In the fields of mathematics, engineering, and science a gender gap exists. Men still hold the vast majority of professional careers rooted in math and science in industrial countries. In the United States, for example, men account for more than three-quarters of all medical doctors, 90.3 percent of engineers, 75 percent of architects and 95 percent of computer technicians (U.S Department of Labor, 1999). In fact, 99 percent of all prestigious awards in mathematics during the 20th century went to men and 98 % of Nobel Prizes in science to men as well (Lips, 2000). How, as we move into the 21st century does one account for this striking disparity? Are there simply differences in intelligence (i.e. cognitive abilities) between men and women that can account for the fact that men by far outnumber women in professional careers rooted in math and science? Or, are other factors at work, such as psychological conditioning and cultural stereotyping that can explain the gender gap? The purpose of this paper is to briefly explore these questions.
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[...] While hormonal, genetic and psychological variations limit or encourage the development of certain skills and cognitive attitudes in the general population, social environments play the pre-dominant role in professional and academic success. That is to say, the society in which we live creates us. References Benbow, C.P., and Stanley, J.C Sex Differences in Mathematical Reasoning Ability: More Facts. Science 1029-1031. Bleier, Ruth Science and Gender: A Critique of Biology and Its Theories on Women. Teachers College, Columbia University. New York. [...]
[...] Their theories on sex differences in reproductive strategies provide one explanation for the existing gender gap. According to Darwin, a species inadvertently selects the genetic attributes best suited for a given environment, passes them on to their offspring and in consequence progressively weeds out extraneous or undesirable traits. In the case of hominoid development, as well as all species of animals, successful reproductive strategies are central to survival and generational continuity. Let us look at one example of their hypothetical construct. [...]
[...] Boys, on the other hand are taught from a young age that mathematics are very important to their occupational success. This is a type of self-fulfilling prophecy; if societal and educational expectations are different for boys and girls it comes then as no surprise that their performance in certain domains differ. There is also evidence that early childhood play experiences have a substantial impact on the young child's developing intellect. It goes without saying that most parents have more or less a preconceived notion of what it is to be a boy or a girl or of what it is to be masculine or feminine. [...]
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