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.