As part of the debate we talked about why there are distinctions and differentiations made around boys and girls behaviour, interest and abilities in the fields of science, engineering and physics. It was widely agreed that these distinctions that offer ideas that boys or men are innately better suited to the arenas of maths and science is extremely unhelpful and needs to be challenged. These sectors are making good steps to redressing the balance but more work needs to be done, especially from an early age.
We discussed whether boys tend to be encouraged to be more competitive and to carry out more practical activities currently in schools. Teachers may split their class into gendered groups and give them different tasks based on the gendered group. Careers advice may also often take into account people’s gender identities. For instance Connexion websites ask for gender identities on on-line forms. No doubt tradition dictates that women do not tend to pursue careers in certain areas of science – for instance physics and engineering, but are instead encouraged to pursue medicine and biology. Women continue to be stereotyped as emotional and not linear or logical. Because women may face negative experiences, sexism and prejudice or even might be made to feel ‘weird’ by wider society in pursuing these sectors. Consequently women may feel reluctant to go into these fields, creating a self perpetuating narrative.
On the topic of men and women’s brains being different, we wondered what a ‘male’ brain or a ‘female’ brain might actually look like. For instance, if we wish to query an idea that men have brains that are better suited for science as an idea that is problematic, the notion that a trans man has a male brain in a female body or a trans woman has a female brain in a female body, is sometimes a narrative that is used in trans communities. In addition, where do gender queer and non binary people come into these debates?