The Math Gender Gap: Nurture Trumps Nature


Time, August 30, 2011


Rural India might not seem a likely place to study the roots of gender differences in math performance. But a new study of two tribes living in the northeast of the country offers intriguing evidence that biology alone does not determine women’s math aptitude (or lack thereof, as former Harvard President Lawrence Summers once infamously suggested) and that culture has a lot to do with the differences between the genders.

Prior research has found that fewer than 10% of tenured math professors are women at Ph.D.-granting institutions (only 7% are full professors at top 100 universities), so understanding the reasons for the disparity could help address it. The new study of members of the Khasi and Karbi tribes of India suggests that the influence of culture can virtually eliminate at least some of the gender differences.

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