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Title IX: Why don’t we apply it to science/math as we do to sports?

May 24, 2009
Maud Menten (1879-1960), a medical scientist who created the Michealis-Menten equation

Maud Menten (1879-1960), a medical scientist who created the Michealis-Menten equation

When I think of “Title IX,” I think of girls in sports in the U.S.  Did you know that Title IX does not specifically state that its only impact is school sports and college athletics, despite its affiliation? I recently read an opinion piece on politicsdaily.com about how Title IX (“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” from wikipedia.org) should be applied to science and math, as it does to school sports. Rita Misra, who wrote this opinion entitled “More than Sports: Title IX, Women and Science,” (parentheses are my addition) says that:

Gender differences in math and science are considered such a truism that even how a kid plays with a truck (referring to Larry Summer’s speech on how women are innately less capable in math and science) can be taken as confirmation — and not only does that steer women away from the STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics] disciplines as a matter of career choice, studies show that repetition of these ideas can actually cause test scores to worsen.

Gender differences in math and science may be myths, but they’re myths that have sprung out into the real world fully formed and are now tromping through our streets, setting fires, overturning cars and vandalizing park benches as they go.

Mary Anning (1799-1847), fossil collector and paleontologist

Mary Anning (1799-1847), fossil collector and paleontologist

In fact, girls are doing just as well as boys in math, according to a study published in the journal Science. But what keeps girls avoiding math and science? “Self-confidence instilled by parents and teachers is more important for young girls learning math and science than their initial interest” says a Sciencedaily.com article. Because our culture still seems to perpetuate this myth that girls just aren’t good at math/science, the number of women choosing STEM careers still remains low. I agree with the author Misra in that:

Title IX in science and math is not going to look exactly Title IX in sports. I’d be especially reluctant to see it, for instance, be a part of the determination for which research projects do or don’t get funded. But there’s not only a space but a need for it, in terms of things like setting up mentorship programs in disciplines where the test scores may be equal but the representation is not.

I think that there should be an overhaul of Title IX. I don’t mean to “rewrite” this act but to “reinterpret” it. We know why there is little representation of women in STEM careers—so why can’t we do anything about it?

Rachel Carson (1907-1964), marine biologist and nature writer

Rachel Carson (1907-1964), marine biologist and nature writer

When I was in elementary school, I was told by teachers and parents that math and science were not my strong points—that I should just stick to English and social studies. Was this because I did not understand math and science, or because I was told that I did not understand math and science? Either way, I distanced myself from those areas from a very early age. Women and girls who are reading this: what were your experiences with math/science as a kid and how did that translate into your current career and if you have daughters, how do you treat your daughters with regards to math/science?

To read more about women in math and science, click here.

19 Comments
  1. JessSnark permalink
    May 27, 2009 6:14 pm

    I agree with a lot of what you’re saying here but I’m not sure what exactly you’re proposing (other than informing people who were previously unaware of the fact that Title IX is not sports-specific).
    I benefited from Title IX in that my university had a strong women’s sports program and I participated in it, and before that I benefited from Title IX’s indirect effects of encouraging more youth leagues for girls in team sports. As I understand it, the main effect of Title IX on women’s sports was to cause more schools to offer and fund women’s teams. My undergrad and grad degrees are in math and engineering, and women are still certainly a minority in those areas for many reasons. But are you suggesting (by analogy with sports) starting women-only classes in university math and science departments? I’m just not clear how you think Title IX could be reinterpreted to help here. Title IX as currently interpreted would already apply if we could demonstrate that a school was excluding female students from participating in its math and science courses.

    • Emily permalink*
      May 28, 2009 10:39 am

      I think that the attitude behind Title IX needs to be interpreted. There needs to be a new attitude in regards to girls/women in science and math. I’m not sure that putting more funding into these areas would solve it (which is what Title IX does for women/girls in sports), but we need to get rid of this stereotype that girls aren’t good at science/math and also get rid of the stereotype that boys just aren’t good at English/social studies. It just shows our culture creates these ideas about each gender and because it’s been ingrained in our heads for a very long time, it continually gets regurgitated and passed on from one generation to the other. The cycle needs to stop.

      Does that make sense?

  2. Fleur Black permalink
    May 28, 2009 12:41 pm

    There is no stereotype..only the simple fact that there are fewer females in the higher echelons of the professions for the simple reason that they choose not to put in the hours needed to study for and achieve the grades that open the door but instead choose the easy life and study irrelevancies such as feminism which from my research seems to be little more than endlessly regurgitating the minutiae of the lives of lesbian writers. This may make the golden days of university slip by pleasantly but it does not prepare a young woman to being an expert on wielder of a scalpel, a spreadsheet, a test tube or a patent application. IOn one recent survey the vast majority of young women seeking college courses were wanting the soft ones of feminist studies not the ones likely to need long hard hours of research and study.
    This is why during the last 15 months I have had 4 surgeries necesitating input from a total of 15 surgeons, registrars, anaesthetists and consultants. In the next 12 montsh I expect to have as many again but on different parts of my body and I will be very surprised if any of these willl include a female. Why is that?
    Simple: women will not make the effort to get into these generally prestigious and well paid lines of work.

    • Yale permalink
      May 28, 2009 4:54 pm

      Fluer Black,

      By saying the study of feminism is irrelevant; I’m interpreting your statement as being against the arts and intellectualism. Would you also say composing of music, abstract political theory, or the writing of novels is also irrelevant pursuits? In my opinion, they are all relevant areas of study that comprise a progressive society.

      My undergraduate studies took place at a liberal arts institution, yet I majored in chemistry. The liberal arts aspect of my education was not only enriching but challenged me to develop more complex thought processes for which I’m grateful. If it weren’t for the individuals devoting their lives to the study of feminism or other areas of the arts, my valued liberal arts education would not have been available.

      Maybe you simply haven’t experience firsthand the enrichment of a liberal arts education.

  3. Fleur Black permalink
    May 28, 2009 12:48 pm

    I really do think that the real reason for this in the Uk if not everywhere is due to firstly the biological imperative that makes a young woman feel the need to use her womb during the very years when she needs to keep it empty (this need may not be acknowledged but it is there) and secondly so much of today’s press and television is geared to continue brainwashing girls into the stereotypes rather than showing them striving for and achieving success in the professions. Too many soaps glorify the ignorant girl who gets pregnant and becomes the social service liability. There is a conspicuous lack of high profile female stars in soaps set in the classrooms of university or the other pressure cookers that produce the professionals in the scientific, technical, medical and commercial worlds.

  4. Fleur Black permalink
    May 28, 2009 1:07 pm

    Actually, thinking about the medical professionals I have been treated by in the last two years I can break them down into:

    4 male surgeons
    4 male registrars
    6 male consultants
    3 male endocrinologists
    4 male aneasthetists
    6 male psychiatrists (some of my surgeries are gender affirming!)

    these are all top pay jobs – so why no women among them?

    1 female MRI Scanner professional.
    1 female CT scanner profesional.

    The work I will be having in the next 12-18 months will be carried out by other teams but I feel sure the same numbers of predominantly male professionals will be involved.

    As getting to be one of these professionals takes many years study and understudy work there has to be some underlying reasons why women do not feature much and I feel sure it is simple biology and brainwashing that is at fault.
    The professionals I have been seeing and will see must all have started on their career trail by starting at University maybe 10-25 years ago when grants were more available and anyone sufficiently motivated and bright enough could have gone to University so it has not been any funding problem that has caused the paucity of women professionals.
    Today’s Student Loans burden may make anyone think twice about University now but then the high salaries available after graduation should be a good carrot…

    • Emily permalink*
      May 28, 2009 1:36 pm

      The reason why there is such a thing as Title IX is because there are significantly less women in STEM fields than there are men. Listing all of your doctors as men is not an argument—so what I’m saying is, what’s your point?

    • Yale permalink
      May 28, 2009 5:15 pm

      Fluer Black,

      Before simply using the list of your current physicians’ gender to essentially say that women aren’t physicians because of laziness; you should do a little further fact checking. I managed to find the following statement from Vault (http://www.vault.com/nr/newsmain.jsp?ch_id=619&article_id=27653519&cat_id=3232): “In 2004 50 percent of the entering class of medical students and 45 percent of the graduating class were women.” I’m currently studying medicine and based on the demographic my class, I would agree with their assessment. Did it ever occur to you that your team of physicians might be dominated by males because it wasn’t until fairly recently that women began to comprise a greater number of graduating medical students?

  5. Emily permalink*
    May 28, 2009 1:27 pm

    the simple fact that there are fewer females in the higher echelons of the professions for the simple reason that they choose not to put in the hours needed to study for and achieve the grades that open the door but instead choose the easy life and study irrelevancies such as feminism which from my research seems to be little more than endlessly regurgitating the minutiae of the lives of lesbian writers

    Your comment is exactly the kind of rhetoric that keeps getting repeated to reinforce stereotypes of women. Where are your studies that women don’t work as hard as men? And, what makes studying feminism “soft” and researching “hard work”—I somehow missed that in your argument.

    Feminism=irrelevant? First of all, if feminism were irrelevant you probably wouldn’t be commenting on this post right now (let alone leave two comments). Second of all, if feminism weren’t irrelevant then there would be no such thing as: sexual assault going on in the world, many girls/women around the world would be granted the same amount of education as boys/men, and why families choose to abort pregnancies if they find out that they are having a girl (see http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=there-are-more-boys-than-girls), just to give you some examples.

    To say that feminism regurgitates lesbian writers does not come off as an insult—but if you think that’s all that we “regurgitate,” you are sadly mistaken.

    I’m not sure what you’re implying when you say: “In the next 12 montsh I expect to have as many again but on different parts of my body and I will be very surprised if any of these willl include a female.” Please explain.

    Also, I disagree that studying feminism cannot apply to “This may make the golden days of university slip by pleasantly but it does not prepare a young woman to being an expert on wielder of a scalpel, a spreadsheet, a test tube or a patent application,” as you say. In fact, as someone who has studied feminism at a collegiate level, I believe that this liberal arts major has opened many doors if not just as much as men and women I know who studied something more concrete and less theoretical.

    I look forward to reading your response to my comment.

  6. Fleur Black permalink
    May 28, 2009 2:06 pm

    oh my…liberal arts does not lead to professionals in the maths and techie professions does it?
    And re my statement about forthcoming surgeries I will be very surprised if any of the consultations, investigations, cuttings, gassings and other serious work will be done by women purely and simply because there aren’t any.
    I’m sorry if simple observable facts so upset you but there has to be a reason why women don’t feature highly in the professions.
    I work in the big local hospital and most of the heads of clerical departments are women but most of the blood, guts and disease professionals and consultants are male. We recently had to hire 4 consultants to provide 24/7 care for the new maternity unit and all four were men because no women apllied!
    My boss has spent 32 years in the hospital 10 of the last as head of the union and is constantly attending meetings and conferences on work and personnel matters and I see the invites, agendas and lists of speakers, etc and they are overwhelmingly female but when I get the agendas and speakers for the professional side of the hospital work all I see are males.
    I have to sit in on many meetings and job oppprtunity seminars and like to ask the youngsters about their ambitions but when I state that there is no reason why any one of them should not be a top consultant or surgeon in ten years time their eyes glaze over…and they do that looking away that shows they have lowered the shutters…yet if they are bright enough there is no reason why they can’t be a top surgeon or consultant…
    whether its steroetyping thats producing the society or society thats producing the stereotypes I don’t know but I can’t seen any way to get young women to emulate me and my boss…sad but true.

  7. Cedar permalink
    May 28, 2009 2:51 pm

    From my own personal experiences, I was repeatedly, actively encouraged not to take math and science courses at the HS and college levels growing up, even by female professors. For example, I majored in linguistics in college, and my advisor suggested that I take education and child psychology classes, and only recommended the bare minimum of math and science courses needed to graduated, this despite the fact that I excelled in the physics of sound that she taught. Now, having been out of college for years and poking around in social work-type jobs that I haven’t liked very much or been very good at, have realized that my interests lie in the science end of linguistics and audiology.

    It upsets me that I didn’t take these classes when I was younger. Maybe it was my fault; maybe I should have fought harder. Maybe it was an issue of laziness on my part–I didn’t want to drag the school administration (or my parents) in when a HS math teacher arbitrarily made up a new minimum grade for the next level math class. And part of it was diminished expectations–”Oh, you don’t want to take Organic Chemistry! That class is really hard! Take developmental psychology instead”), but I feel like men (my brothers for example) didn’t have to deal with these same roadblocks as I did.

  8. Fleur Black permalink
    May 28, 2009 5:23 pm

    what I find interesting in the production of the stereotype of the women-who-aren’t-into-technical-subjects is the fact that a lot of the telly programming that shows stereotypes – teenage mothers, abused and beaten women, domineering/violent and ignorant males is actually written and produced by women. WHY? What are they hoping to achieve by perpetuating the stereotypes?
    Is that because women writers have to pander to the male heads of the telly channels? Or the advertisers? Or lack of imagination?
    I stare in amazement at scenes showing rough, stupid, nasty men treating women like dirt and wonder what on earth prompted the female writer to write such crap. And why it is shown on primetime – then next day I ask my co-workers if they saw it and they don’t get the sterotyping of the scene. They say things like ‘he needs locking up’ but won’t complain or boycott the channel to get better viewing. I can’t ever remember seeing a scene where a woman beats a man up…can anyone of you?
    One of the films released in Uk lst year was a sad dreary tale of life in the slums with all the stereotypes and who wrote it? A woman (of course?) The only funds for Uk filmmaking these days comes from the Government and films must show this ‘social realism’ to get funding..and who passes judgement on proposals? A group of women.
    No wonder stereotyping continues.
    I’m as feminist as they come but I do despair over ever seeing anything that will help women lift their sights higher than a baby at 15 and a dead-end life.
    I once had the misfortune to travel to a job with a guy who actually said ‘a man has to knock a woman about regularly to show her he loves her.’ Goodness knows what home he came from and what his kids grew up to be like with their own kids.
    Just as a matter of interest as this is a US based blog: now that GM/Ford/Chrysler are in such dire straits has there been any attempt by the auto makers to get women to design the cars they want to buy …or does the old stereotype of car design being a male thing still hold fast? Then again while I’d love a car with soft feminine touches to the upholstery and dashboard it seems that most successful women want exactly what the successful guys want…
    When I write in to carmakers suggestions panels asking for cars that are simple and easy to drive with a minimum of boy’s toys I get told that’s not what the market demands… but all I and my friends want is a car with an auto gearbox, an ignition switch and a simple speedo with everything else out of sight and mind…oh and a radio permanently tuned to classical music…let the guys have fifty switches, dials and knobs to fuss with…hmmm slipped into sterotype woman mode again…

  9. originata permalink
    June 2, 2009 11:08 am

    This is a huge problem with women’s rights; assuming that equal opportunities should be the same as equal outcomes. Women outdo men in earning bachelors and masters degrees, but women do not gravitate towards math and science fields. Why is the automatic assumption that a lack of representation in these fields are due to sexism? What proof points to that? Studies show that women/girls from elementary school right through college earn better grades than men/boys. So that is complete bull saying that teachers do not encourage young girls and considering the fact that most teachers are indeed women.
    Title IX has done positive things for including females in school/collegiate sports but a side effect is that it has setup quotas, meaning that many men’s programs are cut so that the ratio between male vs. female participation remains “fair”. If there is low interest in women’s sports that means men’s programs are cut. How is that progressing society or even encouraging women to participate? Applying this concept to math and science is not progressive and is dangerous to society.

    • Emily permalink*
      June 2, 2009 11:22 am

      I agree with setting up quotas—there needs to be a better solution for that. But the lack of representation in STEM fields are in fact due to sexism: women are just as capable of pursuing and succeeding at STEM careers, but choose not to do it. Why? Because girls are not given the same encouragement in math/science as boys are (see http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080905153807.htm).
      I agree with your statement “equal opportunities should be the same as equal outcomes” but I disagree that there are equal opportunities for girls in math/science. They are not given the attention and confidence in those subjects just like boys aren’t in social studies/English.

      I don’t think that applying Title IX would be a viable solution for the huge discrepancy of women in STEM to men in STEM. The attitude needs to be changed.

      • originata permalink
        June 2, 2009 12:58 pm

        Emily those are blanketed statements, “They are not given the attention and confidence in those subjects just like boys aren’t in social studies/English.” What does that mean, when as I stated most teachers are women, women/girls earn more college degrees and better grades than men/boys? You yourself admitted that women do just as well in math and science, so it’s strange that you conclude that their lack of representation is due to sexism.
        You disagree with the use of Title IX but it’s application is going to take opportunities away from men/boys just like it does in sports WITHOUT adding women’s sports. I’m all for encouraging women and creating competition in these fields, but how do you encourage women do something they are not interested in? Or anyone else for that matter. How do you encourage men to take up studies in education, arts, humanities, and social sciences if this is not what interests them?

  10. Emily permalink*
    June 2, 2009 4:20 pm

    Interests are different from opportunities. When women are given opportunities in math/science, they excel at it, yes. But women (especially young girls) aren’t encouraged in math/science. Because they aren’t encouraged, they choose careers outside of STEM, thus not being interested. How can they be interested if they aren’t encouraged to pursue a STEM career? And those who are encouraged, tend not to have high-level, high-paying jobs.

  11. originata permalink
    June 2, 2009 4:33 pm

    Your conlusions are going from A to Z. If women were being discouraged from these careers, then how/why could/would they excel at both math and science? Especially since we both agree that women excel in these areas in school/collegiate level. What is your proof that they aren’t encouraged? Crying sexism doesn’t make it so.

  12. Emily permalink*
    June 2, 2009 4:52 pm

    And where is the “crying”? You can look at the following articles:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080905153807.htm

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/01/070124104155.htm

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