Women & Men

The terms “men” and “women” refer exclusively to humans. Humans are shaped by both biological sex and socio-cultural gender (see Sex and Gender Interact). Referring to women and men as "female" and "male" captures only the biological aspects; hence it is preferable to say "women scientists" or "men scientists."

When thinking about women and men, it is important to analyze two types of differences:

  • Differences between groups of women and men "Women" and "men" can be important social and political categories. For example, all women—regardless of social class—were prohibited from studying at European and U.S. universities until the late nineteenth century. Until recently, all men as a group were subject to the draft for military duty.
  • Differences within groups There are significant differences among women and differences among men. An important question to ask is: Which women? Or which men? Women as a group differ by socio-economic status, religion, race, age, and other social categories (see Analyzing Factors Intersecting with Sex and Gender). These differences may be greater than those between women and men. For example, osteoporotic fractures are more common in women than age-matched men, and many forms of heart disease are more common in men than age-matched women, but for both diseases, age is a far better predictor of incidence than is sex (see Case Studies: Heart Disease and Osteoporosis).