Upping the Numbers
Edited by Ronald J. Burke and Mary C. Mattis
Chapter 8: Women in Mathematics: Examining the Hidden Barriers that Gender Stereotypes Can Impose
Jennifer R. Steele, Leah Reisz, Amanda Williams and Kerry Kawakami So my best guess, to provoke you, of what’s behind [women’s underrepresentation in the science and engineering workforce] is that the largest phenomenon, by far, is the general clash between people’s legitimate family desires and employers’ current desire for high power and high intensity, that in the special case of science and engineering, there are issues of intrinsic aptitude, and particularly of variability of aptitude, and that those considerations are reinforced by what are in fact lesser factors involving socialization and continuing discrimination. Lawrence H. Summers, President of Harvard University, 14 January 2005 Why are there fewer women than men pursuing and succeeding in prestigious careers in math and scientiﬁc domains? This question has captured the attention of researchers and the general public alike. Gender-based discrimination in the workplace is illegal, educational opportunities for women in the sciences seem abundant, and educational reforms have been introduced to help ensure that systematic biases are eliminated. So why is there not an equal number of men and women in top positions in these ﬁelds? At a recent conference designed to discuss issues around diversifying the science and engineering workforce, the president of Harvard University at the time, Lawrence Summers, shared some of his thoughts on the matter. While acknowledging that gender socialization and discrimination might play some role in this gender discrepancy, Summers argued that there were two more inﬂuential factors. The ﬁrst, he suggested, was women’s relative lack of...
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