Why are there so few women in science?

Peter Woit has post up commenting on an article in the NYT: Why are there still so few women in science?.

The article outlines many of the issues that prevent women from even making it to tenure eligibility: no active support from professors, not passive support when they doubt their ability, constant background static letting them know that they can’t succeed anyway. Very important read!

As Woit points out though, she also gets something wrong about the supposed lack of STEM students:

Pollack repeats the claim of a serious shortage of students in STEM fields:

Last year, the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology issued an urgent plea for substantial reform if we are to meet the demand for one million more STEM professionals than the United States is currently on track to produce in the next decade.

something which is actually only a shortage of talented people willing to work for low wages. She opens her article with the all-too-plausible results of a Yale research study showing that

Presented with identical summaries of the accomplishments of two imaginary applicants, professors at six major research institutions were significantly more willing to offer the man a job. If they did hire the woman, they set her salary, on average, nearly $4,000 lower than the man’s.

This is good evidence that attitudes (women’s as well as men’s, since they were just as biased) remain a problem. But Pollack doesn’t comment on the absolute value of the salaries chosen as typical ($26,508 for a lab manager with a science bachelor’s degree), which is less than what a typical Starbucks barista makes here in New York (see here, where my location automatically gives the NYC data). Part of the story may well be women’s differential willingness not only to deal with competitive ego-crushing Princetonians, but also abusive, badly-paid working conditions for many parts of the science job market. If the pay, hours and coffee are better at Starbucks (and your co-workers are nicer…), lots of people are going to reasonably make the decision to work there instead. (my emphasis)

For some reason my reply to a guy who stated that women are simply biologically less interested in science has been deleted from the comment thread while the original bullshit comment has been allowed to remain.

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