American women are few and far between at the upper levels in the "hard" sciences, otherwise known as physics and chemistry as opposed to biology and medicine. A new group of studies suggest that women — who, according to the Boston Globe constitute "20 percent of the nation's engineers, fewer than one-third of chemists, and only about a quarter of computer and math professionals" - are rarities in these fields because they are opting out of them, not because of the paucity of opportunities available. "Substantial numbers of women - highly qualified for the work - stay out of those careers because they would simply rather do something else," the Globe's Elaine McArdle writes. In countries where women have fewer economic choices, like the Philippines, Thailand and Russia, the disparity between men and women in the hard sciences is far less substantial.
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