Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Are Women Being Scared Away From Math, Science, And Engineering Fields?

Are Women Being Scared Away From Math, Science, And Engineering Fields?
Have you ever felt outnumbered? Like there are just not that many people like you around? We’ve all felt outnumbered in one situation or another and walking into a situation in which you sense the possibility of being ostracized or isolated can be quite threatening.

One group that may experience this kind of threat is women who participate in math, science, and engineering (MSE) settings- settings in which the gender ratio is approximately 3 men to every 1 woman

I don't see how there could be much doubt that this is a problem.

However, the explanation may not be entirely that ostracism or isolation alone is threatening. Evolutionary psychology could provide another part of the explanation, because it seems likely that for most of the time humans have been evolving, it actually has been more dangerous for women to participate in groups where men far outnumber them. Sensitivity to sexual harassment is rather likely to be in the genes.

One has to wonder whether men would show the same degree of signs of discomfort in an experiment where groups in which women predominated were shown to the experimental subjects. It's not clear whether this was addressed in the research.

Similar considerations of evolutionary psychology could be a part of the explanation for this finding:

Female Anxiety: Females More Likely To Believe Negative Past Events Predict Future
A new study finds that young girls and women are more likely to believe that negative past events predict future events, compared to boys and men. And that, according to researchers, may help explain why females have more frequent and intense worries, perceive more risk, have greater intolerance for uncertainty, and experience higher rates of anxiety than males.


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