Sunday, January 23, 2005
Gender And Science
Researchers found major differences in the amount of gray and white matter
in the brains of men and women of the same intelligence, suggesting that men and
women may derive their intelligence in different ways.
Overall, the results showed that men had approximately 6.5 times the amount
of gray matter in areas related to general intelligence than women. Meanwhile,
women had nearly 10 times the amount of white matter in areas related to
intelligence than men.
They say the findings may help explain why men tend to excel at tasks
that require more local processing, such as mathematics, while women tend to
excel at integrating information, a skill used in language.
The study also showed differences in brain regions between men and
women related to intelligence. In particular, 84 percent of gray matter regions
and 86 percent of white matter regions involved in women’s intelligence were
found in their frontal lobes or front portion of the brain compared with 45
percent and 0 percent for men, respectively. Instead, regions throughout the
left side of the brain seems to drive male intelligence.
But despite these differences in brain pathways and activity centers,
researchers say men and women perform equally on broad measures of intelligence, such as IQ tests.
It would seem to me that this is obvious to anyone who's spent any amount of time with people of each gender - while there's little doubt that both genders have the potential for equal intelligence, there's also some substantial differences in the way that men and women think about things. I mean, really now - let's be honest with ourselves.
Concerning the specific topic of women in academia, I think that simply has to do with what's expected of a college professor nowadays. If the job was simply about possessing knowledge on the topic of interest and the ability to communicate that to others, then I think we'd see at least as many females as males, if not more. But that's no longer the primary purpose of a prof - they're there to do the sort of research that brings in the big bucks, and particularly in the field of math and science, I think that's a task that's generally more attractive to males. I certainly don't think it has anything to do with ability; rather, it's just an issue of what people want to do.
My wife's an engineer and a damn fine one at that, so let's not go making any assumptions about my viewpoints on the intelligence or ability of females. Rather, let's acknowledge and accept the fact that there's differences between the genders, which is something we can all benefit from if we choose not to ignore reality.