White, cis, male physicists with “good intentions” aren’t doing enough to fight the racism and sexism from which they benefit, argued two education researchers in a recently published article in the International Journal of STEM Education.
According to their article, the primary means by which these white male physicists illustrate their inaction include: asserting that inequity is something physically distant from them, blaming inequity on larger societal or cultural factors over which they have no control such as the K-12 education system or women choosing motherhood over physics careers, and appealing to their own discomfort with or inadequacy in directly addressing racism and sexism.
“Ending racism requires white people to change. Ending sexism requires men to change,” the authors wrote. “The progressive white men we interviewed are essential to change.”
What about fields where men are discriminated against because of their sex?
Let’s look at some real world facts.
Men as a whole and women as a whole have the same average intelligence. If we take 1,000 randomly selected men and 1,000 random selected women out of the general population, the average of their IQ scores will be the same. However, the men’s scores will vary over a greater range than the women’s. This means that we will find more men at the low end of the scores. Roughly 2.7 % of the men will score below 70, but only about 1.9 % of the women will have scores that low.
The effect on the very high end of the scale is even more pronounced.
The GRE is essentially an IQ test for a group of people (college students, mostly) who have above average IQs. Recent data for the GRE shows that Physics and Astronomy majors have the highest scores. Their standard score compared to all GRE takers was 139. If the tighter range of variability of intelligence for women applies to GRE takers, then only one in 52 women would score that high, but one in 38 men would. About 88 % of the Physics and Astronomy major who take the GRE are male; that’s a M/F ratio greater than 7:1. If the selection were based on IQ alone, the ratio should be less than 2:1.
At the other end of the GRE, Early Childhood Education majors have a standard score of 68. Again, if the tighter range of variability of intelligence for women applies to GRE takers, then only one in 51 women would score that low, but one in 37 men would. 97 % of Early Childhood Eduction majors who take the GRE are female; that’s a F/M ratio over 30:1. If the selection were based on IQ alone, the ratio should be less than 2:1.
Now, it may be that men are being actively discriminated against in Early Childhood Education programs and women discriminated against in Physics and Astronomy. Or it may be that men and women who are free to choose tend to choose careers related to the sex-based roles that have maximized the survival of our species. Or there may be multiple other reasons things are as they are.
The social policy of Scandinavian countries has tended to promote the ability of men and women to freely choose careers, and in those countries men and women are even more likely to seek careers that the authors of the paper referenced above would deem to be sexually stereotyped. In the Nordic countries the M/F ratio for engineers and F/M ratio for nurse are both higher than the average for the rest of the developed world.
The Real World experiment on sexxxxxism and career choice has already been run. We appear to have wasted $ 300,000 of taxpayer money.
I will note one other fact. While the standard score for all GRE takers is (by definition) 100, the standard score for Sociology majors is 88.