Hypothesis, News, Science, Sex

Why Can’t a Woman be More Like a Man?

A fascinating paper about sex differences in the human brain was published last week in the scientific journal Cerebral Cortex. It’s the largest single-sample study of structural and functional sex differences in the human brain ever undertaken, involving over 5,000 participants (2,466 male and 2,750 female). The study has been attracting attention for more than a year (see this preview in Science, for instance), but only now has it been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

For those who believe that gender is a social construct, and there are no differences between men and women’s brains, this paper is something of a reality check. The team of researchers from Edinburgh University, led by Stuart Ritchie, author of Intelligence: All That Matters, found that men’s brains are generally larger in volume and surface area, while women’s brains, on average, have thicker cortices. ‘The differences were substantial: in some cases, such as total brain volume, more than a standard deviation,’ they write. This is not a new finding – it has been known for some time that the total volume of men’s brains is, in general, larger than that of women’s, even when adjusted for men’s larger average body size – but all the studies before now have involved much smaller sample sizes.

Does this paper have any implications when it comes to men and women’s intellectual abilities? The answer is yes, but they’re not clear cut.

On the one hand, feminists won’t like this confirmation that men, on average, have bigger brains than women because there’s a well-established connection between total brain volume and IQ. That was the conclusion of the authors of a 2015 meta-analysis that looked at 88 studies involving 148 mixed sex samples comparing magnetic resonance images of people’s brains with their cognitive test scores. They found that the association between brain volume and cognitive ability was positive in children and adults, applied across a range of different IQ domains (full-scale, performance and verbal IQ) and was true of both men and women. According to another study led by Richard Haier, author of The Neuroscience of Intelligence, total brain volume accounts for about 16 per cent of the variance in IQ.

Remember, we’re just talking about mean differences between men and women’s brains – as Ritchie and his team point out, there is a substantial degree of overlap between the sexes on all their measures. Nonetheless, if there is a positive correlation between total brain volume and intelligence, and men generally have larger brains than women, doesn’t that mean that men are, in aggregate, more intelligent than women?

Not so fast. Don’t forget that Ritchie’s team also found that women’s brains, on average, have thicker cortices than men’s and there’s some evidence linking intelligence with the thickness of the cerebral cortex. For instance, this 2009 study of 216 children found a positive association between cortical thickness and general cognitive ability, as did this 2013 study. However, this finding is less robust than the link between total brain volume and IQ, with some studies failing to replicate it and others both replicating it and seeming to contradict it at the same time. For instance, this 2015 paper involving 514 subjects found that the association between cognitive ability and cortical thickness was negative for 10-year-olds – that is, the smarter they were, the thinner their cortices – but positive for 42-year-olds.

It is worth noting that Ritchie et al – who studied more than 5,000 subjects, don’t forget – confirmed the positive association between total brain volume and intelligence. The men in their sample scored, on average, fractionally higher than the women on a test of verbal-numerical reasoning and recorded slightly faster processing speeds on another test. After extensive statistical analysis, they concluded that the modest sex differences in verbal-numerical reasoning were almost entirely due to differences in brain volumetric and surface area measures and the differences in reaction time were partly due to the same.

Ritchie’s team caution against reading too much into this finding and note that the cognitive tests given to their subjects were fairly rudimentary and their sample may not be representative of the population at large. They also point out that previous, representative studies have found no mean difference between men and women in general cognitive test performance. Back in 2017, before his paper had been peer-reviewed, Ritchie was keener to talk about another of his team’s findings, namely, that the male brains they studied were, on most measures, more variable than the female ones. He was excited about the fact that this discovery complemented a 2008 study of male-female IQ differences, also carried out by a team from Edinburgh, which found only negligible differences in the mean scores of men and women on intelligence tests, but that men outnumbered women at either end of the cognitive bell curve. So greater variability among men when it comes to cognitive ability. That was also the conclusion of a 2007 paper which found that among those scoring in the top two per cent of the Armed Forces Qualification Test, men outnumbered women by a ratio of 2:1.

Ritchie and his co-authors note that this finding has been replicated many times – ‘almost universally’ is the phrase they use – but that doesn’t mean it’s universally accepted. Far from it. When Lawrence Summers, then the President of Harvard, suggested that the higher preponderance of men on the right-hand tail of the IQ distribution curve might help to explain why there are more male than female professors in the maths and sciences at top universities, he was rounded on by almost the entire liberal establishment. Distinguished Harvard alumni withheld donations, the university’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences passed a motion of no confidence in him and he was forced to apologise – over and over again – like a supplicant at a Chinese show trial. In the end, he had no choice but to tender his resignation. This controversy is thought to be the reason he didn’t get the job of Treasury Secretary in the first Obama administration.

Summers made things worse for himself by using the word ‘intrinsic’ to describe this difference between men and women, suggesting it is genetically hard-wired. ‘Research in behavioural genetics is showing that things people previously attributed to socialisation weren’t due to socialisation after all,’ he told The Boston Globe. He wasn’t claiming that all men are cleverer than women, or that the average man is brighter than the average woman, or that the most able women aren’t as intelligent as the most gifted men – although many of his critics understood him to be saying those things, or at least pretended to so they could justify how outraged they were. All he was saying is that the greater variability of men’s IQ – at both tails of the distribution curve – might be rooted in genetic differences between the sexes.

You can see why such a claim would be controversial. According to most progressives, the fact that only 48 of the almost 900 people awarded Nobel Prizes since 1901 were women – and the Fields Medal has only been won by a woman once – is entirely due to social/cultural factors. If you allow that genetic differences may be a factor, then parity between men and women when it comes to intellectual eminence won’t easily be achieved. Just levelling the playing field – eliminating gender stereotypes, sexual discrimination, implicit bias, and so on – won’t be enough.

Is Summers’ right to claim that this variability difference is hard-wired? We can’t say for sure, but there are some reasons for thinking so. We know from family studies, twin studies and adoption studies that IQ is about 50 per cent heritable in adolescence, rising to 80 per cent in adulthood. It would be odd if genetic differences accounted for such a large percentage of the variance in IQ, but had no effect on its variability. We also know for certain that some cognitive differences between men and women, such as the fact that rates of Alzheimer’s disease are higher in women than men, are at least partly due to genetic differences. And other psychological differences, such as the higher rates of autism spectrum disorders, schizophrenia and dyslexia among men, are part-biological too. If these phenotypic differences between the sexes are genetically influenced, why not others?

Another consideration is that explanations of the gender gap in IQ variability that rely entirely on cultural/social factors aren’t very convincing. In Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong – and the New Research That’s Rewriting the Story, Angela Saini argues that the reason men outnumber women by 2:1 among the top two per cent when it comes to cognitive ability is because intellectually gifted boys receive more praise and encouragement than their female equivalents. She quotes Melissa Hines, a Cambridge psychologist, who believes this is why there are more highly able boys than girls. ‘I think in some social environments they don’t get encouraged at all, but I think in affluent, educated social environments, there is still a tendency to expect more from boys, to invest more in boys,’ says Hines.

If that was true, you would expect to see a greater discrepancy between the sexes in the variability of IQ among subjects from rich backgrounds than from poor backgrounds. To date, that has never been detected (although to be fair I don’t think anyone has looked for it). Even if we park that, the evidence that expecting more from children and giving them more encouragement boosts their IQ scores is pretty threadbare. (One oft-cited study that purports to show that IQ can be raised by those kinds of inputs is the Abecedarian Early Intervention Project. But the number of children in that study was only 111, with just 57 in the treatment group.) Then there’s the issue of how this same mechanism could account for the higher preponderance of men in the left-hand tail of the bell curve. Do boys who struggle with basic arithmetic receive less encouragement than girls? How does Hines square that with her claim that we invest more in boys?

Saini points out that male science professors outnumber female science professors by a higher ratio than 2:1, suggesting that there are other factors at play – the same factors that account for why only nine per cent of the UK’s engineering workforce is female and why she was the only girl in her A level Chemistry class and the only engineering student in her university class.

Well, yes, there are other forces at work and some of them may be the ones Saini identifies – such as the view among employers and schoolteachers (although not many these days) that women are, on average, less able than men when it comes to science and maths, which isn’t true. But some of those other factors may also be linked to differences between men and women that don’t, on the face of it, appear to be cultural/social either.

For instance, on average women are more interested in people and men more interested in things – a gender difference that remains constant across cultures and across time, suggesting it’s at least partly biological. (See this 2010 paper by Richard Lippa.) In his now famous debate with Cathy Newman on Channel 4 News, Jordan Peterson suggested it was this that explained why men outnumber women in professions dealing with things, such as computer science, and women outnumber men in fields dealing with people, such as nursing. Additional evidence for the same point has come from several international studies showing that the more gender equality there is in a society, the lower the percentage of women going into engineering and tech, implying it’s the result of women exercising their free will rather than misogyny, patriarchy or even low-level sexism. (See this recent article in The Atlantic headlined ‘The More Gender Equality, the Fewer Women in STEM’.) Women are eschewing those fields in favour of professions like health-care (82 per cent of obstetrics and gynaecology medical residents in the US in 2016 were female) because of population-level gender differences, not because they’re victims of oppression.

One final point: women who score in the top two per cent or higher for general cognitive ability are more likely than men to have strong verbal scores, meaning they have more career options than their male counterparts. Could that be why the ratio of male to female professors in science and maths is higher than 2:1? Perhaps women capable of landing chairs in STEM subjects at top universities – like Lady Gaga, who has a genius level IQ – are more interested in other ways of using their talent. Ironically, writers like Saini who are so eager to ascribe the low numbers of female professors in science and maths to sexism are guilty of something like sexism themselves – namely, under-estimating the agency of the women who could go into these fields but choose not to.

If you’re a conservative male, making these points can result in you being depicted as a ‘custodian of the patriarchy’, as Peterson was in an absurdly one-sided New York Times profile last week. To be clear, I think the likelihood that there are genetically-based differences in men and women’s personalities – at an aggregate, population level, not to be confused with essentialist claims about every man and every woman – and that these are linked to average differences in men and women’s brains is pretty high; but that doesn’t mean I’m opposed to equal rights. Saying that women have certain population-level characteristics is not the same as saying all women have those characteristics, so it would be irrational for an employer to discriminate against a woman, or a teacher against a female student, by citing these average differences. In any case, women are morally entitled to equal rights, regardless of their characteristics. So please don’t confuse this article with a defence of sexual discrimination. That remains wrong whether or not psychological gender differences are, in part, biological. And it follows that defenders of equal rights don’t need to continually deny the scientific evidence backing up that hypothesis. As countless others have pointed out, to maintain that equal rights are contingent upon behavioural differences being reducible to social/cultural factors is to commit the naturalistic fallacy.

The difficulty this evidence presents is not for believers in equality of opportunity, but equality of outcome. The differences between men and women are such that gender parity in STEM fields, particularly at the top of those professions, is unlikely to be achieved without some highly intrusive state interventions. And I don’t mean equal pay or paternity leave legislation which, as we’ve seen in Scandinavia, has resulted in fewer women going into engineering and tech, not more. What this data tells us is that hard gender equality of the kind favoured by intersectional feminists can only be achieved at a huge cost to human freedom, particularly the freedom of women.

Back in 2017, Stuart Ritchie cautioned against ascribing any of the differences between male and female brains to genetic differences. ‘Our manuscript is just about describing the differences, and we can’t say anything about the causes of those differences,’ he told New York magazine. But he added that it won’t be long before we’re in a position to start talking about the genetic and environmental causes of those differences – he is hoping to get his hands on imaging data for 100,000 brains soon. I have little doubt that future studies of this type involving huge sample sizes will reveal the biological underpinnings of human nature, like the genetic research looking at the DNA of hundreds of thousands of people which I’ve also written about. Whether it’s the new genetics or cutting-edge neuroscience, the egalitarian left is on a collision course with science. 

 

Toby Young is a British Journalist and is associate editor of The Spectator. Follow him on Twitter @toadmeister.

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135 Comments

  1. Jacq says

    It would be interesting to know how many of the male participants had other cognitive differences like dyslexia or Aspergers compared to the female participants. Many more boys fill the clinics of speech therapists, occupational therapists and other allied health professionals. The variability at either end of the spectrum isn’t necessarily a good thing. I guess as a society we need to really say “so what”? Do we elevate IQ related intelligence above other characteristics such as social skills, emotional resilience, creativity etc? Also, I am still waiting for the policies to get equality of representation of men in the caring professions. I might be waiting awhile! I think that is where the discussion needs to happen – to explore further why we elevate certain male dominated professions over other female dominated professions. That’s where the influence of social constructs comes into play rather than trying to argue that the only differences between men and women is socially constructed.
    As my teenage son grumbled when only girls were taken on a trip to the big city to take part in a “Girls in Science ” type event – “The girls aren’t even interested in going into science!”.

    • ga gamba says

      Do we elevate IQ related intelligence above other characteristics such as social skills, emotional resilience, creativity etc?

      Yes, after reading articles such as this I think it’s not only a matter of furthering scientific inquiry and national competitiveness, it’s now a matter of life and death.

      A scientist at UCLA reports: “All across the country the big question now in STEM is: how can we promote more women and minorities by ‘changing’ (i.e., lowering) the requirements we had previously set for graduate level study?” Mathematical problem-solving is being deemphasized in favor of more qualitative group projects; the pace of undergraduate physics education is being slowed down so that no one gets left behind. […] The INCLUDES initiative has already generated its own parasitic endeavor, Early-concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER). The purpose of EAGER funding is to evaluate INCLUDES grants and to pressure actual science grantees to incorporate diversity considerations into their research. The ultimate goal of such programs is to change the culture of STEM so that “inclusion and equity” are at its very core. […] Medical schools receive NIH training grants to support postdoctoral education for physicians pursuing a research career in such fields as oncology and cardiology. The NIH threatens to yank any training grant when it comes up for renewal if it has not supported a sufficient number of “underrepresented minorities” (URMs). One problem: there are often no black or Hispanic M.D.s to evaluate for inclusion in the training grant. If there is a potential URM candidate, the principal investigators will pore over his file in the hope of convincing themselves that he is adequately qualified. Meantime, the patently qualified Indian doctor goes to the bottom of the résumé pile.

      If you think that’s bad, the diversity champions no longer accept national representation as a sufficient benchmark. Diversity is to be measured by the local areas, called ‘catchments’, which requires a school in LA or NYC to match catchment demographics. Since most URMs live in urban areas, where many of the top universities and teaching hospitals are located, this disadvantages anyone from beyond the catchment, such as suburban and rural areas.

      A 2015 panel assessing the academic strength of San Diego State University’s biology department complained that the faculty, though relatively representative of traditional “underserved groups,” nevertheless failed to mirror the “diversity of peoples in Southern California.” The use of a school’s immediate surroundings as a demographic benchmark for its faculty is a significant escalation of the war between the diversocrats and academic standards.

      The rigging of the system extends to entrance exams.

      Medical school administrators urge admissions committees to overlook the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) scores of black and Hispanic student applicants and employ “holistic review” in order to engineer a diverse class. The result is a vast gap in entering qualifications. From 2013 to 2016, medical schools nationally admitted 57 percent of black applicants with a low MCAT of 24 to 26, but only 8 percent of whites and 6 percent of Asians with those same low scores, according to Claremont McKenna professor Frederick Lynch.

      And this continues to those accepted into residency programmes and fellowships.

      Two-thirds of the applicants for oncology fellowships at a prestigious medical school are male. Half of the oncology department’s fellowship picks are female, however, even though females do not cluster at the top of the applicant pool.

      Once you have enough less competent doctors practicing medicine they take over the professional associations such as the American Medical Association. Game over then.

      By re-focussing on the intelligence of young people, identified by periodic IQ tests, we may earlier identify those best suited to the most challenging professions and funnel them into specialist schools to later correct the imbalance being engineered by the diversocrats presently. It’s also requires the legislatures to better review how tax money is being spent to fund science and perhaps numerous legal challenges to be settled by the courts.

      When the progressive complain about the systems and institutions, understand this to be projection on their part because taking these over is exactly their intent.

      • Some may be less qualified to enter research and medicine but, once they start their professional life, are they worse researchers and doctors than those who were better qualified when entering the program? It’s an honest question, I really don’t know, but I think that the correlation between entering qualifications (grades, basically) and being a good professional, may not be that straightforward. Maybe some data on how everybody is doing after 10 years of professional life would be illuminating.

        • Michael T says

          Here in Canada female entrants in medicine are almost double that of males. When I entered medicine in 1959, females made up less than 10% of the class.

      • Justin Case says

        I think you have convinced me of not using this article, when you stated “which requires a school in LA or NYC”. I do not agree with anything those states push, and will leave it at that. But I do thank you for pointing this out

      • spookykook says

        Can I get a source for your first quote? I would like to read the entire article that it is from, if possible.

    • moms says

      I think I can guess where tthis young man gets his perspective from.

      I know girls who were taken aside, special appointments with science dept heads, and talked OUT of going into science. We moved schools. It still happens. Another reason is girls get the message from boys, like your son, that they will pay for their indiscretions, with hostility, mockery, name-calling, threats and loneliness.

      • ccscientist says

        I know a girl who was encouraged by the univ to go into computer engineering at a tough school–they even accepted her at 16. As you might guess, even with hand-holding she flunked out (was A student in high school).

        • moms says

          Then there were the three girls in engineering who dropped out, shortly after the faculty defended an article in the department newsletter instructing how to penetrate girls under puberty age. Women are “convinced” not to go in and to fail when they do, in many ways.

      • Ken says

        “I know girls who were taken aside, special appointments with science dept heads, and talked OUT of going into science.”

        No you don’t. This is the bald faced lie people tell in order to justify ignoring basic reality.

        “Another reason is girls get the message from boys, like your son, that they will pay for their indiscretions, with hostility, mockery, name-calling, threats and loneliness.”

        It has been known for decades boys receive MORE “hostility, mockery, name-calling, threats and loneliness” than girls do. You know what that implies? YOU think boys are made of sterner stuff than girls, since you believe girls wither under LESS “hostility, mockery, name-calling, threats and loneliness” than boys do.

        • moms says

          It happened to us. Read my words, or, take a remedial reading course.

          Men who are lonely receive just what they deserve. Peterson can’t help you. You have to stop being a women-hater.

          • David Murphy says

            “Men who are lonely receive just what they deserve” what al load of hate filled bigotry. People are lonely for all kinds of reasons and many because they are socially inept, such people need help not petty name calling.

      • This Guy says

        Do you think that maybe they were talked out of a STEM field because the professor saw it wasn’t working for them? Also ” they will pay for their indiscretions, with hostility, mockery, name-calling, threats and loneliness.” Hard evidence or GTFO you have no way to prove this nor is it socially acceptable.

          • SamIam says

            Hi Moms

            The article references a study which had a massive sample set. 5000+participants. That ensures that the statistical tests the conclusions were subject to will be that much more robust.

            You counter it with some anecdotal evidence, no-one can confirm or deny, concerning a couple of people.

            Do you see an issue with that or were you the person talked out of STEM?

    • Robert Khouri says

      Great article. I think we can conclude that the science is settled and that 97% of researchers have concluded that men and women have genetically different brains.
      Is that such a difficult concept to understand? Our genitals are usually different, our limbs are different in size and mass, our sensory organs are different. Why is it so difficult for feminists to understand that male v female is a construct of nature to ensure survival of the species. Take it at the simplest level, women have babies and needs different skills to nurture the infant, men need to be able to hunt and gather and protect. This is not denying that women are as intelligent as men. My daughter is studying electrical engineering and advanced mathematics. She is able to recite pi to 50 decimal places in seconds. She also has inherited mathematical genetics which is from her father’s side. I’d challenge anyone to argue against me on this.
      It’s a shame our modern society can’t get back to the basics and maybe educate our children instead of trying to brainwash them!

      • Bored By Lies says

        Indeed. The null-hypothesis here is not “men and women are absolutely equal in every way.”

        Observation of reality tells us that what we see does not correspond to to the Equalist Hypothesis. In fact, every prediction that the Equalist Hypothesis makes fails to materialize, and every supposed fact they put forth is, at best, only a partial truth (if not an outright fabrication, e.g. “Patriarchy,” that has no founding scientific inquiry).

        On the other hand, we have the Biology Hypothesis. Men and women are different from skeleton to muscle to sex organs, hormones, and brains. We aren’t the same, evolution has not seen fit to equip us equally to fit some political agenda of equality but rather equipped us according to our heritage as sexually dimorphic mammals descended from apes.

        The null position is, as best I can see, accepting that we aren’t unique among all living organisms on Earth but rather that humans can be understood by the same Biological lens we use for other animals. Of course we might be wrong, we should never rule that out, as that’s simply the scientific method, but it’s about time we stop paying homage to the Equalist Hypothesis as the fundamental point of origin for all writings about male-female sex differences. It’s debunked. Time to move on.

      • Indie Wifey says

        boys get punished and/or relegated to lower level programming, including bored high IQ ones, placed with marginally intelligent teachers who don’t get them or like them, who subconsciously recognize the disparity and work to squelch it as that today = acceptable “good” behavior
        now, having said that, what imo is lacking for all kids and especially boys – yes i said it – is the physical exercise aka play that used to be the norm for children. in boys, the energy needs are keen, leading to displaced energy can be especially problematic in class/organized groups where quiet and complacence is demanded

  2. Thrawn says

    Excelent article. But could the author (or someone else) explain to me what could *possibly* be the significance of this:

    “They also point out that previous, representative studies have found no mean difference between men and women in general cognitive test performance.”

    I explain: as far as I know, the IQ and other standardized cognitive tests are purposefully made in a way that *ensures* that men and women will perform in the same way (*), so that that “found no mean difference” must be meaningless. Or am I misunderstanding something? Legitimate question.

    (*) E. g.: “The first question most people ask about sex-related cognitive differences iswhich is the smarter sex — males or females? Although this question has along and acrimonious history, the question of who is the smarter sex has persisted for at least as long as modern measurements of intelligence have been possible and probably long before then. There are several ways to find answers for this question. One logical way is to obtain large random samples of women and men, give them a psychometrically sound intelligence test (one with good statistical properties), and compare the scores for women and men. The sex with the higher average score would be the smarter sex. Although this may seem like a logical, straightforward approach to answering the question of sex differences in intelligence, it won’t work. Intelligence tests are carefully written so that there will be no average overall difference between men and women (Brody, 1992: Intelligence, 2nd. Ed.). During the construction of intelligence tests, any question that tends to be answered differently by males and females is either discarded or balanced with a question that favors the other sex. Even though intelligence tests are revised repeatedly to reflect changes in the population, all changes are carefully considered so that they do not benefit men or women as a group. Therefore, average scores on intelligence tests cannot provide an answer to the sex differences question because of the way the tests are constructed.”

    — Diane F. Halpern 2012: Sex Differences and Cognitive Abilities 4th Ed., p. 92

    • kris says

      “Excellent article. But could the author (or someone else) explain to me what could *possibly* be the significance of this:”
      I would have thought the significance was fairly straightforward. People are obviously happier and better off doing the things they are best equipped to do instead of being told by feminists that there have to be more women doing things that boys are better at just to “Prove’ that women are as good or better than any man. Let everyone do whatever they find most comfortable doing (Which usually means what they are most mentally capable of) whether it is a computer engineer or a doctor.

    • Richard says

      It would depend on the specific test or tests used. If they used tests designed to eliminate mean sex differences, then yes, the statement that there was no difference in mean scores between sexes is just a statement that the test achieved its developer’s goal in controlling for that factor. However, researchers will often use their own tests or use methods that are only used in research (e.g. the cognitive testing methods used in this brain study, as far as I can tell by looking at the supplemental materials). One would presume that researchers would avoid tests that have been equalized to remove “sex bias” if they were intending to analyze their results by sex, though I would not expect anyone to take this wholly on faith given the reliability issues the field has had. So, ultimately, this doesn’t bring you any closer to an answer regarding whether the statement in question has any functional meaning. I suppose it actually brings the matter farther from an answer, in that there really is not enough information in that statement to judge the validity or meaningfulness of the claim.

    • BamBam says

      why do IQ tests are mostly math questions?

      • Lee Moore says

        “why do IQ tests are mostly math questions?’

        Cos word questions do are too hard.

  3. Frode says

    “Saying that women have certain population-level characteristics is not the same as saying all women have those characteristics, so it would be irrational for an employer to discriminate against a woman, or a teacher against a female student, by citing these average differences.”

    The prediction from economics is actually that this will lead to so-called “statistical discrimination”. Wikipedia explains:

    “Statistical discrimination is an economic theory of racial or gender inequality based on stereotypes. According to this theory, inequality may exist and persist between demographic groups even when economic agents (consumers, workers, employers, etc.) are rational and non-prejudiced. This type of preferential treatment is labeled “statistical” because stereotypes may be based on the discriminated group’s average behavior.

    […] The theory posits that in the absence of direct information about a certain fact of ability, a decision maker would substitute group averages. For instance, labor market discrimination may exist because employers don’t know with certainty workers’ ability, therefore they may resort to basing employment decisions on the workers’ visible features, such as group identity, as long as these features correlate with some desirable but more difficult to measure trait. The result is that atypical individuals from the disadvantaged group suffer unfair discrimination.”

    What is true is true, but it is disingenuous to say differences in population averages, have no implications for discrimination. This would only be true in a world with perfect information, where everybody knew the ability and characteristics of everybody else. In the absence of this information, it is rational to also consider group membership.

    • Richard says

      “What is true is true, but it is disingenuous to say differences in population averages, have no implications for discrimination.”

      That is correct, but it cuts both ways. That is, it is disingenuous to lay the blame for population averages at the feet of discrimination by race or sex (at least, to do so without regard first for myriad differences). Besides which, the sentence you quoted only claims that it would be irrational to discriminate against an individual based on the mean differences for some trait by sex, because this tells you little to nothing about the individual. In other words, the author is defending against the possible claim that his arguments support discriminating by sex. He is not stating that mean group differences have no effect on how groups are perceived and treated.

    • James Lee says

      @Frode

      Your point is legitimate. However, as you say in your post, when direct information is available about the job or school applicant, the influence of statistical discrimination wanes. In the real world, most employers and admission officers have copious information about individuals to attenuate such possible effects.

      But statistical discrimination is a fair point that is especially pertinent in situations lacking direct individualized information, such as a traffic stop.

    • TarsTarkas says

      ‘Statistical discrimination’ = ‘Disparate impact’. A theory wielded by government agencies poring over cherry-picked data to reach a conclusion whereby company or industry ‘X’ was discriminating against a minority, and then fines them, the fine supposedly to be distributed to the damaged ‘clients’ when they are identified (usually the 32nd of some future month) but generally kept by the agency or handed out to various Social Justice organizations. That was the MO of the CFPB under Cordray.

    • Lee Moore says

      Agreed, and this is obviously not limited to discrimination for or against members of different groups of humans. It applies generally. For example, a new jumbo jet actually costs less than one that has been used successfully for a year or so. Because aircraft have a zillion parts, and it’s impossble to manufacture them without some cock ups. Only by flying the plane for a while do these problems come to light and you find out whether you’ve actually bought a tip top plane with few problems, or a Friday afternoon plane. It makes sense to discriminate in price according to the following hierarchy :

      1. Not quite new planes that are working fine
      2. Brand new planes
      3. Not quite new planes that have a lot of problems

  4. Emmanuel says

    Women are under-represented in STEM fields because we live in a patriarcal society. How do you know we live in a patriarcal society ? Because women are under-represented in STEM fields.

    • Johan says

      Emmanuel, stupidity replacing reality is everywhere. If I where a woman I would be ashamed of today’s radical feminism.
      Circular reasoning is all they have. Science will obliterate their “theories” taught at “women studies” departments. It is really embarassing. These kind of feminists really make men seem a lot smarter than women.
      Men are not allowed to be victims. That is a good thing. Smart women know this.

      • Indie Wifey says

        …and i am, and i am that, too. and yep, am waiting for some female figurehead(s) to launch platform that invokes personal accountability quotient in women (too), which imo is an ultimate power

    • AC Harper says

      You could argue that power relationships and the ‘patriarchy’ are not very good methods for explaining *everything* in real life. Feminism, political correctness, and identity politics should perhaps be best seen as performance art.

      Science struggles too… but is generally self-correcting.

      • Emmanuel says

        That kind of circular logic has become very widespread in the social sciences whenever group disparities are observed. Discrimination explains disparities which prove disparities. That situation would be funny if it did not influence the adoption of policies with potentially harmful consequences.

        • Emmanuel says

          discrimination explains disparities which prove discrimination, I mean.

    • James Lee says

      @Emmanuel

      Exactly.

      The cognitive frame exemplified by Klein, Yglesias and the modern Intersectionals is a self-referential and internally consistent frame, and any data which doesn’t fit is either radically altered to fit or ignored. It’s why Harris can’t have a real dialogue with Klein. Harris doesn’t hold that particular cognitive frame- or perhaps more accurately, the frame doesn’t hold him.

      Because the core values of the frame chain all ideas to race/gender/sex orientation, the most insightful critique possible, if coming from a white male, is powerless. Such a critique is immediately interpreted to mean he wants to “maintain his and his group’s privilege at the expense of marginalized groups.”

      This dynamic is omnipresent: in the Munk debates, the Evergreen state college fiasco, anywhere holders of the frame engage in political discourse.

      The vulnerable spot in the frame is the threat posed by strong minority voices who dispute the foundations of the frame, which is why Te-Nehisi Coates felt compelled to say that Kanye West isn’t really black.

      As neurological and genetic research continues to advance and contradict the dogma of the Intersectionals, it won’t affect the fundamentalists. It will impact the center left who publicly conform but privately harbor doubt.

    • TarsTarkas says

      A much easier and simpler method to solve the problem would be require enough men in those fields to start self-identifying as women. That would also solve the transgender issue at the same time. Easier yet, the schools for those fields should just start identifying their students AS women and minorities. Why bother asking you to voluntarily change your gender, we will just MAKE you the correct gender, or at least IDENTIFY you as that gender. This top-down method of ending gender disparity in schooling can also be applied to any variety or combination of minority as well, reducing it to a simple bookkeeping exercise.

      • ADM64 says

        Spot on! I have made the same suggestion about the armed forces where gender-normed (i.e. Different) standards for men and women are used to ensure a minimum 20% representation of women. The men could identify as non-transitioning, non-traditonall feminine lesbians, and so could continue to pursue women. Let the games begin.

      • Yeah Nope says

        I identify as a Masculine Presenting Transgender Lesbian.

  5. Surge says

    Regarding the IQ test being balanced between sexes, that cannot be true in general. In fact there are studies finding a difference (3 IQ PTS), specifically on the WAIS I believe. Some other studies find a difference with Raven’s progressive matrices. Still more studies find a difference in IQ but not in g — the general intelligence factor.

  6. Pingback: -

  7. Johan says

    You have to be blind and deaf if you don’t see gender differences. Just be around children and observe them. I’m born in the 60s, the same generation as stand-up comedian Bill Burr, who often talks about his unsupervised childhood. From the age of around 6 we were roaming quite freely in the neighborhood. No adult told us what to do. “Go out and play!”, our mothers shouted. Boys played with boys. What the girls where up to, I don’t know. But they did not build huts in the woods and faught “wars” with boys from other neighborhoods. We knew we did a lot of forbidden things. We didn’t tell our parents…
    Nowadays in Sweden all children from the age of one spend their whole day at a day care center (“dagis” in Swedish. 40 years since it started now. Almost 100% attend). This means that women monitor everything the kids are up to. Men don’t dare to work there because the stigma of pedophelia. Some “dagis” is making boys play like girls and vice versa.
    Conclusion: Kids playing without supervision probably do the right thing. Feminist kindergarten teachers monitoring kids playing, probably do something harmful to the children. Forcing them to play in the “appropriate” way.

    • Mel says

      I was always a bush kid. I built cubby houses and looked for dead animals as specimens for my ‘animal science museum’. I picked up lizards and bush roaches and frogs to play with and I’m female. I think the internet has had a profound effect on how children play now. Everyone is hyper vigilant about ‘what could happen’ so they avoid letting their kids do the things we did as children. Also, scare mongers tend to target mothers with their propaganda so that they’re constantly feeling judged by what they do or do not let their children do. I think it has a lot less to do with women wanting to constantly monitor children, believe me.. most of us wouldn’t mind some peace and quiet!

    • Hey, Johan, were you the fellow talking about how there has been a sea change in Sweden within the last couple of weeks (I think related to immigration and other traditionally taboo topics)? I’ve looked some for news on this and have found nothing. Would you mind elaborating or pointing to some examples? I’d just like to find out more about what’s going on.

      Thanks!

  8. Erik H says

    I think you miss some of the consequences of what you are implying. As a result I think you’re failing to address the social argument correctly. When you say

    “Saying that women have certain population-level characteristics is not the same as saying all women have those characteristics, so it would be irrational for an employer to discriminate against a woman, or a teacher against a female student, by citing these average differences.”

    This is not really correct. A proper statement would be:

    1) The more that two groups are different, the more likely they are to have areas where one group is “better/worse” than the other in some identifiable fashion;

    2) Because differences are almost always in the form of tradeoffs, the benefits/detriments are almost never one-sided. Each group will be better/worse on average at some things in some scenarios, across all domains where the differences exist. For humans that includes both physical and mental domains;

    3) To the degree that we can identify a relative group (dis)advantage in Task X and to the degree that the Task X (dis)advantage has a reasonably strong correlation with group membership, it is absolutely rational for a neutral party to preferentially (dis)favor that group when seeking candidates for Task X.

    4) This says nothing about morals, social goods, equality, or anything else; those may well be overriding factors which preclude application of #3. It is quite possible that the overall social costs of unfettered discrimination will exceed the benefits, especially if the between-group differences are small and the within-group variation is large, as appears to be the case with gender. However, from the perspective of an individual employer, discrimination is often sensible.

    This should be discussed.

    • James Lee says

      @Erik

      As you yourself say in a different post, the average differences between men and women are relatively small. Therefore, an employer would be much better served to assess each job applicant as an individual in order to make the best hire.

      Speaker to Animals’ point isn’t silly. If you are hiring a software developer for example, it makes a lot more sense to use a practical test on coding than it does to use a group category characteristic.

      • Erik H. says

        Assessing people as individuals is (in theory,) capable of being the most accurate method. But it isn’t necessarily the most productive method. That “practical test on coding” costs time and money to administer and assess.

        Obviously if you ignore assessment costs, you should screen everyone. But most people don’t ignore assessment costs.

        There are certainly some high-level and high-value jobs in which “finding the person who is marginally better” is worth a significant investment of time. But for most jobs, acquisition costs are pretty important, which is why people rely on shortcuts.

      • ccscientist says

        The problem with your testing idea is that women select themselves out during school because they lack the obsession necessary to be a good coder (ie they lack interest). So the pool of applicants is mostly male.

  9. 3) To the degree that we can identify a relative group (dis)advantage in Task X and to the degree that the Task X (dis)advantage has a reasonably strong correlation with group membership, it is absolutely rational for a neutral party to preferentially (dis)favor that group when seeking candidates for Task X.

    Asians are statistically shorter than Europeans. If you had a job that required someobody to be of a minimum height it wouldn’t be rational to give that job to a European rather than an Asian simply based on statistical differences. You’d still have to measure their actual height.

    Same with men and women. Even if men we’re statistically better at STEM subjects it wouldn’t make sense to give a job to a man based on those statistical differences. You’d still have to assess their individual aptitude.

    Statistical differences explain why there are more men than women in STEM. They don’t tell you whether an individual man is better qualified than an individual woman.

    • Richard says

      Individuals must be judged by their individual qualities, sure. However, a very large employer might play a numbers game rather than shoot for excellence with every hire. In that case, while it might not be ethical and would not be legal, including sex in an analysis of which qualities on which to hire new employees might make sense (or at least increase predictive power).

      • Individuals must be judged by their individual qualities, sure. However, a very large employer might play a numbers game rather than shoot for excellence with every hire. In that case, while it might not be ethical and would not be legal, including sex in an analysis of which qualities on which to hire new employees might make sense (or at least increase predictive power).

        If they are ‘playing the numbers game’ and staffing based on sex instead of the aptitude of the individual applicant, half of their staff will have an IQ of less than 100.

        • Richard says

          If they hired completely randomly, then yes, that is what would be seen. However, presumably they would hire on variables that would correlate somewhat with IQ, which would significantly reduce the variability in intelligence. Depending on the type of job we are talking about, it might even limit hiring to those of relatively high intelligence (of course, the inverse could be true, depending on the model).

    • Erik H. says

      Asians are statistically shorter than Europeans. If you had a job that required somebody to be of a minimum height it wouldn’t be rational to give that job to a European rather than an Asian simply based on statistical differences.

      This is a silly hypothetical: Height is objectively and accurately determined by a single 10-second measurement which gives you 100% of the information you need. But even in the case of height, it would be perfectly rational to focus your recruitment efforts and advertising on Europe rather than Asia. I certainly concede that there are exceptions like this, but my statement retains general applicability.

      In the real world the criteria are obviously MUCH more complex than “height.” This puts more of a burden on sorting the applicants, and gives a higher payoff to the application of accurate stereotypes.

      There is no equivalent measurement for subject knowledge, or programming speed, or chess ability, or propensity for violence, or nurturing, or interest in things versus people, or any of the myriad of things on which groups of people are known to differ.

      • This is a silly hypothetical: Height is objectively and accurately determined by a single 10-second measurement which gives you 100% of the information you need. But even in the case of height, it would be perfectly rational to focus your recruitment efforts and advertising on Europe rather than Asia. I certainly concede that there are exceptions like this, but my statement retains general applicability.

        Now that we’ve established on which outlier of the bell curve you are situated I’d probably be better addressing this to other readers than yourself:

        Standard deviation for height within ethnic groups is greater than the difference in mean Hecht between them. There’s about 3cm difference between the average height of a Brit and the average height of a Japanese guy while the standard deviation for either group is about 7cm. You advertise in Europe alone and you are going to get a bunch of short arses along with lanky bastards, while missing out on millions of tall Japanese.

        The standard deviation of IQ among men is greater than that of women and that makes the analogous situation even worse: select STEM workers based on their sex instead of ability and about 2% of your workforce will be total retards.

        • Erik H. says

          “Now that we’ve established on which outlier of the bell curve you are situated”

          Ad hominem; love it!

          But just to make sure I’m accurately understanding this as an insult, would that be the part of the bell curve which understands “Asia” and “Europe” as different things than “Japan” and “England?”

          After all, the average male height in the People’s Republic of China is quite a bit less than in Denmark. I wouldn’t do that, of course, but if I had cherrypicked those countries would I get to make the same “bell curve” argument?

          In any case:

          Standard deviation for height within ethnic groups is greater than the difference in mean Hecht between them. There’s about 3cm difference between the average height of a Brit and the average height of a Japanese guy while the standard deviation for either group is about 7cm. You advertise in Europe alone and you are going to get a bunch of short arses along with lanky bastards, while missing out on millions of tall Japanese.

          Again, I consider “focus efforts on Europe” to be different from “advertising only in Europe to the exclusion of Japan,” but that’s just me.

          In any case, the small mean differences can add up to pretty big percentage differences at the outliers.

          • richie bastard says

            I think its interesting that even in your contrived example, you cherry-picked statistics and then did a bait-and-switch. The average for UK-England in one outlier study was 3 cm more than Japan, but European average was almost 7 cm greater than Japan. Not sure why you would use such a manipulated example. It’s clear that you wouldn’t be missing out on a lot if you just cut the cost of advertising in Japan and stuck to Europe if you were looking for rather tall workers. Talk about an own goal. That was a horrible example.

    • ADM64 says

      This is true where differences are small. The physical difference between the sexes are,however, very large, n some cases, multiple standard deviations. In the military, the top 5% of women only compare to the average man, if that. That’s why they need to use separate physical standards for the sexes and relentlessly rationalize the practice.

      Since there are other costs, the case for a single-sex armed forces is actually very strong, but policy claims, pace feminism, that differences are sociological rather than innate, so nothing can be done. Now, you can say that one should still judge the individual, but once the differences are large enough that group X’s likely maximum performance is well below group Y’s, the predictive power of that data needs to be respected. That’s because certain aspects of public policy can’t be tailored to the outliers, especially if the outliers in group X are only equal to the average in group Y.

  10. Stanley Titan says

    Women are, on average, inferior to men physically and mentally. Should we discriminate against females? Maybe not on an individual level, but on a societal level females should absolutely be discouraged from wasting their energies on higher education and careers. They have nothing really to contribute in that realm that couldn’t be done better by a man.

    • Erik H says

      That’s absolutely ridiculous. Women are not “inferior” by any means; they are merely different (and frankly not all THAT different anyway).

      To use one example from this article alone, women are much less likely to end up on the “very low” scale of general intelligence, which is a pretty important trait. Or, if you’re someone who uses the term “emotional intelligence,” women have more of it. And so on.

      In any case, superiority is entirely context-dependent. Men are bigger, stronger and faster, sure…. but women live longer, generally require fewer calories to survive, and starve more slowly when food runs out. Only a fool would claim either group is “superior” in all settings. Whether a lion or panther is ‘superior’ depends on whether you’re in the jungle or the plains.

    • Northern Observer says

      Nice troll Marxist mole.
      The answer is simple. Maintain the equality of opportunity through individual achievement and choice. Stop all government equity initiatives and programs.

  11. Anonymous says

    It is *not* just the left, let us not forget that.

    In the UK (where the author Toby Young is located), the conservative party (“The Conservatives”) have been saying exactly the same when it comes to gender (e.g., in regard to gender differences and education, occupation, etc), as well as on gender identity.

    For example, Theresa May (the Conservative’s UKs head of government): https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/theresa-may-transgender-not-illness-gender-recognition-act-lgbt-rights-sex-edution-homophobia-pink-a8008486.html And similar for others, such as Nicky Morgan on girls and STEM, etc: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/11487589/Nicky-Morgan-girls-who-study-maths-and-science-go-on-to-earn-a-third-more-in-wages.html

  12. Nancy says

    I am a female PhD physical chemist (very mathematical) working in a field that is mostly comprised of males. Anecdotally I have seen women self-select out of this field and others that require mathematical rigor and long hours to succeed, unlike many of their male counterparts. I am currently trying to fill a PhD chemist position in my research group and have been told by HR that I must have a “diverse interview pool”, which is difficult given that only 20% of the applicants were women, and none were qualified. This well intentioned but misguided desire to force “diversity” endangers the scientific and technical endeavor, and given the current trajectory will degrade U.S. capabilities, devalue true intellectual ability, and lead to extreme mediocrity (at best).

    I am so perturbed by the ongoing debasement of science that I am considering leaving the field.

    • ga gamba says

      If you do that then there’ll be two vacant-but-almost-impossible-to-fill positions.

      I reckon this is maddening. I hope you don’t leave because you invested a lot of effort and time to gain the expertise to perform a high-calibre job you seem to enjoy, minus the HR headache. Humanity needs talented people doing wonderful things such as yourself.

      I don’t know if you have the ear and the confidence of a powerful ally, but an explanation of the problem, your good faith effort to find qualified candidates, your intention to leave if it isn’t resolved, and the outcome of two vacant positions will exist that will degrade your research group’s efforts is a compelling account. If damage to the bottom line can be shown by you this often is very persuasive.

      I wish you the best and hope you find the outcome you’re looking for.

    • Ian says

      In science, the pressure to achieve diversity targets preferentially discriminates against junior faculty because the more senior faculty with more money and resources will always find it easier to reach targets by recruiting from a larger catchment pool without compromising quality. And the price to be paid for a poor recruitment choice made by a junior faculty is higher. Similarly, it’s easier for Harvard to reach a diversity target than a less well known university.

    • Hutch says

      If you are who you say you are and not some odd LARPING commenter,

      I would humbly ask that you make an absolute racket when asked to ensure a “Diverse interview pool”. If you’re going to leave the field, don’t go quietly.

      • My experience reading this site tells me the high quality comments speak for themselves. There’s no way to prove these people are who they say they are, but the conversations happening here are usually very academic and seldom of the tedious, snarky variety found on other sites where you might find people rationalizing the decision to present fake credentials in order to bolster arguments. That said, I wouldn’t take anecdotes for granted anywhere.

    • AC Harper says

      I’m a great believer in ‘sharing the pain’. If HR are keen on a “diverse interview pool” then ask them to help you identify potential candidates. If they are unwilling or unable then you have a strong case for disregarding their requirement. If they are willing and able then that’s win/win.

    • Johan says

      @Nancy. Who cares if it is a man or a woman? Not you, Nancy. Probably not anyone else at your department. Who is it then? Someone who hates white heterosexual males it seems.
      “They” call me a white “cis-man”. I don’t like that expression. Shouldn’t “they” respect my wishes. I just might start crying if “they” keep calling me “cis-man”.
      Why do they stop at women? Gypsies, Africans, Aboriginals, Micronesians, Arabs, Polynesians etc are almost non-existing in science departments in the West.
      Higgledy-piggledy…
      A modern, normal man or a woman don’t give a rats ass about gender or race concerning who is hired. Good person or bad person. That’s what matters.
      “They” are everywhere now. But I have never met one…

      • I refuse to acknowledge that these neologisms describe anything real. If a descriptor for the sexual preference and gender identification of the majority of people on planet earth is needed, we already have one that has been perfectly servicable for years: “normal”.

    • Peter Kriens says

      That would be an extremely sad reason to leave …

  13. “… Additional evidence for the same point has come from several international studies showing that the more gender equality there is in a society, the lower the percentage of women going into engineering and tech, implying it’s the result of women exercising their free will rather than misogyny, patriarchy or even low-level sexism. (See this recent article in The Atlantic headlined ‘The More Gender Equality, the Fewer Women in STEM’.)…”

    This! This! This!

    I was in what was, at the time, the most prestigious Engineering program at the top Engineering University in my country in the mid 80’s. This was during the transition from super-brain to PC, the introduction of the Mac and the widespread adoption of TCP/IP networks. The excitement over the future of personal computers and networks was palpable – meaning that many of the engineering students of this era went into software and hardware development. My class had ~ 76 students in it, and there were ~ 34 women! Clearly, the time of sexism in Engineering had passed.

    Today, it seems there would be far fewer women than men in that program. This is clearly not from some sort of systemic repression, but from women realizing that ‘sitting in a cube staring at a monitor’ careers are abhorrent to them much more than they are to than men. It really is that simple.

    • It never ceases to amaze me how the tech press — TechCrunch, Ars Technica, The Verge, etc. — frequently take others to task for their supposed lack of diversity. Such articles are often written by women, yet nobody says, well, you’re a woman, why don’t you go into this field? And if not, why not?

    • INH5 says

      According to BLS data, 60% of American accountants and auditors are women. From what I know about the accounting profession, it involves a fair amount of sitting in a cube staring at a monitor.

  14. I’m 44 years old from a middle class background and have three sisters I never heard anyone tell a woman they couldnt be good at math or science or anything really that they wanted to do in my entire life. That has not been a wide spread thing in the first world in over 50 years.

    • John says

      I have never experienced it, but my wife says she had a math teacher in high school who straight up said girls are bad at math. This would have been about 20 years ago. Of course, both your case and mine are anecdotal. I kind of wonder if this has been more of an upper-middle class thing. Or even a rare but highly emotionally valent issue, especially for upper-middle class women (i.e. women in a subculture that prizes and pays for technical and mathematical competence).

      • Jessica says

        I used to pretend I was bad at math to fit in with all the other pretty girls in junior high. I don’t know exactly where I learned the idea that attractive girls should be bad at math, but I found it some how. This didn’t matter at all to my future math prospects as I am now a physicist. I have always been more interested in things than in people. I am also low on the personality trait “agreeableness.” Most of my colleagues are low on this trait as well.

      • Perservere says

        As a man, I was also told I was ‘bad at math’ by a (female) professor in an advanced level math course. It was a spiteful and uncalled for response from the professor during open question and answers. I never spoke again in class or approached the professor for help, but learned the material anyway have a degree in STEM field (thinking about pursuing graduate work).

        Learning to face and overcome obstacles is part of any job, especially one in STEM where problems don’t give a damn about your self esteem.

        • Jessica says

          Preservere, I completely agree with you.

        • Jessica says

          Perservere–I am tired of this pitting everyone against each other crap. We all have these types of problems, some people overcome them some don’t. I think the disparity in outcome has far more to do with interest than it has to do with discrimination. If you want something badly enough, then those comments won’t stop you.

  15. Morgan says

    From the linked content on “naturalistic fallacy”
    “…a clock is a device used to keep time. When one understands the function of a clock, then a standard of evaluation is implicit in the very description of the clock, i.e., because it “is” a clock, it “ought” to keep the time. Thus, if one cannot pick a good clock from a bad clock, then one does not really know what a clock is.”
    Do you really know what a woman is, Toby? Or a man?
    Maybe you’re right, but it’s fun to challenge assumptions.

    More significantly, maybe it doesn’t actually matter whether or not a woman is capable of this or that skill or science or manner of thinking. Maybe there are other considerations, such as social stability, to consider in how people are discriminated, one from the other. I’m in no way arguing for negative treatment, or even for hampering those who have a strong inclinations for a certain field outside the typical gender types. But we can’t build a society on exceptions. And we can’t pursue merit madly to the point that all the other realities of social life collapse around us.

  16. John says

    The idea “gender is a social construct” is a social construct. It’s why this article is full of qualifiers.

  17. INH5 says

    “Additional evidence for the same point has come from several international studies showing that the more gender equality there is in a society, the lower the percentage of women going into engineering and tech, implying it’s the result of women exercising their free will rather than misogyny, patriarchy or even low-level sexism.”

    This betrays a serious lack of imagination. Gender roles are not one-dimensional. It’s actually pretty common for social mores in one society to be more restrictive than another society in some ways but less restrictive in other ways.

    For example, in many Middle Eastern countries homosexuality is illegal or even punishable by death but nobody bats an eye at the sight of men holding hands in public, because that isn’t considered a sign of homosexuality in that culture. For another example, the Islamic Republic of Iran is a country where abortion is illegal except in cases of danger to the life of the mother or severe fetal impairment, but it’s also a country where anyone can buy birth control pills over-the-counter without a prescription. In fact, requiring a doctor’s approval to purchase birth control pills is far more common among developed countries in general than it is in less developed, and on average less gender-equal, countries.

    Things get even more complicated when we’re talking about particular subsets of society, such as the segment that are both willing and able to attend college. There are a lot of reports that in many non-Western countries, middle class families have an easier time hiring domestic workers to help with household chores than families with similar socioeconomic status in the West do, due to factors such as greater income inequality, fewer labor protections, and less social stigma on outsourcing childcare and domestic work. In the UAE, for example, an astonishing 96% of Emirati families employ (almost entirely migrant) domestic workers to help take care of their children. Assuming that Emirati citizens make up most of the college students of that country, could their ability to trade money for freedom from child rearing duties and household chores have something do with the country’s high female citizen enrollment in STEM roles, which tend to require long and inflexible working hours?

    This stuff is complicated, and we can’t just assume that a greater score on one measure of gender equality means that all women have greater freedom in every single relevant area.

  18. augustine says

    I’m wondering if research in this area might be able to discern differences in cognitive _inclination_ as well as cognitive ability? It is obvious that the strikingly isometric differences in the 2015 gender gap graph have to do with more than respective IQ.

    Great piece, thank you.

  19. Mean Angry White Man says

    Tell them that as a scientist you cannot in good conscience support hiring practices based on (at best) pseudoscience, and latent sexist and racist tendencies. Tell them that you require applicants that can demonstrate superior intellectual capabilities, and that the packaging those capabilities come in is irrelevant.

  20. Sean says

    I would personally be interested to read more comments from women on this article.

    • Nothing in the article is disturbing or surprising. A lifetime of living and working with men has not been for naught. I see the differences everyday. We are different, each with our strengths and weaknesses, despite what bruce/caitlin believes.

  21. Victor Frost says

    Congratulations, you discovered something called sexual dimorphism; it’s been a thing for millions of years in animals, humans included.

    Now look at yourselves in a mirror and reflect on how stupid you were.

  22. AC Harper says

    Now you can have a spirited debate about measuring ‘personality types’ but at least one of the measures (Myers-Briggs) is regarded as internally consistent and replicable. See the charts at https://www.slayerment.com/mbti-gender and consider if such personality differences between genders might not have an effect in the behaviours shown in real life.

    Unless you adhere to the discredited ‘blank slate’ concept then at least some of the observed MBTI personality difference are innate. Modulated by culture perhaps, but ‘built in’. Can cultural change neutralize those differences? Not without compulsion in my opinion.

  23. Saying that women have certain population-level characteristics is not the same as saying all women have those characteristics, so it would be irrational for an employer to discriminate against a woman, or a teacher against a female student, by citing these average differences.

    I’m afraid that’s just wrong. Faced with a choice between component type A which has a 7.8% average failure rate, and component type B which has a 12.5% average failure rate, and assuming they cost the same, it would be irrational NOT to discriminate against an individual type B and pick an individual type A instead. It would only be rational to pick a type B if you could do, and could afford to pay the extra cost of, a test to determine whether your type B was in fact a type B1 (failure rate 5.0%) or a type B2 (failure rate 19.6%); and if you found that you had picked up a type B1.

    It’s a PC platitude that it’s irrational to discriminate against an individual on the basis of group statistics. But it isn’t. It’s irrational not to, unless you can, and can afford to, make a more specific test.

    Note that even if you do a more specific test and discover that your female candidate has an IQ of 138, that still doesn’t mean that you have avoided relying on group stereotypes, and have arrived at the hallowed ground of pure individualism. You’ve simply tightened your tolerances from “member of the group {all women} “ to “member of the group {folk with a measured IQ of 138}” Not all members of the group {folk with a measured IQ of 138} are identical.

    • Alistair says

      Yes. As a statistician and analyst in decision theory, I’m amazed this isn’t more widely understood. Discrimination between individuals on the basis of group characteristics is entirely rational (and built deeply into human social heuristics).

      Also, there is a optimum amount of additional testing to be done; it is not an infinite amount. Depending on the cost of the test and expected improvement in decision quality from better information.

      Often it is entirely proper to discriminate on the basis of gross group characteristics alone.

      • Lee Moore says

        Hi Alistair

        I’m glad you stopped by, as it gives me the opportunity to ask a question I’ve been wondering about which is – very distantly – related to the one we’re addressing. My math skills peaked at roughly age 14 and have been declining ever since, but my idleness is still rising exponentially. So it’s a question I could probably figure out myself, but I’m much to lazy to do it.

        Imagine two population groups A and B, with different mean eyesight quotients, 100 and 85 respectively. Each population has an EQ standard deviation of 15. (Note – the actual numbers are irrelevant, I’m just presenting you with two bell curves, one a bit to the right of the other.) I want to select lookouts. So I devise a test and pick people with EQs above 130. Now obviously there’s a measurement error when I measure EQ, so let’s say it’s plus or minus 5. So someone who is measured at 144, is really in the range 139-149. So :

        (a) if I find two people, an A group member and a B group member both of whom score 144, is there any reason to believe that Mr A actually has a higher EQ than Mr B. Or vice versa. I feel that the shape of the bell curve and the fact that Mr B is more SDs from his mean, should tell us something. But what it is, I can’t tell.
        (b) Ditto but my test can only measure up to 140. Anyone doing better than 140 is just measured at >140. Now if I have Mr A and Mr B who are both measured at >140, can I make any predictions about whether Mr A or Mr B in fact has the higher EQ ?

        • Lee Moore says

          I should add my intuitive guess. Since, when you’re on the RH side of a bell curve, it is sloping down; then when you have a measurement like 139-149 it’s more likely that you are actually below 144 than above it. There are more members of the population in the 139-144 range than in the 144-149 range. But how many more depends on how far to the right you are on the curve.

          The bell curve, once you get past halfway slopes down gently, then increases in steepness until you reach an inflection point when the slope begins to reduce again. I imagine clever folk can work out how many SDs from the mean the inflection point is.

          So when you’re to the right of the inflection point as I assume we are when we’re at least two SDs above the mean, the curve is getting flatter the further right you go. So at 144 Mr B is on a flatter part of his curve than Mr A is at 144. Consequently Mr B’s odds of actually being above 144 are higher than Mr A. So if you have to choose between Mr A and Mr B as your lookout, with both scoring 144, you should choose Mr B.

          I have roughly 51% confidence in this analysis.

          • Lee Moore says

            I imagine clever folk can work out how many SDs from the mean the inflection point is.

            Clever folks tell me via google that the answer is one standard deviation.

      • Peter Kriens says

        Well it is _rational_ in many cases (scientific) but that does not make it by definition _proper_ (morals).

        Clearly when I have 4 applicants with equal level according to their CV, there is a preference to pick the western sounding name because the Arabic name has worse statistics. Perfectly rational, but in the long run it could feed the statistics themselves.

        If I was looking for a position and a 27 year old woman that just got married applied for the job I’d properly pick an applicant that has a smaller average chance to be pregnant in the next 2 years. This is a rational choice for me but it harms society in the long run by increasing the price of women to become pregnant. I think many of our morals come form these long term societal requirements.

        Religion used to solve many of those moral issues and I think our secular societies have not yet found a way to fill that gap to their own detriment.

        • Lee Moore says

          Sure an is is not an ought.

          This is a rational choice for me but it harms society in the long run by increasing the price of women to become pregnant*.

          I’m struggling with this. Not with the notion that some people may have “ought “ measuring rods that are interested in adjusting the cost / benefit analysis of pregnancy, but that the answer seems obvious to you, and that it seems obvious to you from the point of view of society’s economic interests.

          If the free market values a woman employee at 85, and an exactly comparable man at 100, solely because of the woman’s pregnancy risk, how does this harm society ? Society presumably has an interest in –

          – there being some babies
          – such babies being had by women who want them
          – and some being had by smart women

          If we were to introduce a tax of 7.5 on men’s wages, and a corresponding 7.5 subsidy for women workers. equalising their take home pay and correcting the “social error” of the market, what would we achieve in microeconomic terms ?

          (a) we would reduce the supply of labour from men. Lower pay, less incentive to work. Good for society ? Not obvious to me.
          (b) We would increase the supply of labour to commerce from women, and reduce the production of babies accordingly, including from women who wanted to have them. Good for society ? Again far from obvious. Not quite what the law of comparative advantage would suggest
          (c) We would in particular encourage smart women to do more work and have fewer babies. Hmm.

          Of course there will be schemes of oughtness that place a very high value on ironing out inequalities derived from nature. But there’s nothing very special about sex here. One could just as well try to iron out differences in the demand for labour from clever and stupid people. I think most people could see that adjusting prices to encourage stupid people to work more and clever people to work less is not in the interests of society. At least not obviously so.

          • incidentally this formulation isn’t right. It’s is not the woman becoming pregnant that makes you want to hire someone else. It’s her potential to become pregnant. So your reluctance to hire her has no effect on her cost / benefit analysis on whether to try to get pregnant. Her potential to get pregnant is effectively a sunk cost from her microeconomic point of view. Your cruel – but rational – prejudice against young women and their ability to get pregnant does have a microeconomic effect on one decision – whether to have a hysterectomy. The fact that few women choose this method of getting rid of their might-get-pregnant disadvantage in the workplace hints that most young women put positive value on their ability to get pregnant.

          And while I’m on a roll :

          1. anti discrimination laws preventing employers firing women for getting pregnant, and requiring them to hold their job open till they come back, significantly increase the economic discount that a rational employer puts on hiring a young female worker. Easy to fire means less risk on hiring. Consequently you can’t just have a little light regulation, you have to have a whole panoply of costly regulations to prevent employers escaping to pursue their (and society’s – see Smith A) best interests.
          2. The economic costs imposed by such anti-discrimination laws are different for different employers. For small companies it can be a huge cost (hence they will secretly cheat more) for giant companies or the government it’s much easier to cope with. And the line of business and the skills needed differ. There’s good research on which industries have business models that allow one worker easily to pick up where another one left off and which really want people to see a job through. You will be shocked to learn that the latter pay a hefty premium to workers who work the longest hours (who, you will be equally shocked to learn, tend to be the ones who are really bad at getting pregnant.) Absent regulation the market would sort women of child bearing age into the jobs that offered the lowest wage discount for being female – ie the jobs could best cope with the flexibility required. But with across the board reguations the market can only attempt this half heartedly. Hence chewing up productivity. Again, you can have values that insist on the importance of clever women with no interest in motherhood being able to pursue careers on equal terms to men. But those values need to accommodate the fact that these things may be less important to, and actually costly for, other folk. Like men. And not so clever women. And clever women who are more interested in their family than their career. And children. And very possibly dogs.

        • Alistair says

          Oooh, you’ve discovered collective action problems. Congratulations! Win a cookie!

          Yes, there are inferior social equilibria in this kind of set up (under-employing newly married females may not be one). Yes, they are hard to avoid. And generally, you should assume people will follow their incentives rather than the law / morals.

  24. Alistair says

    Careful, Toby, you are taking your first steps into the Dark Enlightenment.

    It’s like the Cthullu Mythos; the more you learn of the true, horrifying, nature of reality, the more you appear “mad” to your respectable liberal dinner party friends.

    🙂

  25. Lee Moore says

    One final point: women who score in the top two per cent or higher for general cognitive ability are more likely than men to have strong verbal scores, meaning they have more career options than their male counterparts. Could that be why the ratio of male to female professors in science and maths is higher than 2:1?

    Huh ? Assuming that there are no sex differences in overall cognitive ability in the top 2% cohort; then if women within the cohort are more likely than men to have strong verbal scores, then men within the cohort are more likely than women to have strong non verbal scores. Because addition.

    Isn’t that a more direct route to why the ratio of male to female professors in science in maths is higher than 2:1 than postulating that women have wider career choices open to them because of their stronger verbal scores ?

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  28. ccscientist says

    In many ways, women still want the patriarchy they protest so much. If a woman makes more $ than her husband, she is not happy with him. If she have more education, she is even more unhappy with him. All women expect their husbands to be able to kill snakes and fix things and go up on ladders and lift couches. The 60% proportion of women in college does not bode well for happy marriages, or maybe men have figured out the economics of it don’t make sense.

    • Lee Moore says

      You are assuming monogamy. There are other social structures. A high achieveing woman can still get an even higher achieving man, so long as she is content to settle for a polygamous arrangement. She doesn’ have to settle for an inferior mate on a monogamous basis. Or of course she can do without a husband altogether, and if she wants babies she can get sperm off a Nobel Prize winner.

      • Gato says

        “she can get sperm off a Nobel Prize winner” like Barrack Obama!

    • Inconsistently Consistent says

      Even the Communist ones do. Their vision of Utopia is a Communist state that tells them what they can and cannot do… just like their mythical patriarchy. Isn’t it amazing that all it takes is one level of abstraction for their true desires to surface?

  29. Johann Amadeus Metesky says

    “In Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong – and the New Research That’s Rewriting the Story, Angela Saini argues that the reason men outnumber women by 2:1 among the top two per cent when it comes to cognitive ability is because intellectually gifted boys receive more praise and encouragement than their female equivalents.”

    There are more men than women at both extremes of intelligence. How would Saini’s praise and encouragement theory explain the indisputed fact that men significantly outnumber women in the lowest percentiles of cognitive ability?

    • Lee Moore says

      I doubt that this is her theory, but in principle you could try to attribute that result to boys getting more emphatic feedback – ie more praise than comparable girls when they do well and more criticism when they do poorly.

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  31. dtjarlz says

    Of course, this could have been titled “Why can’t a man be more like a woman?” Or does that suggest some kind of bias?

    • Morey Ladini says

      It was a (once) well-known song title from “My Fair Lady”

      • Professor Higgins:
        Why can’t a woman be more like a man?
        Men are so honest, so thoroughly square;
        Eternally noble, historically fair.
        Who, when you win, will always give your back a pat.
        Why can’t a woman be like that?

        This is one of my favorite musicals. I’m glad you were keen enough to make the connection. I think the title here is being used tongue-in-cheek, much like the original song. It’s not to be taken *too* seriously.

  32. snailmailtrucker says

    I chose my wife because she has an IQ 5 points lower than mine…
    But, she still makes a Hell-of a Sandwich and always knows where the Coldest beers are in the Fridge !

  33. ccscientist says

    I am much smarter than my wife on men stuff, and she has totally created our social life and home life. I call it a partnership. This attempt to turn women into men is sick.

  34. Daco says

    Great take-away, Lady GaGa’s a genius. A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

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  36. Gato says

    It is my opinion that women and men have slightly different intelligences. Is one better than the other? There are ways to show that this is true, but in the real world, they are not competitive, but complimentary. Men and women compliment each other is other ways than sexually. Remember evolution? Men did the hunting, women did the gathering, child bearing, and child raising. A division of labor complimentary to each other. One is not more important than the other and both are necessary to human survival.

  37. Morey Ladini says

    A previous research finding mentions how, on average, males have 6x more brain Gray Matter, while women’s brains have 10x more White Matter.
    White matter is used for cross-brain communication, and it may be more associated with multi-tasking and perhaps more nuanced, relational and social considerations.
    Gray matter, in contrast, is associated with more narrow, highly focused and linear thinking. Which may explain the stereotype of male obsessiveness, and why men wind-up more at the ends of the Bell Curve, filling both the top science academic slots – and the jails.

  38. NSL says

    Is anyone else concerned about the very large sample size, which makes it easier to find statistical significance? The largest effect size was 1.49 cm cubed. I don’t know enough about brain anatomy to know if this is a big difference. Or a big enough difference to be practically significant. Any thoughts?

    • Is anyone else concerned about the very large sample size, which makes it easier to find statistical significance?

      Not sure I follow. Statistical significance has to do with whether the observed result is likely to be showing something real, or whether it is just was just a flukey sample. The smaller the sample the more likely the result is to be just a fluke. But the more likely we are to get a positive result. So a large sample increases the chances of a positive result being something real rather than a fluke, and increases the chances that a fluke will not show up as a positive result. The two effects balance. A large sample doesn’t increase the chances of fooling us into thinking a fluke resut is a real one. It weeds out flukes just as fast as it increases our estimation of the validity of our result (ie the statistical significance.)

      • NSL says

        Yes, but when the sample is very large as it is in this study, the amount of difference required to reach statistical significance can be very small. One way to decide if the difference is enough to be what’s called practically significant is to look at the effect size, the actual difference. They used Cohen’s d for effect size in this study, which is fine. And there’s no doubt that a difference was found. My question is whether or not the *amount* of difference is enough to have an affect on function.

        Cognitive testing would help answer this, but the study discusses the limitations of the tests they used, so my question remains. Are the actual differences found enough to affect functionality?

        • Joe H says

          The effect size is what you are really after. Yes large samples can detect small differences that are statistically different but the difference, stat sig or not, is still small. The stat sig. mallarkey is due to the abuse of the null hypothesis sig. test (widespread in the social sciences and life sciences due to lack of knowledge or education in statistics). Effect size is really the important parameter and the size of the sample won’t change that just your confidence that it is real and not a random fluke.

  39. kumah cartl says

    I’m a Ghanaian but I like a white man I admire the way they treat their ladies. Some African men are good too. I am a business woman in Accra who does buying and selling of goods.
    Please call me on: 05522759252

    • Lee Moore says

      Hi kumah cartl

      I would love to meet you, and do business with you. Unfortunately my cell phone has run out of money and the phone company says they won’t restore the service unless I deposit $5,000 with them. Can you send me $5,000 ? I really look forward to talking with you.

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  41. ohyaknow says

    I wouldn’t argue that there are no physiological differences between genders – just take a look at hormones and how drastically they affect the body and mind of a person who’s transitioning – but I did feel that this article posed a lot of questions that were followed up with hasty (and not so scientific) conclusions. The first few paragraphs on brain mass were interesting enough for me to keep reading, but once the article hit the section on women having a preference for jobs that have to do with people rather than “things”, the writing became a lot more anecdotal and concluded toward genetic differences too readily for me. The conclusions began to become predictable and opinion-infused. When it comes to the job selections by genders: correlation does not automatically equal causation, even if the trend is wide-spread among cultures. There are genetic variables that still come into play, but were not discussed, such as body size, muscle mass, and balance/cognitive differences that have been a huge factor in determining how early to present day humans would define gender roles. It’s still very likely on the anecdotal flip-side of the job argument that women have been pigeonholed into jobs that serve “people” for so long, they have inherited the the role as caregiver and that socialization plays a dominant role in their career decision making. I do think you’re correct that if we don’t at least acknowledge possible chemistry differences, we create a cognitive dissonance that could lose truth-seeking allies. I guess my biggest concern is that truth-seeking doesn’t become a “belief affirming” quest like eugenics or some of the other dark human studies that have been embarked upon. Overall, an interesting conversation worth having.

    • When it comes to the job selections by genders: correlation does not automatically equal causation, even if the trend is wide-spread among cultures.

      But the widespread-ness across different cultures does at least suggest a common cause. Which can’t be culture, by definition. So it must be something else. Ubiquity isn’t proof, but it’s a pretty big hint. Particularly when supported by biological facts which we were not able to interfere with environmentally until little over 50 years ago. Like most healthy women who were sexually active couldn’t avoid being pregnant or possessed of, and requiring to breastfeed, a small child for most of their adult life – until menopause. Which many women didn’t make it to.

      Making the study of mechanical engineering difficult to fit in.

      There are genetic variables that still come into play, but were not discussed, such as body size, muscle mass, and balance/cognitive differences that have been a huge factor in determining how early to present day humans would define gender roles.

      Yes (not to mention breastfeeding, which men are not very good at.) But that would assign the definition of gender roles to…genes. It’s a mistake to assume that a cause ain’t a cause unless it’s direct. If genes make boys want to chase after girls, and if, when they catch them, babies result; genes are causing babies. The fact that there’s no gene impelling boys to create babies is irrelevant. The genes for wanting to chase after girls have an effect in the environment – the chasing and catching of girls – that in turn causes babies. See The Extended Phenotype, for a longer discussion.

      Now, other changes in the environment can interrupt that causal flow – eg contraceptives. The fact that boys like to canoodle with girls (thanks genetics) is not changed by the fact that contraceptives now interrupt the next stage. Likewise with girls and their careers.

      The fact that female job choices are derived from culture, which was derived, in part and indirectly, from genes, does not mean that the causal flow cannot be interrupted by environmental change. Such as feminism etc. However practical experience with feminist experiments, eg Scandinavia, suggests that separating the sexes from their thing / people preferences may not be as easy as had been hoped, and so may have (in part) a direct genetic cause, making environmental interruption hard. Indeed the Scandinavian experience is a good test of two opposing theses. Remove, or reduce, social pressure to pursue jobs based on old fashioned gender roles and

      (a) if genes have little effect and gender roles are just the patriarchy (culture) at work, then job choices should converge
      (b) if genes do have a role, then removing or reducing social pressure should expose to view what genes are doing.

      The experiment has been unkind to thesis (a)

      It’s still very likely on the anecdotal flip-side of the job argument that women have been pigeonholed into jobs that serve “people” for so long, they have inherited the role as caregiver and that socialization plays a dominant role in their career decision making.

      Sure. But given the ubiquity of female caregiving in virtually all animals that care for their progeny (I believe there are one or two fish that break the rule) including, obviously, animals in which the mix of culture to genetics seems rather small compared to humans, hints that female caregiving in most animals has a genetic base. This would then suggest that the wasting away of this genetic base in humans, associated with a simultaneous growth of non genetically inspired cultural practices involving female concentration on caring is, well, more convoluted than Mr Occam would recommend.

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  43. Joe H says

    On a BBC4 TV documentary recently on the difference of males and females they did an experiment to see if males prefer toy trucks and females dolls. Use of small children was ruled out as the received wisdom has it that they are biased by TV, parents, etc etc etc by as young as a few months so couldn’t be sure it stemmed from cultural bias. So they decided to use monkeys instead. Specifically they went to Macaque monkeys in a UK zoo somewhere and spread the toys around on the ground and then moved far away while their keeper encouraged them down from the trees. Even the presenter of the program was very surprised by the result: practically every male played with the trucks and every female with the dolls.

    Most of us know already of the innate difference (whatever its source) but in the current climate we’re having to do science to prove common sense!

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  45. Indie Wifey says

    feminists, feministas and super-aggressive affirmative action manipulators, in their anger and attack reliance, imo prove the weakness of their arguments because of that reliance on negativity.
    because of the blinding capability of anger, it is too indiscriminate – creating victims of the victimhood culture – which will include erasure of a critical % of individuals who actually earned/fought/warranted their places at the top across the full spectrum of employment and achievement, given that our society was never a meritocracy. We have always endured affirmative placemat via legacy, money and luck

    Is there any academic who has the courage to address the potential scenario of a broad spectrum societal downgrade?

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