers for their workers? They could charge a
reasonable amount in order to break even but it would produce so much less of employee
turnover and give women a chance to excel.
Sadly, I don’t see this coming any time soon. A good first step toward seeking equity would be
widespread recognition of these issues and transparency in how people are selected for the high
level jobs, postdoctoral awards, professorships, research and other positions. Once the
discrimination is seen and corrected, perhaps then women can forge ahead.
Women, we must speak out. Look carefully at the low percentages of women in power even
though women comprise approximately 50 percent of the entire work force. Don’t be afraid to
speak out because you’ll be accused of being an overly aggressive female. You are just righting
an injustice. Remember, when men speak out they are applauded for being on the cutting edge
and enlightening the world. Let’s do it!