Why are Eastern European Women Smarter than Western European Women?

Well, they’re not exactly “smarter” but according to the Economist, Polish, Lithuanian, and Serbian women do go into the sciences at a far higher rate than their counterparts in the West. The writer can’t quite figure out why so they blame it on those evil commies, who have been out of power since 1989 (so there are no women in Eastern Europe under 30 who grew up under communism) who forced all those innocent young girls to study Calculus and Physics instead of I don’t now Art History and Gender Studies.

Eastern Europe bucks the global trend, according to a recent report from Leiden University in the Netherlands. In Lithuania, 57% of scientists and engineers are women. Bulgaria and Latvia follow close behind, at 52%. Universities in Poland and Serbia were ranked among the best in the world for sexual equality in research publications. South-east Europe is roughly at parity: 49% of scientific researchers in the region are women. Some of this is a legacy of Soviet times, when communist regimes pressed both men and women into scientific careers and did not always give them a choice about it. The coercion has gone, but the habit of women working in labs has remained.


But perhaps The Economist is onto something. Before the United States funded an Al Qaeda takeover in Afghanistan, that country also had a fairly high percentage of women going onto post-secondary education. Perhaps communism has created a positive cultural legacy, a tradition of secularism and rationality that doesn’t exist, for example, in the more conservative parts of the United States.

In any event, I’ll take Rosa Luxemburg and Marie Curie over Hillary Clinton any day.

2 thoughts on “Why are Eastern European Women Smarter than Western European Women?

  1. katharineotto

    Perhaps because the sciences offer more opportunities for career advancement for independently minded women? Are women in Eastern European countries less reliant on the prospects of a bread-winner husband? It would be interesting to know something about the cultures as a whole, not just the political orientation. I believe in Soviet Russia, most of the doctors were women, but my memory is hazy here.

  2. srogouski Post author

    It might be a combination of there being much less of a social safety net in Eastern Europe combined with the communist tradition of women going into the sciences. I suspect it also has something to do with the class ridden nature of higher education in western Europe. Oxford and Cambridge, for example, were barred to everybody but the ruling class until very recently. But I’ve also read articles that say there’s a positive correlation between women’s rights and the lack of women going into the STEM fields. Women in Pakistan, for example, study the sciences at a much higher rate than they do in the USA (and yet don’t get hired for high status positions in the field).



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