WOMEN IN SCIENCE AND MATHEMATICS: GENDER SIMILARITIES IN ABILITIES AND SOCIOCULTURAL FORCES*

Janet Shibley Hyde

Department of Psychology

University of Wisconsin

Abstract

Success in engineering and the physical sciences requires many abilities (Handelsman et al., 2005). Chief among them are mathematical, spatial, and verbal abilities, the first two for doing the science and the third for presenting one’s work in scientific articles and at conferences. All three have been stereotyped as showing gender differences. Researchers have amassed mountains of data on gender differences in mathematical, spatial, and verbal abilities and have synthesized the finding using meta-analysis. This paper reviews these meta-analyses and other related research, concluding that gender differences in these abilities are generally small.

Success in engineering and the physical sciences requires many abilities (Handelsman et al., 2005). Chief among them are mathematical, spatial, and verbal abilities, the first two for doing the science and the third for presenting one’s work in scientific articles and at conferences. All three have been stereotyped as showing gender differences. Researchers have amassed mountains of data on gender differences in mathematical, spatial, and verbal abilities. These data have been synthesized using a statistical technique called meta-analysis. Therefore, before reviewing the evidence on gender differences in abilities, I provide a brief explanation of meta-analysis.

Meta-Analysis

Meta-analysis is a statistical method for aggregating research findings across many studies of the same question (Hedges and Becker, 1986). It is ideal for synthesizing research on gender differences, an area in which often dozens or even hundreds of studies of a particular question have been conducted.

*

Paper presented at the National Academies Convocation on Maximizing the Success of Women in Science and Engineering: Biological, Social, and Organizational Components of Success, held December 9, 2005, in Washington, DC. Preparation of this paper was supported in part by the National Science Foundation, Grant REC 0207109.



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