One persistent theory (myth?) is that women really don't want to do science, a thread that I hear echoed in a current discussion on The Deacon's Bench (women don't want to be deacons). John Tierney espouses it here (and I respond here). George Will said it here. Women who do are (pick one or more)
- rare birds
- have an agenda
- are bullied into it by someone else who has an agenda
- aping men (seriously, someone once said that to me)
Given that in the environment of a women's college, women are many times more likely to major in math or science (6 times more likely to major in chemistry at Bryn Mawr than at a co-ed college), it's hard to argue that the dearth of majors is due to lack of general interest on the part of women in these subjects. (Though I suppose you could counter that it's not evidence that we aren't bullying students into majoring in science...) (And really, hardly anyone majors in science anyway, it's only 1% in the US.)
Anyway, I ran across this bit from an article published by Rudyard Kipling (p. 185) in 1890 about his visit to Chautaqua, which voiced similar sentiments:
"It has shown me a new side of American life," I responded. "I never want to see it again—and I'm awfully sorry for the girls who take it seriously. I suppose the bulk of them don't. They just have a good time. But it would be better"
"If they all got married instead of pumping up interest in a bric-a-brac museum and advertised lectures, and having their names in the papers. One never gets to believe in the proper destiny of woman until one sees a thousand of 'em doing something different. I don't like Chautauqua. There's something wrong with it, and I haven't time to find out where. But it is wrong."