Iranian women outcode American women

ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images Two years ago, former Harvard President Lawrence Summers had women fuming when he said that innate differences between the sexes might explain why there aren’t many women in science and engineering careers. As a female with a degree in chemical engineering, I’ve wondered a lot about the nature vs. nurture debate myself, and ...

ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images

Two years ago, former Harvard President Lawrence Summers had women fuming when he said that innate differences between the sexes might explain why there aren't many women in science and engineering careers.

As a female with a degree in chemical engineering, I've wondered a lot about the nature vs. nurture debate myself, and a recent piece in FP may have scored one point for the "nurture" camp. The piece notes that an estimated one half of all software engineers coming out of Iran's universities are women, and at least one half of computer coders in Syria are estimated to be female. (In the United States, women received only 25 percent of computer science bachelor’s degrees awarded in 2004.)

ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images

Two years ago, former Harvard President Lawrence Summers had women fuming when he said that innate differences between the sexes might explain why there aren’t many women in science and engineering careers.

As a female with a degree in chemical engineering, I’ve wondered a lot about the nature vs. nurture debate myself, and a recent piece in FP may have scored one point for the “nurture” camp. The piece notes that an estimated one half of all software engineers coming out of Iran’s universities are women, and at least one half of computer coders in Syria are estimated to be female. (In the United States, women received only 25 percent of computer science bachelor’s degrees awarded in 2004.)

So, maybe Summers was partially right, but it’s only American women who are “stupider.”

Seriously though, the broader point is that social constraints influence our decisions. For women in the Middle East, computer work is ideal. It can be done from home, which is compatible with the restrictions they face when outside the home. Plus, working from home probably makes it easier to balance job and family responsibilities.

It all makes me wonder what’s holding back American women.

Preeti Aroon was copy chief at Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2016 and was an FP assistant editor from 2007 to 2009. Twitter: @pjaroonFP

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