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Women in Science: Against All Odds. Rosalind Chait Barnett, Ph.D. Community, Families & Work Program Women’s Studies Research Center Brandeis University.

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women in science against all odds
Women in Science: Against All Odds

Rosalind Chait Barnett, Ph.D.

Community, Families & Work Program

Women’s Studies Research Center

Brandeis University

Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism

April 11, 2008

slide2

There are at least three gender stereotypic beliefs that are widely held, often repeated, and taken to bolster the idea that women’s under-representation in math and science is inevitable.

Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism

April 11, 2008

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Women have never made it into the ranks of the most accomplished mathematicians and scientists.
  • Innately, women don’t have what it takes to succeed in math and science.
  • Women’s brains, cognitive skills, motivations, and hormones are deficient.

Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism

April 11, 2008

women have never made it into the ranks of the most accomplished mathematicians and scientists
Women have never made it into the ranks of the most accomplished mathematicians and scientists.

Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism

April 11, 2008

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European Renaissance: 14th -17th Centuries

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amazing abundance of male super star scientists
Amazing abundance of male super-star scientists

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April 11, 2008

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Pierre de Fermat

(1601 - 1665 )

generally regarded as the greatest number theorist of all times

Nicholaus Copernicus

(1473 - 1543) called the founder of modern astronomy

Galileo Galilei

(1564-1642) called the "father of modern observational astronomy", “modern physics", & the "father of science".

Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) one of the most important scientists in the field of astronomy, having been the first to explain planetary motion

v

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April 11, 2008

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Gottfried Leibniz (1646 - 1716) best known for having invented differential and integral calculus.

René Descartes (1596-1650) is one of the most important Western philosophers of the past few centuries. During his lifetime, Descartes was just as famous as an original physicist, physiologist, and mathematician

Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) the greatest mathematician of his generation and considered one of the foremost scientific intellects of all time.

Leonardo da Vinci

(1452 – 1519)

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Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism

April 11, 2008

during this extraordinary period what were the women doing
During this extraordinary period, what were the women doing?

Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism

April 11, 2008

elite women had only two life options
Elite women had only two life options:
  • An arranged marriage
  • Life in a convent

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For elite women, annual pregnancy was the general rule; contraceptives were not widely introduced until the 18th century.

Fraser, A. (1984). The weaker vessel: Knopf.

Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism

April 11, 2008

what was convent life like
What was convent life like?

Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism

April 11, 2008

is it any wonder that the pursuit of science was then and has continued to be deemed a male pursuit
Is it any wonder that the pursuit of science was then and has continued to be deemed a male pursuit?

Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism

April 11, 2008

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With the Protestant Reformation and the decline of convent life, other obstacles to women’s education emerged in Europe and in the U.S.

Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism

April 11, 2008

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“As the brain develops, the ovaries shrivel” (Fausto-Sterling, A. (1985). Myths of gender. New York: Basic Books)

“Education will undermine their health and that of their future children”

“Education will decrease their willingness to do housework or obey their husbands”

“Education will lead to their inclusion in men’s activities and to taking over men’s jobs”

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April 11, 2008

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Are universities hostile places for women faculty?

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April 11, 2008

does the peer review system evaluate women and men on an equal basis
Does the peer-review system evaluate women and men on an equal basis?

Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism

April 11, 2008

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Two Swedish scientists noted that female scientists applying for prestigious fellowships at the Swedish Medical Research Council (MRC) during the 1990s had been less than half as successful as male applicants.

Wenneras, C., & Wold, A. (1997). Nepotism and sexism in peer-review. Nature, 387(22 May), 341-343.

Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism

April 11, 2008

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Three subjective evaluation parameters:

  • Scientific competence,
  • Relevance of the research
  • proposal, and
  • The quality of the proposed
  • methodology.

Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism

April 11, 2008

the inference is that women earned lower scores because they were less productive
The inference is that women earned lower scores because they were less productive.

But were they?

Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism

April 11, 2008

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Did men and women with equal objective scientific productivity scores receive the same subjective competence ratings by the MRC reviewers?

NO!

Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism

April 11, 2008

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Figure 1: The mean competence score given to male (red squares) and female (blue squares) applicants by the MRC reviewers as a function of their scientific productivity, measured as total impact. One impact point equals one paper published in a journal with an impact factor of 1.

Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism

April 11, 2008

Wenneras, C., & Wold, A. (1997). Nature, 387 (22 May), 341-343.

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To be awarded the same competence score as a male colleague, a female scientist would have to produce approximately three extra papers in high-impact journals such as Nature or Science or 20 extra papers in excellent specialist journals such as Atherosclerosis, Gut, Infection and Immunity, Neuroscience or Radiology.

Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism

April 11, 2008

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In sum, a female applicant had to be 2.5 times more productive than the average male applicant to receive the same competence score.

Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism

April 11, 2008

this study provides direct evidence that the peer review system is subject to sex bias
This study provides direct evidence that the peer-review system is subject to sex bias.

Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism

April 11, 2008

women don t have what it takes to succeed in math and science
Women don’t have what it takes to succeed in math and science!

Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism

April 11, 2008

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A meta analysis of math aptitude scores from 4,000,000 students, found that sex differences were tiny.

Hyde, J. S., Fennema, E., & Lamon, S. J. (1990). Gender differences in mathematics performance: A meta analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 107(2), 139-155.

Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism

April 11, 2008

gender differences in mathematics performance
Gender differences in mathematics performance

Number of People

Effect size = 0.15

Source: Hyde, J. S., Fennema, E., & Lamon, S. J. (1990). Gender differences in mathematics performance: A meta analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 107, 139-155.

Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism

April 11, 2008

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Tests compared math scores of grammar school kids in the U.S., Taiwan and Japan.

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Spelke--five "core systems" at the foundation of mathematical reasoning.
  • First, a system for representing small exact numbers of objects — the difference between one, two, and three. (5 mos.)
  • Second, understanding numerical magnitudes — the difference between a set of about ten things and a set of about 20 things.
  • Third, a system of natural number concepts that children construct as they learn verbal counting. This takes place between about the ages of two and a half and four years.

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April 11, 2008

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Fourth and Fifth are systems first seen in children when they navigate: understanding the geometry of the surrounding layout and identifying landmark objects.
  • There is, she notes, a biological foundation to mathematical and scientific reasoning that emerges in children before any formal instruction. These systems develop equally in males and females.
  • “There’s not a hint of an advantage for boys over girls in any of these five basic systems.”

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Are Boys Better at Representing Numbers?

Average performance

High performance

No.

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High performance

Average performance

Are Boys Better at Representing Objects?

No.

(Spelke, LaMont & Lizcano, aggregated data)

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3 year-old children

No male advantage on average or at the highest levels.

Are Boys Better at Learning to Count?

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Map-Reading

Children typically begin to understand map tasks at about 4 years.

Considerable variability in map reading at all ages.

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4 year-old children

No.

Are Boys Better at Map Reading?

Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism

April 11, 2008

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Women’s brains, cognitive skills, motivations, and hormones are deficient.

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Brain Structure

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“men have “systemizing” brains, whereas women have “empathizing” brains”

(Baron-Cohen, 2003, p. 27)

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Brain Structure

– Simon Baron-Cohen, The essential difference: The truth about the male and female brain. New York: Basic Books, 2003.

Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism

April 11, 2008

brain structure
Brain Structure
  • “The brains of men differ from the brains of women in several ways. Men have larger brains with more neurons (even correcting for body size) though women have a larger percentage of grey matter. Since men and women are equally intelligent overall, the significance of these differences is unknown.”

- Steven Pinker

Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism

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Cognitive Skills

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In the experimental group, both male and female college students improved with training on the mental rotation test.However, females showed greater improvement than males, such that the prior gender differences were substantially reduced on the mental rotation task.

Feng, J., Spence, I., & Pratt, J. (2007). Playing an action video reduces gender differences in spatial cognition. Psychological Science, 18(10), 850-855.

Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism

April 11, 2008

implications
IMPLICATIONS
  • Visuospatial skills can be learned, they are neither innate nor immutable.
  • Training with an appropriately designed action-video game could play a significant role as part of a larger strategy designed to interest women in science and engineering careers.

Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism

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All students with low scores on a test of visuospatial ability were encouraged to enroll in a course to improve these skills.

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The gains made by students on these spatial-skills tests as a result of participation in the course were statistically and materially significant.

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Hormonal Differences

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Boys’ higher level of testosterone causes them to strive for dominance, exhibit more aggression and competition.

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Typical testosterone levels by developmental stage and gender (in nanograms per deciliter of blood.)

Goldstein, J. S. (2001). Table 3.1, War and gender: How gender shapes the war system and vice versa. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism

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Testosterone

Testosterone

Social Behavior

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women are not motivated to work long hours
Women are not motivated to work long hours.

Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism

April 11, 2008

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“Given the hours people work, it should come as no surprise that many employees (63 percent) would like to work less. There is no difference in the proportions of men and women who would like to work fewer hours, and both would reduce their current total work week by about 11 hours on average if they could.

Bond, J. T., Galinsky, E., & Swanberg, J. E. (1998). The 1997 national study of the changing workforce (No. W98-01). New York: Families and Work Institute.)

Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism

April 11, 2008

from 1997 to 2007 fewer mothers prefer full time work
From 1997 to 2007Fewer Mothers Prefer Full-time Work

Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism

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“Part-Time Looks Fine To Working Mothers; 60% Prefer It to Full-Time Washington Post, July 12, 2007
  • Work or stay at home? It’s still a quandary; Moms struggle with guilt over their choices. USA Today, October 3, 2007
  • Gap widens in how moms view working USA Today, July 12, 2007
  • The Full-Time Blues The New York Times, July 24, 2007
  • Moms eye part-time jobs to achieve work-life balance The Christian Science Monitor, September 17, 2007

Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism

April 11, 2008

were the conclusions supported by the pew research center study
Were the conclusions supported by the Pew Research Center Study?

Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism

April 11, 2008

sample of mothers
Sample of Mothers

Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism

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Reports of work-hours preferences “are very sensitive to question wording” (p. 620). Some questions “are less than ideal because they do not mention income and may thus encourage respondents to report the number of hours they would work if it had no impact on their incomes (p. 624).

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Considering everything, what would be the ideal situation foryou—working full-time, working part-time, or not working at alloutside the home?

Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism

April 11, 2008

the power of self fulfilling prophecies
The Power of Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism

April 11, 2008

parent child interactions
Parent-Child Interactions
  • Giving Directions
  • Talking about evidence without causal connections
  • Providing explanations about causal connections.

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Crowley, K., Callanan, M. A., Tenenbaum, H. R., & Allen, E. (2001). Parents explain more often to boys than to girls during shared scientific thinking. Psychological Science, 12(3).

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Crowley, K., Callanan, M. A., Tenenbaum, H. R., & Allen, E. (2001). Parents explain more often to boys than to girls during shared scientific thinking. Psychological Science, 12(3).

Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism

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Thus, parents may quite unconsciously, be creating a gender bias in science learning years before their kids ever even see the insides of a science classroom.

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April 11, 2008

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Mothers in particular have a strong and long-lasting influence on career choices for their daughters. For example:

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Bleeker, M. M., & Jacobs, J. E. (2004). Achievement in math and science: Do mothers' beliefs matter 12 years later? Journal of Educational Psychology, 96(1), 13.

Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism

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Thus, to fully understand women’s success in math and science, experiential, cultural, and organizational factors need to be taken into account.

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The legacy and future of feminism is the constant challenging of gender stereotypes that limit opportunities for women and men.

Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism

April 11, 2008

same difference
Same Difference

Rosalind Barnett

and

Caryl Rivers

www.same-diff.com

Conference on the Legacy and Future of Feminism

April 11, 2008