The stereotype that men are smarter than women has a long history,
but in the battle of the sexes, who actually has the superior intellect when it comes down to it?
Are boys smarter than girls?
Early studies show that male brains are 8 to 13 percent larger in volume than female brains,
however this has been since attributed to differences in body size.
Women’s brains have more gyrofication or brain folding, and as a result,
a greater cortical surface area.
Besides, bigger isn’t always better.
Sperm whales, elephants and dolphins all have larger brains than humans,
and while they are smart, their cognitive abilities are less than our own.
There are other structural differences, though,
like males having more connections within hemispheres,
while women have more connections between hemispheres.
But overall, MRI brain imaging shows significant overlap in the physical structure between the sexes.
After studying 14 hundred brains and comparing the sexes,
researchers found that mostly all men and woman show
a mosaic of female and male typical structures in the brain.
This study also evaluted gender stereotypical behaviours.
Like how video games are often considered male behaviour while scrapbooking is female
and the results found that 0.1% of test subjects displayed only male or only female typical behaviours.
Tests on intelligence find similar results with major IQ studies showing
neglible, or no sex differences in general intelligence
but do show women having stronger verbal abilities while men show stronger visual-spatial abilities.
Interestingly, studies show more male variance in tests with their scores being both the worst and the best.
One meta analysis of 22 studies did fiund men to be 3.3 to 5.5 IQ points above women but
this study has been called into question by academics who found the methodology flawed.
In academic performance of language, math and science,
women consistently received better grade in 70% of nations.
But on SAT testing in the U.S. men scored 33 points higher in math and science.
Other tests like the Program for International Student Assessment showed both sexes performing equally
in several countries with girls performing better in some like Iceland suggesting cultural and environmental differences
and not necessarily biological differences at play.
But research has found that stereotypes about womens performance actually impact how well they do.
When told that a particular math test had significant gender differences,
women performed significantly worse than their male peers.
While women who were told there was no difference, scored the same.
This phenomenom is known as the stereotype threat.
Even google search data shows that parents 2.5 times more likely to
search is my son gifted than is my daughter gifted?
Despite 11% more girls in gifted programs in America.
And girls pick up on these bias as early as 6 years old.
When told a story at age 5 about a person who is really really smart
both boys and girls associate intelligence with there own gender
but by age 6 both girls and boys picked a male character as the smartest.
In a similar experiment kids were asked if they wanted to play a game for people who are really really smart
and again at age 5 both sexes wanted to play but by age 6, girls had decided these games weren’t for them.
and though women do strive to work in STEM fields studies show they face barriers.
In a double blind study science faculty from research universities
rated applications for a lab manager position.
What they didn’t know is that the applications were randomly assigned either male or female names.
As a result, faculty perceived the male applicant names to be significantly more competent,
hireable and deserving of mentoring even though the applications with female names were identical.
Males were also offered higher starting salaries, an average of 30,000 versus the females 26,000.
Though these studies produce a sobering reality research does point to growing equality
between the sexes with passing decades and education
and in spite of these barriers women continue to contribute to our collective scientific knowledge.
Rosalind Franklin allowed us to understand our own DNA,
Katherine Johnson helped Apollo 11 land on the moon
and this year Maryam Mirzakhani is the first women to win a Nobel prize for mathematics.
Fellow mathematician Izabella Laba said
“Mirzakhan’s selection does exactly nothing to convince me that women are capable of doing
mathematical research at the same level of men.
I have never had any doubt about that in the first place..
What I take from it instead is that we as a society, men and women alike, are becoming better at encouraging
and nurturing mathematical talent in women, and more capable of reconizing excellence in women’s work.”
To learn more we asked the women at ASAP Science to speak personally about their experiences growing up
and give insight about how they navigate the societal pressures of being a woman.
Click on the screen or the link in the description to check out that video
and subscribe for more weekly science videos every Thursday.