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http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/03/science/03discrim.html

June 3, 2009
 Women Bridging Gap in Science Opportunities By CORNELIA
DEAN<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/d/cornelia_dean/index.html?inline=nyt-per>

The prospects for women who are scientists and engineers at major research
universities have improved, although women continue to face inequalities in
salary and access to some other resources, a panel of the National Research
Council<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/n/national_research_council/index.html?inline=nyt-org>
concludes
in a new report. <http://www.nas.edu/>

In recent years “men and women faculty in science, engineering and
mathematics have enjoyed comparable opportunities,” the panel said in its
report, released on Tuesday. It found that women who apply for university
jobs and, once they have them, for promotion and tenure, are at least as
likely to succeed as men. But compared with their numbers among new Ph.D.’s,
women are still underrepresented in applicant pools, a puzzle that offers an
opportunity for further research, the panel said.

The panel said one factor outshined all others in encouraging women to apply
for jobs: having women on the committees appointed to fill them.

In another report this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences <http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.0901265106>, researchers
at the University of
Wisconsin<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/u/university_of_wisconsin/index.html?inline=nyt-org>reviewed
a variety of studies and concluded that the achievement gap between
boys and girls in mathematics performance had narrowed to the vanishing
point.

“U.S. girls have now reached parity with boys, even in high school and even
for measures requiring complex problem solving,” the Wisconsin researchers
said. Although girls are still underrepresented in the ranks of young math
prodigies, they said, that gap is narrowing, which undermines claims that a
greater prevalence of profound mathematical talent in males is biologically
determined. The researchers said this and other phenomena “provide abundant
evidence for the impact of sociocultural and other environmental factors on
the development of mathematical skills and talent and the size, if any, of
math gender gaps.”

The research council, an arm of the National Academy of
Sciences<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/n/national_academy_of_sciences/index.html?inline=nyt-org>,
convened its expert panel at the request of Congress. The panel surveyed six
disciplines — biology, chemistry, mathematics, civil and electrical
engineering and physics — and based its analysis on interviews with faculty
members at 89 institutions and data from federal agencies, professional
societies and other sources.

The panel was led by Claude Canizares, a physicist who is vice president for
research at M.I.T.<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/m/massachusetts_institute_of_technology/index.html?inline=nyt-org>,
and Dr. Sally Shaywitz of Yale Medical School, an expert on learning.
The Wisconsin researchers, Janet S. Hyde and Janet E. Mertz, studied data
from 10 states collected in tests mandated by the No Child Left
Behind<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/n/no_child_left_behind_act/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier>legislation
as well as data from the National
Assessment of Educational
Progress<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/n/national_assessment_of_educational_progress/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier>,
a federal testing program. Differences between girls’ and boys’ performance
in the 10 states were “close to zero in all grades,” they said, even in high
schools were gaps existed earlier. In the national assessment, they said,
differences between girls’ and boys’ performance were “trivial.”