In 2005, Larry Summers infamously gave a talk about the reasons there are fewer women in the highest echelons of math and science. In it, he stated, ”In the special case of science and engineering, there are issues of intrinsic aptitude, and particularly of the variability of aptitude, and that those considerations are reinforced by what are in fact lesser factors involving socialization and continuing discrimination.”
While numerous academics have chiseled away at the “intrinsic aptitude” theory, a new study by Jonathan Kane and Janet Mertz entitled, “Debunking Myths About Gender and Mathematics Performance” has finally put it to rest. In fact, the article finds that the gender gap is entirely caused by those “lesser factors.” Here is a great article summarizing the findings.
In my opinion the most important aspect of the paper is the finding that both boys and girls do better in math in a society where there is greater equality. This makes sense intuitively, because when women are equally educated and earn equal pay their children will do better. This finding is extremely important, as it contradicts those that see advancing the welfare of women as a “female problem.” This is just another piece of evidence to demonstrate that when women are treated equally, we all benefit.
Now if only someone would do a study that finds women also aren’t intrinsically better at cleaning and taking care of children, we might actually get somewhere.