I tweaked Athene Donald’s manifesto, Not just for boys: why we need more women in science at week-end. Athene is a friend as well as the master of my college (Churchill) in Cambridge, so I was going to be well disposed towards the book, and indeed I found it both persuasive (not that it would have taken much) and a good read. There’s plenty of evidence provided, statistics are cited, but you don’t feel like you’re being hammered as a reader. There’s too much common sense for this to come across as pure polemic, including the fact that extreme gender imbalances the other way around aren’t healthy for society or the discovery process either.
The main point that stands out for me is that the male bias is highest in any discipline where “brilliance” or being “really, really smart” is considered the key attribute. So “in science” is an over-generalization. What is needed is more women in physics, computer science, maths, but also in philosophy and of course in economics. Some of the other natural sciences and humanities as well as many artistic subjects (but not music composition, surprisingly) are rather feminine. “Brilliance” is not only “smart but more”; it’s a kind of performative intelligence requiring supreme self-confidence, and I’m a little wary of it in general; or rather to think that it leads to an inappropriate undervaluation of other types of ideas and attributes.
Anyway, Athene and me and the marvelous Tabitha Goldstaub will discuss the book and the issues he raises at an in-person event in Cambridge in the fall.