Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Perfect Gender Parity in STEM is Unrealistic As Long As There's A Big Disparity in Math SAT Scores

Government or non-profit studies on gender disparities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields always lament the stubborn, significant and persistent underrepresentation of females, who held only 24% of STEM jobs in 2009.  Amazingly, women held only 24% of STEM jobs in 2000, so it sure seems like a deeply-rooted and entrenched gender imbalance.  

Every study that documents gender disparities for STEM jobs and degree holders: a) tries to explain the gender disparity, and b) looks for ways to increase female participation in STEM fields.   The fact that the female share of STEM jobs hasn't changed one iota between 2000 and 2009 suggests that these studies on female underrepresentation in STEM will be produced on a regular basis for decades to come.  

And while most studies are a little bit more subtle about their long-term goal, this recent report from the Commerce Department make its goal very clear: perfect, statistical gender parity in STEM jobs and college majors.

Well, that's a goal that is clearly unrealistic and unreachable, when you consider the huge gender disparity in mathematical aptitude favoring males, as the chart above shows for the SAT math test.    

Read more here at The Enterprise Blog


At 8/16/2011 11:44 AM, Blogger Buddy R Pacifico said...

The report issued by the Commerce Department is from the Economics and Statistics Administration, Office of Chief Economist. Why is a Chief Economist's office at Commerce concluding that "gender parity" in STEM is a goal? Is social engineering the driver of work at the Chief Economist's office?

At 8/16/2011 12:22 PM, Blogger arbitrage789 said...

Perhaps Dr. Perry should stop being so honest.

Look at what happened to Larry Summers.

At 8/16/2011 1:40 PM, Blogger Benjamin Cole said...

When I go to the auto repair shop, and I see all those girls with fantastic bodies fixing the cars, and getting all grimy, grease-smeared--I think, "See? These girls are being kept out of higher mechanical trades by a glass ceiling. They not only want to fix cars, but to design auto parts and become real mechanical engineers."

At 8/16/2011 1:51 PM, Blogger Bruce Hall said...

The problem is the continued use of SAT scores. Stop using any evaluation of ability and you can dole out jobs as they should be done correctly... politically.

Why is the obvious so difficult to grasp?

At 8/16/2011 2:31 PM, Blogger Jody Wilson said...

Perfect gender parity is unrealistic as long as there are two genders. The flip side is that women tend to outperform men in other areas, and nobody seems to have a problem with that. Vive la différence!

At 8/16/2011 9:48 PM, Blogger Michael E. Marotta said...

This is baloney on several levels.

First, such differences within groups tend to be greater than differences across groups. Picking the groups can be salient or silly: gender, shoe size, religion, virginity...

Second, Natalie Portman has an Erdo"s Number of 7; Danica McKeller has an Erdo"s Number of 4. They both chose careers other than STEM. The point is that large numbers drown our perceptions of individual achievements.

SATs are notorious for finding bright people of no special talent while true geniuses are misidentified as losers. This goes back to The Tyranny of Testing by Banesh Hoffmann (1964; reprinted 2003); and has never been countered.

The prejudice for a STEM paycheck may be a Platonic imposition. Why not look at entrepreneurship as the paradigm for success?

At 8/17/2011 7:06 AM, Blogger George said...

I teach at an engineering university. The fraction of women, including women who are clearly top in their class in their major, keeps going up, these complaints notwithstanding.

And why are some students top-of-class? They are smarter, and they work harder, the latter being more important.

The subtle and not-so-subtle pressures driving women out of academia and ST directions have relaxed in the last half-century, but they surely are not zero at all school yet. In addition, we have created some new ones, though not where I am at the moment, notably senior faculty from other countries where women are indeed kept pregnant, barefoot, and in the kitchen, who cannot cope with women who think they are the equal of men.

At 8/17/2011 8:07 PM, Blogger dlr said...

Oh for shame. What a misleading graph. By starting the graph at 450 instead of zero a difference in test scores of about 6% is made to look like a massively significant difference.

Looks like you got taken in too from the text. A difference of 6% in math scores is unlikely to be the main reason why women are under represented in the sciences and engineering.

At 8/18/2011 12:46 PM, Blogger $9,000,000,000 Write Off said...

I second George. Other developed countries don't exhibit our STEM gender divergence, nor the same distributional results on math tests. Besides, divergence in gender was solemnly declared innate and immutable in law, business, medicine, politics, etc. before proving cultural and dynamic. The same will happen And in STEM during our lifetimes.

Which is not to say the guvment should try and "fix" it, culture changes best on its own. The guvment only reinforces stereotypes by identifying girls as inadequate.

At 8/22/2011 5:23 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

Is social engineering the driver of work at the Chief Economist's office?

Of course it is. The state will steer the social engineering efforts in any way it sees fit. Voters need not bother worrying about it because they are not expected to understand what is good for them.


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