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Sex differences in science

forsburg at molbiol.ox.ac.uk forsburg at molbiol.ox.ac.uk
Thu May 6 05:39:53 EST 1993

In article <1993May6.094958.13778 at vax.oxford.ac.uk>, clh at vax.oxford.ac.uk writes:
> In article <1993May4.115656.7208 at mcclb0.med.nyu.edu>, 
> madsen at mcclb0.med.nyu.edu (LISA M. MADSEN) writes:
>> The basic concept that women and men do science differently is sexist
>> dogma.  In my experience the only sexual dimorphism in science is not
>> at the level of intrinsic characteristics but is due to the scientific
>> societies' view of the role of women.  
> My initial reaction to this was "The assertion that there is no 
> difference between the way women and men do science is dogma".
> Presumably it's one of those points open to investigation, rather than 
> an open and shut case, either way?

I dont think women _necessarily_ do science differently than men.  
I know lots of men who  do science the way I do.  But I know many 
more who don't.  

Also there is a strong pressure on women to be different.  I've said this
before, but it bears repeating--in a meeting or discussion, listen to
the man, asking challenging questions.  LIsten to the woman (if any) asking 
the same challenging questions.  The woman will nearly always be viewed as
aggressive and bitchy, assuming anyone has listened to her.  The man is 
just asking good questions.  

part of this might be age related too--since women tend to be amongst the 
younger scientists.  

Then there's the tendency of women to stay quiet unless they are sure they
are right, which means, they say less.   "Still waters run deep," commented
one of my senior male colleagues with mild surprise, when a woman student did 
particularly well on her orals.

It is hardly surprising that women might do science differently, since
science in the past hasnt welcomed them and they've had to define their
own rules.  But I think more and more [younger] men are also changing
how they do science.  Perhaps what we see is a microcosm of the greater 
society's cultural shifts in our professional society.  We can but hope.


SLForsburg	forsburg at molbiol.ox.ac.uk
ICRF Cell Cycle Group
Biochemistry Dept
Oxford University

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