Being female in physics is ridiculous.

  • Thread starter Dishsoap
  • Start date
  • #51
jgens
Gold Member
1,583
50
Please, have you investigated that further before making that bold claim that it must be discrimination?

Depends on what counts as investigation. If you mean a scientific study on this exact situation or something of that nature, then of course not. But if that were your criteria, then you would also need to give up on the notion that affirmative action is definitely discriminatory against males. So what exactly constitutes "further investigation" here?

Where did I say men will always be overrepresented in sciences?

In post #27 you wrote "healthcare will always have more women and engineering-related courses will have more men." Perhaps you genuinely meant to restrict your statement solely to engineering and not more generally the sciences. In that case I do apologize for putting words in your mouth, but the sentiment still stands. So perhaps I should have written instead:

On the other hand, you did claim that men will always be overrepresented in engineering and I am asking for justification for that opinion. As of yet it has not been delivered. Unless you count some possibly misogynistic grumblings about feminism of course.

Is that better?
 
  • #52
455
11
Please, have you investigated that further before making that bold claim that it must be discrimination?
Think logically. Less than 2 generations ago there has been discrimination without a shadow of a doubt. Given that we know this effect was present 2 generations ago isnt it safe to assume it is still there until the data proves otherwise. This is especially true given how the indirect data like wages and employment rates are highly suggestive of it still being present in a less direct way.

If threw a dirty shirt in the hamper I wouldnt assume a month later that it is clean. You would assume it is in the state you left it (dirty) until it has been proven otherwise.
 
  • #53
Monique
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
4,161
64
You didn't provide any evidence of such discrimination, the ratio not being close to 1:1 isn't evidence of discrimination.

Why should it be the case that every job should be balanced between men and women? The only thing that justifies it is an ideology, that says men and women should be equal in everything, an ideology that is spread by the feminist movement. Unfortunately that's not how reality is, you can't force reality to fit to your ideology of how things should be, that's just childish.

There are social studies show that gender discrimination does still exist, there have been several threads on this in the social sciences subforum.
 
  • #54
35,505
11,958
No part of my argument is predicated on this claim. If you actually read the post I directed you towards (so hard right), instead of just pretending you know what it says, then you would already know this. Roughly 25% of math PhDs are women yet looking at schools like Harvard and UChicago reveals that fewer than 7% of senior faculty are women. To me that speaks to discrimination.
First, there are many reasons for this difference. Discrimination is one of them, but you can't just point to any difference and say "difference => discrimination!".

Second, don't forget time as an influence. We all agree that discrimination was significant in the past, and most current senior positions are occupied by people who got their PhDs some decades ago. What was the fraction of female PhDs back then?

Unfortunately reality is not this mystical fairy tail land where women in the STEM fields face no discrimination either. Pretending that is the case is simply ignorant.
The same is true for the other direction. What do we learn from that?
 
  • #55
jgens
Gold Member
1,583
50
First, there are many reasons for this difference. Discrimination is one of them, but you can't just point to any difference and say "difference => discrimination!".

I agree with this. Which is why I did ask Tosh what was meant about "further investigation" because that is a legitimate question.

Second, don't forget time as an influence. We all agree that discrimination was significant in the past, and most current senior positions are occupied by people who got their PhDs some decades ago. What was the fraction of female PhDs back then?

I agree with this to a point. Both the schools I mentioned (Chicago and Harvard) turn over faculty quite quickly. In post #29 I estimated that roughly 50-75% of senior faculty at Chicago were hired in the last 10-15 years and that number completely ignores faculty that came and went during that time period. So they have ample hiring opportunity and bring in young talent for senior faculty positions with some frequency, yet only extraordinarily rarely are they women. As mentioned in one of my previous posts, the process for hiring new professors is no doubt complicated and there might not even be active discrimination against women here, but if the process itself disproportionately selects for qualified male candidates instead of qualified female candidates, then that is de facto discrimination.

The same is true for the other direction. What do we learn from that?

Reading back to post #28, for example, one can see I am obviously in agreement. There is a difference (to my knowledge) between discrimination men and women in STEM fields however. Whatever discrimination men face is usually artificial or, in other words, the result of affirmative action policies. Discrimination against women in these fields is more societally ingrained. There are social barriers women face even entering the fields and there are barriers in getting recognition and getting hired (whether by prejudice or flaw of process). Again which of these is worse probably depends largely on your perspective, but pretending discrimination is completely absent is ludicrous.

Edit: I am honestly disinterested in having this argument. Obviously Tosh and mfb should counter if they disagree with my points, just expect no response.
 
Last edited:
  • #56
212
30
On the other hand, you did claim that men will always be overrepresented in engineering and I am asking for justification for that opinion. As of yet it has not been delivered. Unless you count some possibly misogynistic grumblings about feminism of course.

Let me try to answer that.

We know from statistics on personality types that there are clear differences in the personality type between men and women (note: large individual difference within each gender exists, but that does not prevent also average differences between genders from being present).

A good example is the 'T' variable in MBTI, i.e. a rational thinker type of person, which we know is a type that is heavily overrepresented in technical sciences like engineering/physics/mathematics. Statistics show that among men there are twice as many T as for women (see here for example).

This clearly explain why there would be an expected gender difference in the technical sciences even in a perfectly gender-unbiased society.
 
  • #57
130
28
Let me try to answer that.

We know from statistics on personality types that there are clear differences in the personality type between men and women (note: large individual difference within each gender exists, but that does not prevent also average differences between genders from being present).

A good example is the 'T' variable in MBTI, i.e. a rational thinker type of person, which we know is a type that is heavily overrepresented in technical sciences like engineering/physics/mathematics. Statistics show that among men there are twice as many T as for women (see here for example).

This clearly explain why there would be an expected gender difference in the technical sciences even in a perfectly gender-unbiased society.

Exactly.

Think logically. Less than 2 generations ago there has been discrimination without a shadow of a doubt. Given that we know this effect was present 2 generations ago isnt it safe to assume it is still there until the data proves otherwise. This is especially true given how the indirect data like wages and employment rates are highly suggestive of it still being present in a less direct way.

If threw a dirty shirt in the hamper I wouldnt assume a month later that it is clean. You would assume it is in the state you left it (dirty) until it has been proven otherwise.

You can't expect the ratios being close to 1:1 to say: Ok, there isn't discrimination anymore. You can wait and wait for that to happen in engineering and healthcare :smile:
 
  • #58
ZapperZ
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
Insights Author
35,977
4,679
I have hesitated in participating in this thread, mainly because this topic HAS been discussed already a number of times. See, this one, for example

https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=700359

First of all, let's be clear about a couple of things:

1. No one is advocating a 1:1 ratio of women to men in science/physics. In many of the issues I've read regarding women in science, I can't ever remember reading that this was the goal!

2. No one is arguing that men and women are the same! In fact, I would like to insist that, in many aspect beyond physiology, women and men SHOULD be different! This is not a bad thing, and in fact, it is a GOOD thing. If large groups of scientists from different parts of the world with different cultures, religions, social norms, etc. can work together and present various idea from different points of views, then having men and women who are different from each other is a strength! No one is trying to assimilate one into the other!

3. There aren't that many obvious, blatant discrimination anymore in many parts, and certainly, in the US and in many Western world, it is illegal to blatantly prevent a woman moving up the ladder in science just because she is a woman.

Now, having said all that, there ARE issues in the way science is done that hinders the progress and participation of women. These are not done on purpose, nor even done consciously. Since the practice of science and how it is done have been done throughout history by men, the system in place never accounts for the issues faced by women. In the link I gave above about a previous thread on this topic, there are several issues faced by women that are unique to them that aren't usually the burden of men in general.

One such example is family obligation. While this may not be that big of an issue in, say the US, women scientists in other parts of the world are faced with the social obligation of raising a family, regardless of her standing in the scientific world. A man can just pick up and go to attend a conference, a woman can't do that that easily. Still, if you read the account giving in the links in my post, you'll see that even women here in the US continue to feel that family obligation, that they do not have the same freedom as men to simply pick up and spend, say, 2 weeks at CERN during a run.

Not being able to do all these, or not being able to do these as often, can have an affect on one's scientific career. Again, these are not something that are consciously done to prevent women from going further in science. It is just part of an established system that never had to consider the needs of women before. And recognizing that is the first step in trying to remedy the situation.

I'm not in the mood to force someone into science or to shove someone in who doesn't belong. However, I also feel that it is a shame if talented people, be it men or women, don't go into science, and especially physics, just because of other extraneous circumstances. It is especially sad if they are driven away simply because we didn't recognize the barriers we unconsciously put in front of them. It is a waste of potential talent!

To read my opinion about one of the latest statistical analysis of women faculty members done by the AIP, go here.

Zz.
 
  • #59
jgens
Gold Member
1,583
50
I swore off participating further, but this example is so silly.

A good example is the 'T' variable in MBTI, i.e. a rational thinker type of person, which we know is a type that is heavily overrepresented in technical sciences like engineering/physics/mathematics.
Statistics show that among men there are twice as many T as for women (see here for example).

The first problem with the MBTI test is that "types" are roughly normally distributed i.e. they bunch up around the middle. So while the peak for men on the Feeling/Thinking scale is skewed more towards the "Thinking" end than for women, the sheer breakdown between number of men with the "Thinking" trait and number of women with the "Thinking" trait exacerbates the real difference.

The second issue here is that men and women are socialized to think about themselves differently. Since the test depends wholly on self-perception, and since women on the whole are societally taught they are less rational and more emotional (while men are taught the opposite), my concern is that the existing difference on the Feeling/Thinking scale is more a product of the status quo than an intrinsic personality difference.

This clearly explain why there would be an expected gender difference in the technical sciences even in a perfectly gender-unbiased society.

This is not so clear in my opinion. Certainly there are genuine personality differences between men and women (on average), but whether this particular test is good at detecting them is genuinely dubious.
 
  • #60
455
11
I have hesitated in participating in this thread, mainly because this topic HAS been discussed already a number of times. See, this one, for example

https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=700359

First of all, let's be clear about a couple of things:

1. No one is advocating a 1:1 ratio of women to men in science/physics. In many of the issues I've read regarding women in science, I can't ever remember reading that this was the goal!

2. No one is arguing that men and women are the same! In fact, I would like to insist that, in many aspect beyond physiology, women and men SHOULD be different! This is not a bad thing, and in fact, it is a GOOD thing. If large groups of scientists from different parts of the world with different cultures, religions, social norms, etc. can work together and present various idea from different points of views, then having men and women who are different from each other is a strength! No one is trying to assimilate one into the other!

Agree especially with these 2 points
 
  • #61
StatGuy2000
Education Advisor
1,844
927
I swore off participating further, but this example is so silly.



The first problem with the MBTI test is that "types" are roughly normally distributed i.e. they bunch up around the middle. So while the peak for men on the Feeling/Thinking scale is skewed more towards the "Thinking" end than for women, the sheer breakdown between number of men with the "Thinking" trait and number of women with the "Thinking" trait exacerbates the real difference.

The second issue here is that men and women are socialized to think about themselves differently. Since the test depends wholly on self-perception, and since women on the whole are societally taught they are less rational and more emotional (while men are taught the opposite), my concern is that the existing difference on the Feeling/Thinking scale is more a product of the status quo than an intrinsic personality difference.



This is not so clear in my opinion. Certainly there are genuine personality differences between men and women (on average), but whether this particular test is good at detecting them is genuinely dubious.

I completely agree with all of the points raised by jgens. It is indeed true that the "types" as defined in the MBTI psychometric test are roughly normally distributed so you would expect to see considerable overlap between men and women on the different "types".

Further, tests based on self-perception as above are frequently subject to bias (in this case due to cultural norms), and thus validity and reliability of the test in detecting personality differences may well be suspect.
 
  • #62
ZapperZ
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
Insights Author
35,977
4,679
This latest study examines the differences that led some women to choose one area of physical science over another, especially in comparison on why certain women will choose chemistry over physics, for example.

http://prst-per.aps.org/abstract/PRSTPER/v10/i1/e010104

The paper should be available for free.

Zz.
 
  • #63
AlephZero
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
7,002
293
From ZZ's study, above:

Results indicate that females who have negative undergraduate chemistry experiences as well as higher grades and positive experiences in undergraduate physics are more likely to pursue a career in physics as opposed to chemistry.
Well, who would have guessed that? [/IRONY]

And why would you expect males to behave any differently (unless males make irrational decisions, of course).
 
  • #64
D H
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Insights Author
15,415
686
(unless males make irrational decisions, of course).
Of course not!

There's even a show on MTV dedicated almost exclusively to the entirely rational decisions made by teenage boys and young adult men. "Could something bad result if I jumped off this building? Who cares? YOLO!" You don't see many females on that show making such perfectly rational decisions.

[/sarcasm]
 
  • #66
Pythagorean
Gold Member
4,291
276
Interestingly, that article points out that the alleged tendency for women to not take risks is not biological, but a product of nurture. I perceive that as support of the idea that it's a man's world and we would need policy (or some other major social game changer) if the goal is to overcome the impedance to success for women.

On the other hand, I think a bigger impedance to people's success and ability to take risk is poverty. A woman born into a rich family has many more opportunities than a man born into poverty and can take many more risks exploring those opportunities.
 
  • #67
455
11
There is one factor that probably impedes women's success more than any other - not just in science, but, in most career paths - and that is risk aversion. See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/...y-risk-taking-leads-to-success_n_3749425.html for discussion. Incidentally, the article was written by a woman.

I am assuming you have taken a science course given that you are on this forum and appeal to your scientific sensibilities in pointing out that that article is an op-ed piece with no data outside of a few anecdotes from some female CEO's except for the the beginning of the second paragraph which contradicts your bolded statement.

But the idea that women are biologically risk-averse is a myth.

which link to these articles which claim that women dont take less risk than men especially when you account for leverage on that risk.
http://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2012/11/why-women-dont-take-risks-with-their-money/265224/
http://www.simmons.edu/overview/about/news/press/820.php

The huffinton post article seems to not do a great job of describing the articles it links which means that it is a good idea to actually read the articles or study it links to.
 
  • #68
455
11
From ZZ's study, above:


Well, who would have guessed that? [/IRONY]

And why would you expect males to behave any differently (unless males make irrational decisions, of course).

Agree that paper isnt that insightful since their conclusion applies to anyone. They should of done the same thing for males and then compared but likely it would be the same thing so they wouldnt have much of a paper.
 
  • #69
Chronos
Science Advisor
Gold Member
11,429
742
I never said women were biologically risk aversive, so where is the perceived contradiction?
 
  • #70
157
1
First of all, let's be clear about a couple of things:

1. No one is advocating a 1:1 ratio of women to men in science/physics. In many of the issues I've read regarding women in science, I can't ever remember reading that this was the goal!

2. No one is arguing that men and women are the same! In fact, I would like to insist that, in many aspect beyond physiology, women and men SHOULD be different! This is not a bad thing, and in fact, it is a GOOD thing. If large groups of scientists from different parts of the world with different cultures, religions, social norms, etc. can work together and present various idea from different points of views, then having men and women who are different from each other is a strength! No one is trying to assimilate one into the other!

Do people actually agree with this or is this just your opinion? Maybe this is because I am from Canada and as a result of the political atmosphere in Canada, this is exactly what I hear people advocate. More than once, I've heard that the only difference between men and women are their genitals. I tell them that this isn't scientifically true and I get called sexist. Admittedly, it probably is my cognitive bias that makes me focus on the idiots.
 
  • #71
ZapperZ
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
Insights Author
35,977
4,679
Do people actually agree with this or is this just your opinion? Maybe this is because I am from Canada and as a result of the political atmosphere in Canada, this is exactly what I hear people advocate. More than once, I've heard that the only difference between men and women are their genitals. I tell them that this isn't scientifically true and I get called sexist. Admittedly, it probably is my cognitive bias that makes me focus on the idiots.

I do not pay attention to talking heads and politicians. I pay attention to scholarly articles. So THOSE are what I refer to when I said that I have never heard or read any assertion that we have to have 1:1 male:female ratio on science. There's nothing to indicate that this is what the goal is. You are welcome to browse various journals and point out to me if this is false.

I have participated in many outreach programs, activities, and panel discussion on women in science. So I'm not just some Joe Schmoe off the street who simply has an uneducated opinion about this and decided to spew things off the top of my head.

Zz.
 
  • #72
1,254
106
What ratio is the goal?

Or, what metric do we use to conclude we are "done" actively trying to allow or push women into science?

Certainly the ratio was the big thing that was always harped on to us when I was in school.
 
  • #73
ZapperZ
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
Insights Author
35,977
4,679
What ratio is the goal?

I wouldn't know.

Or, what metric do we use to conclude we are "done" actively trying to allow or push women into science?

Certainly the ratio was the big thing that was always harped on to us when I was in school.

You were told that in school? Whatever for, and whatever could you have done?

In many studies, the performance of girls and boys in science are almost even, up to the beginning of college. this is not simply in the number of boys and girls in physics, but also in their ability to do physics. What most most who study this issue is concerned about is, what happened to cause a sharp drop-off by the end of the students' undergraduate years, and into graduate school, and why many women gave up their careers as physicists.

In other words, at least from my perspective, and from most of the effort that I've put into this, it is the issue of RETENTION. It is why I pointed out the issue of women having MORE pressures put on them in terms of leaving their families to be able to attend conferences, spend weeks at an experiment, etc.. etc. This is a HUGE issue in developing world where the role of women is still predominantly as the primary caregiver of the family. To me, if you cannot retain these girls that had originally selected to go into physics, then efforts to encourage more to study this field will be useless, because there's a good chance they'll leave the field before making it as a career.

Zz.
 
  • #74
1,254
106
Yes, I was told that in both undergrad and grad school. I don't know what I could have done. That's why I said it was ridiculous and offensive in the second reply.

If retention is the issue, why does physics have a worse ratio than most other sciences? Most people, male or female, get pressured out of science at some point in their studies/career. The ratio of females to males not in or never in science is almost unity.

Beyond this, I'm not sure these women would in fact be better served if they did spend more time in the lab and less time with their family. To what end is having some unknown higher ratio of women in science a means? Is it for the benefit of them, is it for the benefit of society or is it simply an end unto itself?

I suppose the flip side could also be true. Many men could benefit from not having pressure to have a high flying career and would be better served interacting with their family than working on a career.
 
  • #75
ZapperZ
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
Insights Author
35,977
4,679
If retention is the issue, why does physics have a worse ratio than most other sciences? Most people, male or female, get pressured out of science at some point in their studies/career. The ratio of females to males not in or never in science is almost unity.

But this is what people are trying to find out. There have been a few studies on this, trying to figure out at what point women abandon this field. From what I have read, it happens at different times and different stages. Why this is more severe in physics is what we are still trying to figure out. There are no easy answers, and I suspect, there aren't going to be any easy solutions either.

Beyond this, I'm not sure these women would in fact be better served if they did spend more time in the lab and less time with their family. To what end is having some unknown higher ratio of women in science a means? Is it for the benefit of them, is it for the benefit of society or is it simply an end unto itself?

It's a matter of opportunity and letting someone fulfill his/her potential. If someone decides that something isn't for them, then that's fine. However, if someone abandons something RELUCTANTLY, due to external pressures, then we need to figure out what they are, and whether something could be done. This is what most studies are trying to discover. Is there something INHERENT in the system that discourages, even unintentionally, women from continuing in physics?

http://scitation.aip.org/content/aip/magazine/physicstoday/article/65/2/10.1063/PT.3.1439 [Broken]

We simply can't just wash our hands in face of such staggering statistics on something like this. And I'm not one who will back anything and everything that seem to show an apparent disparity in the number of women versus men in physics (read my blog entry that I highlighted earlier). The responsible thing is to figure out if there is something we can do to change this, to retain a larger number of female students who had already shown interest in pursuing a career in physics.

Zz.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Related Threads on Being female in physics is ridiculous.

  • Last Post
Replies
20
Views
3K
Replies
45
Views
6K
  • Last Post
2
Replies
44
Views
5K
  • Last Post
Replies
11
Views
2K
  • Last Post
2
Replies
44
Views
4K
  • Last Post
3
Replies
67
Views
8K
  • Last Post
Replies
6
Views
1K
Replies
23
Views
4K
  • Last Post
2
Replies
26
Views
4K
Top