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Nature Controversy and Relation of Gender to Mathematical Ability

For a very long time, the debate, surrounding the inabilities of women in certain fields of science and mathematics, has continued to grow. Several fields are male dominated and women could do just as good of a job as their counterparts. The abilities of women to succeed and be great in these fields have constantly been undermined and underestimated, especially by their male colleagues (Simard 548). Various researchers have done quite a number of studies to determine if males are genetically better at certain jobs than women; their results have differed greatly. The idea that males will always be better than females in mathematics and engineering has begun to weaken, as women show their abilities to perform in these fields. Not only are some women just performing at the same level of their men counterparts; they are exceeding them.  Until society dismisses the notion that certain fields are just for men, sciences and engineering careers will remain male dominate (Simard 549). Simard also points out that the research is showing that in various countries the same types of situations are occurring. Accordingly, there is a correlation between gender differences and confidence in math. He said, “One of the strongest predictors of the gender gap is math achievement” (549).

According to the research, parenting style is also a key factor that contributes to the differences in behavior of children. From an early age in a child’s life, girls have always been treated in a soft and fragile manner. They always receive the fairy tale treatment from their parents. They are approached like queens and princesses. Because of these practices, some intellectuals say that girls are too fragile and emotional to withstand higher ordered thinking and learning.  Blum recalls an interview she conducted with a male intellectual. She says, “Even when he informed me that women lacked the brains to perform sophisticated math calculations and to handle strategy, I simply wrote it down” (Blum 536). While at home, girls are given easy, domesticated chores. Boys, on the other hand, are allocated difficult tasks and expected to perform them without complaining. Parents tend to have more sympathy for their girls than their boys. Boys are expected to grow into responsible and hardworking men, while girls continue to be treated with delicacy throughout all their lives.

First by their parents and later by their husbands, women are pampered. Moreover, due to the perception that girls are delicate, even the toys and gifts that they are given are differentiated. Girls are given teddy bears and dolls, but boys are given cars and wrestling men. Even in today’s tech savvy world, boys play rougher and more graphic video games than girls. While the girls are playing Tetris, the boys are busy with Mortal Combat and Need for Speed. When children go off to school, conditions are not much different. At a young age, they receive different treatment in the educational setting (Blum 537). However, some natural and biological factors have also been considered to alter the behavior of children. These include hormones, like testosterone, which make boys more rough and aggressive than girls. Consequently, girls with higher levels of testosterone than average often act in a rough manner and play with boys. Nonetheless, it has been proven by study after study that these biological differences have no effect on a child’s mental abilities (Blum 537). In another study, Hyde discovers that differences caused by gender in all aspects of life are almost non-existence.

Apparently, early gender biases on the intended jobs of boys and girls have given women a negative outlook on venturing into certain fields. This is because women themselves have developed the belief that they cannot handle tasks; instead, they have to leave those tasks to the men (Simard 548). Apart from parents, teachers and friends, the society has also played a big role in discriminating against women. Since the old days, members of society have continued to look down upon women.  As a result, they have not encouraged them to engage into math and science fields (Simard 548). A supporting fact of this is how Ben Barres, a neurologist, underwent a sexual transformation from female to male. After she became a male, he was accorded much more respect, than when she was a female. The study also shows that Barres received better and faster services as a man than he did, when being a woman (Vedantam 542). The tactic of discriminatory acts like this has been used by men to try to force women back into the kitchen to raise and care for children; thus, keeping them away from the work field. The acts make women lack self-confidence and their natural abilities. However, this different treatment has totally no effect on the mental capabilities of women. Contrary to some male points of view, performance of men and women in academics is very similar. Under the same circumstances, learning the same subjects and doing the same tests, the performance is almost the same (Malakoff 544). Too much prejudice, associated with the capabilities of women has had a major effect on their levels of performance. This is because women tend to fear engaging themselves in certain fields, because they tend to believe they simply cannot make it (Simard 549). This stereotype is developed from a very early age in a girl’s life due to the environmental factors surrounding her. Several studies have come up to determine the level of performance in mathematics between boys and girls in school. Initially, it was believed that boys would perform better than girls; contrarily, the performance was equal (Malakoff 545).   

It was believed that, the slight differences in performance were due to some cultural and genetic factors, which led to girls being more conservative than boys (Pinker 540). The study is just one among the many others that continue to prove women are just as academically capable as men are. Historically and traditionally, women seem to be the logical source of nurturing and loving mothers. Their male counterparts, on the other hand, seem to have traditionally and historically put into roles of providers. Men just have to worry about working hard towards achieving their career goals in life, whereas women spend most of their time at home looking after kids (Pinker 539). Careers in engineering and mathematics are perceived to be male dominated. Due to this, women do not really try to penetrate these fields. They lack self-confidence and are full of fear of failure. This has led to women not realizing their full potential in the fields. Women believe these are male careers and they have developed negative attitudes towards science and mathematics due to early teachings. However, the gap that existed in number between the representation of males and female in these careers is being reduced with time (Tierney 546). The level of prejudice and discrimination associated with women in these fields has also been reduced significantly. This is because more women have been challenged to take up sciences in an attempt to ensure gender equity in all areas of employment (Simard 549).

In engineering, science, and mathematics stereotypes have also contributed to the gap existing between the males and females in the careers. Stereotyping is judging a particular person according to their association with a certain group. When an individual is in a group associated with a negative stereotype it is hard for people to surpass that. Despite the person’s good performance, the minds of the prejudice are convinced that they will fail (Simard 549). For instance, women are generally believed to perform poorly in mathematics; therefore, when a woman sits for a math exam, she will tackle it under a lot of pressure to produce a favorable outcome. This pressure will adversely affect her performance. This stereotyping is vivid in all aspects and corners of society, from the young to the old and from the intellects to the uneducated. Former Harvard President, Lawrence Summers, said that women lack the brains to perform sophisticated math operations on how to handle energy (Blum 536). With such harsh judgment coming from the intellects, one can almost conclude that the rest of the society completely lacks faith in women.

Science, mathematics, and engineering fields seem to favor people, who are pushy and aggressive, most of whom are men. Likewise, Tierney points out Summers invitation to have his hypothesis about women proven wrong (Tierney 546). Ventadam alleges that his sex change gave him access to conventions he never would have been invited into as a woman (542). Despite arguments, the studies show that one day there will be an equal number of males and females in all careers (Pinker 540). In order to fill in the gap between men and women in these fields, a legislation to fulfill the potential of women in academic science and engineering has been passed. This law requires trainings and workshops to improve gender equality. The trainings should also create awareness of the presence of gender bias (Tierney 545). The parents, teachers, and other students need to assure girls that they can do great in mathematics by encouraging them to pursue science. As a result, more girls will join these presumed male careers.

Just as in education from lower level to university, prejudice and discrimination are also evident in the work arena. The same stereotypes that women are not good in math also exist in the work environment. This belief makes female engineers to be afraid of the challenges or tasks that they will encounter in their work place. This fear often leads to the poor performance. The stereotype also leads to lower self-confidence in their ability to complete the job. Consequently, they have to approach their male counterparts for assistance (Pinker 540). The men, through helping women from time to time, continue to gain more confidence, while the women continue to be afraid of challenges. Consequently, women’s self-confidence continues to dwindle. Stereotyping, therefore, is seen as a large hindrance to females, who want to excel in the fields of mathematics and engineering. In order to ensure that girls are just as much represented in these fields, it is important that society as a whole takes the responsibility to encourage the girls. Society must let them know that not only can they perform well; sometimes they can perform better even better than the boys (Simard 548).

Although there are not many women, who have pursued engineering, those that do purse them perform at the same academic level as their male counterparts. However, a good number of women do not pursue engineering jobs even after obtaining the degree. Similar factors that prevent others from investing in these fields seem to catch up with them. This lack of retention appears to be due to lack of self-confidence, prejudice, and discrimination towards the services they offer, and discomfort of working in environments dominated by males (Pinker 539). In addition, some women get married and their attention shifts from work to taking care of their families. Stereotype threats can also lead to lack of retention of jobs among women. Many believe that some of the challenges that men face at the workplace are too difficult for women. However, there are a number of women in these fields, who have succeeded against all odds and they perform alongside their male counterparts (Tierney 547).

Today, the number of women in the science, mathematics, and engineering fields has increased rapidly. More women now believe in themselves and are engaging in the sciences. Women are taking it upon themselves to act against all sorts of discrimination geared towards them. In the case of Summers, for instance, many women before Blum had stormed out angrily, but she was able to keep her composure. This mere act signifies intellectual brain power (Blum 536). This also conveys that women are very determined to bring an end to any form of prejudice and discrimination. Even in the male dominated fields, the contributions of women can no longer be ignored. Women currently make up about 20 percent of technological developments in the workforce (Pinker 538).

Despite biological differences between men and women, they both have equal mental capacity and, thus, they can achieve equally. When the environment is conducive, free of prejudice and discrimination, students of both sexes are seen to have an almost equal performance (Malakoff 544). However, according to Pinker, biological gender factors to a small extent also contribute to the performance of women in mathematical and engineering fields. The data show that sex contributes to an individual’s cognitive ability with some favoring with males and some favoring the females (540). Therefore, it cannot be totally assumed that only socio-cultural barriers affect the performance of girls. Science also tries to explain the difference between boys and girls. Boys produce high levels of testosterone that makes them more rough and violent; girls, on the other hand, produce lower levels of testosterone, hence, they are more calm and conservative (Blum 537). Boys appear to be good in calculations and sciences, while girls are good in memorizing and verbal representation. However, the difference in the number of between boys and girls doing mathematics and engineering is so wide. Yet, the difference in those linguistics is negligible (Tierney 546).

According to the study, women who venture in science, mathematics and engineering fields are still faced with major challenges. Unfortunately, part of society still believes that there are jobs meant for women and jobs meant for men. The stereotype that some courses are only manageable by certain genders continues to create a gap in the number of females venturing into such fields. Although there are hopes that the gap will be closed someday, that day doesn’t seem to be in the near future. Ladies have equal mental ability as men. Just as men, they can do almost everything equal to men. Without prejudice, women can perform equally well in mathematics, as compared to men in engineering and other sciences. Ladies should be encouraged to take up courses in sciences and mathematics, with an assurance that they can perform well and pursue their careers of choice. Stereotypes should also be discouraged, because of their negative effects on the choices women make, when choosing their careers. From an early age in a girl’s life, she is pushed into developing negative attitudes towards certain subject and careers, which are societally defined as characteristic of a boy.

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