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The Sciences

On The Paradox of Under-representation of Women (Part II)

The IntersectionBy Sheril KirshenbaumApril 5, 2009 12:06 AM

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Today's NYTimes features a sad article about child abduction and sale in rural China where boys are targeted because of the tradition of favoring them over girls:

Su Qingcai, a tea farmer from the mountainous coast of Fujian Province, explained why he spent $3,500 last year on a 5-year-old boy. “A girl is just not as good as a son,” said Mr. Su, 38, who has a 14-year-old daughter but whose biological son died at 3 months. “It doesn’t matter how much money you have. If you don’t have a son, you are not as good as other people who have one.”

This is related to an important topic explored earlier this week. Christine Luk's research on women in science and technology is focused on why the gender gap persists despite enhancement of female status in the U.S. There are many hypotheses, but the NYTimes piece serves to remind us that we're not isolated from the rest of the world. While social change and new technologies continue to offer emerging opportunities for women to rise in many fields, bias--conscious or otherwise--persists globally in a myriad of forms. We are working against thousands of years of anticipated gender roles and so cannot expect to rise to equal status over a few generations. And despite progressive ideals and new institutions, there will likely be a very long lag time for many women to achieve visibly prominent positions across the spectrum. We may get there eventually, but a gap will undoubtedly persist far into the foreseeable future.

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