Debunking Myths about Gender and Mathematics Performance?

There is an amusing paper in the forthcoming JANUARY 2012 NOTICES OF THE AMS (American Mathematical Society) which purports to show that it is only oppression of women by society which causes females not to do well in mathematics.

The paper was of course zealous to rule out genetic differences but that does rather leave them without an explanation for Chinese excellence in mathematics. Regardless of the country in which they reside, Chinese tend to be prominent among leading mathematicians -- and China itself is a major centre of mathematical excellence. Yet China is still in many ways a very traditional society in which the very notion of gender equality would normally be scoffed at. The way they abort girl babies is surely enough evidence of that.

Anyway, the paper more or less assumes what it has to prove. In a rather self-contradictory way, the authors seem to assume that educational performance fully indexes innate ability. The paper draws its "evidence" not from IQ tests but from various international measures of educational attainment. And educational attainment is the product of many things other than IQ. Hard work anyone? Social pressures anyone? So I partially agree with the first line of their "Conclusions":
In summary, we conclude that gender equity and other sociocultural factors, not national income, school type, or religion per se, are the primary determinants of mathematics performance at all levels for both boys and girls

You note that they skate entirely over IQ.

They go on to argue that eliminating gender "inequities" is needed to lift female mathematical achievements. After decades of feminism and affirmative action it is hard to imagine how more might be done on that front in the USA other than by procrustean quota systems so the recommendation is as vacuous as it is irrelevant.

Women will always be up against their lower level of mathematical ability that IQ tests reveal so clearly. In recent years women have been pushed into mathematics to satisfy feminist dogma but few will rise to the heights.

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