Drop the Physics Requirement to Encourage More Women Engineers?

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  • #76
atyy
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Women push for places on UCL engineering course after it dropped need for physics and maths A-level
https://www.standard.co.uk/news/edu...d-for-physics-and-maths-a-level-10195690.html

Migrants and engineers
The Breakfast Show with Penny Smith and Paul Ross
An emergency meeting with European leaders to discuss how to cut the number of migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean and the number of women taking engineering degrees at UCL has almost tripled after the university dropped the requirement of physics and maths A-level.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02nr8z4#auto


It seems that it is not about lowering standards, rather not constraining choice too early.
 
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  • #77
vela
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Could someone give me an example of how women are mistreated, discriminated against, or treated unfairly in the STEM field?
I know you're not looking for anecdotes, but let me share two with you anyway.

A computer science professor told our class about how she was refused entry to a conference (probably in the late 70s or early 80s) because she was a woman. She was told women don't work with computers, and she'd only be allowed in if her husband, the real computer scientist, accompanied her. (Never mind that the conference registration was in her name.)

A bunch of my engineering classmates took a course on "Communication in the Professional World." It was taught by this one professor, who, it was rumored, automatically gave an A to every woman in his class. Anyway, a few years after we had graduated, I had a chance to talk with one of my female coworkers who took his class. She despised him. He gave the class the task of giving five-minute impromptu talks on topics the professor chose. For all of the guys, he chose technical topics. Her topic: What does she look for in a man?

I'm not arguing against it. I just didn't know this was a thing, and I'm trying to find facts. I tried a google search but all I could find was statistics of men in the field vs women. Trying to find something definitive and non-anecdotal showing that women are treated unfairly.
I doubt you can easily find clearcut evidence of discrimination because it's not typically overt. It's the result of unconscious biases we all have, and it's difficult to identify bias at work.

One related study that comes to mind had to do with hiring for orchestras. Orchestras were predominately male, yet both the men and women didn't think there was any discrimination against women. However, when blind auditions were instituted, the number of women hired went up significantly.

http://gap.hks.harvard.edu/orchestrating-impartiality-impact-“blind”-auditions-female-musicians

I seem to recall hearing about studies regarding hiring in general which found similar effects. A list of qualifications, for example, would be perceived differently if it was attached to names revealing the candidate's gender or ethnicity. It's not that the people doing the hiring were sexist or racist, but unconscious biases affected how they judged an individual.
 
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  • #78
martinbn
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Browsing through some A-level physics textbooks, I would say that it is better if you don't spend two years on that. Studying more maths would be better.
 
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Correctly on what grounds, based on what evidence? EDIT: You refer to a study without a link and then there is no long-term results one can observe, since the study you suggested is a recent one. This is not very strong nor convincing. Ultimately, I don't mean to sound harsh, but, if you do not have a strong conviction and drive in what you are studying or your career, you will likely have trouble making it. Unfortunately most societies are not enlightened to the extent of offering support when one needs it, so it is not realistic to put the emphasis on variables such as peer pressure.
This is a pretty old thread so I'm not quite sure what you're referring to. I think you're referring to my comment that it's known that gender specific classrooms increase performance of girls in math and science. I thought that was well known and I didn't need to link to specific studies. Just go to Google Scholar and type "gender specific classrooms". You'll find more than you have time to read. Generally, girls in gender specific classrooms outperform not only girls in mixed classrooms but outperform everyone in mixed classrooms. I'm a bit surprised this is even being argued.
 
  • #80
radium
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There are some articles, several in Science that show papers with women as first authors get fewer citations, regardless and of the quality of the paper, which is why some women choose to publish with only their initials. There was also a very disturbing study using machine learning to analyze the Econ (also a field where women are very underrepresented) hiring rumors forum.
https://www.insidehighered.com/news...n-be-brutal-place-women-economics-paper-finds
The worst part of it is that this is coming from the younger generation who are supposed to be more enlightened on these issues.
 
  • #81
WWGD
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Physics is not an easy path for anyone but in general women face the additionals hurdles along the way. The way to summarize it would be to say that there is a lack of respect for women in STEM (there is also sexual harassment but that’s another issue). There has been a lot of improvement in many physics departments and those improvements are beginning to show. They often begin when there is a department chair (either gender) who is really dedicated to improving the environment and supporting women. However the effects of gender bias are still a very real problem. One can argue that physics is an inherently aggressive field, and that if women aren’t suited to handle it, they shouldn’t pursue it as a career. However, I would argue that regardless of how it pertains to gender, many aspects of the physics environment are toxic and are preventing good science from being done. So it is would be better for everyone if these things changed.
The research I have seen on harassment and discrimination has been very weak in that, among other things, harassment and discrimination are deemed to have happened if/when women say or believe it has. And even improved research would be too recent to have been replicated often -enough to have been considered established. And I have trouble with claims of bias on many grounds , including that I who have lived a reasonably random/rep life, have never seen it happen. I know many women who have careers as professionals of different sorts without having had any special support given to them. Again, if you decide not to take on a difficult path such as a graduate science degree based largely on the grounds of (supposed) bias or peer pressure, then you likely don't have it in you to undertake the grueling effort required. But, I do agree that one of the factors is that women are more reasonable , healthier emotionally, in the sense they seek to have a balanced life not entirely devoted to work, while men are willing to , unhealthily, devote their lives to their works, paying a high price in many regards. But this is in part the result of societal pressures whereby a man is appreciated as a function of being a good worker/provider. It seem many in the Feminist movement believe the hardships women go through do not have a parallel in what men go through. I have never bought into the white straight privilege they so often bring up. EDIT: Ultimately women are just not entering into IT-related careers in high-enough numbers. Just how do you expect anything close to a 50-50 ratio when only , e.g., around 8% of Physics, EE, etc. degrees are pursued by women? Women have it better in many regards than men, they just never bring these up. I have never heard them complain, e.g., about the fact that women are earning some 60% of college degrees nowadays.
 
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  • #82
WWGD
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This is a pretty old thread so I'm not quite sure what you're referring to. I think you're referring to my comment that it's known that gender specific classrooms increase performance of girls in math and science. I thought that was well known and I didn't need to link to specific studies. Just go to Google Scholar and type "gender specific classrooms". You'll find more than you have time to read. Generally, girls in gender specific classrooms outperform not only girls in mixed classrooms but outperform everyone in mixed classrooms. I'm a bit surprised this is even being argued.
Not what I found in my search, e.g, for a collection of studies : https://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/eval/other/single-sex/single-sex.pdf
 
  • #83
anorlunda
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I'm reading this incredulous article where the new president of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (which, I presume, is in the UK) is calling for universities in the UK to drop the requirement for Physics A-Level to encourage more women to enter the field of engineering. Her argument was that due to the "... initial male bias in physics lessons...", women are less inclined to take physics at the A-Level and thus, will not be able to pursue an engineering degree when they go to college.
I read the article, yet the premise is still unclear. Is the proposal to lower the bar for entrance requirements? or to lower the bar for college graduation requirements? A third alternative would be to lower entrance requirements, hold fast on graduation requirements, and increase the flunk out rate. A fourth would be to lower entrance requirements, but to have students make up the missing pieces before graduation.


I also note that it is not just physics. The article talks about dropping both math and physics for all students male or female.
The president drew attention to initiatives at University College London (UCL) and respected engineering company Dyson, where requirements for all undergraduate applicants to have studied maths or physics at A-Level have been removed. Both organisations have seen increases in the number of women studying and succeeding, and she suggested others should consider following suit.
 
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  • #84
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It seems that it is not about lowering standards, rather not constraining choice too early.
Exactly.

Regarding bias etc - yes it exists but measures are being taken to curb it. I have seen it change a lot in my working life from the days when married women were not allowed to take clerical jobs in the government to the person in charge of my department was a woman. There is a bit of a way to go yet - it may still take a bit of time - but it will happen.

Even now studies about the pay gap between men and women have shown - when things like temporarily leaving the workforce to have children etc (yes of course men can do that too - but predominantly women CHOOSE to do it) are taken into account the pay gap is actually quite small. Not zero - which should be the aim - but so small I don't think its near the top of the issues women now face in the workplace.

Thanks
Bill.
 
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  • #85
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Could someone give me an example of how women are mistreated, discriminated against, or treated unfairly in the STEM field?
It's more cultural as seen by the fact in some parts of STEM like engineering and physics there are more men than women - in other parts like Biology and Psychology its the other way around. Sorting out the exact reason for that is the answer. I conjecture its a cultural bias women have against math so they gravitate to fields perceived as being 'math lite'. That is set to change in the future - all areas will be drastically changed by AI which requires good math/computing skills to understand. And yes you need to understand it - not just press buttons - its always an advantage knowing whats going on behind the scenes..

Women - or anybody actually, will not be able to escape it - but I believe women are equally adept and math/computing as men - its not related to studies that have shown boys tend to gravitate towards male type toys and girls female type toys when young (that's likely genetic) - math really is gender neutral.

Thanks
Bill
 
  • #86
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The article talks about dropping both math and physics for all students male or female.
That's true - however its another issue.

You forgot the alternative I have been suggesting.

Don't worry about it until undergrad where you can take the prerequisites necessary for the career you want and do that study post-grad. By that time you are much more mature and can make better decisions.

It was noticed in the medical field. What happened is if you got the marks to do medicine then it was more or less expected that's what you do rather that its what you choose to do because it's what appeals to you. To fix that issue medicine in Aus is now basically a post-grad degree - a few still exist where its undergrad but they are rare.

Thanks
Bill
 
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  • #87
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Although I am a geologist, I did some engineering courses as "subsidiary subjects" as part of my degrees, in the UK
(BSc, PhD; later a BMath in Canada)
. But that was over 50 years ago, and at a time when fewer kids went to university. The engineering departments, then, dropped about 25% of the students every year, even though all had high school preparation in maths, physics, and chemistry that was equivalent to first year in many North American universities. Much of my lengthy professional life has been spent in what may be considered engineering and I have hired and worked with many engineers, many of them female and in no way have found any of the latter to be inferior to males. There is no question that adequate preparation is needed for engineering and it is great if this could be done at high school level but if this is not the case, it does not shut the door. I did Maths, Physics and Chemistry at school (I admit, I was a nerd, although I don't think the word had been invented then. but my interests have broadened since!), but the University of Birmingham in the UK had a year long pre-science/engineering program for those who did not have adequate preparation for those areas; more than one of my contemporaries (background in things such as history, Latin, English Lit., etc.) followed this transition to very successful careers in engineering and science.
I would enthusiastically encourage girls to become engineers (or scientists - what could be more interesting or rewarding?); otherwise, our society wastes half its potential! So the real question is how do we attract bright girls (boys, too) into the really interesting areas of science and engineering? Then, provide adequate preparation if they have not got this at school.
 
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  • #88
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I would enthusiastically encourage girls to become engineers (or scientists - what could be more interesting or rewarding?); otherwise, our society wastes half its potential! So the real question is how do we attract bright girls (boys, too) into the really interesting areas of science and engineering? Then, provide adequate preparation if they have not got this at school.
Well said.

Of course when I say in Australia we are moving to engineering being a 3 year Masters after your initial degree, with you just needing the usual first year math and science preparation eg Calc 1, 2, 3 + Linear Algebra in the US system, and a related science eg the typical first year physics sequence for Mechanical Engineering. While it can be fitted into just about any degree, that does not mean better prepared students are not catered for - by doing some engineering subjects undergrad that will allow a reduction of one year in the masters so all up it takes 5 years instead of 6. This partly is in the choice of undergrad degree - in some it's easy - in others difficult - but not impossible. I mentioned actuarial science and systems engineering would be an excellent combination (strangely systems engineering isn't offered that much here is Aus - don't know why). You have no worry with math requirements for Actuarial Science graduates - but fitting the science requirements in can be an issue - it can be done but requires good preparation on the students part without detailing what that would be.

Thanks
Bill
 
  • #89
HAYAO
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At least the new president makes it easier for both men and women.

In Japan, we have "women only" and "women priority" academic posts, even though female:male student ratio is typically 1:9 in science department and engineering department. It makes it quite hard for men students and postdocs to apply for a position, whereas it is much much easier for women.

So much for gender equality.
 
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  • #90
WWGD
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At least the new president makes it easier for both men and women.

In Japan, we have "women only" and "women priority" academic posts, even though female:male student ratio is typically 1:9 in science department and engineering department. It makes it quite hard for men students and postdocs to apply for a position, whereas it is much much easier for women.

So much for gender equality.
Ditto here, where in my school they had open spots reserved for women with all sorts of benefits: personalized tutoring/mentoring, funding among others and yet there were barely any takers. And then somehow this is the result of discrimination. Women have been overall much more effective at selling their brand than man have, one barely hears anything on men's issues despite much higher dropout , suicide, incarceration rates, women obtaining some 60% of college degrees, etc..
 
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Ditto here, where in my school they had open spots reserved for women with all sorts of benefits: personalized tutoring/mentoring, funding among others and yet there were barely any takers. And then somehow this is the result of discrimination. Women have been overall much more effective at selling their brand than man have, one barely hears anything on men's issues despite much higher dropout , suicide, incarceration rates, women obtaining some 60% of college degrees, etc..
Same here. It is so frustrating to see women and minority groups play "victim card" even after getting these special quotas.
 
  • #92
WWGD
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Same here. It is so frustrating to see women and minority groups play "victim card" even after getting these special quotas. It is crime being a normal male in modern society.
I think there may be some groups that really deserve it to redress previous injustices, like maybe Native tribes and Blacks in the U.S. But now with the quotas, I don't see what else to complain about. Inequality did exist but now it does not seem so pronounced, if at all. EDIT: But I grant you that many males who never beneffited are punished now by these quotas.
 
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  • #93
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I think there may be some groups that really deserve it to redress previous injustices, like maybe Native tribes and Blacks in the U.S. But now with the quotas, I don't see what else to complain about. Inequality did exist but now it does not seem so pronounced, if at all.
Yes I agree, those who deserve should definitely get quotas, like people from minority groups who are poor and can't afford proper education. I am fine with 100 more quotas if they go to people who deserve it. The problem is when people who can afford proper education get these special benefits.
Promoting equality for one group by discriminating against another is what these quotas are all about.
 
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  • #95
WWGD
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Not sure what you mean. That mega study pretty much says what I said was known.
"As in previous reviews, the results are equivocal. There is some support for the premise
that single-sex schooling can be helpful, especially for certain outcomes related to academic
achievement and more positive academic aspirations. For many outcomes, there is no evidence
of either benefit or harm. There is limited suppo
rt for the view that single-sex schooling may be
harmful or that coeducational schooli
ng is more beneficial for students."
I thought your position was that SS schools were beneficial overall.
 
  • #96
PAllen
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"As in previous reviews, the results are equivocal. There is some support for the premise
that single-sex schooling can be helpful, especially for certain outcomes related to academic
achievement and more positive academic aspirations. For many outcomes, there is no evidence
of either benefit or harm. There is limited suppo
rt for the view that single-sex schooling may be
harmful or that coeducational schooli
ng is more beneficial for students."
I thought your position was that SS schools were beneficial overall.
Note, this meta review excluded all studies of single sex classes in coed schools, and as a result had confounding issues due to many of the single sex schools being religious in nature, so academics was not necessarily the first priority.
 
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I thought your position was that SS schools were beneficial overall.
No, the topic is secondary math and science. I'm not qualified to make other judgments.
 
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I dont think this would be a good idea. Intro physics 1 and 2 (Newtonian and E&M Without calculus) are fairly stripped down versions of the actual courses. They are there for the development of critical thinking skills and how to approach physical problems. If you can't pass those two and subsequently calculus 1 and 2, you should consider other majors. Male or female. Now, I do approve of the extra help given to those women who decide to major in engineering. It's a field that could use some diversity, and that diversity can breed new ideas which could help solve some of the world's biggest problems.
 
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  • #99
radium
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In regards to the comments about quotas, I think the problem is that the presence (or speculation) of quotas gives the false impression that sexism is not a real problem, when it in fact effects almost every female scientist at some point in her career. They are in many ways a superficial fix to a very complicated problem and may even do more harm than good.
 
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