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Women, Men, and the Sciences

... Debates about the causes of male predominance in the natural sciences commonly point to social factors, such as job arrangements, competition, and social expectations (Halpern et al., 2007), and to biological factors, namely abilities assessed by the Scholastic Assessment Test required for admission to universities, in which men consistently show better scores (Levy & Kimura, 2009;Wainer & Steinberg, 1992). We fully agree with concerns related to these social and biological factors, however, much less attention in such debates has been paid to a possible bias in the language and methods of these sciences, potentially leading to a bias in the aptitude tests used as a passing card to science. ...
... The fact is that historically the notations, descriptors, logics, presentation of findings and overall language of mathematics, physics and other natural sciences were created and designed by men. Coincidently, talented men, when given a choice, have less interest in the life and social sciences, where mechanical reasoning is less applicable (Levy & Kimura, 2009), but talented women do not mind dealing with the life sciences, which have rather fuzzy, fluid and "messy, in terms of variables" objects. This is consistent with findings that in communication men have a tendency to use language in a more instrumental way, choosing object-oriented descriptors while women use more words related to social processes (Newman, Groom, Handelman, & Pennebaker, 2008). ...
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There is a controversy about the factors underlying male predominance in mathematics, natural and engineering sciences. Our study of meaning attribution, conducted in Canada, China and Russia showed that men had a consistent tendency to estimate natural phenomena (even time-related) as more fixed and limited, less real (even “Reality”) and less complex (even “Complexity”) than women. Concepts related to classical mechanics received significantly more positive estimations by men than by women, but phenomena related to development and reality were assessed more positively by women than by men. We argue that the methods and language of science, which historically were developed by men, were affected by a tendency of men to reduce natural phenomena to structures with Lego-like components, and to mechanical aspects of their interaction.
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