For years — and especially since 2005, when Lawrence H. Summers, then president of Harvard, made his notorious comments about women’s aptitude — researchers have been searching for ways to explain why there are so many more men than women in the top ranks of science.
Click here to read a Guardian piece on Summers’ original proclamation in 2005. As he expressed back then, it’s something of an unspoken belief in the US that girls are less inclined to succeed in math and science than boys. Girls’ brains just aren’t wired that way.
Well, it turns out, when it comes to US-born girls and science, their lack of achievement is most likely culturally based, not neurologically. In fact, as the article and related study point out (screenshot of data below), in almost every country but the United States, a sampling of 15-year-old girls has them out-performing boys of a similar age. I found this fascinating and professionally relevant as once again it illuminates the awesome and largely unexplained role that culture plays in shaping not only our ideas and thoughts about how we view life but how our brain develops and functions.
As we continue to examine the role culture plays in the global workplace, I wonder if culture and neuroplasticity will soon be taught hand in hand. In the same way we can teach ourselves guitar, we can actively train our brain not to be offended by, say a Thai colleague who says yes when they’d rather respond with a “no”, or how Germans are so brutally honest with their thoughts to the point of being confrontational. As the article and related study shows, culture plays an enormous role in not only how we view and interact cross-culturally, but how we think about ourselves and the very formation of our beliefs, behaviors and brains. Photo source above: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.