Culture

Get Ready For Women Mathematicians To Win Many Awards!

The Oscars requires hard quotas of blacks, those eternal Victims, in the movies nominated to win its various awards.

Since there are not as many black actors of quality as desired—the quotas are disproportional to the percent of blacks in the population—the consequence is that substandard movies meeting the quotas are over-praised, while better movies failing the quota test are ignored, or aren’t made (they can’t find funding, for instance).

The quotas are not only for blacks, but for other Victims, too. The effects are the same. The quotas, then, added to general wokeness and the cowardice that accompanies it, explains in part why movies grow worse and worse.

As I have said some thousand or so times, mandatory quotas always, absolutely always, lead to a reduction in standards. We see it in the Oscars, we see it in the military, we see it everywhere they are tried.

Here is a Nature headline: “Mathematics prizes have a gender problem — can it be fixed?

Problem? Fixed?

The subheadline: “Female representation among mathematicians is improving. But the field’s most prestigious awards are still going almost exclusively to men.”

Improving?

Why, exactly why, is it a problem to fix that the most prestigious awards “still” go almost exclusively to men? Notice very carefully it’s not mathematics—theorems are still theorems—that have a problem that needs fixing.

The historical evidence is that at the top levels of mathematical performance—the greatest discoveries, the best calculators and memorizers—there have always been more, and many more, men than women. This suggests either that men are better on average at advanced math than women, or that men have organized a spectacularly successful super secret campaign across centuries cultures and continents to…quash female mathematicians, and even eliminate the best ones so that they remain forever unknown or unrealized.

Well, the latter could have happened. I suppose. It is not logically impossible. Yet if I, a certified mathematician of a sort, were in this cabal, I certainly wouldn’t tell you about it. So if this secret society exists, you must admit these men have done their job beautifully.

Anyway, award quotas for female mathematicians are coming. And if you are guessing they will not be so gauche as to mandate hard quotas by name, as the Oscars did, then you are betting the wrong way.

[Men evincing superior award-eligible analytical performance is] a problem shared by many prestigious science awards. Some prize-giving organizations are making tentative attempts to increase diversity among nominees and in the prize committees that make the decisions — mirroring steps taken by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which awards the Nobel prizes. But in a community that tends to work by consensus and is not accustomed to rapid change, researchers expect progress in mathematics to be frustratingly slow.

The “steps taken” to “fix” the “problem” aren’t enough, Equalitarians insist.

Although many scientific organizations have been vocal about the steps they are taking to encourage diversity, some mathematicians have been more reluctant. The mathematical community is especially keen on meritocracy and on avoiding the stigma associated with measures such as quotas.

There it is: the Q-word. But also the cheerful stubborn insistence by many mathematicians that performance, and not sexual desire or sex or race, should matter more.

Quota hounds will get around this in two ways. The first is to continue the shrieking. This almost always works, those in charge of us being inveterate fearful shivering intellectual yellow bellies (yellow brains?). The second workaround is announced in the sentences following the quote above:

But assessing merit is itself not an exact science, says Jess Wade, a materials scientist at Imperial College London who is known for running science-outreach projects aimed at improving diversity. “I truly believe that it’s a really lazy excuse to say ‘we’re just awarding excellence’.”

First the Q-word, then the necessary call, however muted, for a reduction in standards.

The Fields medal is “awarded every four years, has honoured only one woman since it was inaugurated in 1936.” The medal is conferred by the International Mathematical Union which, says Nature, “is pushing for better representation of women.” They are also taking “into account various geographic and gender-balance issues.”

I believe this year another Fields is due to be awarded. The odds of it being a woman have just gone up considerably. I don’t know if there’s a betting market on winners, but if you can find one, consider today’s article a hot tip.

If trends continue, it won’t be too many years before awards in science are like those in the arts and architecture; that is, excellent indicators of lack of quality.

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Categories: Culture

22 replies »

  1. Fields award 2032 for Ethnomathematics won for “One rock, two rocks, many rocks”.

  2. I became very interested in the scientometric aspects of prizes and awards about 15+ years ago – and did several analyses that might interest you, such as: https://medicalhypotheses.blogspot.com/2007/07/nflt-metric-for-revoutionary-science.html and https://medicalhypotheses.blogspot.com/2007/07/nobel-prize-trends-19472006.html .

    (Aside, these analyses document the post-war decline of Harvard as a place for generating top quality scientific research – MIT comes out as by-far the outstanding institution in the world over the time frame.)

    But – as I continued along this line of work, I began to realize that the standard of science as-a-whole was declining; partly because there had been a decline in the number of geniuses, and partly because people (especially in the UK!) were ‘not even trying’ to do the best work of which they were capable, but instead to produce a larger volume of lower quality work:

    https://medicalhypotheses.blogspot.com/2008/01/uk-scientists-down-shift-to-second-rate_04.html

    As you describe in the post; there are several negative influences at work here – where the failure even to try and give awards for the best work tends to reduce the quality of work. And also (and I found this particularly when analyzing medical prizes) there just isn’t outstandingly high quality work done any more, not at the level of 50+ years ago So that Now the STEM prizes are trying to pick ‘the best’ from a much larger field of what would have been regarded as second/ third rate researchers in the past. Which itself makes it easier to make awards for non-merit-based criteria.

    Anyway, I became gradually but thoroughly thoroughly disillusioned about scientometrics – nonetheless the overall results did teach me a lesson in how far high reputation and moderate ‘objective’ performance can diverge – for example: https://charltonteaching.blogspot.com/2008/01/oxford-university-university-of.html – which was published in the Oxford Magazine, but evoked no comment whatsoever!

  3. Briggs noted: “…those in charge of us being inveterate fearful shivering intellectual yellow bellies…”

    Goes back to Adam — You gave me the woman, Boss, so I listened to her. Not my fault! Well yeah, okay, You did tell us not to eat it… but what am I supposed to do when a woman tells me to do something, huh?

    Man up, men.

  4. Willie Munchkinberg and the Esquimeaux are conspiring to wreck my writing.

  5. They’re going to hand awards to women for, “deconstructing bias in math,” rather than actual mathematic achievement.

  6. DoD has created a metric boat-load of new awards where only women and minorities are eligible. Women in Stem excellence, as an example.

  7. Participation trophies–what’s not to like?? Everyone’s a winner!! Myself, I’m a fan of the Lake Wobegone effect, where all the students are above average. Celebrate diversity–because we’re all different, we’re all alike! YAY!

    This will be ignored until the rubble is noticed…

  8. I won’t live long enough to see all the Millenium problems solved, but I bet that all the ones that do get solved either get solved by men or by AIs created by men.

  9. “This suggests either that men are better on average at advanced math than women . . .” Not really – in order to argue what the extremes of a distribution say about the average, at minimum one must look at both extremes, not just the high end. The impression I have is that men are over-represented in both the top and bottom decile, mathematical mensas and mathematical morons. In other words, the observation that the top mathematicians are men probably implies more about the standard deviation than the mean in terms of the distribution of mathematical ability. While this seems nit-picky, I would argue that such thinking causes no end of mischief in the popular generalizations about identifiable groups of people.

    It’s interesting to watch these woke unstoppable-force-meets-immovable object battles between the lefties. The gender-dysphoric male versus feminist female battle rages on. The vast majority of mathematicians will fade into obscurity, the best they can hope for is an award, but now even that hope is dimmed by addition of an equity asterisk.

  10. “The mathematical community is especially keen on meritocracy and on avoiding the stigma associated with measures such as quotas.”

    Damn them for being rational! This must be stopped!

  11. “…those in charge of us being inveterate fearful shivering intellectual yellow bellies…”

    First time through that I read “… invertebrate fearful shivering …”
    Worked out the same.

  12. The Putnam prize has had a separate award to the highest scoring female contestant. This was instituted in 1992, and in the 30 years since then there have only been 4 years where the winner of this prize was also one of the top 5 scoring contestants in the whole competition. (For the record, a woman had never scored in the top 5 before 1992.) Incidentally, only three women have accomplished the feat of being in the top 5, since one did it twice. Despite the huge push for women in STEM over the last decade, the most recent top 5 performance by a woman was in 2004.

    So either women are not that competitive in the Putnam prize (at least not at the highest end of the field), or there has been a conspiracy to keep their scores down which happened simultaneously with a big push to get women interested in math.

  13. But the larger issue is that women are not really interested in mathematics in the first place. A few are, but they are outliers. Every year at my university there have been more and more scholarships, special programs, advertisements, etc. for female students in mathematics, and it is still almost unheard of to have a class beyond Calculus I which has more than 5% female students. While I have interacted with some very mathematically gifted women in my classes, they have all ended up as high school teachers with only a single exception. Pure mathematical research in particular is something which does not appeal to the vast majority of women for whatever reason. (Though to be fair it also doesn’t appeal to most men; it is more clarifying to look at the problem from the converse perspective: of the sliver of the population crazy enough to actually be interested in higher mathematics, the vast majority are men.)

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