A bunch of links to recent articles and blog posts on this important topic.
1. Let me start with a celebration of women in science.
Ambition is a complex internal drive, and it relies heavily on a belief in one's own potential. "In order to have high aspirations, you have to have a sense of your own competence," says Shelley Correll, a sociologist at Cornell who studies the development of aspirations. Correll has found that, in the presence of a stereotype that men are better, women tend to underrate their own performance, while men overrate their own, regardless of demonstrated ability. "We find that if you compare boys and girls, or men and women, with the same grades in math classes, and the exact same scores on standardized math tests, boys think they are better than girls," she notes.
4. In a deeply personal post, Cognitive Daily's Dave Munger starts with a quote from Lester Thurow:
The decade between 25 and 35 is when men either succeed or fail. It is the decade when lawyers become partners in good firms, when business managers make it onto the "fast track," when academics get tenure at good universities, and when blue collar workers find the job opportunities that will lead to training opportunities and the skills that will generate high earnings.
But the decade between age 25 and 35 is precisely the decade when women are most apt to leave the work force or become part-time workers to have children. When they do, the current system of promotion and skill acquisition will extract an enormous lifetime price.
Dave Munger then goes on to answer the following question:
[In 1992] Greta and I were both 25, and we had already had our first child. Greta was on track to become a scientist, and I was an up-and-coming textbook editor and writer. Why didn't our child doom Greta to failure?
5. A recent academic paper examines underrepresentation of women in tenured positions in US universities. Here's the abstract:
Many studies have shown that women are under-represented in tenured ranks in the sciences. We evaluate whether gender differences in the likelihood of obtaining a tenure track job, promotion to tenure, and promotion to full professor explain these facts using the 1973-2001 Survey of Doctorate Recipients. We find that women are less likely to take tenure track positions in science, but the gender gap is entirely explained by fertility decisions. We find that in science overall, there is no gender difference in promotion to tenure or full professor after controlling for demographic, family, employer and productivity covariates and that in many cases, there is no gender difference in promotion to tenure or full professor even without controlling for covariates. However, family characteristics have different impacts on women's and men's promotion probabilities. Single women do better at each stage than single men, although this might be due to selection. Children make it less likely that women in science will advance up the academic job ladder beyond their early post-doctorate years, while both marriage and children increase men's likelihood of advancing.
6. In a different setting (business), we recently saw what Tim Harford has to say about pregnancy and women's careers.