5 thoughts on “Women in science: I am not the exception

  1. Tom says:

    I haven’t watched the show so I can’t judge if there is bad science going on but it seems like you are just sticking your head in the sand here.

    “As a scientist I should be able to consider the points they offered as evidence for their claim and review them in a logical manner. But as a female studying physics I just found myself frustrated and shouting “No! No! No!” at the screen.”

    As scientists we should accept whatever good science tells us. If the science in question is showing credible results that we dislike/disagree then it is an indication that our status quo is wrong and needs to be adjusted. What if you are the exception? What if we need to provide special aid to women in their younger years in order to cultivate learning? This could be important knowledge that can help us improve society rather than pretend that everything is alright.

    I understand the harm shows like these can do when the general public see them and it is especially bad since most of them aren’t actually based on good science and knowledge. I just found your reply a bit unprofessional.


    1. Caitlin O'Brien says:

      Hi Tom, thanks for your comment.

      First let me say that the program overall did an incredible job at presenting and investigating both sides of the argument, as Horizon and the BBC often do. I thoroughly recommend watching it if you haven’t already. It was merely a small section of research presented in the program that invoked a very strong reaction in me as it goes against everything have been taught and some core values that I hold.

      You are right, I am indeed sticking my head in the sand, and I’m quite aware of that. This is largely due to the fact that, as I address in the last line, I am sceptical of research which claims either way that nature or nurture is the root cause of something. The crucial point here is; regardless of whether the reasons lie in our genetics or in society we would still address them in the same way, just as you said, by providing support and encouragement early on.

      Imagine you are a 16 year old girl choosing your A-levels and you realise you might end up being the only girl in the physics class full of boys, most likely you are already lacking a bit of confidence. Then to read news of research which claims that “well you just weren’t born to do it anyway…”? Think of the damage this could cause. This is of course where the role of the media comes in and how dangerous bad reporting can be, something Georgina Rippon addresses quite well in a post here: http://sciencegrrl.co.uk/sex-maths-brain/

      However “unprofessional” it may be of me, I still cannot find it in me to believe that myself and my female peers are here as a result of some kind of genetic abnormalities rather than the influence of great teachers, parents, schools and (in my case at least) a fair amount of luck.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Lene says:

      It is interesting to me that Tom was confident enough to make the comments above without watching the programme or it seems having any particular expertise in the area. I might go so far as saying that doing so makes his comments ‘unprofessional’. There is a wealth of evidence on offer to support the notion that societal influences can negatively affect girls confidence (not ability) in relation to maths. So, it may be that the difference is not about ability but about confidence..


  2. rebeccalydiam says:

    “There is little that is more damaging to maths education in schools than the term “a maths brain” I am so glad that I now know of someone else believes that. In school I was below average at maths, and believed I was incapable, until I got a job in science and realised I enjoyed it and that it was probably the context that had let me down before.
    it also annoys me that the media perpetuates this female-male brain myth, it does impact on people’s perception of their capabilities when high profile researchers like Simon Baron-Cohen present this ‘innate difference’ argument.. sadly both the gender and ‘maths brain’ myths overshadow the research that shows how flexible, undetermined and genderless an individuals intelligence is.


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