Your daughters can do math (if you believe in them)!


“Cultural or environmental factors, not intellect, are what really limit women’s math achievements.” This according to a study reported on in today’s Boston Globe. Interesting to me to see that the study draws on the achievements of women mathematicians from countries in Eastern Europe. I find the cultural differences with European women around gender roles fascinating – to me, European women seem more confident and less hung up about positions in public life, yet some female Western European colleagues say they feel that working in technology specifically they are far more welcome in the United States. Interestingly, the Globe article quotes the study as noting that “80 percent of the female tenured and junior faculty at the top five US math departments were born in other countries.”

Maybe it’s just that being a foreigner gives you a special status. Maybe if everyone had to live in a foreign country for a few years we’d all be more open minded about who can do what? Easier anyway than trying to live as a member of the other gender. Except that you could live as the other gender online. Is anyone working on having girls and boys role-play the other gender in online gaming? Anyway, I’m digressing. Just nice that there’s some new scholarship confirming what we knew – that women’s brains are just as good for math as men’s.

Occupations related to mathematics
WPA poster, ca. 1938 by trialsanderrors

[cross-posted from Berkman Explores Gender and Technology blog]

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1 Comment

  1. Paul Kawachi

    October 10, 2008 @ 9:42 pm


    You ponder whether anyone is working on having girls and boys role-play…

    Those participants don’t “have to” role-play, I think you could look at the Second Life (R) and other Virtual Worlds statistics of avatar-genders (somewhere near 80% females) and the registered users (somewhere near 75% males) – the figures are guesses based on my past reading, but you probably have more accurate numbers yourself.

    One wonders about the motivations for cross-gender avatar choice, at least I do – with a wide range of possible motivations coming to mind. This may have some bearing on whether to use or not anonymity in online discussions and in surveys. I find no-anonymity works best since it rightly values and honours the input from the individual, and they are more forthright and honest as a consequence.

    The topic – or area – needs further study, and is timely
    Not Anonymous : Paul Kawachi