Something to ponder if you’re a girl interested in science

[20 December 2010 – Please read the comment about the title here]

I just throw up the following factoids from the Australian Institute of Physics congress. Maybe together they mean something.  Let me know…

1. Not many women do physics at university. (That wasn’t from the congress – every physicist knows it)

2. Female students do (slightly) worse at some well-used standard multiple-choice tests such as the ‘Force Concept Inventory’.

3. If you ask the question ‘Are you Male or Female?’ at the beginning of a physics test, female students will do worse in the test. Male students are unaffected. (The hypothesis is that women suddenly think – I’m female – I’m not supposed to do well – then the subconscious takes over to ensure they don’t.)

4. A major reason why year 10 students (male or female) choose not to continue in science is that they cannot picture themselves being a scientist. (This has implications for doing outreach programmes aimed at this age group).

5. Eighty-three percent of women holding academic positions in physics (maybe in the US – but I’m not sure) have a husband / partner who is a scientist. (Schiebinger et al. (2008), Institute for Gender Research, Stamford University)

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