Why few women in engineering? It’s the B’s — from Gas station without pumps

April 8, 2014 at 9:11 am 3 comments

I hadn’t heard about this theory before the below blog post — recommended reading.  As usual, I appreciate Kevin’s analysis.

As parents and teachers we encourage children to pursue fields that they enjoy, that they are good at, and that can support them later in life. It may be that girls are getting the “that they are good at” message more strongly than boys are, or that enjoyment is more related to grades for girls. These habits of thought can become firmly set by the time students become men and women in college, so minor setbacks (like getting a B in an intro CS course) may have a larger effect on women than on men. I’m a little wary of putting too much faith in this theory, though, as the author exhibits some naiveté.

via Why few women in engineering? | Gas station without pumps.

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. alanone1  |  April 8, 2014 at 9:50 am

    (comment also left at gasstationwithoutpumps)

    Interesting points. When Harvey Mudd is mentioned in connection with pretty much everything, I think of President Maria Klawe, who is one of the most impressive people on the planet, and with her deep and wide background in math, science, computing, music and painting, has to be one of the greatest role models for anyone — boys or girls, but I’m guessing especially girls).

    I haven’t been tracking grade inflation. When did it happen that humanities courses started to give “mostly As”? When I was in school in the early 60s, getting an A in an English course was a real achievement.

  • 2. Bonnie  |  April 8, 2014 at 10:19 am

    This is really the imposter syndrome at work, which is something that has been written about extensively. Women who get a B in an engineering course see that as proof that they were really imposters, whereas men see it as a success. I’ve seen a lot of writing over the years on the different impact of the same grade on men and women – of course I can’t put my finger on anything right at the moment. I’ll have to take a look

  • 3. Diana  |  April 10, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    The two most relevant topics to this are stereotype threat (related to impostor syndrome) and mindset (believing that innate talent, not hard work, is what leads to success). Physics, engineering, and computer science have the highest percentage of faculty believing that innate talent is more important than hard work. This is fixed mindset, and it is inversely correlated with success. Growth mindset is much more useful.



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