Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Experience breeds confidence?

femsignKnotted Knickers catches a story that indicates that the degree of female participation in higher levels of science and engineering (i.e., majoring in those subjects in college and possibly going further) depends on a different combination of factors than we might have thought.
Girls' higher achievement in maths or science did not seem to be related to the number of graduates, nor was cultural support for equal opportunities a good predictor of which countries had the most women Comp Sci graduates.
. . .
Instead, it seems that restricting the choices available to adolescents, and making it mandatory for all pupils to study maths and science subjects throughout their secondary education, correlates with a higher proportion of women going on to study computer science at university.
It's easy to make the leap from this to the conclusion that women aren't inherently worse at computational sorts of tasks, but have been conditioned to think that they will be -- once they get their feet wet (by being forced to take the required courses) and find out that they do just fine, they are often interested enough to pursue those very subjects further. Good reasons not to let anybody limit their options based on the sense of reality that they have in highschool.

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