Why are there fewer women than men in science?
Some people believe that genetic differences between men and women explain it.
Not the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.
I came across an obscure and little known video where the astrophysicist Tyson was asked whether genetic differences explain why there are fewer women than men in science. It’s from the question-and-answer section of a panel discussion.
His answer was thought-provoking. Check it out below. The video begins at the question and runs for a few minutes.
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I enjoyed the moment when Tyson explains the power of expectations in society. He speaks of his experience as a black man with the ambition of becoming an astrophysicist. At every step of the way, he was discouraged from pursuing his dreams, often encouraged to become an athlete instead.
Tyson says that women face up to these kinds of expectations all the time. Potential scientists are regularly discouraged from realizing their ambitions in life.
Until we can address the systemic bias against women in science, there’s no point every beginning the conversation around genetic differences.
I made me think that it’s important to focus on the right questions. While it’s an interesting intellectual discussion on how genetic differences between men and women result in different outcomes, the more important question is how society structures our behavior.
Tyson helps to align our focus on what’s really important.