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Women, Math & Science Do Get Along Well, Mr. Summers

Robert Rubin, Alan Greenspan and Lawrence Summers on the cover of a 1999 TIMEAnother survey of 1,286,350 people young people and adults confirms identically of an earlier analysis of about 500,000 sets of test scores. Girls are as good in math as boys. Period.

The examination of 242 existing articles that assessed the math skills of 1,286,350 people, led by chief author Janet Hyde, University of Wisconsin-Madison, is published in the current online edition of journal Psychological Bulletin.

Another addendum to our update of this original article on girls in math and science, versus current study on math scores only, is that the notoriously-gender biased Lawrence Summers has resigned as President Obama’s chief economic adviser.

Originally written January 2010:  Excuse us Larry Summers. 500,000 test results say girls are equal to boys in math and science — when guys like you agree to let women achieve.

Lawrence H. Summers, President Obama’s chief economic adviser, is best known for his infamous comments about women’s abilities in science and math.

A staunch, highly-credentialed member of the old-fashioned,  “I know what I’m talking about when it comes to women” wing of the boys club, Summers made his proclamation about women’s abilities in math and science while president of Harvard University.

Summers argued that the under-representation of women in the top levels of math and science in academia is due to a “different availability of aptitude at the high end.”  This proclamation ended his tenure as Harvard’s president and many people believe he got a bum rap in a politically-incorrect spark that ignited female-centric gender-fury.

Maybe Summers was just plain wrong about women’s brain capacity in math and science. President Obama’s Chief Economic Adviser insisted that he was only quoting scientific research that grounded his assertions in fact.  If the truth hurts women’s pride, they should get over it, argued the old-fashioned boys club.

The new guys sided with women, and there were plenty of them.

Science Daily reports that reality is that girls around the world are not worse at math than boys.

“Stereotypes about female inferiority in mathematics are a distinct contrast to the actual scientific data,” said Nicole Else-Quest, PhD, a psychology professor at Villanova University, and lead author of the meta-analysis. “These results show that girls will perform at the same level as the boys when they are given the right educational tools and have visible female role models excelling in mathematics.” via Science Daily

The team sifted through data from 493,495 students, ages 14-16 from 60 countries, tested in 2003 on two standardized exams.

The group did find widespread evidence that women lacked confidence in their abilities in math and science, and even moreso in cultures where cultural norms reinforced the stereotype. If certain countries had more women in research-related positions, the girls in that country were more likely to do better in math and feel more confident of those skills.

This new research suggests that gender bias in math and science is not in women’s heads or DNA, but rather with the old-fashioned, gender-rules wing of the boys club who can’t get out of the Dark Ages.

Let’s hope that Mr. Summers gives better advice to President Obama as Chief Economic Adviser, than his advice about why women lack confidence in their scientific and mathematical abilities. I admit that seeing his photo on this 1999 cover of TIME, as part of this remarkable trio, is a big chilling. Anne

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