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Sunday, July 26, 2015

How to think about sexism in science

This article pretty much nails it. It goes exhaustively through the potential obstacles to women in science and weighs each one judiciously. It could be wrong on some of its points, but surely the answer would be to debate specific points and offer careful correctives to anywhere these scholars have gone wrong. If you really care about this issue, then you should want to separate out issues that are not as significant so that you can concentrate on the more significant issues.

It was interesting to me to find out that women go into the life sciences more (I knew that), but the women you go into the math-heavy fields (math, physics, etc...), while fewer in number, do better (I didn't know that). That's the kind of fine-grained knowledge you have to have.

Contrast this approach with the twitter-storm reaction to a Nobel-prize scientist who made a supposedly sexist joke. What do think is the most productive way to promote women in STEM? Find a scape-goat to bear the burden, or carefully sift through the problems to figure out what the explanations are for under-representation of women in STEM?

Suppose you thought all obstacles were equal. Women suffer stereotype threat, are paid less, discriminated against in hiring and grants, not cited as much, etc... Wouldn't it be helpful to know that some of these obstacles are not that relevant, so that you could concentrate on those that are?

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