Cognitive Sciences Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for practitioners, researchers, and students in cognitive science, psychology, neuroscience, and psychiatry. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Developing software is simultaneously artistic and scientific, which accounts for its appeal for some of the smartest and intuitive people on the planet

There is a generally observable and most likely a statistically provable scarcity of women in the programmer community.

Would it be right to conclude from this that men are generally more intelligent than women? If so, what's the cause of this? And if not, why?

share|improve this question
It is certainly a different question, not necessarily a better one. "statistically provable scarcity of women" but a link to an essay? Why other remarks or question - there should be ONE question per question. Plus, in general, before asking here some proof of initial research is welcome. – Piotr Migdal Jan 29 '14 at 19:02
Women are more intelligent. They go out and make friends, instead of sitting in front of a computer screen. – what Jan 29 '14 at 22:34
I hope the question doesn't get closed. I think the question embodies a view held in the community, and I hope that well reasoned answers can help separate stereotypes and misconceptions from the scientific evidence. – Jeromy Anglim Jan 30 '14 at 1:00
@JeromyAnglim My objections are not related to the question subject (I don't care much for political correctness or being polite), but the lack of research/effort by OP (at least starting with wikipedia, any job census or whatever - it is not a niche problem!). But TU for you - great answer to a so-so question! – Piotr Migdal Jan 30 '14 at 11:51
Maybe the correct placement of commas is a better indication? – RedSonja Feb 23 '15 at 14:02
up vote 19 down vote accepted

The short answer: No, sex differences in professions is not a good basis for judging the intelligence of males and females.

I would like to address some of the assumptions and misconceptions in the question. First, I would like to deconstruct the question, and then answer it.

Deconstructing the question

One of the earlier titles of the question was "Are men more intelligent than women?". It starts with the observation that there are more males who work in areas related to mathematics and programming, therefore males are more intelligent.

I think this is a common bias in humans. People know a lot about their area of expertise and then judge others by their lack of understanding of what they are experts in. To take a stereotypical example, perhaps a female clinical psychologist, doctor, or lawyer may wonder why so many males are mathematicians and programmers. She might think that this is because they lack the intelligence to function effectively in domains that require strong interpersonal skills. I am not defending this point of view either. I merely intend to highlight that to judge others by your own standards of what represents intelligence is problematic.

Answering the question

Have a read of page 91 of "Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns", which represents the position of a large reputable APA task force of leading intelligence researchers. Summarising a huge literature, males tend to perform much better on visual-spatial intelligence test items such as mental rotation and tracking moving objects. Females often perform better on verbal abilities such as synonym generation and verbal fluency. Overall, there is minimal difference in full-scale IQ.

You could also have a read of Hide's (2005) summary of meta-analytic sex differences across a wide range of cognitive tests.

Here, the author advances a very different view, the gender similarities hypothesis, which holds that males and females are similar on most, but not all, psychological variables.

However, this only addresses mean differences, and there is certainly much greater differences within sexes than between.


  • Neisser, U., Boodoo, G., Bouchard Jr, T. J., Boykin, A. W., Brody, N., Ceci, S. J., ... & Urbina, S. (1996). Intelligence: Knowns and unknowns. American psychologist, 51(2), 77. PDF
  • Hyde, J. S. (2005). The gender similarities hypothesis. American psychologist, 60(6), 581. PDF
share|improve this answer

No. In developing IQ tests for intelligence science has found that age not sex is the key difference between groups of people for which non-biased conclusions can be drawn.

Most IQ tests are constructed so that there are no differences between the average (mean) scores of females and males. Areas where differences in mean scores have been found include verbal and mathematical ability.

-Wikipedia Sex differences in psychology

If anything modern research purports that women have an insignificant half point above men.

share|improve this answer

To think that men and women would differ should be obvious (specialization to differing tasks). To think that one group would be better or worse overall would be counter-intuitive (survival would be worsened).

When I was in college, the Engineering school with the highest proportion of women (46%) was Computer Science. I don't know why. I think it is also the Engineering field with the most women actually employed. When I worked as a programmer in a company with about 100 employees, about 40% were programmers, and most of those were women. Some of them were among the most intelligent people I have ever known.

I think that no general statements about intelligence relative to male vs female will hold up overall. I do know that females have much greater touch sensitivity, as proven by research. But that would make sense in terms of evolution. Computer programming has not been around very long for male-female differences to arise in the brain. (Check back in a million years.)

share|improve this answer
Welcome to cogsci.SE and thank you for taking the time to answer. This forum is not an "opinion" forum, but a science forum. As such, answers to questions are expected to be backed up by peer-reviewed research, with references provided. Please update your answer accordingly so that we can check the sources for any assertions made. – Arnon Weinberg Mar 23 '15 at 22:37
This guy had a damn good answer! I don't think every post on this stack exchange needs some flavour of "this doesn't meet expectations". Just let it be until things get out of hand! – Bliebervik Mar 26 '15 at 6:42

Interesting that neither of the answers seem to be adressing the effect of gender-roles. It is very likely that the scarcity of women (or men) in certain professions is due to early "priming" and even later life experiences, for example a girl with interest and even talent in math is less likely to be reinforced to pursue a career (go to competitions, etc) then a boy. But most of the girls wouldn't consider such careers anyway as they were never encouraged to play with the "chemistry kit", miscroscope, math games etc. as a child. Plus, as the programming profession is already very male focused women sometimes feel uncomfortable (justified or not) or even rejected. Although I woudn' t deny the effects of some sex related specification or affinity that working with numbers / abstract codes is more preferable to some men than most women. (I, a male for example am totally uninterested by programming :))

share|improve this answer
This answer seems to be primarily opinion based, which is frowned upon on CogSci.SE. Adding references to studies to support your personal impressions would greatly improve the quality of your answer. – Seanny123 2 days ago

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.