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Ideas that influence the way we think.

Are Women Smart Enough to Be Engineers?

Only 14% of engineers are women. Is this because women aren't smart enough to be engineers? Read More

Low paying career?

I don't think of nursing as a low-paying career: throughout my nursing career, I've made more or the same as my electrical engineer husband.

I do wonder why more men don't pursue nursing. Any ideas?

your comment

You raise an interesting question. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2012 reports, the median salary for a registered nurse was about $68,000, with a range from $45,000 to $95,000. The vast range difference reflect different salary ranges for different nursing specialties. http://data.bls.gov/search/query/results?cx=013738036195919377644%3A6ih0...

Using the same report, median salary for electrical engineers was about $92,000, with a range from about $57,000 to $140,000. So on average, nursing does pay significantly less than electrical engineering, particularly at the top end. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes172071.htm

With respect to why so few men go into nursing, I think the answer is what I've pointed out in the article: Men tend to choose careers that are object-oriented, while women tend to choose careers that are agent (person) oriented. In terms of occupational values, this usually plays out to mean that men choose occupations based on power and money, while women tend to value work-life balance and social value. See http://www.businessinsider.com/women-want-work-life-balance-more-than-a-... and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20573104

Stop in the name of science.

So in other words, it is about gender. But in a good way. For all your efforts and data(which BTW, is very informative), we are back on stage one. Good to know what we already knew...for some.

female engineering perspective

I believe this is predominantly a cultural phenomenon. You mentioned that by adolescence that girls tend to be less interested in math. I have seen data that test scores in math are equivalent for both sexes until fourth grade and then, in the US, the scores for girls decline even though this trend does not happen in other countries (e.g. China, India, etc. ).

I am an electrical engineer in my late 30s. In the US organization in my company, there are 5 women out of roughly 150 field engineers. In our China, Taiwan, Singapore, Philippines, and India facilities approximately 40% of the 200 engineers are women. ( Japan not so much since that is still largely a cultural effect ).

Our engineering work is very much customer-facing and, while technical, also requires soft skills and provides an extremely flexible work-life balance with decent pay ( average of about 140k ), so this work would be attractive to most women from a personal perspective.

Engineering is much different than the other sciences as it requires high spatial ability and this is not something that schools in the US seem to teach at all. While computational math comes quite easily to most, once children get into more complex and abstract math, many are easily lost without a good foundation in spatial skills. Boys are often given more toys and games that build these logic and spatial skills early ( puzzles, chess, video games, building toys, tanagrams, etc. ) that I do believe gives them an edge later on.

your comment

Thank you for your comment, but I'm afraid there are several inaccuracies that need to be addressed.

I appreciate that you strongly believe the gender gap in engineering is primarily cultural, but this belief is simply not supported by the data.

Let's look at India, for example. The same gender difference in preference for biosciences over engineering is found there: "India ranks highly in female representation in science and engineering enrollments, at around 65%, with numbers increasing to 80.4% in the biological, medical and life sciences (including nursing and ayurvedic professions). While female representation in engineering and physics dropped to 32% to 35.8% in 2005-07, this is still the highest rate of the countries studied." http://www.elsevier.com/connect/study-reports-indias-slow-progress-in-ad...

You state that boys are given more toys to play with that require spatial skills, yet ignore the data cited in the blog showing that a gender difference in toy preferences exists not just in humans by in other primate species as well.

You also state that "test scores in math are equivalent for both sexes until fourth grade and then, in the US, the scores for girls decline even though this trend does not happen in other countries (e.g. China, India, etc. )." Yet as I took pains to explain in this blog, the gender gap in engineering is NOT due to differences in math ability. There is no appreciable difference between men and women on SAT math scores, and no difference at all on GRE quantitative scores. So the belief that American girls are steered away from math due to differences in ability or peer/societal pressure is not supported by the actual data.

In The Sexual Paradox, Susan Pinker points out that the countries that offer women the most financial stability and legal protections in job choice, have the greatest gender split in careers (e.g., Percent of women in physics - Philippines: 30%; Canada: 5%). Also the article entitled "As Barriers Disappear, Some Gender Gaps Widen" http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/09/science/09tier.html?_r=0

Also, I would again ask why it disturbs us so much that women are "under-represented" in engineering--so much so that NSF pours millions of dollars into programs aimed at attracting more females to the field. Yet even larger gender gaps exist in other fields where females predominate, such as nursing, social work, and K-12 education. Why do these differences not elicit the same degree consternation, outrage, fear, shame, and so on? Why are there not programs aimed at attracting more men to these fields? Why do we have such double standards when it comes to an overpowering desire to "close the gender gap"?

silly subject line

dcummins wrote:

Also, I would again ask why it disturbs us so much that women are "under-represented" in engineering--so much so that NSF pours millions of dollars into programs aimed at attracting more females to the field. Yet even larger gender gaps exist in other fields where females predominate, such as nursing, social work, and K-12 education. Why do these differences not elicit the same degree consternation, outrage, fear, shame, and so on? Why are there not programs aimed at attracting more men to these fields? Why do we have such double standards when it comes to an overpowering desire to "close the gender gap"?

I would argue that it is because feminists are chasing a boogeyman that doesn't exist.

The other possibility is that there is money in it. For example breast cancer pink is everywhere now... It is not the most common cancer, and it is not the most deadly cancer, and research for it has gotten no where in the last 30 years but its still everywhere.

Its nice to see people

Its nice to see people arguing that women just don't care about it that much. People seem to have taken "men and women as equals" far beyond what that is supposed to mean.

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Denise Dellarosa Cummins, Ph.D., is the author Good Thinking, The Historical Foundations of Cognitive Science, and Evolution of Mind.

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