> So why are fields like mathematics and computer science so dominated by men?
At that age, boys' and girls' hips, shoulders, and height show little difference either. Should we wonder why men and women show differences in basketball and tennis?
I'm not saying female and male brains grow differently after that age. I have no idea. I'm saying that their data doesn't change anything about answering why fields differ.
The do develop differently after that age. The transition from a child brain to the emotionally and cognitively more mature adult brain starts a few years earlier in girls than in boys.
It starts at around 10 to 12 in girls, and around 15 to 20 in boys .
I suspect that this can lead to difference in what fields boys and girls end up in for two reasons:
1. It may be that the best way to teach a kid depends on where the kid is on their child->adult brain transition. Trying to teach teen boys and girls in the same classes, with the same material, at the same pace might mean that half the class is being taught in a way that is geared toward people whose brain does not work like theirs does.
2. One of the big things you get better at and more interested in as your brain becomes more adult is dealing with larger and more complicated social networks. Just around the time that you are getting close to high school, and you've finally got enough background to start getting to the good stuff in STEM subjects--the girls are also getting to where social networks are a big deal to them and they put effort into growing and maintaining their network. That's still a few years away for the boys, who are still happy to spend hours alone in front of a computer. By the time they get interested in people a few years later, they are now firmly on their path to going into STEM.
I have a suspicion that we could largely close the gender gaps in STEM fields by changing middle school and high school so that boys and girls are in separate classes with separate curricula geared toward their different child-> adult brain development trajectories.
To understand differences in another field, such as athletics,
the answers seem to be far more attainable (e.g. research on hormonal activity and its effect on strength is also making progress) today than in a field like math where its reliance on abstract thinking necessitates better understanding of neural mechanisms -- a hard problem.
However, I don't understand how the brain activity patterns can prove (or disprove) that women and men have 100% equal ability to do math. I just don't see the connection between those two things.
A clear disproof or proof would involve observing a hard constraint of some sort.
For a blatantly counterfactual analogy imagine that they found neural patterns for math were literally the same as computer processors done in brain cells like bored engineers implementating computers in Dwarf Fortress or Minecraft. They could decode patterns and found human calculations involve bit registers in their head - men fit between 3 to 6 base five "bits" directly and women have 2 to 5 base six "bits" as size constraints prevent fitting more in. They found larger numbers were done via piecemeal operations over a memory map slowing things down and increased clockspeed was possible but would literally cook their brain. The upper bound for men in this bizzare hypothetical world would be higher.
Anyone could have guessed this, because it's common sense. But the purpose of science is to produce knowledge based on empirical evidence. Common sense has its place, but science wants to test everything. According to a scientist it's not a fact just because it's common sense. Now this fact is part of the body of scientific evidence, and that is a powerful thing.
If you are trying to figure out why men are so inclined to math/CS, I think it makes a lot of sense to start at the very bottom of the problem; what do their brains look like when they are literally doing the thing? We can officially rule that out, so now we can fairly move up the chain and introduce more complex questions.
This study didn't find any such difference, in the study both gender's brains worked in the same way. They studied children in an attempt to factor out some other influences (i.e. societal).
"Serious" mathematicians are hopefully like "serious" coders, they read the math and when they happen to meet the person they are like "Oh, hi black/indian/asian/white/A man/woman/X not that I want to chit chat but what does this line here mean exactly..." The analogy does break down due to the sheer number of mathematicians being men, which is probably why some people need these kind of headlines in the first place (to challenge their bias).
I personally believe that all mathematicians have poignantly different ways of going about their work, so my real issue with studies is that personally, I wouldn't like being a test subject.
Of course the above is causes a lot of false results to be published: it isn't real but by statistical fluke happened.
It isn't expected that men and women are the same in how they do things. We just don't think the differences are important to what outcomes get achieved when it comes to real-world problems.
And something interesting, my understanding is that where men are more likely to be red-green colour blind women go in the opposite direction, sometimes even as far as having tetrachromacy/a 4th type of colour receptor. Maths always seemed to me to be linked to vision, that sort of thing might trigger all sorts of strange results.
Biology is really messy.
I'm not sure if such an assertion is rooted in directly measurable and observable science (I somehow doubt it is).
It would not be unreasonable to assume that the ability to get blood to the brain of men is significantly reduced compared with women because of its constant redirection to inflating the penis.
"... women's brains seem to be more active than men's brains, in terms of blood flow ... [w]hile there was more blood flow in women's brains overall, male brains had more blood flow in certain areas, including the visual and coordination centres of the brain." 
> It would not be unreasonable to assume that the ability to get blood to the brain of men is significantly reduced compared with women because of its constant redirection to inflating the penis.
I'm pretty sure that is a real fact, or very close to one. The blood in the penis had to come from somewhere, and could easily be causing reduced brain functionality.
Whether or not there are genetic differences doesn't mean you should treat anyone differently. But, if say we know that brown eyed people are wired so that math is harder for them then we have a good case for giving them additional advantages (scholarships, tutoring, etc) to help overcome that disparity. On the other hand, if there are no genetic disparities but in wealthier countries brown eyed people prefer to avoid math if they can, well, that's also informative (maybe the math field isn't welcoming to them, or maybe work in that field doesn't engage them well)
In the case of economic or societal disadvantages the argument is that if the environment changed, both the rich and the poor, the white and the black, would perform equally, justifying "leveling the playing field". Genetically, all "leveling the playing field" does is provide an artificial equity which will go away once the advantages are taken away.
This seems similar to the argument that women should have different physical fitness standards in the special forces. Nobody should care about gender proportions in the special forces, they should care about the effectiveness of the teams, same with other non-trivial pursuits. (This is provided that the differences between groups are indeed genetic).
For example, back when we were doing our MSc degrees, my one colleague would start his day reading Mac Lane's old and new testaments . I would start my day usually obsessing about the same things—what time is and its relation to space and orientation, whether everything can be expressed in a self-dual way, learning or improving language skills, writing music and playing soccer. Whenever I read mathematics I find it somewhat stressful and I've realised that I should write more than read. The "stress" part is maybe actually just the fact that in general I often don't like skimming things—not even story books. I also have Mac Lane's books, but I try to focus on one thing at a time.
Whether you replace every group by its permutation group as a habit or not, they may be isomorphic, but they are constructed differently—as are mathematicians.
 This was his joking way to refer to Algebra (old testament) and Categories for the Working Mathematician (new tastament).
I get sent straight to https://text.npr.org/
This kind of conspiracy theory being backed up by medias and politicians really become tiring. It’s easy to blame "society" for everything without ever identifying a potential mechanism, formulating a testable (and possibly refutable) hypothesis which is the basic job of a scientist. And of course this kind of claims are never accompanied by a single concrete exemple... which would be easy to find if there was even a small basis of reality behind them.
How about a 10 percentage point difference in the share of women among STEM graduates between the Netherlands and Denmark?
Unless you're suggesting there's some sort of biological factor involved that makes Danish women more suited to go into STEM, society's the remaining culprit, even if the exact mechanisms have yet to be identified...
Not sure how much water this holds...
The meat and potatoes of the article are in this passage, which has true explanatory power (and seems to be based on actual experimental results):
But Geary says an international study he did with Gijsbert Stoet at the University of Essex suggests a different explanation.
Using an international database on adolescent achievement in science, mathematics and reading, they found that in two-thirds of all countries, female students performed at least as well as males in science.
Yet paradoxically, females in wealthier countries with more gender equality, including the U.S., were less likely than females in other countries to get degrees in fields like math and computer science.
Geary thinks the reason may be that women in these countries are under less pressure to choose a field that promises an economic payback and have more freedom to pursue what interests them most.
Also, males may be more likely to choose science because they are less likely than females to have strong reading, writing and language skills, Geary says.
If in most countries girls do as well as boys in science we can lay to rest any ideas about genetic advantages. If women and men behave differently with regards to maths and science in different parts of the world we can safely assume the differences are cultural.
The international study mentioned above is the one that npr should be reporting. Not this garbage study looking at kids' brains on Sesame Street.
> If women and men behave differently with regards to maths and science in different parts of the world we can safely assume the differences are cultural.
No, we cannot safely assume that. That's not even what the part you quoted says.
Probably the single most common argument about why the split occurs in wealthy countries is around interest, not ability. And that can indeed be genetically driven.
To me it looks like the "gender paradox" has a trivially simple solution: Men are more interested in math and math-like fields than women (and women more interested than men in people-focused fields, just look at ones like nursing or teaching), this is at least partially genetically driven, and ability has nothing to do with it. This is part of the reasoning in what you quoted:
> Geary thinks the reason may be that women in these countries are under less pressure to choose a field that promises an economic payback and have more freedom to pursue what interests them most.
An alternative hypothesis for why group X (and not Y) dominates field Z, is that members of group Y who are good at Z usually are also good at other things, which they usually prefer, while group X disproportionately contains people that are only good at Z. So it's possible that most Z's are X even though they are on average less able and without unfair discrimination.
Finally, discounting a MRI study that does high resolution studies of brain activity as garbage based on critera apropriate for surveys isn't apropriate. Samples of around 50 participants are actually well motivated for fMRI studies: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3427872/#!po=1....
Girls leave STEM because they face creepiness, misogyny and unequal treatment from students and faculty.
There is a lot of similarities when women leave a programming profession and when men leave the teacher profession. Both will say that they feel the social environment is unconformable. Both will say that there is an unequal treatment from students and faculty. Both will report of gender based bullying and harassment.
And the similarities continue in how quickly people leave the profession. Both has a significant higher leave rate while student, during the first year as employed and after 10 years. Being a minority gender is leaky pipe, and if we look at work segregation in general using numbers from a few years ago, 84.3% men and 84.2% women worked in a gender segregated work place.
From last year national workplace health survey, the industry with highest rate of bullying and sexual harassment was nursing, which swapped placed with construction which was the previous worst workplace. That those two professions are next to each other in toxic work environment makes perfect sense if we assume there is practically no difference biologically, socially and culturally between men and women.
Without looking at other age groups, we never know. Most teachers in those age groups are (in most countries) women, but I agree about inequality when one-gender-only scholarships are offered.
More research has to be done on other age groups. There are ethics problems with active involvement, but brain differences have been observed in other animals too ( https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn13596-male-monkeys-pr... )
That said, I think a lot of it is not what you listed (which is still a problem needed addressing) but the majority is social demand and how we as a society don’t make those careers necessary or cool. People get diverted into business and liberal arts in too great a number.
If we used cultural tools to steer more girls and boys (with special emphasis for girls) into STEM we’d see better results.
Or because they aren't the only one leaving it in the first place!
Thinking that any man or boy is the same, act the same, think the same and like the same things, and STEM faculties are the worst a woman can find, is naive at best.
Men suffer as women.
The survival bias make people think that only women leave STEM or leave it at bigger rates, but that's not true.
Statistic says that less than 5% of boys and less than 1% of girls think of a career in STEM, it is already largely a field for a few (an élite if you like) and it's dominated by two kinds of people: people obsessed by the topic, in the autistic spectrum, that is mostly a male disease (people in the spectrum gravitate around STEM majors 14% more than neurotypical people - 22% Vs 36% - it means almost 2 times more).
Competitive assholes who like other competitive assholes, who are mostly men.
But the bulk of the students are regular folks like me, who just wanted to study the field but didn't like the academia shit and hence left (and I am in the spectrum as well).
People discussing the so-called gender gap* in software engineering education always forget a "little" details: learning to program takes a lot of time and dedication. Basically, at least two/three years of 10 hours+ a day (university classes and homework, plus personal reading and projects). Most of this time is spend alone, behind a computer. Very few people are willing to follow this lifestyle, girls even more so because of the lack of face to face human contact it implies.
* which is not a real issue anyway: the software isn't worst because of the lack of women creating it. In addition, the same people are totally fine with 80-100% girls in language and humanities degrees which means their real goal isn't "equality", which is reached already because universities don't select people and education is free (speaking of France here; we hear the same gender-gap bullshit).
And, obviously to anyone who works in the industry, software development is a team sport. I spent a couple years as a product marketing manager back at Arbor Networks, doing no software development at all, just product pricing and definition and sales team enablement, and I take more meetings as a software developer than I ever did as a PM. So the idea that women are deterred from tech because it's so antisocial doesn't hold up, either.
Heh. And don't forget that they have to have "passion," been playing with computers before they could walk, spend all their spare time doing side projects in GitHub, etc.
There are few fields where there's such a widespread sense of exceptionalism with a belief that studying a field in university and then simply working conscientiously at it in a day job is considered utterly inadequate by so many.
Wait. You mean the ten years I spent in K'un-Lun learning how to press Return before I was allowed to declare my first variable ... doesn't _everybody_ have to do that?
What background did these people have? Are you sure it's not sampling bias?
I taught programming to a class of kids who didn't choose to be there: their parents made them come. Some kids were immediately "naturals", the rest struggled, and the gap remained no matter what we tried.
This sounds like a common problem across all subjects.
I'm a woman who studied physics and astronomy at university. In my final year I taught myself programming in my spare time because I was interested in it, and knew the job prospects were better than in physics. I had other hobbies and an active dating life at the time, but I still managed to get a software job straight out of university, and it's evolving into a fruitful career.
Learning to program in no way requires 3 years of monastic devotion.
I see there is a lot of genius in this thread, having come across all these concepts and got a working understanding of all these things in a few weeks/months. I'm 10 years in and I still learn weekly. Either Dunning–Kruger is in full effect or you internalized so many thing you don't see them anymore.
One of my dormmates in college was in some engineering degree, I forget what, and decided to learn some programming from us, since so many of us were in CS. It was a pretty short time before he could do useful things, actually helping him finish his projects faster, but all that took was some very basic concepts: arrays, loops, conditionals. I think on the order of a week to get the concepts down and be able to write a C program from scratch, and another week or two before he had the concepts embedded in his mind enough to use it with his own work.
Thing is, even that was far faster than I typically saw for those same concepts, as a Teacher's Assistant for the introductory CS courses. The engineering mindset seemed to give him some sort of foundation to pick it up faster, even having never done it before.
And his code was absolutely terrible, he had a long, long way to go if he ever wanted to even consider programming as a profession.
That's absurd. I didn't devote anywhere near that amount of time to learning to program. I did it, in three languages (four, if Verilog counts), over the course of 8 classes in an EE undergrad program. Sure, it took longer to get good at it. Getting good just required actually building things, but not for anywhere near 10 hours a day.
I don't follow. What does face to face human contact have to do with being a girl? Can you clarify?
Lateralization appears to differ between in the sexes with men having a more lateralized brain. This is based on differences in "left" and "right" brained abilities. One factor which contributes support to the idea that there is a sex difference in brain lateralization is that men are more likely to be left handed. However, it is unclear whether this is due to a difference in lateralization.
Meta-analysis of grey matter in the brain found sexually dimorphic areas of the brain in both volume and density. When synthesized, these differences show volume increases for males tend to be on the left side of systems, while females generally see greater volume in the right hemisphere. However, based on a number of studies using different measurement techniques, there is no significant difference between male and female brain lateralization
1. We learn
2. Learning is physical, because it occurs in the brain
3. Over time, learning is reflected in detectable physical differences in the brain
The reason that studies like this one are looking at children is that they are trying to minimize the role of established patterns of use in creating brain differences. In other words, differences arising from culture.
A better argument would be that every time brain differences were found, they turn out to be irrelevant. However, I'm not sure even that is true, considering some colleges are experimenting with mental rotation training to help female engineering students, with good results: https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/43802/can-teaching-spatial-sk... That example also shows identifying gender differences is not a bad thing; it allows coming up with ways to compensate.
But the plasticity means that cultural practises are likely to have an effect on brains, in the same way that London Cabbies famously have over developed hippocampus with more nerve cells than they had before due to the requirements of their jobs.
Finding brain differences does not, therefore, mean that the differences are genetic or directly gender related, but could be culturally generated through different roles being adopted for social reasons.
It seems pretty clear that absolute brain mass is not that important, but the ratio of brain to body mass, is. For example, whales famously have (much) larger brains than humans, but are not (considered) as intelligent as humans.
The brain of the sperm whale is the largest, five times heavier than a human’s. The adult sperm whale brain is 8,000 cubic centimeters weighing about 8 kg (18 lb), while ours is about 1300 cubic centimeters. A human brain can weigh 1.5 kg in adulthood.
Note again: sperm whales have five times more brains than humans.
As the other posters have said, size doesn't seem to correlate to anything. More than that I don't know.
That aside the point is there would be less nerve input for the brain to process from five grams of fat, five grams of skin, or say an organ like the eye. Let alone any other other details it must acount or provide for. Further complicating things is neural plasticity - if I recall correctly "optical" areas of the born blind tend to be repurposed for other senses as opposed to say mathematical ability.
TL;DR: There is evidence but certainly not good enough to tell us anything about sex differences in humans.