Gender gap in math--sexist/non-sexist factors
Greetings all! I read this interesting article on Skepchick regarding the gender gap in mathematics being largely the consequence of gender inequality: link
I also took the trouble to browse through the referenced article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Unfortunately, I am not able to refer you all to the url.
What was traditionally suspected was a greater variability in male mathematical performance compared with females. The mean scores in aptitude may be the same for men and women. However, because the bell curve for females is more narrow compared with males (ie. greater variability), the gender differences are most striking at the extreme ends of the curve. That is, there is either a greater proportion of males who really suck at math as well as males who are extremely brilliant at math:Darker curve is for males Based on this data, it has been presumed that the greater variability in males is due to innate factors. However, in the article, the gender differences at the extremes disappear among different ethnic groups and in different nations wherein there is more gender equality (eg. Netherlands). What this article does not mention is that the gender differences can also disappear in countries wherein there is sexism. From the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, here are the list of exceptional female students who competed in the International Mathematics Olympiad: Table 3.
Females scoring among top in world in IMO
|Zhuo Chen||People's Rep. of China||12||2008|
|Maria Ilyukhina||Russian Federation||6||2007|
|Livia Alexandrra Ilie||Romania||7||2007|
|Suh Hyun Choi||Rep. of Korea||15||1999|
|Maryam Mirzakhani||Islamic Rep. of Iran||1*||1995|
|Chenchang Zhu||People's Rep. of China||1*||1995|
|Catriona Maclean||United Kingdom||1*||1994|
|Eva Myers||United Kingdom||14||1992|
|Evgenia Malinnikova||USSR||1*,1*,11||1991, 1990, 1989|
|Jun Teng||People's Rep. of China||1*||1987|
|Karin Gröger||German Dem. Rep.||1*||1984|
In countries such as Iran, China and Japan there are few who would argue that those nations have achieved gender equality. I completely agree with the authors that the gender differences in the US are not due to innate factors but sociocultural. Where I disagree is that the sociocultural factors are wholly due to sexism. The authors do not mention the most apparent non-sexist factor that the United States is increasingly a nation that celebrates mediocrity and devalues math and science. In a society that devalues intellect in both genders, women are more likely to suffer when sexism is factored in.