Thursday, February 24, 2005

Dr. Summers and the Women

Today this study from the American Institute of Physics argues that the disparity in the numbers between men and women working as university faculty in physics actually begins before college and is not a result as of a lack of innate ability etc. See Mr. Summer's Remarks. on this subject from earlier this year where he implied that women might be to stupid/family oriented/ frail for academia.

(Today's headline award goes to an article on this VERY stale subject Are women cut out to be scientists? Yes we are, Asshole)

But here is a bit of good reporting from the NYT!

Dr. Ivie said the main reason fewer women made it to the top in physics was simply that fewer started at the bottom. At each job level, she said, the fraction of women matched what would be expected for women advancing at the same rate as men. And at top-tier universities, the percentage of female physics professors is low because many current professors earned their Ph.D.'s in the 1970's or earlier, when the field was almost entirely male, and have not yet retired.

Instead, the sex disparity arises earlier in the pipeline, between high school and college. Nearly half of students taking high school physics are girls, but fewer than a quarter of the bachelor's degrees in physics go to women.

So yeah, this seems like a fairly valid conclusion, at least it shows that there is no evidence to support Mr. Summer's claim that the lack of female faculty in physics is due to lack of innate ability or lack of desire to work 80 hours per week.

Unfortunately this study is not valid in all scientific disciplines, which is also mentioned in the NYT.

Dr. Ivie said the situation appeared to be different in at least some other sciences, like chemistry, where women earn a larger percentage of doctoral degrees but leave academia at a higher rate than men.

NYT, you get a gold star.

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