International Women in Science Conference
The Gender Similarities Hypothesis: Implications for Mathematics and Science
The Differences Model, which argues that men and women are vastly different psychologically, dominates the popular media and feeds the stereotypes of the lay public. I propose, in contrast, the Gender Similarities Hypothesis, which holds that males and females are similar on most, but not all, psychological variables. I review relevant meta-analyses of research on psychological gender differences, including mathematical performance, verbal ability, and spatial ability, as well as self-esteem and leadership. Gender differences are small or nonexistent in almost all of these areas, consistent with the Gender Similarities Hypothesis. For example, for mathematics performance, the effect size for gender differences in samples of the general population is d=-0.05. I then explore the implications of this hypothesis for mathematics and science education, including the question of single-sex education, and for the career trajectories of women in science. Overinflated claims of gender differences carry substantial costs in areas such as the workplace and relationships.
The Gender Similarities Hypothesis is also consistent with the Expansionist Theory concerning women balancing work and family. Expansionist Theory holds that multiple roles, rather than being a source of stress, are psychologically beneficial. Processes that may contribute to these beneficial effects include added income, increased social support, greater opportunities to experience success, and greater similarity of experiences between spouses. I consider the implications of Expansionist Theory for women in science.
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