And I used to think Title IX was all about sports

Back when I was in high school Title IX came along just in time for us to get our nascent lacrosse team bumped up from a club to a varsity sport. The new law also prompted one student, Jeff G. to join the women’s soft-ball team, claiming it worked both ways. Though our suburban school wasn’t known for great performances in sports (well, unless you count tennis) the softball team went to state finals that year. I’m all for fairness – but I wonder if Jeff G. has kids and if he does if he’s sharing equally in childcare and house work these days?

Title IX wasn’t just about sports, although apparently it was never really enforced in other aspects like academics or fields other than the green and grassy ones, like Science.

John Tierney explores this topic in his article, A New Frontier for Title IX: Science, published in today’s New York Times.

According to Tierney, “The members of Congress and women’s groups who have pushed for science to be “Title Nined” say there is evidence that women face discrimination in certain sciences, but the quality of that evidence is disputed. Critics say there is far better research showing that on average, women’s interest in some fields isn’t the same as men’s.”

No kidding? Although this is just a single sample, I’ve got a good college friend who’s an engineer working for a large military contractor who admits, she just doesn’t get a charge out of blowing things up like the guys do (but at this point after so many years invested, changing jobs just isn’t feasible with two kids in college.) Yes I know, there are likey plenty of women engineers out there who might feel otherwise.

But seriously, there is plenty of evidence as discussed in Motherhood the Elephant and elsewhere that at least in some sciences women now represent 50% or more of all graduate students.

Yet, as Tierney points out,

“They 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.”

Later in the article he refers to work by Susan Pinker, whose suggests that the disparity isn’t necessarily a question of opportunity but choice,

“Ms. Pinker says that universities and employers should do a better job helping women combine family responsibilities with careers in fields like physics. But she also points out that female physicists are a distinct minority even in Western European countries that offer day care and generous benefits to women.

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

Interestingly the greatest single field responding to the initial call for essays for Motherhood were physicists, so many that I feared if they all wrote, the book would be too slanted toward that one field!

It’d be interesting to hear their thoughts on Tierney’s article.

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5 Responses to “And I used to think Title IX was all about sports”


  1. 1 sittingpugs July 17, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    “Ms. Pinker says that universities and employers should do a better job helping women combine family responsibilities with careers in fields like physics. But she also points out that female physicists are a distinct minority even in Western European countries that offer day care and generous benefits to women.

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

    I’m a bit conflicted or confused about what Ms. Pinker is implying. Men don’t also need universities and employers to help them combine family responsibilities with careers in fields like physics? As if a majority of women who have science interests also want to start families? Why doesn’t the assumption swing the other way.

    “Do you really want to hire Jones, what if he becomes a father?”

    But, I do agree with her second comment.

  2. 2 jennifer August 13, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    I’m really happy to see someone write that even if women have equal opportunities, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will make equivalent choices. The lack of parity in female engineers doesn’t necessarily imply anything about either discrimination or aptitude. As a female EE I do suspect that most women just aren’t that interested in my field even when they have the math/science aptitude. And there’s nothin’ wrong with that. (Heck, I’m not even sure *I’m* interested in my field, I mostly just did it to prove I could). An interesting side note — I just sent my 7-y-o son to a Lego Engineering camp, and the demographics there were nearly identical to those in my grad school EE classes: 15 boys, 2 girls. It starts young… and I don’t believe it can be attributed to environmental factors. My daughter doesn’t have any interest in that kind of stuff, though I would love it if she did.

  3. 3 Emily August 15, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    I guess it’s all about having the opportunity to make choices rather than having them made for you. And, hopefully providing our kids with the support and educational environment that allows them to follow what ever path suits them best. Kids are interesting. We’ve also got a boy and a girl – my husband (and ecologist) thought it’d be great to see how they diverge by sex (though he realizes the “n” is very small!)

    Interestingly our experience was similar to yours. I couldn’t buy enough legos for my son, but just couldn’t get my daughter interested in that big box of legos. Frustrated I even sunk as low as to buy some “girl” oriented legos. Didn’t work. I’d love to see the market research from Legos! I’m fairly certain that although my daughter wasn’t interesting in the primary colors – the pinks and purples might have been even more effective in turning her away!

    When it comes to science what I notice in the two is that my son seems more concerned with facts – gathering them up and stowing them away – while my daughter seems more interested in observing the natural world around her. Ironically, I think she is more like my husband, and my son is more like me when it comes to these characteristics!

  4. 4 Petrov August 22, 2008 at 11:31 pm

    It’s only going to force more boys out of college if engineering gets “title nined”. The universities are having a hard enough time achieving parity in gender. A number of schools are close to 60% female. A huge percentage of male students are in engineering.

    If schools were to enforce title ix on engineering, the way they have with sports, they’ll have to increase the percentage of women in class to match the school’s population. So, if 60% are female then there must be 6 women in engineering for every 4 men.

    Can’t get enough women? Don’t let the men in. Now the school population changes to what? 70% female. Whoops, now you need 7 women for every 3 men. Get rid of more men…

    There’s no way that will be allowed to happen…


  1. 1 Bookmarks about Used Trackback on October 22, 2008 at 10:45 pm
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