14 comments for “Ozy and Millie: Lady of science

  1. Not particularly. There have always been female scientists. Most just didn’t have the interest. Josephus records that a woman doctor treated someone in his memoirs, 2000 years ago, and it was matter-of-fact, not as if unusual. The feminists have a nasty habit of discounting the contributions of women through the centuries in order to portray themselves as worse off than they traditionally have been. In this country alone, how many major women politicians, going back to the 1600s?

    One would think with literally tens of thousands of programs since the 1960s designed to FORCE women into the sciences, that they would be the majority. Only in Federal Civil Service are women 70% of science and engineering personnel and this is only as a result of hiring those without science and engineering degrees in preference to those who spent the years earning them that began under Clinton in 1993. When I worked for a regulatory bio agency, most women I came in contact with had high school diplomas or at best, degrees in things like art. No reason they couldn’t earn the needed science and engineering degrees for their jobs, but they didn’t have to, so they didn’t. We now have offices where literally no one knows how to do the work.

    • I don’t think there’s anything inherent about women that causes them to not be interested in science, though. Culturally we tend to steer them away from those fields in all kinds of subtle ways, like by giving scientific or building-oriented toys to boys but not girls. That’s thankfully starting to change, but there’s still quite a bit of gender bias in how girls are socialized vs. boys.

      • Yeah, there’s still plenty of bias in this area. The government though, is kind of beating around the bush. Instead of addressing the underlying cultural issues, they throw money at various ‘programs’ and ‘movements’ (reminds of of a certain principal *cough* *cough*) that don’t really do much. It’ kinda like “yay, there’s so many programs I can attend/go to, except everyone laughs at me if I do, so no.”

        • I cannot deny such a cultural bias exists, but history has shown repeatedly that it is impossible to legislate cultural issues out of existence; “throwing money” at the problem may well be the least harmful thing the government can do in this regard. It will take education to effect a change in cultural attitudes that have been handed down the generations; laws can only address the more flagrant abuses resulting from those attitudes.

      • The thing is, studies focusing on why children choose, say, one toy over the other are flawed because they assume in advance that the toy is being pushed on the child. What if girls just want to play with dolls more.

        We can apply that to adults too. Perhaps girls are socialized differently simply because, you know, that’s how they want to socialize. OR they don’t go into scientific fields because, hey, they don’t want to.

        And there’s nothing particularly wrong with that. The problem is, nowadays it’s generally removed as a hypothesis. It’s assumed there must be a reason beyond “girls are more likely to like this than that” (or vice versa with boys), but the assumption immediately precludes that as a possibility. That’s why those studies don’t impress me.

        • You are talking now about a one-year-old choosing a toy based on something other than bright color and fun texture. Girls and boys have exactly the same fun with all toys they get, unless they notice adults and other kids approving or disapproving of their choices. Which is exactly the problem.

          • Maybe so, but development orders and rates for different parts of the brain impact what a child will find more interesting. For example, when a child enters kindergarten, a girl will be able to do thing such as write quite well, while boys will be less likely to be able to do so. In the same way, girls find color more attractive because they have more cones in their eyes, while boys find motion more attractive because they have more rods. Boys have much better spacial awareness than girls earlier in life, so that a 3-year-old boy can much more easily build bridges from blocks than a girl can. Many other developmental differences play roles in this, not just society (and society has a much smaller role than these differences in brain structure and development). However, one must note that development, such as that of spacial awareness or fine motor skills, is about equally finished by the time people are in their mid-twenties, so by that point men and women’s abilities are roughly equal on average. (Other things, such as women’s superior hearing or men’s greater amount of rods in their retinas, are still just as different.)

    • There was a period in history when women were forbidden from medical practice. We lost a lot of knowledge of gynaecology then and childbirth mortality rose enough that this was eventually reversed in the specific case of female specific medicine. Prior to that medicine was sexually segregated but equal in western civilizations.

      Chinese are probably the best contemporary example of the lack of difference in ability. Interest is harder to prove given that modern Chinese tend to be rather influenced by financial prospects when picking career paths but I think overall the notion of lack of interest is again a cultural issue. I entirely agree about the perverse nature of most incentive programs though.

  2. While a few decades ago women were discouraged from science, one to three centuries ago men were discouraged from science. Physics was a woman’s field.

  3. I have OUTRAGE. I LOVE science stuff, and I would do much, much worse than putting worms in their food.

    • I *did* do worse; I became a scientist back when it was barely thinkable that I could. Most of my male colleagues accepted me then, and the few that didn’t I could and did avoid.

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