An article published by the Times in 2010 looks at why women are still underrepresented in the field of science. The part that really surprised me was when the article mentioned that girls would under perform on a math test when it mentioned to them that they would do poorly. "Contrast sensitivity ability" as it was called, doesn't truly exist in the real world but does have real world consequences. Namely, it would get girls to do worse in the math and sciences compared to men when there was no real reason to other than a clear bias against them. As Alex mentioned in a earlier blog, Larry Summers was under fire for suggested that men do better with jobs that require higher intelligence compared to women. It wasn't so much that he didn't have data to support him. It was more that his comment (and comments like his), could have a really negative effect in society.
Have females only been kept down when it comes in math and science because men don't think that females are as smart as them? Not really. There are certainly other factors in play, like gender roles. Some women don't want to be scientists because they want to spend more time with their families, and that is totally fine. Others don't feel like being a scientist is totally right for them. And that is perfectly fine, too. However, what isn't fine is Harvard having its first tenured female in 375 years, even with the strides that women have in made in math and science. What isn't fine is girls feeling that having a career in the sciences is not for them when the only thing that is keeping them out is unintentional, yet harmful, discrimination against them.
Maybe I'm not seeing the whole picture here, but there is a problem that is very apparent. When women feel undervalued unnecessarily, it becomes society's problem. My sister said she wants to be a dentist when she grows up (12 right now). It wouldn't be fair for her to prove herself more in the scientific community just because she's a girl. No girl should, for that matter.