This is a great question to receive, because I’m very passionate about equality and feminism, but it’s also disheartening to so explicitly see the effects of a culture (and a field, science) that has historically been very hostile to women.
To answer your first question, I think we need to very critically look at the aspects of our culture - both overt and subliminal - which discourage women from pursuing science and math. Here’s a great article about the ‘chilly climate’ in academia, which shows some of the subtle ways we create a discriminatory atmosphere. I love this comic from SMBC which cuts to the heart of the issue in just three panels. I know there are countless other examples, and I’d be interested in hearing from my followers who have more. I absolutely reject that any genetic factors could wholly account for the disparity between men and women in science occupations. No science currently does, and I suspect never will, support such a conclusion. Once we’ve overcome all of the obvious historical, social and cultural barriers keeping women from participating in science, I’ll be interested in hearing why men or women are predisposed towards this or that.
I haven’t put as much thought into this problem as others doubtlessly have, and I have no firsthand knowledge of other cultures’ views towards women, though I know women have historically always fared poorly. I’m sure your niece isn’t a lost cause, as I’m sure you know as well. Off the top of my head, I would recommend talking to her about the accomplishments of women scientists. Do parents of young science or math whizzes have more tips?
Once again, this is a conversation I feel is extremely important to have. I’d be very interested in hearing from my followers on this issue, as it’s certainly one worthy of dedicating some time and space. Please feel free to forward any resources or articles, as well as activities for young aspiring scientists, regardless of their gender. I’ll wait a few days to gather responses, then put together a follow-up piece.
An important part of this issue is awareness. If you’d like to spread this conversation, please reblog this post or start a discussion of your own.