Women in science

Women have contributed much less to the physical sciences than men. It’s depressing and it’s glaring and it almost poisons any discussion of the history of, say, physics or mathematics.

Suppose you accept, as I do, that to the best of our knowledge the sexes are equal in intrinsic ability to do science. That leaves a hierarchy of possible explanations:

(1) Women contribute as much as men, but their contributions are not acknowledged.

(2) Women would be able to contribute as much as men, but they are squeezed out of the profession.

(3) Women would be able to contribute as much as men, but too few end up with the right education and career goals.

In the heat of discussion you will hear people claim that it’s all about (1) and (2), or even just (1). In fact, (3) is probably the biggest explanation, and it is here that we must hope for truly large-scale changes in the future. But (1) and (2) certainly do happen, and one can understand the anger they cause.

[30 November 2017]

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