longer a gender gap for the studies to explain. Third, most studies of cognitive sex differences at the highest levels of mathematical and scientific ability also focus on measures that predict success in high school and college. These measures, however, have not proved to be predictive of success in later science careers.2 Thus, we cannot look to cognitive sex differences to explain the differential success of men and women scientists and engineers.


2-1. A large body of research has probed the existence and nature of cognitive sex differences.

2-2. Most discussions of cognitive sex differences emphasize a small number of measures showing sex differences and de-emphasize the overlap between men and women on those measures as well as the large number of measures by which sex differences are small, nonexistent, or favor women.

2-3. Studies of brain structure and function, of hormonal modulation of performance, of human cognitive development, and of human evolution have not revealed significant biological differences between men and women in performing science and mathematics that can account for the lower representation of women in these fields.

2-4. The academic success of girls now equals or exceeds that of boys at the high school and college levels, rendering moot all discussions of the biological and social factors that once produced sex differences in achievement at these levels.

2-5. Measures of aptitude for high school and college science have not proved to be predictive of success in later science and engineering careers. Notably, it is not just the top SAT scorers who continue on to successful careers; of the college-educated professional workforce in mathematics, science, and engineering, fewer than one-third of the men had SAT-M scores above 650, the lower end of the threshold typically presumed to be required for success in these fields.

2-6. The differing social pressures and influences on boys and girls appear to have more influence than their underlying abilities on their motivations and preferences.


Y Xie and KA Shauman (2003). Women in Science: Career Processes and Outcomes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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