Wondering why there are fewer female philosophers than molecular biologists, scholars entered surprising territory. No, it was not about ability or interest. They discovered a correlation between disciplines that are associated with innate talent and the number of women in those areas.
The Impact of the Talent Myth
Surveying more than 1800 professors in 30 academic fields, researchers asked whether innate, raw talent was necessary for their success and if they had to work very hard. In the fields where the raw talent reply predominated, there were fewer women. The stunner, though, is that GRE scores show that those disciplines do not require any more innate talent than other demanding areas.
Instead, it all might come down to self-fulfilling prophecies about talent. If you believe you might not have it, then you could avoid areas that appear to require it. Perhaps that is why African Americans are underrepresented in the same disciplines.
In the following graphs, higher x-axis numbers indicate more of a belief in innate talent while the y-axis represents the proportion of women in the discipline. Far to the right on the x-axis and low on the y-axis, philosophy is a high-inborn-talent low female discipline. At the other end of the x-axis, we have education while neuroscience is more in the middle of both axes.
Our Bottom Line: Human Capital
Repeatedly, experiments have shown that expectations can shape results. When those expectations diminish performance, we all suffer because of the impact of diminished human capital development on economic growth.