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The Difference between Male and Female Engineering

  1. Apr 14, 2013 #1

    Do you agree with the description?

    I think the low numbers of women in engineering are purely cultural, nothing really to do with men being more logical than women or whatever. They say men have more logical brains, but I don't think they can know that tbh. Psychiatry is nowhere near being an exact science.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 14, 2013 #2


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    Gender is irrelevant in science and engineering. Individual intelligence, effort, education and encouragement are key elements.
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  4. Apr 14, 2013 #3
    Did you link to the right video?

    Anyway, I agree with the one I got to, which says that women tend to use minimum physical force to get something done while men tend to choose maximum physical force.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  5. Apr 14, 2013 #4
    Lol. Yes. There's more to that 12 second clip than ten minutes of people rambling on and being vain like YouTube is filled with.

    I know it's not stricly engineering though. Should I call it design? (i'm not going to just say toilet locks lol)
  6. Apr 14, 2013 #5
    From what I studied back in high school, there doesn't seem to be any considerable difference. Also, I have seen a lot of women (more than I wanted to count as I really don't care, even though there were more men there were still a good amount of women) in the engineering classes I had to take in prior semesters. Everyone did well in the classes, and some young women did particularly better than males, and males better than females. However, the difference wasn't substantial to draw any notions that, "the female brain must be different."

    If you are to draw such notions about females then you must be logically consistent, to which if you thought more into it, you'd find yourself at contradictory points of view. It should not take much thought to understand this simple experiment in critical thinking.

    I dislike talking about this subject because every time I have been in arguments before, it ends with people taking things out of context and red-herrings that ultimately becomes worthless and a waste of time. I think it is a waste of time to even contemplate. Just look at everyone as an organism like most biologists and decipher which organisms are good, bad, helpful, or unhelpful. This makes it easier at having relations with the opposite sex and other people that are different from you, which just about everyone is different from you, as you are an organism with a different set of DNA. Even the rather face reading of the term "identical twin" is a misnomer.
  7. Apr 14, 2013 #6


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    This has nothing to do with psychiatry. Psychiatry is a branch of medicine that deals with mental disorders.
  8. Apr 14, 2013 #7
    Neuroscience then. They overlap somewhat.
  9. Apr 14, 2013 #8


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    I think you mean psychology. Or any field that deals with gender differences in society. Either way yes this is a cultural phenomenon, and not one that should just be accepted.
  10. Apr 15, 2013 #9
    hmm, I see this statement a lot, but I'm pretty sure it's not true.

    Consider for example personality, as described by something like the jungian types (MBTI). One of the variables deals with decision making, and people that primarily use rationallity for this is labled 'T' (thinking) and people who primarily use emotion is labled 'F' for feeling. Now, it is known that females are 'F' with much higher probability (76% vs. 43% for males, see e.g. http://www.statisticbrain.com/myers-briggs-statistics/), and this is not a cultural thing, your personality is something you're born with.

    The above is just one example of a difference, there are plenty of others, and when you some them all up, men and women do have non-cultural differences, on average.
  11. Apr 15, 2013 #10
    I don't think those Jungian types are considered hard science. Got anything more respectable?
  12. Apr 15, 2013 #11
    a few points:

    1) Well, given the nature of the subject (the complex human mind) it can obviously not be as 'hard' as physics, since we don't know it to 100% yet. However, I was under the impression that it was well established, and in papers one would find people using this or some other test like "the big five" which can be somewhat translated into MBTI.

    2) Even if the definition is not perfect, there are plenty of statistics that show differences, and statistics certainly is 'hard'. The main point of my post was to show that there exists non-cultural difference between men and women, and the statiistics clearly show this (even if it could be argued that what is being measured is not 100% defined, it still show differences!)

    3) I haven't seen anyone else provide 'hard' proof saying the opposite point, that 100% of the perceived differences are cultural. So even if MBTI is not 100% 'hard' it's much better than no facts at all.
  13. Apr 15, 2013 #12
    Amen! Well said indeed.

    Though I think a possible reason for the low numbers in engineering is probably due to a misconception that engineering is all hammers and saws -a profession for bulky unintelligent men. Though (from what I've seen) this certainly isn't true, it still permeates the minds of many.
  14. Apr 15, 2013 #13


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    Zarqon please provide evidence that a) this is mainstream science (I.e. show textbooks and peer-reviewed publications using these classification) and b) that the methodology is sound enough to take into account cultural influences on personality verses biological, specifically to back up this statement:
  15. Apr 15, 2013 #14


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    Ryan, are you trying to tell that all this usual talk about differences - earlier language acquisition by girls (like mentioned here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.2044-835X.2011.02042.x/abstract) and different social skills (sorry, no quick and easy link in English) - has no support in the evidence and is not a main stream in psychology?

    I have a sad feeling that "la petite différence" (vive!) is a victim of a political correctness - we are equal, so we must be identical. Well, it is impossible to deny we are different on the outside, so at least we can claim we are identical inside. IMHO that's throwing a kid with a bathwater - we are different, but it doesn't make us unequal, nor being different makes neither sex better.
  16. Apr 15, 2013 #15


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    No borek I'm not saying that there are not biological differences between men and women but that there is little justification for the idea that personalities are strongly biologically determined to the extent that men on average are better suited to certain industries.

    More often than not this type of thing is just a post-hoc rationalisation for passive (or even overt) sexism and/or cultural influences I.e gender roles.
  17. Apr 15, 2013 #16
    "Can you please provide evidence that a) this is mainstream science (I.e. show textbooks and peer-reviewed publications using these classification) and b) that the methodology is sound enough to take into account cultural influences on personality verses biological, specifically to back up this statement."

  18. Apr 15, 2013 #17
    Ryan's post alerted me to the fact I most certainly misspoke when I used the word "hard". I should have said "mainstream".

    If these Jungian personality types are ever used in mainstream psychology or sociology, it's enough for me. I haven't looked into them, myself, I just I recall a past PF mentor characterizing them as pop psychology. That, though, might have just have been her opinion.
  19. Apr 15, 2013 #18


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    Your right I forgot an IMO there. In my experience this type of reasoning is often used to justify a claim with spurious evidence supporting it. Though quoting my words back at me like this makes little sense given the context :rolleyes:
  20. Apr 15, 2013 #19
    Yeah, in principle you're right, they are not the ones usually used. From what I can tell (though I'm not a professional in psychology either) the personality tests/descriptions known as The Big Five is the most mainstream one. There are correlations between the variables of the the big five and MBTI. The reason I choice MBTI for my example was simply that I had looked into that earlier and already knew the numbers.

    When it comes to the big five however, I found a couple of papers that substantiate my claim of inherent differences, see e.g. [1,2]. They both report statistically significant differences on several personality variables between men and women, down to the p < 0.001 level. The studies were multi-cultural spanning 26 and 55 nations respectively, and one particularly interesting find was that the differences between men and women were consistently greater in countries that were considered more equal and free (i.e. western countries with higher living standards). This suggests that when external factors, such as poor health/education and perhaps oppression, dominate the society then we behave in a way that meets those external limitations. But when we live in a more free and individualistic society without the same restrictions, then the inherent differences are allowed to be revealed (this was the conclusion from the authors of the cited papers), which certainly points to real differences.

    [1] Costa et al, J Pers Soc Psychol. 2001 Aug;81(2):322-31. (link)
    [2] Schmitt et al, J Pers Soc Psychol. 2008 Jan;94(1):168-82 (link)
  21. Apr 15, 2013 #20
    When I worked in the machine shop ( a period of about 9 years) there were no women machinists in any of them. I thought maybe guys were locking them out, but whenever I asked a female if they had been directly or indirectly waved away from shop classes by men, they replied, no, they had simply never had any interest in such messy, oily work. In other words, it seemed to boil down to the fact that women don't like work that will leave their hands in a near permanent state of grime and calloused skin.

    Would you suspect that's merely cultural, or that it's somehow biological, and how would you sort out which? My tentative suspicion is that it's a cross cultural, biological female trait to pay much more attention to personal grooming than men.

    Of course, women can handle machine shop and mechanics perfectly well, as we know from WWII, but to what do we ascribe the fact that they won't voluntarily do it? That it's only something they'll do when they absolutely have to. Cultural or biological? I have no idea how to sort that out.
  22. Apr 15, 2013 #21
    I googled the big five and find the correlations good enough for me.

    Very surprising!
  23. Apr 15, 2013 #22


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    If there aren't major behavioral differences, then one would believe men are
    seriously discriminated-against, given that the ratio of women-to-men in prison is 10-1, e.g:

    This one is never mentioned by feminists. Somehow, a society designed to opress women is imprisoning men at a 10-1 rate.

    This, together with other evidence seems to support the claim that men are usually more willing to be outside of the mainstream than women; distributions of male traits have usually greater
    variability than those of women, so that men are more heavily-represented at both the right- and left-tails : http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog...re-still-be-sex-difference-even-when-there-is.
    Maybe it's testosterone, maybe it's socially-determined, who knows.

    Usually the hard right tries to push nature as a factor ( helps justify the status quo) ,
    while the hard left tries to push nurture ( to argue social determination).
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2013
  24. Apr 15, 2013 #23


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    I second the "didn't link the right video" sentiment. "Male" and "female" is clearly a reference to the orientation of the mechanism, not a reference to who designed it.

    Sorry, ryan, but that's very clearly wrong. Of course you know that biological differences exist, with the physical differences being the most obvious and therefore most accepted [to exist]. Since there are jobs that require physical strength, it is quite fair to say that those jobs are "more suited" to men and vice versa. I'm watching a baseball game right now. There are no female players in it. Why? Because on average they are less suited to be professional baseball players than men.

    Once we accept that reality, it should not be a stretch to accept the other equal reality: men and women have different psychological make-ups. They therefore are differently suited to jobs with different psychological requirements/skills. I have several female friends who are social workers or similar. Their jobs require them to deal with highly emotional situations on a daily basis. They are capable of coming home, crying about it, then (mostly) leaving it behind. Such a job would crush me emotionally. I'm less suited for it than they are. Do I have scientific proof that that's typical? Nothing peer reviewed*, but I would hope that every bit of what I just said is common-knowledge, basic reality: I shouldn't need to provide a reference for my claim that there are no female major league baseball players in the US, for example.

    I agree with Borek that this is just political correctness run amok.

    [edit]*Evidence is plentiful so I might as well take a few seconds to post some, but you have to be careful about what you are looking at. The political correctness I perceive in the issue focuses on the issue of intelligence. Studies abound on the subject of intelligence (consistently saying there is little difference between men and women), but they really need not: intelligence is not the issue and the studies are consistent that there is little difference. Personality is the issue. And differences in personality are very well documented. I link the wiki only because it summarizes and lists a dozen sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_differences_in_human_psychology#Personality_tests
    First linked [meta]study on empathy:
    http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/bul/85/4/845/ [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  25. Apr 15, 2013 #24


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    I haven't seen any evidence that feeling more emotions would necessarily make someone a bad engineer.

    I grew up with seven brothers, I work in a nearly-all-male environment. Males are plenty, plenty emotional. Check out this list:

    http://www.whyagain.com/media/emotions_thoughts.jpg [Broken]

    Among the humans I know well, I cannot say women are more emotional, especially after studying that list. See, there are *way* more emotions than 'sad'.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  26. Apr 15, 2013 #25


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    [edit: It isn't clear to me if you were responding to me specifically or to someone else or just generally.]
    Just so we're clear, I'm not arguing any such thing, nor would it be a good argument to start with even if I believed it, since I'd be arguing that a clear-cut strength could in some contexts be a weakness*. Even if I could, the political correctness of arguing that women are deficient in anything but physical prowess makes rational arguing of any non-physical less-suited-ness difficult. It is much easier to argue women are superior to men for certain jobs due to their superior emotional/personality skills. It is both a more palatable/politically correct stance and, conveniently, more direct.

    But I will ask this: assuming equal interest, given a choice between a field where you are exactly equal to your peers in skills and one where you are significantly inferior to them, which would you gravitate toward?

    *For the record, I believe that non-intellectual considerations are pretty unimportant in engineering which means that men and women would on average be pretty much exactly identically suited for engineering.
    I think you misread. I didn't say that women are more emotional, I said they are better able to deal with emotion. And I said (and sourced) that they are better able to perceive emotion (via non-verbal communication) in others.
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2013
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