Re: PSYCH: Women and Math

From: Gerhard Haak (
Date: Mon Feb 26 2001 - 04:41:21 MST

> I'm not really certain this is 'bad'. Any who want to study
> math/physics/engineering can easily obtain minority scholarships in such
> fields, they just aren't utilized. If the desire isn't there, why push
> them into it. Perhaps demographics will even out economically, but for
> now, the blacks I know from wealthy suburban backgrounds avoid the
> sciences as well.

You're attempting to come to a conclusion based on far too few facts - you
appear to have already concluded that females and/or minorities don't have
the same mathematical faculties, and then go on to state that "If the desire
isn't there, why push them into it". However, absolutely nothing can be
concluded from the simple correlation that you mentioned above.

An informal survey of a law firm where a friend of mine started work last
year showed that he was the only person (out of 30 odd) whose parents
weren't professionals. In general, amongst the lower socio-economic groups
(whether white or otherwise), you'll find that very few children will
eventually enter into the professions (or sciences for that matter).
According to your reasoning, we should perhaps not be encouraging them into

As an aside, consider the following. Typically, the pure sciences and
mathematics don't pay as well as law and medicine, and tend to have a lower
status in society. Show me a well-to-do mathematician, and I'll either show
you a mathematician with wealthy familial support, or a mathematician who's
become a financial analyst.

If one wants to make a career out of science, then a PhD is an absolute
prerequisite. PhD's take time - and lots of it. And you need to be
top-notch to actually carve out a career, whereas a so-so degree in law or
medicine will still (almost) guarantee a reasonable income over ones
lifetime. Combine these two facts, and avoiding the sciences appears, to
me, to be a perfectly rational course of action if you're concerned with
making a living.

My wife has an MS in biochemistry, but will soon be graduating in law and
starting work in an IP firm. Why? you may ask. Answer this question, and
you'll have the answer: if you've got two equally interesting vocations that
you could move into (and both of which you enjoy), but one tends to pay
substantially more, which would you choose?

Physics and mathematics are extremely interesting - but almost all my
physics and math friends are now computer programmers.

As a living, physics and math just don't cut it.

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