As the tech industry’s well-documented gender disparity once again enters the spotlight, even Michelle Obama is calling for men to “make room” at the table for women and other underrepresented groups.
While some people attribute the lack of women in tech to a host of issues (from social biases in childhood education that discourage women from analytic fields to a culture that silently condones sexual harassment in the workplace), others believe the answer is a little more...primal. “Maybe men’s brains are genetically more adept at logical reasoning. I read a study that showed that boys are better at mentally rotating cubes when they’re younger.”
And there are indeed quite a lot of studies that show that men and boys are better at mentally rotating cubes, that boy babies prefer mobile toys to dolls, and other experiments that hint at a genetically predetermined male advantage in STEM.
There is also little question that currently, more men are involved in STEM fields, and that men’s and women’s brains are different. So it’s easy for people to put two and two together and assume that these differences are hardwired. That the reason that there are so few women in tech is *neuroscience*.
Thankfully, there is also Cordelia Fine. In her book Delusions of Gender, Fine dissects the various neuroscientific theories behind an intrinsic male superiority in STEM abilities and the landmark studies that supported them. A neuroscientist and researcher by trade, Cordelia Fine examines how social ideas about gender have influenced the hypotheses and methods used to study gender in as it relates to the brain. She then points out major logical faults.
Delusions of Gender illustrates how gender bias leads researchers to make flawed neuroscience conclusions that then reinforce gender bias. I’ve created a brief timeline to offer a taste of how this dynamic has played out over the last 130 years: