VANISHED! The achievement gap between boys and girls in math performance…

An exciting story in the New York Times yesterday: science departments at universities may be starting to become more equitable for women: “…men and women faculty in science, engineering and mathematics have enjoyed comparable opportunities,” said the report, issued Tuesday. It found that women who applied for university jobs and, once they had them, for promotion and tenure were at least as likely to succeed as men.” That said, women applicants were still underrepresented and, if you read the actual news release from the National Academies, we see that the picture is still pretty grey:

  • Access to institutional resources: Men and women reported comparable access to many institutional resources, including start-up packages, travel funds, and supervision of similar numbers of postdocs and research assistants.  And in general, men and women spent similar proportions of their time on teaching, research, and service.  Although at first glance men seemed to have more lab space than women, this difference disappeared when other factors such as discipline and faculty rank were accounted for.  However, men appeared to have greater access to equipment needed for research and to clerical support, the report said.  
  • Tenure: In every field, women were underrepresented among candidates for tenure relative to the number of female assistant professors.  In chemistry, for example, women made up 22 percent of assistant professors, but only 15 percent of the faculty being considered for tenure.  Women also spent significantly longer time as assistant professors.  However, women who did come up for tenure review were at least as likely as men to receive tenure.
  • Salary: Women full professors were paid on average 8 percent less than their male counterparts, the report says.  This difference in salary did not exist in the ranks of associate and assistant professors

However, embedded in the New York Times story, was another story about another report from the National Academies that may get more play in upcoming months:  “The achievement gap between boys and girls in mathematics performance had narrowed to the vanishing point. “U.S. girls have now reached parity with boys, even in high school and even for measures requiring complex problem solving,” the Wisconsin researchers said. Continuing from the New York Times, “Differences between girls’ and boys’ performance in the 10 states were “close to zero in all grades,” they said, even in high schools where gaps had existed earlier. In the national assessment, they said, differences between girls’ and boys’ performance were “trivial.”

All of which makes me wonder a few things about the second report:

1) Should we be celebrating?

2) Does this mean that girls in poor schools are performing equally as poorly as boys?

2) Why is a subscription required to view research published an organization funded by public tax dollars (an ongoing irksome issue for me).

[Oh, I meant “3” not “2” for that last item. Math is not one of my strong points.]

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