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?

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    $\begingroup$ 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. $\endgroup$ Jan 29, 2014 at 19:02
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    $\begingroup$ Women are more intelligent. They go out and make friends, instead of sitting in front of a computer screen. $\endgroup$
    – user3116
    Jan 29, 2014 at 22:34
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    $\begingroup$ 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. $\endgroup$ Jan 30, 2014 at 1:00
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    $\begingroup$ @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! $\endgroup$ Jan 30, 2014 at 11:51
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe the correct placement of commas is a better indication? $\endgroup$
    – RedSonja
    Feb 23, 2015 at 14:02

3 Answers 3


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
  • $\begingroup$ "You could also have a read of Hide's [sic] (2005) summary of meta-analytic sex differences across a wide range of cognitive tests." Hyde says next to nothing about intelligence and quantifies what he means by "similarity" sparsely. The meta-analysis by Lynn and Irwing that is in Hyde's list of references (but cited nowhere in the paper that I could see) comes up with a 5 point higher IQ mean in adult men compared to adult women. $\endgroup$
    – G. Bach
    Aug 16, 2017 at 14:33
  • $\begingroup$ The portion on sex differences in Neisser et al. starts with "Most standard tests of intelligence have been constructed so that there are no overall score differences between females and males. Some recent studies do report sex differences in IQ, but the direction is variable and the effects are small[.]", it doesn't quantify what it means by small. I can well see a 5 point difference to fall under that description. $\endgroup$
    – G. Bach
    Aug 16, 2017 at 14:37
  • $\begingroup$ A longitudinal study by Lynn & Kanazawa, 2011 reports a standard deviation of 15.2 for boys aged 7 and 15.6 for the same boys aged 16, the numbers for girls are 14.7 at 7 and 14.3 at 16. These differences could also be called "small" by Neisser et al. Note that if the trend indicated by those numbers continues over a lifetime, the adult male SD in IQ may well be almost 2 points higher than that of women, and even 1.3 is small, but significant already. Higher mean and SD imply significantly more men in the high percentiles. $\endgroup$
    – G. Bach
    Aug 16, 2017 at 14:42
  • $\begingroup$ I guess the problem comes in when we think that some difference or other is 'good'. Are more interpersonal skills a better thing to have? For what? Is more 'intelligence' better? In what situation? We should get rid of the implication of 'betterness' and look at "fitness for purpose". $\endgroup$
    – user9634
    Mar 16, 2018 at 17:39
  • $\begingroup$ Interestingly, a recent study suggests that visual-spatial ability may in fact be the reason for womens' low representation in STEM occupations: "... the link between sex differences in spatial and math anxiety may be a consequence of sex-differences in the degree to which individuals use spatial versus non-spatial (e.g., verbal) strategies when solving mathematical tasks. Overall, our results may provide a significant advance in understanding why women are under-represented in STEM-related disciplines." $\endgroup$
    – Arnon Weinberg
    Feb 13, 2021 at 4:12

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.

  • $\begingroup$ The tests are designed so that no male-female differences arise? That is just... weird. Wouldn't we want to see the differences if they exist? Why would tests be designed to hide them? $\endgroup$
    – user9634
    Mar 16, 2018 at 17:35

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.)

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    $\begingroup$ 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. $\endgroup$
    – Arnon Weinberg
    Mar 23, 2015 at 22:37
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    $\begingroup$ 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! $\endgroup$
    – Bliebervik
    Mar 26, 2015 at 6:42

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