Gründe für Geschlechterunterschiede in STEM: Nivellierung des Spielfelds vs. Angleichung des Geschlechterverhältnisses (Teil 6)

Eine interessante Studie bespricht eine Vielzahl von Gründen, warum sich Geschlechterunterschiede im STEM-Bereich ergeben.

It is a well-known and widely lamented fact that men outnumber women in a number of fields in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths). The most commonly discussed explanations for the gender gaps are discrimination and socialization, and the most common policy prescriptions target those ostensible causes. However, a great deal of evidence in the behavioural sciences suggests that discrimination and socialization are only part of the story. The purpose of this paper is to highlight other aspects of the story: aspects that are commonly overlooked or downplayed. More precisely, the paper has two main aims. The first is to examine the evidence that factors other than workplace discrimination contribute to the gender gaps in STEM. These include relatively large average sex differences in career and lifestyle preferences, and relatively small average differences in cognitive aptitudes – some favouring males, others favouring females – which are associated with progressively larger differences the further above the average one looks. The second aim is to examine the evidence suggesting that these sex differences are not purely a product of social factors but also have a substantial biological (i.e. inherited) component. A more complete picture of the causes of the unequal sex ratios in STEM may productively inform policy discussions.

Quelle: Men, women and STEM: Why the differences and what should be done?

Die Einteilung in der Studie ist wie folgt:

  1. Sex differences in preferences and priorities
  2. Sex differences in cognitive aptitudes
  3. Sex differences in variability
  4. Bias and discrimination in the workplace
  5. Policy implications
  6. Levelling the playing field vs. equalizing sex ratios
  7. Conclusion: Many factors at play

Ich dachte ich gehe diese Punkte mal einzeln durch, weil da viel interessantes dabei ist

Heute also:

Nivellierung des Spielfelds vs. Angleichung des Geschlechterverhältnisses

Los geht es:

Having looked at how our analysis of STEM gender gaps might inform the conversation about policy options, we should step back and ask another, more fundamental question: what should the ultimate goal of these policies be? Should we strive for a 50:50 sex ratio in every area where men currently dominate? Or should we strive instead simply to eliminate bias and equalize people’s opportunities, then let the cards fall where they may?14

Eine gute Frage:

Sollten wir ein Geschlechterverhältnis von 50:50 in allen Bereichen anstreben, in denen Männer derzeit dominieren?

Oder sollten wir stattdessen einfach nur danach streben, Vorurteile zu beseitigen und die Chancen der Menschen auszugleichen, und dann die Karten fallen lassen, wie sie wollen?

Also letztendlich „Chancengleichheit“ vs „Ergebnisgleichheit“.

Den meisten Lesern dieses Blogs wird die Antwort da recht klar erscheinen: Chancengleichheit ist eine gerechte Sache. Ergebnisgleichheit erzeugt nur neue Ungerechtigkeiten

If men and women were identical in their aspirations and aptitudes, these would quite possibly amount to the same thing: levelling the playing field would automatically result in a 50:50 sex ratio, or something close to it. However, given that men and women are not identical in their aspirations and aptitudes, we have no reason to expect gender parity, even under conditions of perfect fairness. On the contrary, the natural expectation would be that men and women would not be at parity, but rather that men would be more common in some fields, and women in others, as a result of their freely made choices. To the extent that this is the case, it becomes much more difficult to justify pursuing a 50:50 sex ratio in every field. Most women do not want a career in STEM and nor do most men. Why should the small fraction of women who do want such a career be the same size as the small fraction of men? To put it another way, as long as everyone has the opportunity to pursue a STEM career, and as long as the selection process is fair, why would it be important to get as many women as men into jobs that fewer women want?

Eine viel zu selten gestellte Frage. Die Antwort aus feministischer Sicht wäre wohl: Weil STEM-Jobs zum einen häufig sehr gut bezahlt sind, eine gewisse Macht geben über die Firmen, die daraus entstehen und Frauen damit aus Geschlechterrollen befreit sind. 

The pursuit of happiness

One way to start tackling this question would be to observe that a 50:50 sex ratio in STEM is presumably not a good in itself, but is a good only in as much as that it increases human wellbeing. Importantly, though, to the degree that occupational disparities are a product of men and women acting on their own preferences and pursuing their own best interests, it is doubtful that forcing a 50:50 sex ratio would actually achieve this end.

Das ist natürlich eine recht amerikanische Diskussion, in der der „Pursuit of happiness“ eine sehr eigene Diskussion hat, schon weil es auch in deren Verfassung vorkommt („We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness“)

Hier eine Definition:

The pursuit of happiness is defined as a fundamental right mentioned in the Declaration of Independence to freely pursue joy and live life in a way that makes you happy, as long as you don’t do anything illegal or violate the rights of others

Es entspricht, jedenfalls nach der „Reiten im Walde“ Entscheidung des Bundesverfassungsgerichtes vielleicht am ehesten der  deutschen Allgemeinen Handlungsfreiheit

To begin with, men and women could have different life outcomes, but still be happy with their lives. One longitudinal study found that, among two cohorts of individuals identified as academically gifted as children, men and women had somewhat different aspirations and took somewhat different paths, but ended up similarly happy with their careers, their relationships and their lives overall (Lubinski et al., 2014). In other words, even among those best positioned to achieve their life ambitions, occupational gender parity appears not to be necessary for happiness.

Vermeintliche Gruppeninteressen sind eben ein gefährliches Ding. Oft muss einer aus der Gruppe „in den saueren Apfel beißen“ um sie umzusetzen und hat dadurch Nachteile. Das ist in gewisser Weise die Tragik der Allmende. Wenn Frauen eher auf eine andere Work-Life-Balance aus sind, dann ist es ein Verzicht in dem Bereich, sich für das allgemeine Wohl der Gruppe Frauen im (vermeintlichen Kampf um Macht) in die Schlacht zu werfen und mit einer 60+ Stundenwoche zu leben bzw ein Fach zu studieren, dass man weniger interessant findet. Das trifft natürlich nur zu, wenn die Vermutungen über andere Interessen etc zutreffen. 

Not only might it not be necessary, but policies that artificially engineer gender parity – financial incentives and quotas, for instance – could potentially lower aggregate happiness. To the extent that these policies work, they necessarily mean that some people will be funnelled into occupations that are less in line with their tastes and talents. To get more women into university physics programmes, for instance, would require persuading at least some women to choose that option when they otherwise would not have done so. (At the same time, unless enrolment numbers were increased, it would also mean turning away some men who otherwise would have.) The women in question would presumably not come from the ranks of housewives or secretaries; more than likely they would be women who would otherwise have gone into other, equally prestigious fields, such as law or medicine. Is there any reason to think that these women would be happier doing physics? Given that people tend to choose careers they think will suit them best and be most satisfying for them, it seems plausible to think that, on average, they might be somewhat less happy (Bretz & Judge, 1994De Fruyt, 2002Verquer et al., 2003).

Dazu aus dem legendären Jordan Peterson Interview:

Newman: So do you do you agree that you would be happy if that pay gap was eliminated completely? Because that’s all the radical feminists are saying.

Peterson: It would depend on how it was eradicated and how the disappearance of it was measured.

Newman: And you’re saying if that’s at a cost of men, that’s a problem.

Peterson: Oh there’s all sorts of things that it could be at the cost of it. It could even be at the cost of women’s own interests.

Newman: Because they might not be happy if they could equal pay.

Peterson: No, because it might interfere with other things that are causing the pay gap that women are choosing to do.

Newman: Like having children.

Peterson: Well, or choosing careers that actually happen to be paid less, which women do a lot of.

Newman: But why shouldn’t women have the right to choose not to have children or the right to choose those demanding careers?

Peterson: They do. They can, yeah, that’s fine.

Newman: But you’re saying that makes them unhappy, by and large.

Peterson: I’m saying that… No, I’m not saying that, and I actually haven’t said that so far in the program…

Newman: You’re saying it makes them miserable, at the beginning.

Peterson: No, I said what was making them miserable was having part was having weak partners. That makes them miserableI would say that many women around the age of I would say between 28 and 32 have a career family crisis that they have to deal with and I think that’s partly because of the for short and timeframe that women have to contend with. Women have to get the major pieces of their life put together faster than men which is also partly why men aren’t under so much pressure to grow up. So because for the typical woman she has to have her career and family in order pretty much by the time she’s 35, because otherwise the options start to run out and so that puts a tremendous amount of stress on women especially at the end of their 20s.


Peterson: Well, the first question might be… why would you want to do that?

Newman: Why would a man want to do it? It’s a lot of money, it’s an interesting job…

Peterson: There’s a certain number of men, although not that many, who are perfectly willing to sacrifice virtually all of their life to the pursuit of a high-end career. So they’ll work… these are men that are very intelligent; they’re usually very very conscientious,; they’re very driven; they’re very high-energy; they’re very healthy; and they’re willing to work 70 or 80 hours a week, non-stop, specialised at one thing to get to the top.

Newman: So you think women are just more sensible. They don’t want that because it’s not a nice level.

Peterson: I’m saying that’s part of it, definitely. And so I worked…

Newman: So you don’t think there are barriers in their way that prevent them getting to the top of those companies.

Peterson: There are some barriers, yeah, like… men for example, I mean, to get to the top of any organisation is an incredibly competitive enterprise and the men that you’re competing with are simply not going to roll over and say “please take the position”. It’s absolutely all-out warfare.

Es ist schon faszinierend, dass Vor- und Nachteile so selten wirklich behandelt werden. Natürlich gibt es sehr rationale Gründe dafür keine Karriere zu machen und schlechter bezahlte Jobs zu wählen, wenn diese andere Vorteile mit sich bringen. Und bestimmte Jobs können schlicht auch eher den eigenen Vorlieben etc entsprechen. 

Admittedly, this whole line of argument is premised on the assumption that the wellbeing of individual STEM workers ought to be the deciding factor, and some might reject that assumption. Anyone who does, though, should, we think, be expected to make a strong argument for that position. Why should we put a statistical, collective goal – i.e. more equal sex ratios in STEM – above the happiness and autonomy of the flesh-and-blood individuals who constitute those collectives? Why should policy makers’ preference for gender parity take precedence over individual men and women’s preferences regarding their own careers and lives?15

Eine Feministin würde vielleicht antworten, dass das „Wohl vieler wichtiger ist als das wohl des Einzelnen“ aber noch eher wohl, dass man zum einen Frauen damit aus der Abhängigkeit der Männer befreit und sie damit eine Menge Vorteile erhält und zum anderen es Männer gefällt und es damit keinen Grund außer Diskriminierung geben kann, dass es Frauen nicht im gleichen Maße gefällt. Der andere Ansatz wäre, dass Frauen jedenfalls die hohen Positionen in allen Bereichen haben müssen und diese, wenn sie ihnen dann weniger Spass machen sollten, eben so geändert werden müssen, dass sie besser zu den Vorstellungen der Frauen passen, etwa CEO eines DAX-Unternehmens in Teilzeit, 20 Stunden und dann Feierabend ohne Bereitschaft oder Wochenendarbeit. 

Sex differences as a sign of social health

A recurring theme in discussions of occupational gender disparities is the often-unspoken assumption that sex differences are inherently problematic, or that they constitute direct evidence of sexism and the curbing of women’s opportunities. Some research, however, points to the opposite conclusion. A growing body of work suggests that, in nations with greater wealth and higher levels of gender equality, sex differences are often larger than they are in less wealthy, less equal nations. This is true for a wide range of variables, including aggression (Nivette et al., 2019), attachment styles (Schmitt, Alcalay, Allensworth, et al., 2003), the Big Five personality traits (Schmitt et al., 2008), crying (Van Hemert et al., 2011), depression (Hopcroft & McLaughlin, 2012), enjoyment of casual sex (Schmitt, 2015), interest in and enjoyment of science (Stoet & Geary, 2018), intimate partner violence (Schmitt, 2015), self-esteem (Zuckerman et al., 2016), spatial ability (Lippa et al., 2010), STEM graduation rates (Stoet & Geary, 2018), subjective wellbeing (Schmitt, 2015) and values (Falk & Hermle, 2018).16 Importantly, the pattern is also observed for objectively measurable traits such as height, BMI and blood pressure (Schmitt, 2015), which gives some reason to think that it is not simply a product of cross-cultural differences in the ways that people answer questionnaires or take tests.

What, then, is the cause of the pattern? One possibility is that when people grow up in an enriched and relatively unconstrained environment, nascent differences between individuals – and average differences between the sexes – have more opportunity to emerge and grow. In the case of psychological traits, the suggestion would be that men and women in wealthier, more developed nations have greater freedom to pursue what interests them and to nurture their own individuality. This freedom may, in turn, result in larger psychological sex differences (Schmitt et al., 2008; although see Fors Connolly et al., 2019Kaiser, 2019).

Das ist das Gender Equality Paradox. Ein aus meiner Sicht durchaus sehr starkes Argument. Eine wirkliche Antwort aus dem Feminismus steht IMHO noch aus, wird aber wahrscheinlich in die Richtung gehen, dass die Gleichberechtigung der Frau in der westlichen Welt eben nur eine scheinbare Gleichberechtigung ist und das Patriarchat dort nur um so härter zuschlägt und mehr Geld hat um Frauen zu beeinflussen etc. 

Regardless of the reason, though, if certain sex differences are larger in societies with better social indicators, then rather than being products of a sexist or oppressive society, these differences may be indicators of the opposite: a comparatively free and fair one. If so, this casts society’s efforts to minimize the sex differences in an entirely new light. Rather than furthering gender equality, such efforts may involve attacking a positive symptom of gender equality. By mistaking the fruits of our freedom for evidence of oppression, we may institute policies that, at best, burn up time and resources in a futile effort to cure a ‘disease’ that isn’t actually a disease, and at worst actively limit people’s freedom to pursue their own interests and ambitions on a fair and level playing field.

Ein Absatz, der für eine Feministin nicht akzeptabel sein dürfte: Mehr Freiheit die mehr Ungleichheit produziert? Das kann nur falsch sein. 


The sexist assumption underlying the demand for parity

Finally, the strong emphasis on increasing the numbers of women in male-dominated fields is arguably somewhat sexist. As Susan Pinker (2008) argues, it tacitly assumes that women do not know what they want, or that they want the wrong things and thus that wiser third-parties need to ‘fix’ their existing preferences. It also tacitly assumes that the areas where men dominate are superior. The psychologist Denise Cummins (2015) put the point well when she observed that, ‘The hidden assumption underlying the push to eliminate gender gaps in traditionally male-dominated fields is that such fields are intrinsically more important and more valuable to society than fields that traditionally attract more women.’ Given that traditionally female-dominated fields include education, healthcare and social work, this assumption is not only sexist; it is also clearly false. As Judith Kleinfeld observed:

We should not be sending [gifted] women the message that they are less worthy human beings, less valuable to our civilization, lazy or low in status, if they choose to be teachers rather than mathematicians, journalists rather than physicists, lawyers rather than engineers. (cited in Steven Pinker, 2002, p. 359)

Hier würde eine Feministin vielleicht einwenden, dass es ja deutliche Zeichen dafür gibt, dass sie weniger wert sind, eben weil sie weniger bezahlt bekommen, weniger Einfluss haben, Männern an den Schalthebeln der Macht sitzen etc. 

Man würde dann eben darauf abstellen, dass eine Änderung her muss, solange Kindergärtnerinnen nicht wie Mitarbeiter eines großen Autoherstellers oder Sozialpädagoginnen nicht wie Programmierer oder Ingenieure bezahlt werden. 

Certainly, many female-dominated fields pay less, on average, than male-dominated STEM fields.17 There is a great deal of debate about the reasons for this, and the extent to which it is a product of sexism vs. factors such as market forces (e.g. the fact that many female-dominated fields have a greater supply of workers) and personal preferences (e.g. the fact that, on average, women view pay as a less important consideration in choosing a career than men, and view things such as job security and flexible work hours as more important; Funk & Parker, 2018Gino et al., 2015Lubinski et al., 2014Redmond & McGuinness, 2019). Such matters are beyond the scope of this article. We would point out, though, that even if current pay disparities were entirely due to sexism, the most appropriate solution would presumably be to strive for fair pay in female-dominated fields, rather than trying to get more women into fields that pay more but which, on average, they find less appealing. And to the extent that the explanation is that women place less weight on a high income in choosing a career, and more weight on other things, efforts to get women to prioritize income tacitly assume, once again, that women’s existing priorities are misguided, and that they ought to adopt more male-typical priorities instead.

Nur das eine gleiche Zahlung im Sozialsektor mit einem hochprofitabelen industriellen Sektor eben nicht zu ereichen sein wird. Insofern eben ein schlechter Vorschlag. 

To be clear, we completely agree that we should endeavour to root out sexism wherever it still lurks, and tear down any lingering barriers to the progress of women in STEM (as well as any barriers to the progress of men). These are eminently good goals. However, for the reasons discussed, striving for a 50:50 sex ratio – or indeed any pre-specified sex ratio – is not a good goal.

In der Tat. 

Mehr Frauen in den STEM-Fächern als Männer

Eine interessante Meldung:

Despite the mainstream belief that women are underrepresented in Science, Technology, Mathematics, and Engineering (STEM) degrees, a new report out of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) shatters this myth.

Mark Perry, a University of Michigan-Flint professor, appears to be the first to discover that the „STEM gender gap“ doesn’t exactly exist after all. According to his recent AEI report, women now earn 50.6 percent of all STEM Bachelor’s, and are also overrepresented in graduate school.

Dürfte auch daran liegen, dass mehr Frauen an die Universitäten gehen und das STEM ein weites Feld sind.

While 50.6 percent is only a slight majority — this translates into 8,500 more female STEM graduates per year, and about 33,000 more women in STEM grad school. And because college is now a woman’s domain, it’s likely these small disparities will expand over time.

Due to this, Perry urged activists to focus their efforts elsewhere.

„I think it’s time to stop the massive and expensive ‘social engineering’ efforts to force women to go into the STEM fields,“ Perry told PJ Media on Sunday. He also pointed out that while women are excelling in STEM overall, disparities remain among certain fields.

Ich befürchte die Bemühungen werden nicht so schnell zu Ende sein. Denn die Verteilung ist eben noch sehr Biologie lastig:

Wer bei STEM eher die klassischen technisch-mathematischen Bereiche vor Augen hat, der berücksichtigt eben nicht, dass Biologie und Medizin bzw der Gesundheitsbereich davon ebenfalls umfasst sind und einen sehr Anteil an Frauen aufweisen. Erstaunlicherweise gelingt es hier, in diesen eher auf Lebewesen bezogenen Bereichen, Frauen problemlos die alten Vorurteile zu durchbrechen, in anderen Bereichen hingegen eben nicht. 


Räumliches Denken und mathematische Fähigkeiten

Eine interessante Studie behandelt die Frage, inwiefern räumliches Denken und mathematische Fähigkeiten in einem Zusammenhang stehen:

Despite considerable interest in the role of spatial intelligence in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) achievement, little is known about the ontogenetic origins of individual differences in spatial aptitude or their relation to later accomplishments in STEM disciplines. The current study provides evidence that spatial processes present in infancy predict interindividual variation in both spatial and mathematical competence later in development. Using a longitudinal design, we found that children’s performance on a brief visuospatial change-detection task administered between 6 and 13 months of age was related to their spatial aptitude (i.e., mental-transformation skill) and mastery of symbolic-math concepts at 4 years of age, even when we controlled for general cognitive abilities and spatial memory. These results suggest that nascent spatial processes present in the first year of life not only act as precursors to later spatial intelligence but also predict math achievement during childhood.

Quelle: Spatial Processing in Infancy Predicts Both Spatial and Mathematical Aptitude in Childhood (Volltext)

Aus den Werten:

Räumliches Denken und Mathematik

Räumliches Denken und Mathematik

Also niedrige bis mittlere Werte.

Aus einer Besprechung der Studie:

Spatial reasoning measured in infancy predicts how children do at math at four years of age, finds a new study published in Psychological Science.

„We’ve provided the earliest documented evidence for a relationship between spatial reasoning and math ability,“ says Emory University psychologist Stella Lourenco, whose lab conducted the research. „We’ve shown that spatial reasoning beginning early in life, as young as six months of age, predicts both the continuity of this ability and mathematical development.“

Was dem Patriarchat wenig Zeit lässt für eine Unterdrückung, aber hoch effektiv wie es ist hat es das sicherlich dennoch geschafft.

Emory graduate student Jillian Lauer is co-author of the study.

The researchers controlled the longitudinal study for general cognitive abilities of the children, including measures such as vocabulary, working memory, short-term spatial memory and processing speed.

„Our results suggest that it’s not just a matter of smarter infants becoming smarter four-year-olds,“ Lourenco says. „Instead, we believe that we’ve honed in on something specific about early spatial reasoning and math ability.“

Gerade wenn es eine eigene „Fähigkeit“ auf dem Bereich gibt, dann kann es dort natürlich dann auch Unterschiede  und besondere Begabungen geben, die gerade diesen Bereich betreffen.

The findings may help explain why some people embrace math while others feel they are bad at it and avoid it. „We know that spatial reasoning is a malleable skill that can be improved with training,“ Lourenco says. „One possibility is that more focus should be put on spatial reasoning in early math education.“

Es dürfte auch erklären, warum einige dieses Training mehr Spass macht oder sie sogar von sich aus eher „Training“ in diesem Bereich betreiben, einfach in dem die Kinder zB lieber mit Spielzeug spielen, was diese Fähigkeiten fordert, während Kinder, die in dem Bereich nicht gut sind, keinen Spass an diesem Spielzeug haben.

Previous research has shown that superior spatial aptitude at 13 years of age predicts professional and creative accomplishments in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math more than 30 years later.

To explore whether individual differences in spatial aptitude are present earlier, Lourenco’s lab tested 63 infants, ages six months to 13 months, for a visual-spatial skill known as mental transformation, or the ability to transform and rotate objects in „mental space.“ Mental transformation is considered a hallmark of spatial intelligence.

The researchers showed the babies a series of paired video streams. Both streams presented a series of two matching shapes, similar to Tetris tile pieces, which changed orientation in each presentation. In one of the video streams, the two shapes in every third presentation rotated to become mirror images. In the other video stream, the shapes only appeared in non-mirror orientations. Eye tracking technology recorded which video stream the infants looked at, and for how long.

This type of experiment is called a change-detection paradigm. „Babies have been shown to prefer novelty,“ Lourenco explains. „If they can engage in mental transformation and detect that the pieces occasionally rotate into a mirror position, that’s interesting to them because of the novelty.“

Eye-tracking technology allowed the researchers to measure where the babies looked, and for how long. As a group, the infants looked significantly longer at the video stream with mirror images, but there were individual differences in the amount of time they looked at it.

Fifty-three of the children, or 84 percent of the original sample, returned at age four to complete the longitudinal study. The participants were again tested for mental transformation ability, along with mastery of simple symbolic math concepts. The results showed that the children who spent more time looking at the mirror stream of images as infants maintained these higher mental transformation abilities at age four, and also performed better on the math problems.

Langzeitstudien sind bei so etwas immer interessant. Und bereits sehr junge Kinder können die verschiedensten Nachrichten über geschlechtliche Fähigkeiten in dem Bereich auch noch nicht aufgenommen haben.

High-level symbolic math came relatively late in human evolution. Previous research has suggested that symbolic math may have co-opted circuits of the brain involved in spatial reasoning as a foundation to build on.

„Our work may contribute to our understanding of the nature of mathematics,“ Lourenco says. „By showing that spatial reasoning is related to individual differences in math ability, we’ve added to a growing literature suggesting a potential contribution for spatial reasoning in mathematics. We can now test the causal role that spatial reasoning may play early in life.“

In addition to helping improve regular early math education, the finding could help in the design of interventions for children with math disabilities. Dyscalculia, for example, is a developmental disorder that interferes with doing even simple arithmetic.

„Dyscalculia has an estimated prevalence of five to seven percent, which is roughly the same as dyslexia,“ Lourenco says. „Dyscalculia, however, has generally received less attention, despite math’s importance to our technological world.“

Ich finde die Studie auch gerade interessant, weil Geschlechterunterschiede im räumlichen Denken sehr gut belegt sind und auch viele Studien dazu existieren, die eine Abhängigkeit vom (pränatalen) Testosteronspiegel sehen:

Es passt insoweit, dass diese in jungen Jahren bereits erkennbar sind.

Dazu auch hier im Blog:

Warum brillante Frauen eher Karrieren außerhalb der STEM-Fächer wählen

Ein interessanter Artikel führt Gründe an, die eher dazu führen, dass Frauen sich nicht für Berufe in den „STEM-Fächern“ (Naturwissenschaften, Technik, Ingenieurwissenschaften und Mathematik) entscheiden.

Der erste liegt in „Sachen vs Personen“

Things versus people.Su et al (2009) performed a meta-analysis of studies including a total of over 500,000 people examining gender differences in interests.  Despite claims that gender differences are typically “small” (Hyde, 2005), Su et al found a gigantic gender difference in interests.  Women preferred working with people, whereas men preferred working with things, a preference that is detectable within the first two days of birth and among our close species relatives, rhesus monkeys!  To be sure, these differences were not absolute.  Not every man prefers working with things, and not every woman prefers working with people.  But the effect size was d= .93, and even if you are not familiar with effect sizes, this would make it one of the largest effects in social psychology; it is gigantic.

Dieser grundlegende Unterschied war hier auch schon häufiger angesprochen worden. Der Effekt scheint mir sehr robust immer wieder bestätigt zu werden und erklärt, warum Frauen ehemals rein männliche Fächer wie Medizin oder Jura recht problemlos eroberten, während die STEM-Fächer insgesamt einen geringeren Anteil an Frauen haben.

JUST math skills versus math and verbal skills.  This same issue of differing interests was approached in a different way by Wang, Eccles, and Kenny (2013). Disclosure: Eccles was my dissertation advisor and longterm collaborator; I am pretty sure she identifies as a feminist, has long been committed to combating barriers to women, and is one of the most objective, balanced social scientists I have ever had the pleasure to know.

In a national study of over 1,000 high school students, they found that:

1. 70 percent more girls than boys had strong math and verbal skills;

2. Boys were more than twice as likely as girls to have strong math skills but not strong verbal skills;

3. People (regardless of whether they were male or female) who had only strong math skills as students were more likely to be working in STEM fields at age 33 than were other students;

4. People (regardless of whether they were male or female) with strong math and verbal skills as students were less likely to be working in STEM fields at age 33 than were those with only strong math skills.

Here are their conclusions, in their own words (p. 5):

“Results revealed that mathematically capable individuals who also had high verbal skills were less likely to pursue STEM careers than were individuals who had high math skills but moderate verbal skills. One notable finding was that the group with high math and high verbal ability included more females than males…

Our study provides evidence that it is not lack of ability that causes females to pursue non-STEM careers, but rather the greater likelihood that females with high math ability also have high verbal ability and thus can consider a wider range of occupations than their male peers with high math ability, who are more likely to have moderate verbal ability.”

Ich vermute, dass Leute mit guten sprachlichen Eigenschaften auch lieber mit Leuten zusammenarbeiten und Leute mit entsprechenden schlechten Eigenschaften auch eher darauf verzichten. Interessant ist, dass sich dies bei Männern ebenso zeigt. Auch die, die dort beide Fähigkeiten haben wählen eher andere Fächer. Das macht eine reine Beeinflussung durch Geschlechterrollen unwahrscheinlicher.

Es wäre demnach eine Unterscheidung zwischen verschiedenen Stärken vs eine Entscheidung in einem Bereich zu arbeiten, in dem man besonders gut ist. Es passt im übrigen auch zu dem Klischee des Nerds und Geeks, dessen Kompetenzen eher nicht im sozialen Bereich liegen.

Ein weiterer Faktor wären die reinen Zahlen:

The Numbers

The Council of Graduate Schools puts out regular reports, such as this one, that include the gender distribution in various fields.

Council of Graduate Schools
Source: Council of Graduate Schools

Lo and behold, there is not “pervasive evidence of” a gender gap in graduate enrollments, though there is a gap in some STEM fields. Completely consistent with the work by Su et al and by Wang et al, in nearly all fields that are about people, not only is there no gap disadvantaging women, there are actually more women than men! (Health, education, social and behavioral sciences, public administration, arts and humanities, and even biological sciences).  The same report found that, overall, across all fields, the „gap“ is in the „wrong“ direction: 57 percent of enrollees in graduate programs are women.

Even if there is discrimination against women in these fields, it is not preventing women from entering those fields in droves. (Indeed, the logic of “gap = discrimination”—a logic I have repeatedly rejected but which runs rampant throughout the social sciences and general public—would have us believe there is widespread discrimination against men in most fields now).

Furthermore, this pattern is completely consistent with the idea that girls and women have different interests (Su et al) and skills (Wang et al) that lead them to prefer non-STEM careers.

Frauen studieren, nur eben lieber andere Fächer. Wenn es mit Leuten und Leben zu tun hat, dann sind sie dort weitaus eher zu finden als in Fächern, die sich damit weniger beschäftigen.

Auch interessant ist der folgende Absatz:

Surely girls and women have, historically, been discriminated against in such fields.  But discrimination in 1950 or 1970 does not constitute evidence of ongoing discrimination.  Furthermore, the evidence that girls and women prefer non-STEM fields is not an argument to avoid combating sexist discrimination where it can still be found.  Nonetheless, the list of social science victim2 groups is so long, that, most likely, almost all of us have been the target of discrimination or hostility at some point in our lives, rendering the question of whether some groups are more victimized than others muddier than it seems.

However equivocal the evidence for “bias” in the present may be as an explanation for the gender gap in STEM fields, there is ample evidence of bias. Scientific bias! Social scientists clearly „prefer“ bias explanations over other, deeply important, scientifically rigorous, social developmental evidence, such as that offered by Su et al and Wang et al.  This table reveals just how extreme this bias is:

Lee Jussim
Source: Lee Jussim

The key entry here is the citation counts in the far right.  The Moss-Racusin study is, by conventional standards, the weakest of the studies.  Its sample size is a fraction of that of the others.  It studies a relatively minor situation (hiring lab managers).  It was a single study (Su et al is a meta-analysis of scores of studies; Williams and Ceci reported five separate studies).  In contrast to Wang et al, it only studied an event at a single time point; it did not follow people’s career trajectories.

This does not make Moss-Racusin et al a “bad” study; it is merely weaker on virtually all important scientific grounds than the others.  This is not to argue that the other studies are “perfect,” either; all studies have imperfections.  But by conventional scientific standards, Su et al’s meta-analysis, the replications in Williams and Ceci, the longitudinal Wang et al study, and the far larger sample sizes in all three mean that, on most scientific methodological standards, they are superior to the Moss-Racusin et al study.

And yet, look at the citation counts.  Others are citing the Moss-Racusin et al study out the wazoo. Now, Wang et al and Williams and Ceci came out later, so probably the most useful column is the last.  Since 2015, the weaker Moss-Racusin study has been cited 50% more often than the other three combined!  That means there are probably more papers citing the Moss-Racusin et al study and completely ignoring the other three, than there are papers citing even one of the other three! What kind of „science“ are we, that so many „scientists“ can get away with so systematically ignoring relevant data in our scientific journals?

(Again, this does not make the Moss-Racusin study “bad.” The bias here reflects a far broader field problem, it does not constitute a weakness in the paper itself).

And that, gentle reader, is a gigantic scientific bias.  It might even be beyond bias. Some might call it an “obsession” with discrimination and bias so severe that it is blinding many in our field to major findings regarding gender differences that contribute to preferences for different types of fields.   

Wer eine Benachteiligung von Frauen behauptet, der wird also wesentlich häufiger zitiert als jemand, der eine Bevorzugung von Frauen behauptet. Die Benachteiligung von Frauen ist die „gewünschte Geschichte“, an rationalen Erklärungen dafür ist man nicht interessiert. Das Opfernarrativ muss eben auf jeden Fall erhalten bleiben. Ob es Frauen zusätzlich abschreckt und damit zu weniger Frauen in dem Bereich führt ist dabei wohl eher egal.

Das Schlußwort ist auch interessant:

If this analysis has any validity, the societal push to equalize gender distributions may be deeply dysfunctional, because it can succeed only by having the perverse effect of pushing people into fields they do not prefer. Of course, on moral grounds, we want to insure that all people have equal opportunities to enter any particular career.  But if there are bona fide gender differences in preferences and interests, equal opportunities may never translate into equal outcomes.

Was auch der Grund dafür ist, dass eine reine Gleichstellungspolitik eher Ungerechtigkeiten produziert, weil Unterschiede ausgeblendet werden.

Sind die Naturwissenschaften zu wettbewerbsorientiert und die Sprache zu schwer für Frauen?

Feministische Forschung beleuchtet die Naturwissenschaften:

This study explored the gendered nature of STEM higher education institution through a feminist critical discourse analysis of STEM course syllabi from a Midwest research university. I explored STEM syllabi to understand how linguistic features such as stance and interdiscursivity are used in the syllabus and how language and discourses used in the syllabus replicate the masculine nature of STEM education. Findings suggest that the discourses identified in the syllabi reinforce traditional STEM academic roles, and that power and gender in the STEM syllabi are revealed through exploration of the themes of knowledge, learning, and the teaching and learning environment created by the language used in the syllabus. These findings inform and extend understanding of the STEM syllabus and the STEM higher education institution and lead to recommendations about how to make the STEM syllabus more inclusive for women.

In der Studie heißt es dann:
Finally, a review of the syllabi for gendered language and discourses involves an exploration for the discourse of STEM higher education as creating a chilly climate, one that is difficult, competitive, and lacks support. The syllabi explored in this study promoted a view of the classroom as academically difficult, with high standards that were not flexible. For example, “please be reminded that all writing you do in this course will be expected to meet a certain standard of competency and quality” (Lower level geology). The language used promotes the idea that the high standards of the course were inflexible and difficult, and exceptions would not be made if students could not meet expectations. That difficulty is reinforced through the use of comprehensive exams,
“Each exam is semi-comprehensive. And the final exam is fully comprehensive. This means that tests may contain information from throughout the semester” (Lower level geology). Also reinforcing the difficulty of the courses was the treatment of prerequisites as skills or topics that the instructor would not have time to cover in the course. Good algebra and trig skills are essential if you expect to be successful in this course. In addition, you are expected to have sufficiently mastered the material
in Calculus I to be able to use it when needed. We will not have time in this class to devote to prerequisite materials (Lower level math).
Instead of only listing prerequisite courses, these syllabi included prerequisite knowledge and skills, creating an even more intimidating view of the course. That language implied that not only would students be held to difficult high standards, but also that there was also a base of knowledge that was required to be successful in the course. While it is not unrealistic to include prerequisites in a syllabus, the language used to discuss the prerequisites indicated that students who had not learned or did not remember that knowledge would be unsuccessful because there was not support within the course or from the instructor. The language used in this corpus of syllabi created an impression of extremely difficult courses, which contributes to the chilly climate in STEM courses, and would be prohibitive for those not confident in those areas, such as women and minorities. Additionally, a chilly climate is reinforced with a focus on the individual instead of the group and is a characteristic of a masculine learning environment (Mayberry & Rose, 1999).

Also das Erwarten von hohen Leistungen und und die Betonung der Leistungen des Individuums statt der Gruppe schrecken Frauen ab, weil es einfach eine männliche Sache ist, alleine Leistung zu zeigen, während Frauen nur in der Gruppe stark sein können.
Weiter heißt es:
Another aspect of the chilly climate is competitiveness, and the STEM syllabi were also framed as competitive courses, exemplified by grading on a curve, “The final grading scale may be curved based on class performance” (Lower level biology). Grading on a curve is one way that the literature has found to be competitive and discouraging to women and minorities (Shapiro & Sax, 2011). Finally, the competitive, difficult chilly climate was reinforced in the syllabi through the use of unfriendly and tough language, “Do not ask me to figure out your grade standing. I’ll be glad to show you how to do it yourself, but the homepage includes that explanation already” (Lower level geology). Like this statement, many of the syllabi used language that was unfriendly and reinforced the individualistic, difficult and competitive nature of the STEM classroom. Throughout the syllabi, the chilly climate was reinforced through language use and the selection of assessments and teaching methods.
Wettbewerb ist eben nichts für Frauen. Das ist der Stand dieser feministischen Studie. Es wundert da wenig, dass Frauen dann nicht Geschäftführer, Politiker oder sonstige Personen in hohen Positionen sind. Ein Mann, der passende Textpassagen als eigene vortragen würde hätte wahrscheinlich in kurzester Zeit einen Shitstorm a la Tim Hunt auf sich gezogen.
Es zeigt auch mal wieder das Doppeldenk im Feminismus: So eine Studie geht da durchaus durch, es gilt dann die Erzählung, dass Frauen eben auf andere Weise Erfolg haben als Männer und zarte Pflänzchen sind, die aber genau die gleiche Leistung bringen. Es ist eine Form des Differenzfeminismus der aber sofort wieder in Gleichheitsfeminismus umschwenkt, wenn man Frauen vorhalten würde, dass sie bestimmte Eigenschaften nicht haben.
Zudem heißt es:
In response to research question three, gender is not explicitly referenced within this corpus but the masculine or male-biased views of knowledge, learning and teaching that are seen in the STEM education institution are reinforced in the syllabus. Throughout the syllabi, knowledge is represented as static and unchanging, with some nods to collaborative and active learning to encourage students to acquire course content. Language used in the syllabi reinforces the unfriendly and difficult nature of STEM courses, and STEM teaching is framed as the instructor’s role to deposit static knowledge into students. In those ways, the syllabi replicate the gendered STEM education institution and are gendered to the disadvantage of women.

Lustig. Männliche Arten des Wissens, des Lernens und des Lehrens sind also:
  • es gibt gesichertes Wissen
  • Der Lehrer bringt es bei

Weiblich wäre anscheinend eine subjektive Sicht auf Wissen. Wie soll man sich das feministisch korrekt vorstellen: E=mc2? Auch nur so eine sexistische Gleichung, die die Lichtgeschwindigkeit priviligiert. Berechnungen in der Physik? Masse kann auch durch gute Worte Empowerd werden, alles andere ist Massshaming.

Gut, dass wir die feministische Forschung haben. Endlich wissen wir, dass Wettbewerb nichts für Frauen ist und sie nicht damit umgehen können, wenn es auf harte Leistung ankommt.