Source: JSPAC Newletter
Little real evidence is available to indicate that the brains of men and women are “hardwired” differently, yet, perhaps due to lingering stereotypes, women remain underrepresented in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.
Contrary to Common Claims
In her book, Pink Brain, Blue Brain, Lise Eliot writes,
“What I found, after an exhaustive search, was surprisingly little solid evidence of sex differences in children’s brains.”
This appears to run contrary to common claims that women somehow are less adept at STEM, a conclusion that would seem to follow from their marked under-representation in university science and technology programs. Eliot, who is a neuroscience professor, notes, “Only two facts have been reliably proven.” The first is that boys’ brains are larger than girls’ – “somewhere between 8 and 11 percent larger, depending on the study,” which is a difference similar to gender differences in height and weight. The second is the difference that shows up around the onset of puberty: “Girls’ brains finish growing about one to two years earlier than boys’,” she writes. That also mirrors the differences in children’s physical growth—girls enter puberty a year or two before boys do.
Both Science and Women Lose
Both science and women lose when stereotypes “serve as unnecessary gatekeepers” to educational pursuits, writes Cordelia Fine in the book, Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Differences. She points to work by psychologist Catherine Good and others that shows that “a sense of belonging” is an important factor in women’s intentions to continue in the field of math.
“Based on my readings of secondary literature and 60-plus years of observation and experience, I lean hard toward thinking that male-female differences in cognitive ability and style [are] primarily the product of socialization—that is, learned.”