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Recently there has been a lot in the media about how to get more females into studying the sciences, especially physics and mathematics. I have three related questions that I think may help.

  1. Are you a female with tertiary scientific qualifications visiting this site?

  2. Are you a female without any tertiary scientific qualifications visiting this site?

  3. What first gave you an interest in science?

I know there are many males here without any qualifications and on every other science site. They all love to read and answer questions. Some are even helpful with their answers and have learnt a lot by just visiting science sites. I know females love to read and learn too so I am intersted to see how many answer yes to question 2 and what got them to first visit this site.

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migrated from physics.stackexchange.com Jan 20 '14 at 17:40

This question came from our site for active researchers, academics and students of physics.

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    $\begingroup$ Even migrated to meta item (3) is off-topic. Take it up on chat. $\endgroup$ – dmckee Jan 20 '14 at 17:41
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    $\begingroup$ For starters, stop referring to women as females :) $\endgroup$ – lionelbrits Jan 20 '14 at 17:44
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    $\begingroup$ I guess this is a valid question to ask because it is about Physics Stack Exchange, but you're not going to get anything more than (possibly) a few anecdotes. Certainly it's impossible to do a proper survey of the genders of visitors to the site, and we like it that way. $\endgroup$ – David Z Jan 20 '14 at 17:49
  • $\begingroup$ I used the word female to include girls as well as women. It's really the girls we want to take up science. $\endgroup$ – Jitter Jan 20 '14 at 17:51
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    $\begingroup$ Related: freakonomics.com/2013/10/07/… $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Jan 20 '14 at 17:55
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    $\begingroup$ For FSM's sake, man! The question of gender neutrality in the science and what can be done to overcome the history of discrimination and the current state of the "leaky pipeline" have been treated seriously in many, many places. Please don't embarrass us. $\endgroup$ – dmckee Jan 20 '14 at 17:55
  • $\begingroup$ The link also compares football. If game theory can "pick up women" / influence women then surely it could be used to get all sexes into science. $\endgroup$ – Jitter Jan 20 '14 at 17:56
  • $\begingroup$ There is a whole segment of the blogosphere related to the topic. FemaleScienceProfessor doesn't posts as regularly as she did in previous years, but the links from her blog are a treasure trove. $\endgroup$ – dmckee Jan 20 '14 at 17:57
  • $\begingroup$ Question 3 is the most important. If you can see a difference when comparing 1 and 2 then you may find a simple answer to ecouraging someone to take up science. $\endgroup$ – Jitter Jan 20 '14 at 18:21
  • $\begingroup$ Thankyou for all the downvotes. It may help researchers if you could give a reason for your downvotes or any upvotes. eg. using the word female is not diplomatic in your country. It is a stupid question. Any question about women in science is stupid. etc. $\endgroup$ – Jitter Jan 20 '14 at 19:28
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    $\begingroup$ My downvote is because gender is irrelevant when it comes to science. Science needs people who are willing to pursue the evidence to discover facts and not people to fit some arbitrary quota. $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Jan 20 '14 at 19:34
  • $\begingroup$ Yes an arbitary quota is stupid. A quota based on hurdles facing women would be much better if we knew all the hurdles. Do you think women don't have a tendency to pursue evidence and discover facts? $\endgroup$ – Jitter Jan 20 '14 at 19:45
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    $\begingroup$ While I agree that the perceived and (possibly) real gender imbalance on this site are worth exploring, it seems to me you're trying to type while wearing boxing gloves. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Jan 20 '14 at 20:27
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    $\begingroup$ @KyleKanos "females" is OK if we address the other half as "males" , as in "how many males visit this site?" . It also brings out the fact that there exist biological differences which evolved in the species not in order to study physics but in order to ensure its survival. $\endgroup$ – anna v Jan 21 '14 at 4:59
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    $\begingroup$ This question appears to be off-topic because it is about feminist studies. $\endgroup$ – Abhimanyu Pallavi Sudhir Jan 24 '14 at 9:15
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  1. yes

  2. -

  3. Jules Verne at age 8, a good math teacher in highschool and a bad physics teacher so I had to think through his parroted statements.

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  • $\begingroup$ I think it was Verne that did it for me too :D $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Jan 22 '14 at 22:28
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I don't understand how you would believe anyone at all. This is internet dude, an environment for virtual interaction.

What if I say I'm a girl? (Actually, I'm a boy). Now, do you really know "what am I"?

How can you believe anyone's appearance in the internet, especially when you've never seen them in your life? If you're an amateur physicist, you'll be skeptical here. So, the questions (1) & (2) are unreliable.

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This is a pointless question that at best satisfies curiosity, but at worst results in more misguided pressure to "fix" things.

Every person is different. Physical differences are obvious to us all. Clearly there are substantial mental differences too, even if they are usually not as immediately obvious from casual observation.

It should therefore not be any surprise that we can come up with various metrics to classify people into two groups, and that some occupations or disciplines are then comprised laregely of one group. Since the male/female classification covers a number of large differences, it should be expected that there are occupations and disciplines made up largely of one or the other.

What to do about this? Wrong question. The obvious presumption is that this is a natural and expected outcome, so that there is nothing wrong. The burden of proof is with someone claiming there is a problem.

We are all also individuals, and humans in particular have large individual variations that can often have a higher amplitude than broad catagories and trends. For example, let's say that in 8th grade girls on average do better at subject A than boys. This does NOT mean that any one boy will be worse at A than any one girl, only that on a broad average this will be true. This of course should not surprise anyone.

Male and female brains clearly have differences, and it should be expected that there will be subjects one is generally more adept at than the other. This is no different than discovering that those taller than 5½ feet are better at basketball than those shorter. The only difference is that the feature likely to be the cause of this outcome is obvious from casual observation. However, this again does not mean that any one person 5.6 feet tall will be better at basketball than one 5.4 feet tall, only that on average this is likely to be the case.

There is nothing wrong here as long as we don't make the mistake of judging the capabilities of individual people based on which broad catagories they fit in. The important thing to strive for is that all individuals have equal opportunities, not equal outcomes. Unequal outcomes should the expected cause of all of us having unequal abilities. Therefore trying to measure outcome, as this question is doing, is pointless and will only lead to data that is easily misinterpreted. That, in addition with the small sample size and self-selected samples makes any answer here only a anecdote at best.

I have been envolved with trying to augment science and technology education of the K-12 grade students in our town. One of the laments I have heard, predominantly from women but not exclusively so, is that there are not enough girls going into science. The fact that there are less women in science than men is somehow taken as evidence of a problem that needs to be fixed. You may think this is a pointless academic argument, but it's not since real action has been taken as a result. There are two programs I am aware of available to students in our town that aim to address this "problem". One is a take your daughter to work day, and another is a private organization that sponsor a women in science event for girls. In other words, real resources are being expended. And no, there is not a comparable take your son to work day or a men in science event for boys.

Both these programs are run by private organizations that are privately funded, so I agree they have a right to exist and carry out these programs. However, that doesn't make them a good idea or that the overall expenditure of resources is doing some larger good. Once again what we should all be striving for is equal opportunity for all, not trying to skew the opportunities to cause a more equal outcome simply because that is believed to be better somehow. It is meaningless results produced by questions like this that lead to such deliberate unequal opportunities and discrimination. Non-science like this causes real harm (I am hoping we can agree that discrimination is harm).

We all need to be vigilant and vocal against meaningless anecdotes leading to statistics, that masquerade as science, that effect public policy, that eventually cause real harm.

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I'll get the ball rolling, here are my answers.

  1. No

  2. No

  3. Cartoons and supermarionation about space mainly and the Why is it so program. ( The host appealed to me as a child)

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