Posted Aug 9, 2005 23:49 UTC (Tue) by Alan_Hicks
In reply to: scientific?
Parent article: Getting in touch with the feminine side of open source (NewsForge)
Studies have been conducted on young children (who it is presumed are less influenced
by gender roles than older children and adults) and those studies have concluded that the brains
of boys and girls develop different. IIRC, girls tend to develop speach easier, while boys tend to
develop skills like counting and stacking blocks or LEGOS(TM) to make shapes more quickly.
That presumption assumes that young children have no peer group and no parents, which is
No, it presumes that young children will be less influenced by peer groups and
parental figures because they've had less time to develop ideas of gender roles. Whether that is
true or not can certainly be argued.
As for `the brains of boys and girls develop different', well, there are neurological
differences --- but nobody has a clue what effect those differences have, and presuming that
they change the propensity of women for technical fields is arguing far in advance of the data.
That could be purely social (inasmuch as `purely social' means anything with an organ as
adaptable as the brain), or it could not, but so far I haven't found a single experiment which
purports to determine that which didn't have enormous methodological flaws or (more often)
simply wasn't testing what the experimenters thought it was testing.
What am I arguing is that we know there are differences, so ignoring the possibility that
these differences could be greatly influential is foolish. Naturally I do not know for a fact that
this is the case; no one does. However, evidence has been gathered to support the theory that
biology at least has a significant role here.
Further, note that all known differences between the mental abilities of men and women are
differences between averages across populations, and that the range of normal variation in the
population far exceeds those differences.
Of course! No one has argued this point. It's self-evident that some people are far different
from the mean. This is of course immaterial to the points being made. When we talk about
women in computer programming, we are talking about a statistical minority. We can ask the
question, "What makes these women choose this field?" or we can ask, "What women so much
less likely than men to choose this profession?" I think the latter question is the more
interesting, and the one more likely to yield statisticaly reliable information. After all, if there is
something different about geek girls, looking at them won't tell us anything statistically
worthwhile about all other women.
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