it’s not due to “intrinsic” factors (cf Larry Summers), but

rather due to cultural differences in how various possible

careers present themselves (and are presented by others

in a society) to young people contemplating what to do

with their lives.

For example, in the Czech Republic there’s no gender

difference (neither mean nor variance) in math scores of

high school students. In Tunisia girls’ math scores have

a smaller mean than boys’, but a larger variance. In Bahrain

the opposite is true: girls have a larger mean than boys,

but a smaller variance. If one looks at all the available

data, we find that country-to-country variation in math

scores with gender (that’s what this study looked at) seems to be

determined by sociocultural factors that differ among

countries, not by “intrinsic” gender factors.

References:

Click to access rtx120100010p.pdf

http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2012/01/surprise_surprise_gender_equal.php

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http://bit.ly/1fkuuVp

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http://www.lettoysbetoys.org.uk/the-let-toys-be-toys-2013-silliness-awards/

It’s an amusing and horrifying article in equal measure!

See in particular the “Special Achievement Award for Outstanding Sexism”.

]]>I also believe we should look at merging the teaching of calculus and the teaching of advanced physics at High School level. Calculus makes sense in the context of physics – without physics, it is abstract and obtuse except for the most mathematically inclined.

]]>The second major quibble is that, although girls make up 40% of the maths cohort, it is a breath-taking logical jump to say that the measure would lead lead to more girls taking physics degrees. Many engineering departments already do ask only for maths, which is presumably why they are flooded with girls at 14% of their cohort, even less than the proportion that do physics A-level.

The real solution is much harder; we have to address the forces that make girls (and boys) conform to gender stereotyping. This we are trying to do but quick fixes like abolishing A-level physics are unlikely to succeed. And, as a final point, if we lost the identity of physics at school, it is entirely likely that the numbers of both girls and boys would fall.

]]>We do have a Foundation year already at Sussex, but it’s not quite right for students with good maths but no physics.

]]>Another point – for us at least, the gender balance is much better for Astrophysics entry than for other flavours of Physics…

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