I am puzzled when I encounter disbelief from colleagues, male and female, about glass ceilings and discrimination in academia. "Didn't you, as a female scientist, make it here?", they ask. Yes, I did. But it's hard to do a control experiment with myself and ask how things might have been different had I been a male scientist. It's generally difficult to make trend predictions based on singular or few data, but a systemic analysis indicates widespread gender disparities in various aspects of academia, from percentage of women graduate students, likelihood of getting published with a female name, or through the tenure process. Discrimination, unconscious or otherwise, acts along multiple axes, and issues of ethnicity/race, socio-economic class, sexual orientation, age, physical appearance, and nationality mix with gender to create multiple and complex levels of prejudice.
In her debate with Pinker last year, Spelke said arguments about innate differences as explanations for disparities become absurd if applied to previous eras. "You won't see a Chinese face or an Indian face in 19th-century science," she said. "It would have been tempting to apply this same pattern of statistical reasoning and say, there must be something about European genes that give rise to greater mathematical talent than Asian genes." "I think we want to step back and ask, why is it that almost all Nobel Prize winners are men today?" she concluded. "The answer to that question may be the same reason why all the great scientists in Florence were Christian."