Professor Sarah-Jane Leslie (Princeton)
'Cultures of Genius: Why women are underrepresented in certain academic disciplines'
Some academic disciplines have significant gender gaps (e.g., philosophy), while others do not (e.g., molecular biology). Sometimes, the phenomenon is characterized in terms of the natural sciences/mathematics having large gender gaps, and the social sciences/humanities having small or no gender gaps. This is a crude characterization, as reflection on disciplines such as philosophy vs. molecular biology illustrates. Are there any general, isolable factors that predict the occurrence of gender gaps across all academic disciplines, and also within the broad domains of natural sciences/mathematics, and social sciences/humanities? My collaborators and I have found that one such factor may be academics' beliefs about what is required for success — in particular, the extent to which innate, immutable, natural talent is emphasized, at the expense of hard work and dedication, predicts the presence and extent of a discipline’s gender gap. In this talk I present the original data in support of the hypothesis, along with several other in-progress studies, which shed light on how these beliefs are communicated, the mechanisms by which they operate to discourage women's participation, and their developmental trajectory. Our findings concerning the latter point suggest that even very young girls are vulnerable to being discouraged by such messages.
The Trinity Term 2015 Gareth Evans Memorial Lecture took place at 5pm on Tuesday 9 June 2015 (Week 7) in the Gulbenkian Lecture Theatre, St Cross Building, Manor Road. (Faculty of Law:map)