Title Nining science

Thanks to Title IX, universities that don’t have as many female varsity athletes as males have to cut men’s sports teams such as wrestling or water polo, to create parity. Now there’s a move afoot to create parity in physical science and engineering by “Title Nining” science, writes John Tierney in the New York Times. Congress ordered Title IX compliance reviews in 2006.

Despite supposed obstacles like “unconscious bias” and a shortage of role models and mentors, women now constitute about half of medical students, 60 percent of biology majors and 70 percent of psychology Ph.D.’s. They earn the majority of doctorates in both the life sciences and the social sciences.

Congress hasn’t proposed investigating why there are so few men choosing to pursue psychology doctorates.

(Women) remain a minority in the physical sciences and engineering. Even though their annual share of doctorates in physics has tripled in recent decades, it’s less than 20 percent. Only 10 percent of physics faculty members are women, a ratio that helped prompt an investigation in 2005 by the American Institute of Physics into the possibility of bias.

But the institute found that women with physics degrees go on to doctorates, teaching jobs and tenure at the same rate that men do. The gender gap is a result of earlier decisions. While girls make up nearly half of high school physics students, they’re less likely than boys to take Advanced Placement courses or go on to a college degree in physics.

Researchers have found women with math and science aptitude don’t make the same choices as men.

“Creating equal opportunities for women does not mean that they’ll choose what men choose in equal numbers,” (psychologist Susan) Pinker says. “The freedom to act on one’s preferences can create a more exaggerated gender split in some fields.”

If the gender imbalance persists in physics, engineering and computer science, will those departments go the way of men’s wrestling? Or, perhaps, Title IX could be satisfied by creating Women’s Way of Knowing Physics. Trust me, this is not what women scientists want.

About Joanne


  1. Engineering Mom says:

    This Title IX issue lies with the subconscious realization by society that men are ‘typically’ better at math because they are wired that way, yet no one will admit that. I am female and I graduated with an engineering degree in the early 90’s. Very few women in my major. But guess why? Very few women have a math-mind. I do not think like most of the other women I know, and do not have a “typical” woman’s social or verbal skills. The 12 other women on my tennis team ask me how much we owe in restaurants, do we have a chance to win the tournament, etc., or anything else that requires alot of mathematical computation, because it is simply not fun for them – just like going to a party or reading fiction is typically not fun for me. Everyone is different -but you cannot force diversity nor force a non-math-minded person to love math. My husband is the opposite of most men – quite eloquent, great orator, loves to socialize – math is frustrating – he cannot understand how I can use the words ‘discover’ ‘disconnect’ and ‘diatribe’ to all mean ‘diverse’ (they start the same, don’t they?) Men tend to be better at math – get over it! And yes, there are alot of exceptions! I am one. Do men who enter college as education majors get special grants or scholarships? How about Home-ec – is that still a major?

  2. The interest survey I took Freshman year in a very good, north shore Chicago area high school indicated my interests were medicine, engineering and operating heavy equipment (the non-college route option). My advisor circled medicine and crossed out engineering and heavy equipment. Medicine was okay for girls, engineering couldn’t possibly interest me, I guess. I didn’t even know what engineering was until I met a guy in a parking lot that was also headed to U of Illinois, and told me he was majoring in bio-engineering. I had never heard of that. It was at that point, 2 months before I got to school that I started to investigate engineering as an option and ended up switching from bio-chemistry to electrical engineering. I was a member of science club, and took 4 years of science in high school, but was never presented the idea of a career in engineering.

  3. Richard Nieporent says:

    Well said Engineering Mom. Nobody should be prevented from or forced to enter a particular field simply because some group wants to make a political statement. The fact that women now constitute about half of medical students, 60 percent of biology majors and 70 percent of psychology Ph.D.’s (as well as 50% of law students) would seem to indicate that whatever barriers existed in the past to women have been removed. Unless engineers, mathematicians and physicists are egregious troglodytes there is no rational reason that they would be excluded only from these fields. Clearly, the medical and legal fields are much more remunerative than engineering or physics (of which I can personally attest to!) so there is also no monetary reason why they would be preferentially excluded from these fields. Finally, since the University is the bastion of Liberalism/Leftist ideology wouldn’t that be the last place where sexist attitudes would still exist? In other words there is absolutely no evidence that women are systematically being excluded from engineering, physics and mathematics.

  4. For more immediate results, perhaps we could offer bonuses and subsidies to male scientists who agree to gender reassignment surgery.

  5. Ms. Jacobs hints at the key question, but doesn’t seem to get asked explicitly — where are these additional women in (say) engineering to come from? I can’t see them being recruited from women who do not currently go to college, so they’ll have to come from other fields. And if that pushes one of those fields below gender parity, what then? Having women participate at or above gender ratios in all fields seems a rather difficult thing to accomplish.

  6. Walter E. Wallis says:

    How many women in the 49er starting lineup? How many Jews? Numbers are a tool, but not the only one. In the Homebrew Computer Club, from whence sprang Apple, Osborn and a couple dozen more computer millions, attendance was about 50 men to two or three women [and only one Black].

  7. I wonder if there will be a move to force college to entice more men into education, a field still dominated by women.

  8. Mrs. Davis says:

    How about Home-ec – is that still a major?

    Yup, an engineer, all right.

    Congress should investigate the medical specialties into and away from which all those women doctors gravitate. That woul tighten up the ol’ boxers.

  9. Catch Thirty-Three says:

    Here is a shocking, revolutionary idea: set people free to do what their passions dictate!!! REGARDLESS of their race, gender, ethnicity! And if women aren’t exactly packing the halls of engineering programs, assuming that they are 100% free to do so – so what?

  10. Therese says:

    In 1980, half of the computer science majors were women. What changed? Then, more boys played computer games as they became available and there was a perception that boys knew more about computers simply because they played the games. While girls tend to have better communciation skills and will frequently go into careers that require those skills, I still think that there is a lot of social conditioning that discourages girls from thinking about engineering. I certainly felt that when picking between biology and engineering. I ended up picking engineering rather than medical technology as a career because my girlfriend’s mother had a master’s degree in medical technology, a “woman’s field” and still barely made any money. I didn’t want that to be me. It wasn’t that I had any preference between biology and physics and I was just looking for a career in math or science. Any would do.

    “In other words there is absolutely no evidence that women are systematically being excluded from engineering, physics and mathematics.”

    I disagree – my girlfriend, while studying for Phd in chemistry was definitely discouraged from the field by her professor. He did it by making very high demands on his male students, and not making any demands on his female students. He had no interest in them. It is not the getting into a program that is the problem, it is getting the support from teachers and advisors that get you to the finish line.

  11. Richard Nieporent says:

    Let me see if I got this straight Therese. Your girlfriend was discouraged because the professor made it hard on the male students and easy on the female students. You do know that most people would have thought that would be discouraging to the male students. By the way, if the professor did just the opposite, would you then complain that he was making it harder for the female students to get their degree? In other words it appears that you are just looking for excuses. If you want something badly enough you are not going to let anything like this discourage you from completing your degree. My Ph.D. thesis advisor was, not to mince words, a paranoid SOB. Somehow I managed to survive and get my degree.

  12. Miller Smith says:

    At my school in Prince George’s County, Md, we dropped AP Physics for the coming year. We almost dropped AP Chem as well. State and county officials don’t want to count those classes as a measure of high school quality.

  13. Ah, socialism at its best.

    Where democracy is about equal OPPORTUNITY, socialism is about equal RESULTS. Huge difference in philosophy.

    To guarantee equal results, people can’t be allowed to be free – otherwise they may choose voluntarily results end up not being equal.

    So, if the government wishes to force Physics and Engineering departments in colleges around the country to either (1) have 50% of their students / professors be women, or (2) close down, then the only way they could accomplish (1) is to get the government to help them *force* women who don’t want to major in Physics or Engineering to do so. See where this is going?

    Of course, the government could also take the ‘easier’ of the two options and just force the Physics and Engineering departments all over the country to close. Why not? It would just be the final nail in the coffin of U.S. technological dominance around the world. Our grandkids are going to think it’s normal for China, India, and the EU to order the U.S. around… unfortunately.

  14. Ragnarok says:

    “…the only way they could accomplish (1) is to get the government to help them *force* women who don’t want to major in Physics or Engineering to do so.”

    They could also force some of the men out – but that sounds too ridiculous to be possible.

    Oh wait – I forgot that’s exactly what’s happening in men’s sports.

  15. Your girlfriend in chemistry might have had a bad advisor, but there might be another explanation. When I was getting a PhD, the demands put on me and people in my cohort were primarily determined by us. The more driven and talented a student was, the more the advisor expected of them. I work in a university now, 30 years later, and that’s what I see this time, too. I specifically asked a professor I know well about this issue, and he said that he had to be more supportive of his women students because they were much less likely to be as confident as they should be. In fact, he had one student, whom he felt was the most talented student ever, he was concerned that she wouldn’t be as successful as she ought to be because she was too cautious.

    The situation you describe could be the result of pressure from the department or university to be “too supportive”. The professor can’t be too demanding out of fear of complaints about forcing out female students. When I was in grad school less than 1/2 the people entering the program got out with PhD’s, so presumably half the women in such a program should fail, but if they were flunked out, then the professor could get labeled sexist, which would be the kiss of death…

  16. What a ridiculous mess! I am a Physics teacher, and I have had the most supportive colleagues in my field, and from Physics professors, as well. I have seen the efforts to increase participation by women and minorities; they have been substantial.

    I wrote about this further on my blog


    I’ll be bringing this up at the conference – this needs to be answered. We cannot afford these sneaky attempts to dismantle our science programs.

  17. For the record, I’m a woman who graduated with an engineering degree. I experienced ZERO bias against women – in fact, the bias was (if anything) against the men.

    In my opinion, Title IX is a poor attempt at equality in areas that were not meant to be equal. It is physically impossible for the best female athletes to play like the best male athletes – especially without steroids. Now if they start Title IX-ing Physics and engineering, how many men will that leave in college? Already colleges are dominated by women. I just don’t see how women are being marginalized. They are choosing what they want to study, so what’s the big deal? Are we going to become like a communist state and decide for our children what their majors will be?

  18. Many if not most women enjoy jobs where they achieve results by bringing their personalities to bear on other people’s personalities. You can call it “communication” or “manipulation” or “seduction” or “salesmanship.”

    Putting such women in jobs that don’t use their social skills is like putting a dog in a hermetically sealed room in which he can’t use his sense of smell. It’s hard to be happy when you aren’t using primary abilities.

    Of course, it’s also cruel to prevent monkeys from climbing trees and eating bananas on the grounds that dogs don’t like to do such things.

    In real life, most jobs involve a mix of skills, and most engineering jobs involve a lot more interpersonal communication than generally recognized. But you won’t learn this from the media or from a clueless highschool guidance counselor.

  19. Therese says:

    Women just want to be treated the same – not tougher or easier treatment. My friend is extremely bright and knew when she was being disrespected by the old school professor.
    Personally, I have had great professors and can’t complain.

  20. Elizabeth says:

    I have mixed feelings about this – when I started college (late 70’s early 80’s) I took math and science courses, and did face some resentment/hostility from a few of the students, but also from some of the instructors (one was really openly hostile). Many fields such as finance and accounting back in the old days were predominantly male, but that has changed drastically. I do think one of the reasons for a lack of women in engineering is that while starting salaries are good, advancement is limited and a lot of the jobs are outsourced. If I had to choose between engineering, medicine, or heavy equipment operator, I’d choose medicine as the most lucrative, more jobs and all around more chance for advancement.

    I think the key trouble here is that girls at an early age are still being pressured to not persue science/math. It is not the teachers, but girls themselves. In my DD’s PRIVATE school their are girls whose parents allow them to exhibit themselves on Youtube and to act seductively prissy. Don’t even get me started on the moves these 6th graders do in Dance Drill! To create more opportunity for girls to excel in science/math, parents have to stop dressing them like bimbos and treating 10-year old girls as teenagers.

  21. I have to comment on Jeff’s email – yes, my job does require a lot of interpersonal communication and that has been a big part of my success. Anyone needing a that includes lots of interaction with people would be very satisfied in any number of engineering jobs.

  22. hardlyb says:

    Therese, you mentioned this friend as an example of “systematic exclusion”. Are you saying that her loser advisor is so common that it explains where there are fewer women PhD’s in chemistry? I doubt that anyone on the thread will insist that there aren’t such people, but if these people are rare, then sweeping changes to the law aren’t the way to proceed.


  1. […] it’s a great networking opportunity, as well as a chance to have fun with other women in Physics.Joanne Jacobs has a link to a NYT article about efforts to increase the numbers of women, and why the gender imbalance occurs.If the gender […]

  2. Thought Mesh says:

    We will tolerate no accidents…

    You can’t make women above average everywhere, but that doesn’t stop the gender warriors….