Mount Holyoke College Phys 211/Gndst 243
The course readings are meant to cover many perspectives and generate discussion. Readings and discussions throughout the semester emphasize being healthy skeptics of reports of experimental research and secondary sources. Within the readings, we find one author citing another, slightly misprepresenting the findings of the first. We see contradictory claims, both from independent researchers and among review articles and books. The conclusion is not to dismiss that which you initially disagree with, but to find ways of evaluating others' claims, despite a lack of expertise in the subject matter. Some of the experimental techniques and statistics are quite sophisticated, but through class discussion and focusing on the important aspects of the study, the inexperienced reader can learn a lot and ask critical questions.
(some links may no longer be functional)
Wednesday, Jan 30:
First day discussion. Includes excerpts from the Steven Pinker/Elizabeth Spelke debate
at Harvard (following Larry Summer’s remarks). Transcript and slides also available.
Statistics regarding the number of women in science. Taken from the AIP report on women
in physics and astonomy, and D. Ginther, "Does Science Promote Women?"
NBER Working Paper No. W12691.
Monday, Feb 4: The Current Debate
Larry Summers speech (2005)
B. Barres, “Does Gender Matter?” Nature, 442, 133 (2006)
Short letters of response to Barres, Nature, 442, 510 (2006)
P. Lawrence, “Men, Women, and Ghosts in Science”, PLoS Biology 4(1), 13 (2006)
Wednesday, Feb 6: Evolutionary Psychology
The Stone Age Present, W. Allman (1994) pp. 17 – 51
Monday, Feb 11: Innate differences
The Essential Difference: Male and Female Brains and the Truth About Autism
Simon Baron-Cohen (2004) (Chapters 1 – 6)
Wednesday, Feb 13: Innate differences
The Essential Difference (Chapters 7 – 12)
Are you a woman scientist? Optional, for fun, an Asperger's test that has been
labelled with scientist categories. Do not take this seriously.
Monday, Feb 18: Journal articles on innate differences
J. Connellan, S. Baron-Cohen, “Sex differences in human neonatal social perception,”
Infant Behavior and Development 23, 113 (2000)
M. Hines, “Prenatal testosterone and gender-related behavior,” European Journal of
Endocrinology, 155, S115 – S121 (2006).
J. Billington, S. Baron-Cohen, “Cognitive style predicts entry into physical sciences and
humanities: Questionnaire and performance tests of empathy and systemizing,”
Learning and Individual Differences, 17, 260 (2007).
Wednesday, Feb 20: Journal articles on innate differences
G. Alexander, M. Hines, “Sex differences in response to children’s toys in nonhuman
primates,” Evolution and Human Behavior, 23, 467 (2002)
G. Alexander, “An evolutionary perspective of sex-typed toy preferences: Pink, blue, and
the brain,” Archives of Sexual Behavior, 32(1), 7 (2003)
M. Brosnan, “Digit ratio and faculty membership: Implications for the relationship
between prenatal testosterone and academia,” British Journal of Psychology,97,
J. Manning, “Second to fourth digit ratio and male ability in sport: implications for sexual
selection in humans,” Evolution and Human Behavior, 22, 61 (2001)
Monday, Feb 25: A return to the debate
J. Hyde, “The Gender Similarities Hypothesis,” American Psychologist, 60(6), 581
E. Spelke, “Sex differences and intrinsic aptitude for Mathematics and Science?”
American Psychologist, 60(9), 950 (2005).
Wednesday, Feb 27
“Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the potential of women in academic science and Engineering”
Committee on Maximizing the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering (2007) “BBB”
Introduction (optional) and part of Ch 2, pp. 24 – 42 (Can be read online for free.)
Monday, March 3/Wednesday March 5 : Discuss student-selected articles that were cited by previous reading
Kimball 1989 "A new perspective on women's math achievement"
Benbow, 2000 "Sex differences in mathematical reasoning ability at age 13: Their status 20 years later"
Jacobs, 1992 "The impact of mothers' gender-role stereotypic beliefs on mothers' and children's ability perceptions"
Webb, 2002 "Mathematically facile adolescents with math-science aspirations: New perspectives on their educational and vocational development"
Spelke, 2003 "Origins of number sense: Large-number discrimination in human infants"
Crick, 1995 "Relational aggression, gender, and social-psychological adjustment"
Ellis,1990 "Sex differences in sexual fantasy: An evolutionary psychological approach"
Wednesday, March 10: Stereotype Threat
“BBB” pp. 42 - 49
S. Spencer, “Stereotype Threat and Women’s Math Performance,” Journal of
Experimental Social Psychology, 35, 4 (1999)
I. Dar-Nimrod, “Exposure to Scientific Theories Affects Women’s Math Performance,”
Science, 314, 435 (2006)
Monday, March 24: Gender Schemas
V. Valian, Why So Slow? The Advancement of Women (1998)
Wednesday, March 26: Some influences of gender schemas on young children
J. Condry, “Sex Differences: A Study of the Eye of the Beholder,” Child Development,
47, 812, 1976
S. Hill, “18- and 24-month olds’ discrimination of gender-consistent and inconsistent
activities,” Infant Behavior and Development, 30, 168 (2007)
H. Tenenbaum, “Parent-child conversations about science: The socialization of gender
inequities?” Developmental Psychology, 39(1), 34, 2003
Monday, March 31: Evidence of (unconscious) discrimination
J. Swim, “Joan McKay versus John McKay: Do gender stereotypes bias evaluations?”
Psychological Bulletin, 105(3), 409 (1989)
J. Kasof, “Sex Bias in the naming of stimulus persons,” Psychological Bulletin, 113(1),
B. Nosek, “Math = Male, Me = Female, Therefore Math ≠ Me,” Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology, 83(1), 44 (2002)
Take the Implicit Association Test, (go to the demonstrations, take the gender in science test,
and any others you are curious about)
Wednesday, April 2: Further evidence of bias
C. Goldin, “Orchestrating Impartiality: The impact of “blind” auditions on female
musicians,” The American Economic Review, 90(4), 715 (2000)
C. Wenneras, “Nepotism and sexism in peer-review,” Nature, 387, 341 (1997)
M. Carnes, “NIH Director’s Pioneer Awards: Could the selection process be biased
against women?” Journal of Women’s Health, 14(8), 684 (2005)
A. Budden, “Double-blind review favours increased representation of female authors,”
TRENDS in Ecology an Evolution, 23(1), 4 (2008).
S. Basow, “Student Ratings of Professors are not Gender Blind.”
Monday, April 7: Persistence in Science and Engineering
Unlocking the Clubhouse, Margolis and Fisher, 2002, Ch 1 - 4
Wednesday, April 9: Persistence in Science and Engineering
Unlocking the Clubhouse, Margolis and Fisher, 2002, Ch 5 – 8, and epilogue
Monday, April 14: Role Models and Mentors
N. Dasgupta, "Seeing is believing: Exposure to couterstereotypic women leaders
and its effect on the malleability of automatic gender stereotyping." Journal of Experimental Social
Psychology, 40, 642 (2004)
W. Mau, "Factors that influence persistence in science and engineering career aspirations," The Career
Development Quarterly, 51, 234 (2003)
B. Packard, “Mentoring and retention in college science: Reflections on the sophomore year.”
Journal of College Student Retention, 6(3), 289 (2005)
Wednesday, April 16: Persistence from high school through post-doc
BBB Ch 3, pp. 52 – 79
Kuck, "A review and study on graduate training and academic hiring of chemists,"
Journal of Chemical Education, 84(2), 277 (2007)
B. Whitten, "What works for undergraduate women in physics?" Physics Today, 56, 46 (2003)
Monday April 21: Women’s schools
E. Weil, "Teaching boys and girls separately," NY Times Magazine, March 2, 2008.
M. O'Rourke, "Single-Sex Ed 101: Welcome to the laterst educational fad," Slate, Nov 15, 2006.
R. Salomone, "A Place for Women's College's," Chronicle of Higher Education, Feb 16, 2007.
Statistics about Mount Holyoke and science education and research
Wednesday April 23: Faculty
MIT Report on the Status of Women, 2002 (Overview)
N. Hopkins, "Diversification of a university faculty: Observations on hiring women faculty in
the scools of science and engineering at MIT, " MIT Faculty Newsletter, Vol. XVIII No. 4,
American Physical Society survey on the "Two-Body" Problem (1999).
BBB Ch 3, second half.
Monday April 21: What can/is being done?
D. Rolinson, "Title IX for Women in Academic Chemistry: Isn't a millenium of
affirmative action for white men sufficient?" National Academies Press, (2000).
BBB, Ch 6
A girls' science website
"Female friendly" physics questions (Whitten)
Website documenting pioneering womens' contributions to physics (a resource providing
role models and countering the stereotype)
CSI girls' camp
A new magazine about/for/promoting women in engineering from IEEE