The Mathematics of Sex: How Biology and Society Conspire to Limit Talented Women and Girls

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Nearly half of all physicians and biologists are females, as are the majority of new psychologists, veterinarians, and dentists, suggesting that women have achieved equality with men in the workforce. But the ranks of professionals in math-intensive careers remain lopsidedly male; up to 93% of tenure-track academic positions in some of the most mathematically-oriented fields are held by men. Three main explanations have been advanced to explain the dearth of women in math-intensive careers, and in The Mathematics of Sex , Stephen J. Ceci and Wendy M. Williams describe and dissect the evidence for each. The first explanation involves innate ability—male brains are physiologically optimized to perform advanced mathematical and spatial operations; the second is that social and cultural biases inhibit females' training and success in mathematical fields; the third alleges that women are less interested in math-intensive careers than are men, preferring people-oriented pursuits. Drawing on research in endocrinology, economics, sociology, education, genetics, and psychology to arrive at their own unique, evidence-based conclusion, the authors argue that the problem is due to certain choices that women (but not men) are compelled to make in our society; that women tend not to favor math-intensive careers for certain reasons, and that sex differences in math and spatial ability cannot adequately explain the scarcity of women in these fields. The Mathematics of Sex represents the first time such a thorough synthesis of data has been carried out to solve the puzzle of women's underrepresentation in math-intensive careers. The result is a readable, engaging account suitable not only for academics in an array of disciplines, but for general readers as well—including educators, science policymakers, parents of daughters, and anyone intellectually curious about a key controversy of our time.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"There is a great need for exactly what The Mathematics of Sex does—it pulls all the relevant research on gender in mathematics together in one place, fearlessly evaluating it through to some exceptionally important and original conclusions. All further considerations of this important issue in scholarly debates, schooling, politics and policy, the public and the media, must now start with this book."—Frank Farley, Ph.D., L.H. Carnell Professor, Temple University, and Former President, American Psychological Association

"The Mathematics of Sex is a joy to read. Anyone who wants to encourage girls to pursue careers in science and math will find much to cheer about. It should be required reading for parents, teachers, school administrators, guidance counselors, and everyone else who has ever wondered why there are so few female scientists and mathematicians."— Diane Halpern, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, Claremont McKenna College, and Former President, American Psychological Association

"This is a powerful, Herculean synthesis of the scientific literature pertaining to the under-representation of women in engineering, science, and technology, and their over-representation in other disciplines. The authors assemble a complex web of information from the bio-social sciences and distill common themes into highly readable prose for those interested in sex differences in educational and occupational choice and performance after choice. Like the topics they seek to understand better, the authors are to be congratulated on crafting a truly outstanding scholarly achievement."—David Lubinski, Ph.D., Department of Psychology and Human Development, Vanderbilt University

"Ceci and Williams entice readers to examine their beliefs and ideas about the gender disparities among participants in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers. They lead readers through the thicket of contemporary research and highlight the paucity of robust findings. They explain why apparently conflicting results are often moderated by neglected factors and challenge readers to test their views against the current evidence. They enable everyone to come away feeling both more informed and more curious about how future investigations will unfold."— Marcia Linn, Ph.D., Graduate School of Education, University of California, Berkeley

"[The Mathematics of Sex] manages to provide a convincing and comprehensive overview of the substantial body of existing succeeds in presenting a wide range of arguments and balancing up the experimental evidence for and against each one in a clear and unbiased manner."—iSquared

"Two groups of people should care about the underrepresentation of women in math-intensive fields: academics and everyone else. In "[The Mathematics of Sex: How Biology and Society Conspire to Limit Talented Women and Girls], Stephen J.
Ceci and Wendy M. Williams provide a valuable resource for both audiences."—Science

"....Cornell researchers Stephen Ceci and Wendy Williams politely demolish studies that are presented in nsf [National Science Foundation] workshops as settled science."—Forbes

"In one stunning critique after another, Ceci and Williams demonstrate that the research at the heart of the gender bias movement is riddled with falacies and inconsistencies....The Mathematics of Sex is getting praise from both sides of the debate."—Washington Post

"So why are women still such a minority in math-oriented sciences? The most balanced answer I've seen comes from two psychologists at Cornell, Stephen J. Ceci and Wendy M. Williams...After reviewing hundreds of studies in their new book, The Mathematics of Sex (Oxford), they conclude that discrimination is no longer an important factor in keeping out women."—John Tierney in the New York Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195389395
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 9/1/2009
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen J. Ceci, Ph.D. holds a lifetime endowed chair in developmental psychology at Cornell University, where he studies the development of intelligence, memory, and sex differences. The author of approximately 350 articles, books, and chapters, Dr. Ceci has served on the White House Task Force on Children and Families, the National Academy of Science Board of Cognitive, Sensory and Behavioral Sciences, and the National Science Foundation Advisory Board. He has received lifetime contribution awards from various professional associations.

Wendy M. Williams, Ph.D. is a Professor in the Department of Human Development at Cornell University, where she studies the development, assessment, training, and societal implications of intelligence in its many forms. She has authored or edited thirteen books and dozens of articles, including the 2007 volume Why Aren't More Women in Science? Dr. Williams holds two Early Career awards from the American Psychological Association and three Senior Investigator Awards from the Mensa Research Foundation, and is a Fellow of various professional societies.

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Table of Contents

Preface: Setting the Stage

Introduction Why care about women in science? 3

Ch. 1 A multidimensional problem 16

Ch. 2 Opening arguments: Environment 28

Ch. 3 Opening arguments: Biology 58

Ch. 4 Challenges to the environmental position 79

Ch. 5 Challenges to the biological position 114

Ch. 6 Background and trend data 146

Ch. 7 Comparisons across societies, cultures, and developmental stages 161

Ch. 8 Conclusions and synthesis 179

Ch. 9 What next? Research and policy recommendations 197

Epilogue 219

Notes 223

About the authors 237

References 241

Index 261

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