It is the beginning of a new century. The last wave of the twentieth century women's movements began in the 1960's. Women's studies programs and feminist manifestos proliferate throughout the world. Why have we not begun to see a more equal ratio of successful and eminent women to men in creative fields? Where are the publicly and professionally successful women visual artists, musicians, mathematicians, scientists, composers, film directors, playwrights, and architects? Each field has several--perhaps token--female representatives.
However, the creative world seems still to be largely a man's world. In the 1950s, in the proposal to the Carnegie Institution by the Institute for Personality Assessment and Research (IPAR) funded at the University of California at Berkeley in 1956, the proposers stated that the study was necessary because the number of creative men surpassed the number of creative women. The researchers wanted to study whether this difference was caused by social, cultural and economic discrimination, or whether the gender inequity could be attributed to psychological and biological differences. Fifty years ago, some commonly held beliefs were that women were unable to think abstractly, or women were not ambitious, and this might account for their lack of eminence and follow through in creative fields. Not much has changed, perhaps, for even today, it seems that the main creative fields where women are equally as well known as men are creative writing and acting, and even in acting, older female actors complain that there are few roles for them.
In my review of creativity theory, I came upon very few women who made any contribution to theories of creativity: among these were the psychologist Anne Roe, the psychoanalyst Alice Miller, and the philosophers Susanne Langer and Susan Sontag. Perhaps one reason there are so few women who have achieved great fame is because critics are not writing about them. Perhaps women just are not capable of being great artists. Nochlin was frank when she answered the question, in her essay of the same title, Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists? by saying,
Simonton said that only 3 percent of "the most illustrious figures of history" have been women. And many of these females entered the records in part by birthright or marriage." In science, fewer than 1 percent of those who gained eminence were women. He said, "Names like Hypatia, Caroline Herschel, Marie Curie, and Barbara McClintock are but drops in a sea of male scientists." Music also suffers from a lack of women. "For every Hildegard von Bingen, Fanny Mendelssohn, Clara Schumann, Amy Beech, Nadia Boulanger, Ruth Crawford Seeger, and Thea Musgrave, there are dozens of male composers more famous." Simonton asserted that the domain of creative writing was the only one "in which women could really shine," but even there, only 1% of the most eminent were women. Simonton does historiography, comparing eminent people throughout history. Are things any better today? Perhaps just a little.
The problem for girls seems to rise after adolescence, where for boys it arises during adolescence. Gilligan pointed out the change that happens in girls at puberty. Another change might happen after college. It is somehow more acceptable for girls to be highly able creatively in high school. Girls' problems may come when they try to reconcile the stereotypical paradox of the nurturing, recessive, motherly female with that of the unconventional artist.
Why Are There So Few Great Female Visual Artists?
What Loeb called the If I haven't dusted the furniture and made the beds do I have the right to begin carving? syndrome afflicts women. The profession of artist demands an extraordinary commitment in terms of willingness to take rejection, to live in poverty, and to be field independent. Those are traits of committed males, but not of committed females, who usually choose careers as art educators, but not as artists.
Barron studied young artists at the San Francisco Art Institute and at the Rhode Island School of Design. Using the California Psychological Inventory, profiles of both male and female art students reported that they were not interested in making a good impression on other people and were not as well socialized as others. They also reported a high need to achieve success independently, were more flexible in outlook, and were less cheerful than others.
On the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory in the same study, male and female art students scored in the pathological ranges on all the scales. This may be an indication of their low need for conformity. They differed from psychotic people though, in that they were far less rigid, and they did not show other symptoms of overt psychosis such as magical ego integrity or loss of reality contact. Barron described the male artists as gentleman pirate types, who show an independence of thought and unconventionality which makes their experiences unusual.
The females were also unconventional, flexible, open, and showed independence, approaching life vigorously. They were sensitive to details. The females' patterns were different from the male artists in that they had less flamboyance, seemed more naive, and were more introverted. However, these female artists, compared with other females, appeared to be adventurous, independent, and very willful.
Barron interviewed the art students and found what the tests did not indicate: the degree of intensity with which the students pursued their chosen careers. In asking the students the question. Do you think of yourself as an artist? 67% of the women said no and 60% of the men said yes. When asked the question, In comparison to the work of others at the Institute, is your work particularly unique or good? 40% of the men and 17% of the women answered yes. And when asked In comparison to the work of others at the Institute, is your work inferior? the percentages were reversed: 40% of the women felt their work was inferior and 14% of the men agreed.
Barron pointed out that this revealed a difference in self-image in the women, and that these differences were not indications of the real quality of the men's and women's art work, indicating that "the quality of the women's art work was equally high." The main difference came in the intensity of the commitment of the young artists to their work. Almost all of the men said their art work was their life, was necessary for life, and was their main reason for living: "Without painting I couldn't function." Only one woman indicated that her work was essential, and the others made comments such as this: "It's half my life, the other half is my future family." The necessity for passion and commitment for one's work is essential. The young women artists did not seem to demonstrate this pricking by the "thorn" of passion, as mentioned in the discussion of the Piirto Pyramid of Talent Development.
The men viewed their work with passion, the women with detachment. But when asked whether they would still paint if they had no results or success, only half the men said they would continue to paint, but all of the women did. Barron said, "Maybe the women are more interested in 'art for art's sake' or maybe men are more practical. But then he 'went on to make another interesting comment: "The psycho dynamic interpretation might be that for the man the works of art are his children, whereas women can have their own real children."
In concluding, Barron speculated as to what might become of these young artists. He pointed out that none of the young women who had graduated had a one-person show, and he wondered why they were not as intense in their pursuit of art as a career. This intensity of purpose seemed to be a clue in deducing the reasons for the ultimate successes of male artists. Barron also noted that in our society, those who have artistic interests are considered feminine, and that the young men who attended art school had already overcome societal expectations. He said. " After all, what could be further from the American ideal than a son who wants to be a painter unless it is a son who wants to be a ballet dancer?" And then Barron concluded that the women would get married and have babies, "making their creative energies unavailable for work as an artist."
That Barron would assume, in 1972, at the height of the women's movement, that women's creative energies were sapped by having children, and that they could not continue to be creative and still have children, forms the basis of his argument for why young women did not aggressively pursue careers in art. This argument, as we shall see, still prevails.
Getzels and Czikszentmihalyi chose 321 sophomore and junior student artists, 152 females and 169 males, studying at the Art Institute of Chicago, and tried to compare the personality characteristics of these students with students who were not studying art. In describing when these artists decided on careers in art, they found that more females than males decided on art as a career before age 10.
The researchers administered a battery of tests to the student artists. The largest gender differences were in spatial perception and in treatment by teachers. Spatial perception was outstanding in both males and females, with female artists performing significantly better than female college students. Since artists use visual perception in their work. their superior performance was not surprising. However, it is surprising that female artists still scored lower on the tests than college males. Male artists scored the highest of all.
In personality, both the female and male artists were aloof, reserved, introspective, serious, and non-conforming to contemporary social values--that is "standards of behavior and morality have little hold on them." Their personality measures had low scores in what is called "superego strength," or conscience; they were unconventional, subjective, intense, and imaginative. Independent, they preferred to make their own decisions, and their self-sufficiency was high. They were both radical and experimental. The stereotype of the unconventional artist seems to have some basis for both males and females. If the females have such strong personalities, why haven't they achieved in the art world?
When gender differences with comparison groups were taken into account, female artists showed more masculine values than female college students of their age, and the male artists had more effeminate personalities than male college students. Artists were more androgynous, tending towards the median on the continuum of masculinity-femininity. The authors expressed this personality characteristic thus: "The psychology of creative men is a feminine psychology by comparison with less creative men; the psychology of creative women is a masculine psychology by comparison, with less creative women."
The most successful female students had high spatial visualization abilities which seemed to have the most relationship with how their teachers judged their success in art school. Getzels and Czikszentmihalyi commented that teachers appraised the male students on the basis of their personalities rather than their abilities in perceptual areas, but they appraised the female students on the basis of what perceptual skills they displayed. "This may reflect a tacit belief that a male student will develop his aptitudes with time, while a female student who does not have them to begin with will abandon her aspirations and settle for more traditional pursuits."
This differential treatment by teachers may still be the case. A case in point might be the career of the artist Lee Krasner. The Brooklyn-born child of Jewish immigrants, Krasner decided to study art but was rejected from the Washington Irving High School for the Arts in Manhattan. Applying for a second time, she was accepted, and was told by her art teachers that she had no talent. She didn't listen and went on to the women's school of Cooper Union where she interested one of her male teachers by her good work. She began to model (as did Georgia O'Keeffe) for spending money, and was urged to apply to the National Academy of Design. She hated the conservatism and rigor there and determined to get out early by painting a portrait in plein air that the faculty committee would accept. She shocked them when she did a self-portrait with extreme skill.
Most of her teachers called her a nuisance, aggressive and difficult. She didn't care. She continued to follow her own course and began to have an affair with a fellow student, a Russian immigrant named Igor Pantuhoff. He became a popular portrait painter and also an alcoholic. She transferred to Hans Hoffman's art school, where her portfolio won her a scholarship. Again she attracted the patronage and attention of the teacher while with others she retained the reputation of being too pushy. She began to have her work accepted into group shows. Her reputation as a nonconformist and tough cookie preceded her wherever she went. She was chosen by her teachers for her talent and not for her looks, and by the time she met Jackson Pollock, she was a more advanced artist than he. She spent the rest of her life living in the shadow of his growing fame and as his grieving widow, and her work was not much valued until recently.
Women's search for connectedness dominates their development during and just after their college years, to the detriment of their drive to succeed in their chosen field of creative endeavor. Few if any gender differences are found in creativity until after college, when women must decide how they will manage being mothers, wives, and creators. The double bind hits hard, and this gender difference cuts across all fields and domains. The men creators never seem to wonder how they will manage raising a family and having a career. The women creators always do. That is why many who reached prominence were childless and even lived alone, without a mate.
For example, Georgia O'Keeffe's career path was illustrated in Robinson's biography. O'Keeffe had strong ties to New York City's "loft culture." O'Keeffe, a native of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, arrived in New York City after studying for a year at the Art Institute of Chicago, and after having taken classes at the University of Virginia with a visiting professor from Teacher's College of Columbia University. This teacher, Alon Bement, propounded the theories of Arthur Wesley Dow. O'Keeffe was taken by the theories and came to New York to study with Dow at Columbia in 1914, at the age of twenty-seven. A year later she began taking classes at the Art Students League, and her group of friends began regularly visiting the Alfred Steiglitz gallery called "291." Anita Pollitzer, one of their mutual friends showed Steiglitz a group of works O'Keeffe had sent her. O'Keeffe was granted a one woman show by Steiglitz, who was very impressed by the work.
Although O'Keeffe didn't live in New York City at the time, her connections there were strong, and after her relationship with Steiglitz began, she spent many years in New York City exhibiting at Steiglitz's various galleries before establishing residency in New Mexico. Whether her work would have had its impact without her New York City "loft," and without her "luck" of coming to the attention of Steiglitz cannot be known. Certainly Steiglitz's falling in love with her, moving in with her and eventually breaking up his marriage, as well as his dedication to the promotion of her work did not harm O'Keeffe's visibility.
The 1997 exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art called "Steiglitz's O'Keeffe" showed his many photographs of her including nudes, photographs of her strong hands, and photographs of her looking mysterious behind high-collared coats. Steiglitz was attracted to her mannish wardrobe and nonconformity and he made arguably his loveliest works of art about her. Even when they lived apart, he in New York and she in New Mexico, they wrote to each other many times a day. Although O'Keeffe wanted to have children, Steiglitz, who was much older than she and who already had a daughter, refused, saying that she would diffuse her attention to her work if they had children. He told her her work was her child. Thus she never had to experience the double bind of creative women who become mothers.
O'Keeffe, essentially a loner, tired of the bustling family life of the Steiglitz's, especially at their summer place in upstate New York. She fell in love with the barren landscapes of the American West, with Texas, and with New Mexico, and eventually she settled down in New Mexico, at Ghost Ranch, where she lived alone for many years, until a young artist friend moved in with her. He became her last lover. Steiglitz went on to other affairs and other loves, but during the height of their connection, they sometimes wrote each other more than ten letters a day. But the influence of Steiglitz on her career's trajectory cannot be disputed. Where would she have been if he hadn't taken a liking to her work -- and to her?
The artist Elizabeth Murray grew up in Illinois in an eccentric family that Murray described as "unorthodox" and"goofball," in an interview with Deborah Solomon. She studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and Mills College, where she "spent the whole time fantasizing about moving to New York." She taught in Buffalo for two years and arrived in New York in 1967, where she rented a loft. She got married and had a son, and did the practical thing that women artists seem to do: like O'Keeffe, she taught art, trying to do her own work at night.
Murray had her first one-woman show in 1976, when she was thirty-six, and her fame began to grow within the New York art world. She has a son by her first marriage, and she and her second husband had twin daughters when Murray was in her forties; however, by then her career was well established. This is consonant with Foley's work on the careers of artist mothers, which will be discussed later in this chapter. Murray has been called "one of the few true talents to have risen out of the commercial hoopla of the 1980s." Again, the influence of the loft culture of New York City is evident in the path of her success.
Germaine Greer, in her book about women visual artists through the ages, The Obstacle Race, said that most women who were visual artists came from artistic dynasties, and if they did receive training in visual art, their work was often not signed. She also said that easel painting has not been a preferred medium for women, and wondered why easel painting has gained such credibility as being the most prestigious way for doing graphic arts. Greer said, "Daughters were ruled by love and loyalty; they were more highly praised for virtue and sweetness than for their talent, and they devalued their talent accordingly."
Judy Chicago has spent years trying to recapture a sense of the value of the art that women have traditionally made. In her biography, Through the Flower, Chicago described her odys sey through art history, and her thrill at discovering that women have always been artists. She wrote, "Much of the work of women possesses a world view, a set of values, and a perception of reality that differs fundamentally from the dominant perspective of our culture." Her exhibit of women creators exemplified through plates, The Dinner Party, and her work with women's needlework and weaving are examples. At this writing, The Dinner Party still doesn't have a permanent home; perhaps this is a comment that the art that women make is still devalued.
Sloan and Sosniak, in the Development of Talent Research Project at the University of Chicago, studied 12 men and 8 women sculptors. Their description of the development of these artists indicated few gender differences, except for parents' wishes for their children. To a greater degree, the parents wanted the females to be happily married. Other values and aspirations the parents had for the sculptors were to do something they were interested in; to pursue that something as much as possible; to get educated; and to become secure financially.
Having A Supportive Husband Helps
In 1996 Foley published her 1986 study of fifteen painters who were mothers of children ages three months to eight years, with regard to their ability to combine mothering and being painters. She found that they were committed to their work but experienced role conflicts. In order to do both, they used child care help in the home or at day care centers, and they had husbands who were extremely supportive of their careers. The women were artists before they became mothers, and so were well-launched on their careers, having galleries to represent them, and showing regularly in juried exhibits.
In their personalities, they exhibited the same core traits as the artists elsewhere here described, and Foley said, "it cannot be said that women artists' commitment and motivation to becoming artists is any less than men's; rather, it appears to be more a difference in the timing of the commitment." The women artists were passionately committed to their careers, and to their families, and Foley quoted one of them thus:
Interviewer: What does it mean to you to be an artist?
Artist: Almost everything! I mean it is me, it's what actually am. I don't just make art. I am it. I live it out . . . I mean my whole life.
Foley found that in her comparison group of mothers who were in professions such as law and business, the conflicts were a little different. While the artist mothers wished that they had time to paint, the mothers in professions wished they had more time with their families. The artist mothers had more flexible schedules, and when their children went to school, often used the period from 9 A.M. to 3 P.M. to do art. The professional mothers were involved in careers with inflexible hours, and Foley said, "the problem for the professional mother was meeting, rather than defining, the demands." For the artist mothers the conflict came from having to cope every day with allocating time for each role.
The intrinsic rewards of making paintings made for a certain emotional well-being in the artist mothers, and one of them said, "The most gratifying internal -- which is ultimately more important--is if I feel like I've answered a question. To me, each painting I do is like plunging into the abyss and I never know if I'm going to swim out . . . by swim out of the abyss, of course, I mean solve the visual problems that each painting has."
Here we see that the conflicts that arose with being a mother and an artist didn't diminish the rewards of doing the art. It should be noted that these women were in the middle and higher socioeconomic levels, did not have to struggle financially, had help with the children, and had supportive spouses. But Foley said even if they hadn’t had the financial wherewithal, they would, somehow somewhere be making art "because making art was an integral and vital aspect of these artists' being."
To summarize, perhaps the reason that few women become famous visual artists might have to do with how intensely they pursue their passions for art, as well as their spatial perception abilities, which are almost as strong as college men's, but not as high as those of male artists. Faculty attitudes towards female students seem to be important, with the personality characteristics of the males being more valued than the real abilities of the females. Parental values might also play a part, as in the expectation that females should get married and have children.
Why Are There So Few Creative Woman Mathematicians And Scientists?
The age curves shown by extant biographies may be misleading for women, also. Women may be prevented from producing at such young ages by the double bind, that of bearing children and taking most of the responsibility for the household, as well as being creatively productive in their career. This timeline holds true for males, but women may have a different career pattern, peaking in productivity later than men tend to.
A 1996 study by Sandra Hanson called Lost Talent: Women in the Sciences utilized sophisticated statistical techniques to analyze large databases, as Simonton did. The High School and Beyond (HSB) data collected by the National Center for Educational Statistics; the National Educational Longitudinal Study (NELS) and the Longitudinal Study of American Youth (LSAY) were analyzed. Results showed that although young women and men have similar experiences in the sciences up until tenth grade, the males were more likely to stay in science and continue taking the courses. Course-taking is a necessary behavior in the development of science talent. Home support for science course-taking was higher for the men, and young women who were taking science courses were twice as likely to have a baby or to marry within two years after high school.
The women who continued in the science pipeline leading to the Ph.D. were less likely to date than the women who stepped out of the pipeline. Those who continued also had lower self-concepts than the other women. This corresponds with the findings of Csikszentmihalyi, Rathunde, and Whalen who found that the teenage students who continued to develop their talent were less precocious in sexual behavior, tended to date in groups, and liked to work alone on projects. Other evidence that girls may be influenced by the urge for popularity with peers and for acceptance by attractive males, urges which may cause them to downplay their intelligence and eventually drop out from developing their science, mathematical, and other academic talents was shown by Tomlinson-Keasey and Little when they found that a pursuit of social goals and popularity had a negative effect on the development of intellectual skills.
In two current longitudinal studies of very bright women, Westinghouse science award winners and valedictorians from Illinois, Subotnik and Arnold noted that after ten years, most of the women who had intended to pursue science careers had left science. Their reasons had primarily to do with their love relationships. Subotnik and Arnold said, "Like most male-dominated occupations, research science adheres to an unforgiving career schedule." They quoted Nobel laureate Rosalyn Yalow: "It's difficult in a field that changes as rapidly as science to drop out for a number of years and then hope to return without major retraining." Until the culture of science itself changes, the presence of women who must balance childbearing and career pursuits will probably continue to be problematic.
The consequences for dropping out and picking up a career in science or mathematics (or any creative field) after one has taken care of one's small children, may be great. The necessary track record for eminence may not be produced. When I have said this to my female students, they have often said, "Who cares about eminence? I want to be happy and raise my family." This constant conflict between raising children and working on a career is common to all women in all domains. There is no research evidence that men go through this struggle.
And what about the girl who is a whiz, a creative young mathematician? A study by Brody of Johns Hopkins Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth (SMPY) reported that the few females who qualified for the program often had mothers with Ph.D.'s, who did not work outside the home. The girls were predominantly Asian.
The SMPY studies have now reported the students at age 33. By this age, both the males and females were extraordinary achievers, and they identified themselves as achievers. They had high satisfaction with their success and with their career decisions. The earlier differences in the ability to reason mathematically were predictive of different educational and vocational outcomes. Men preferred inorganic science fields and women preferred organic science. Men were more career-focused and women had as a goal to live balanced lives. The men and women had different expectations about what constitutes a satisfying life.
Ravenna Helson studied creative women mathematicians in the IPAR project. Forty-four women mathematicians were studied at the University of California at Berkeley in the late 1960's. They were nominated by peers and listed in directories of Ph.D.'s who had completed their degrees between 1950 and 1960.
The criterion for calling these women creative was the quality of their work. However, Helson called them marginal in the profession of mathematics, noting that several of them did not hold academic posts nor posts in research institutions, but did their work at home. Their average age was 41, one-third were Jewish, and foreign cultural influence (European and Canadian) was strong, as it is with male mathematicians.
On the California Psychological Inventory, the creative women mathematicians had great perseverance. They were adaptive and sensitive to the new and to the unforeseen. Their temperaments were subdued but still individualistic. The assessment staff did a clinical Q-sort, and the creative women mathematicians came out as valuing the intellect and their own independence, having pride in their objectivity and rationality, having thought processes that were not conventional, being moody, nonconformist, somewhat rebellious, and histrionic (Helson, 1983, p. 314).
A comparison study was done between these creative women mathematicians and other women mathematicians. The creative women mathematicians were found to be performing in a manner superior to the others, in that they received their Ph.D.'s earlier, they submitted papers for publication before their Ph.D.'s, and they received more fellowships and grants after graduate school. The creative women were higher in flexibility and lower in achievement-conformance and in communality, showing that they preferred to make their own ways of doing things. They did not enjoy the routine details of working in a highly structured work environment.
On the Welsh scale of origence and intellectance, the creative women were shown to be more preoccupied with themselves, showed more autonomy, were less orthodox, and could be described as temperamental. The creative women were more involved in research than the comparison women mathematicians, and their thought processes seemed to be less overtly conscious. They described themselves, as "inventive" and "ingenious," and were less interested in salary, promotion, and teaching. In their leisure time, the creative women had intellectual pursuits such as listening to classical music, taking nature walks, going to the theatre, and reading. They seem to have simplified their lives, doing a few things they cared greatly about. Homemaking and research occupied most of their time, while the comparison women spent much time in administrative duties, teaching, political activity, and community work. On the Hall Mosaic Construction Test, the creative women were judged to make designs that had more artistic merit, and that were more pleasing than those of the comparison group. On the Terman Concept Mastery Test, creative women mathematician subjects scored higher than the comparison women. Their score was 144. Creative male mathematicians scored 148. On the Bennett Mechanical Comprehension Test, creative and comparison women did not differ. However, they both scored lower than men.
Helson noted that these women seemed to be more identified with their professional fathers than the comparison group of women. Both groups often came from families of girls, and the creative women, especially, seemed to have few brothers. She said, "A number of the women mathematicians seem to have been adopted as the 'son' of an intellectual father."
The creative female mathematicians differed, on the California Psychological Inventory, from the creative male mathematicians studied. The males were significantly higher on social ascendancy, as well as in intellectual efficiency. Interestingly enough, the comparison males and females were quite similar. On the assessment staff's Clinical Q-sort, the creative men and women had patterns that were different from those of the other mathematicians. The creative men described themselves as having confidence, initiative, ambition, impact on the environment, and intellectual balance and soundness. In contrast, the creative women described themselves as nonadventurous and inner-focused. In the work style of the creative women, the self was totally committed, unconscious as well as conscious processes were involved in the creative effort, and emphasis was directed toward developing what is within rather than toward exploring or mastering the environment.
Helson theorized that there may be biological causes for the gender differences, or that there may be societal causes for the gender differences. She did a comparison study of creative women writers with the creative women mathematicians and found that the two groups of creative women were remarkably similar. Interestingly enough, she also found that creative male writers were more like creative women mathematicians and women writers than they were like creative male mathematicians.
Male and female writers paid more attention to unconscious processes than to mastery and initiative. However, male mathematicians and writers emphasized their ambition to a greater extent than creative women, who emphasized that they would be willing to put aside other things in order to write or do mathematics. Helson did further studies and came up with the hypothesis that there are two creative styles, the first style being high in ego-assertiveness, and the second style being low in ego-assertiveness. Women creators seem most often to be the latter, and men may be either. For more on adult women creative writers, see Chapter 4.
Some account for the discrepancy in adult achievement in the sciences by saying that females do not have the prior knowledge, picked up along the way in just living life, or in pursuing childhood interests, to succeed in science. A female acoustics engineer once told the story of her upbringing; her brother learned to fix things and to run machinery by helping their father. When she got to college and had to do physical manipulation of objects, she had no prior experience, and she noticed a definite negative learning curve in her attempts to catch up to the mostly male fellow students who already had the prerequisite skills needed to accomplish class projects. A study in Germany explored whether prior knowledge in physics accounts for the better grades of male students in physics. They concluded that "neither prior knowledge nor talent level can explain the gender differences evident in physics course grades." Rather, it is attribution theory -- the image of physics as being more gender-appropriate for males -- that seems to produce the gender differences. The researchers suggested "attribution retraining" for girls; that is, they suggested that schools and families begin to teach girls that physics is an appropriate field for females to enter. A few women have become eminent in science. One was Barbara McClintock.
The Nobel prize-winning U.S.-born plant geneticist Barbara McClintock was born at the turn of the century to a family that valued learning. Her father was a physician and her mother an independent thinker. From an early age she developed in herself what she called, "a capacity to be alone." The third child in a family with four children, Barbara and her siblings were encouraged to explore and to take chances. Barbara herself was known as a good athlete in the neighborhood. Once, when the boys in a nearby neighborhood wouldn't let her play in a baseball tournament, the other team arrived with one member short, and she helped the rivals win.
She was closer to her father and her uncle than to her mother. Keller said, "Throughout adolescence it became increasingly clear that she was committed to 'the kinds of things that girls were not supposed to do.' The passion for sports gave way to the passion for knowledge." She loved facts, information, knowing things. At Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, she became very interested in science. McClintock said, "I would solve some of the problems in ways that weren't the answers the instructor expected. . .I would ask the instructor, 'Please let me. . . see if I can't find the standard answer' and I'd find it. It was a tremendous joy, the whole process of finding that answer, just pure joy."
Barbara graduated from high school and went on to Cornell University, which in 1919 had the reputation of being hospitable to women who wanted to go to college. She enrolled in the College of Agriculture, which had free tuition. She also was interested in a lot of other things, and she had trouble focusing. She would sign up for a class that interested her, and if it didn't fulfill its promise, she would stop going, and collect a Z grade.
She became interested in genetics during her junior year, and started focusing on plant breeding. She decided to major in the subject. Her career path was not similar to those of male scientists. Instead, Keller said, "at the end of a particularly exciting course (in genetics), her own interests in the subject were further encouraged by a special invitation from the professor to take the graduate course in genetics." The plant breeding department didn't admit women to the graduate program, so she registered as a graduate student in the botany department, and audited courses in plant genetics. Keller said that the personality characteristics that were predictive of her one-mindedness in trying to get a graduate degree in plant genetics were apparent even early on: "As a child McClintock had a striking capacity for autonomy, self-determination, and total absorption. But what was truly exceptional was the extent to which she maintained her childlike capacity for absorption throughout her adult life."
The theoretical physicist and historian/philosopher of science, Evelyn Fox Keller, in speaking with journalist Bill Moyers in 1990, believed that science itself is propelled by the masculine, by ideas of masculinity: "The central metaphor for the scientific revolution was a marriage between the mind and nature that was modeled on a particular kind of marriage, a patriarchal marriage, the purpose of which was the domination of nature." She traced the history of thinking objectively and of excluding feeling and emotion to the growth of the scientific revolution. The effect, in the history of science, was to exclude women. "The domain of science was restricted to men, and to a particular world of men, and the development of science was deprived of a pool of talent. It also meant the exclusion of certain kinds of talent in the men who did not become scientists."
Keller first got interested in science when she was assigned a paper for a composition class, and she read George Gamow's books: "I fell in love with physics. I fell in love with the life of the mind." Keller said that she still finds physics a "deeply satisfying inquiry into reality." She said, however, "my career in physics was thwarted by my being a woman":
Keller has gone on to a career in an interdisciplinary field--a joint appointment in women's studies and the history of science at the University of California--Berkeley.
Recently there has been a spate of books and articles talking about feminine science. Scientist Linda Jean Shepherd wrote a book called Lifting the Veil: The Feminine Face of Science, where she discussed the need for science to admit feeling (research motivated by love and passion for the field), receptivity (listening to nature), subjectivity (discovering our selves through the experiment), multiplicity (webs of interaction), nurturing (a long-term approach), cooperation (working in harmony), intuition (another way of knowing), relatedness (a vision of wholeness). It is time, she said, for science to recognize the feminine in every scientist, and to take social responsibility for the consequences of inventions and experiments.
Why So Few Eminent Social Scientists?
Social Science Talent: Creative Women Psychologists
Many academically talented women may not go into pure science or mathematics because of the constraints detailed in Helson's study. A study by Bachtold and Werner of women who had mathematical talent and verbal talent which they combined, and who went into the social science of psychology. The study revealed interesting things about female academics in psychology. The researchers compared 124 psychology professors with the general female population, with college women, with successful academic men, and with male psychologists. The women in psychology had significant differences from the other women in 14 of 16 areas. They were more intelligent, they liked words, they liked working alone, they liked intellectual companionship, they were more silent and introspective, they were more serious and concerned, they were more likely to be introverts than extraverts, they were intensely subjective and had rich inner mental lives; however, they were not recluses, and they liked new experiences. They were accepting and adaptable, open, ready to take chances, and inclined to experiment with solutions to problems.
Successful academic women, they were more likely to be assertive and self-assured. Bachtold and Werner said, " dominance seems to be a prerequisite for analytic thinking." They had exact, calculating minds, and were able to be flexible in their viewpoints. They showed a similarity to the women Helson studied in that they were theoretically, aesthetically, and independently oriented. They were similar to successful academic men in that they were aloof, intelligent, assertive, serious, flexible, adventuresome, adaptable, and self-sufficient. They differed from successful academic men in that they had higher intellectual ability, were more radical, less serious, and had more rigid internal standards.
More of the women were in clinical fields while the men preferred research. The women in counseling and guidance were more group dependent; the women in developmental psychology were more socially aloof and independent; the counseling psychologists were more adventuresome than the clinical psychologists. The clinical psychologists were "less secure" than the developmental psychologists.
The successful academic psychologists who had more publications preferred contemplation over social relationships. They liked working alone and liked rigorous thought. They also liked intellectual companionship. Developmental psychologists had more publications than clinical or counseling psychologists. There was an interesting difference between the academic women who published and those who did not publish. The women who published had diverse activities; they divided their time between teaching and other scholastic activities, while the women who did not publish spent almost all their time on one job activity. In other words, the more varied the woman's activities, the more productive she was. The women who were college administrators had great social alertness and more aloofness, and the women who were college teachers had a psychological dependence on comfortable relationships with people.
Bachtold and Werner thought that selection of girls for college and graduate programs should be looked at in terms of personality characteristics:
They went on to say that, for women, as well as men, personality characteristics such as dominance, confidence, and unconventionality--even radicalism--may be the determinants of successful academic careers for females.
A recent study by Rogers points to why eminence in social science has been elusive for women. Rogers studied the women who surrounded researcher Lewis Terman at Stanford University in the early 1900s. These were bright women recruited from colleagues in the finest graduate schools in psychology to come to Stanford and work in the Genetic Studies of Genius project. Many of the women went on to get Ph.D.s in psychology and to populate the university programs in psychology throughout the U.S. With the training and exposure to psychological research that they received, and the mentoring by Dr. Terman, they established national and international reputations in the fields of psychology which they chose to enter. Rogers also noted that few of them married, fewer still had children, and that they might fit the stereotype of the "old maid school marm."
Nor Hall, a Jungian psychologist, also noted the presence of such women in the domain of psychology. Like Lewis Terman, Carl Jung surrounded himself with them, as did Sigmund Freud. Hall called them Those Women:
The implication in both of these studies is that the academically talented women who entered the domain of psychology earlier in the century had made sacrifices in order to pursue the intellectual life of academe and career; they had foregone early marriage (some married late), motherhood, and traditional domesticity.
I am often asked to be the keynote speaker at conferences for girls, as a moderately well-known researcher and a writer. These conferences for girls in junior high school, just into puberty are part of an effort to encourage girls' achievement, a program called GEMS. Their parents are also present. I have a lecture and slide show about women eminent enough to have biographies written about them. The girls wonder, and sometimes say out loud, "I want to get married, have a family, and also have a high-powered career. Look at you. You're divorced. How can you be a role model for us?" Sadly, it seems that for many achieving women, it is not possible to have it all, I tell them. The examples of these achieving women psychologists may show this.
Why Are There So Few Women Composers?
In an interview with Rosner and Abt, Aaron Copland theorized on the topic of creativity in composing. Copland spoke about music being a language that expresses emotions at all times, where the composer only becomes aware of such an emotion when singing or playing a sad song, and then wonders why he is feeling sad. The lack of awareness in the mind of the composer about his feelings seems to exist in the realm of the abstract. Copland wondered about the fact that there had been no great women composers. He said:
In the few studies regarding female composers, their personalities have been shown to be virtually the same as male composers. Kemp administered the 16 Personality Factors Test and found that the female composers were significantly different from female non-composers in their dominance and in their self-sufficiency.
Historically, even rigorously trained women composers became helpmates and muses. Alma Mahler, the wife of Gustav Mahler, was classically trained in turn of the century Vienna, one of the periods described by Gardner as a prime time when geography and Zeitgeist combined for great creativity. Alma Mahler was a serious composer, but her biographer called her a muse, an inspiration to male creatives. After Mahler died, she married Walter Gropius, who founded the Bauhaus, and later Franz Werfel, a writer. She also had long affairs with the composer Alexander yon Zemlinsky, Arnold Schoenberg's teacher, with Ossip Gabrilowitsch, a pianist, and with Oscar Kokoschka, the artist. Monson said "She might have become an important composer; had she been born a century later, she could have been a conductor. As it was, she devoted her life to men whom she considered to be geniuses."
In popular music, according to Carlson, things have changed, temporarily at least, as the title of an article said: Why Women Now Rule Rock. The video director Mary Lambert was quoted as saying that the young women in rock music grew up with role models from the women's movement, and "grew up believing they could achieve in fields that are traditionally male-dominated." Women have now assumed positions in all levels of the rock industry.
In a study conducted by me, 28 girls and 12 boys attending a Governor's Institute for the visual and performing arts, creativity, and writing, revealed no gender differences as measured by the Myers Briggs Type Inventory. The students, aged 13 to 17, scored as INFP types (Introversion, Intuition, Feeling, Perception) and so did the faculty, themselves practicing artists. An INFP Type is "imaginative, independent, reflective, inquisitive, empathic, loyal to ideals, and more interested in possibilities than practicalities."
On the Adjective Check List, the students scored highest on the scales of creative personality, free child, high origence, high intellectence, exhibition, and change. They scored lowest on the counseling readiness scale.
Again, this study confirmed that there were no significant personality differences between creatively gifted males and females. Differences seem to come, as Helson, Getzels and Czikszentmihalyi, and Barron found, in the choices that creative people make after college, a time when commitment and regular effort in the field of creativity matters.
Some feminist scholars and activists have cried out against the research of Gilligan and her colleagues, saying that the notion of relatedness and connectedness reinforces the social discrimination that has kept talented women from achieving. Yet anyone who has worked with adolescent girls had noticed that they are often concerned with social goals more than power and achievement goals. They are more concerned with social relationships than individual achievement and status. Likewise, they are more interested in people than in things. Gender differences in activity interests, personal interests, and range of interests have surfaced among talented children and youth. Role models are extremely important, especially in the home. For example, who helps with math homework is crucial. Usually it is the father, and this gives the message that men know more than women about math. Who interprets the child's experience? Usually it is the mother. Researchers also found that the reinforcers for boys and girls are different, and so were the providers of experience; games and toys and special educational experiences were more likely to be provided for boys.
Parents want their daughters to be "happy" and their boys to be achievers in the professions. Mothers are often likely to tell their daughters, "I wasn't any good at mathematics either," and their sons, "Well, you have the math ability; you just didn't work hard enough." When a child hears these messages, the messages have bearing on how difficult courses are perceived. The child's self-concept about ability to do work in hard courses is affected by these messages. The boys think, "Oh, if I work harder, I'll get an A in calculus." The girls think, "I worked so hard in trigonometry and I only got a "C." Why should I take calculus and ruin my grade point average?" As a result, the course-taking behavior suffers, and thus the final achievement.
Counselors and educators of the talented should also be aware, in helping students to plan for courses and for tests, that there are great gender differences in test results. In 1992, Julian Stanley and his colleagues reported that of 84 commonly administered achievement tests, 83 showed statistical differences favoring males. This has implications for college and graduate school admissions. These tests included the Differential Aptitude Test, the American College Test, Advanced Placement Tests in all fields, the Graduate Records Examinations, and the Scholastic Aptitude Test. The results of these tests cannot be attributed to test bias or gender bias in test items, according to both Stanley and Benbow. Stanley noted that most test makers throw out items that show gender differences, and that studies that have been showing that gender differences are declining are thus misleading. Benbow noted that "there may be many more exceptionally talented males than females in mathematics" basing her conclusion on data from more than a million subjects tested over 20 years, and concluding, "the gender difference in mathematical talent is not an artifact of test item bias."
There are also gender differences in underachievement. Colangelo and Kerr reported that a large-scale study of underachieving students who had scored above 28 (95th percentile) on the American College Test and who had grade point averages below 2.0 showed that the majority were white, middle-class or upper middle-class males. Of females who had scored 28 and who had grade point averages that would indicate underachievement, the grade point averages were between 2.0 and 3.0--that is, the females kept their grade point averages within respectable limits while the boys seemed to be openly rebellious, didn't hand in papers, didn't do homework, and didn't study for tests while still retaining the information required to score so high.
Females underachieve in different ways than males. A 1990 follow-up study was done by George and Caroline Vaillant of forty females who had been in the famous Terman study, Genetic Studies of Genius, where hundreds of high IQ students were followed throughout the years. When they asked the women at age 77 years, they found that their underachievement came after high school when they married and had children. The most creative and productive had the least numbers of children: of the thirty women who were occupationally the most achieving, only five had become mothers, and the whole group had only seven children. The Vaillants said, "For these women, successful career and childrearing were negatively correlated." Studies like this lead to the conclusion that academically talented girls are lost to underachievement during and after college when their need for intimacy and connection overpowers their need for achievement.
Researchers have begun to research this perplexing problem. Why do females, who have achieved high grades in high school, and who have entered college as math/science majors (this is particularly the case with these females), drop out of math/science majors, switch to other majors, and sometimes, even drop out of the achievement stream (e.g. not go to graduate school, not pursue the Ph.D.)?
In a more recent study, Subotnik in following Westinghouse winners, found that the girls who did achieve early, winning Westinghouse prizes in high school, often changed from science majors to other majors in college. They cited lack of interest on the part of science professors as one of the reasons. Knowing what we now know about the necessity for a feeling of connectedness in young women, it would seem that colleges that enroll female creative scientists should make efforts to follow these girls and provide them with suitable counseling. In Subotnik's study of the Westinghouse science prize winners, all but one of the women had switched to other fields or dropped out of the science pipeline by the time they got their Ph.D.s, in their mid-twenties. When it came time to go for a postdoctoral fellowship, the last two females still in hard science made their choices. One had a boyfriend who was being transferred to a western city with less prestigious universities. She decided not to take the most prestigious postdoctoral fellowship and to follow him to his new job. The other stayed at the prestigious university. She had no boyfriend.
Some tentative answers were forthcoming in Benbow's 1992 paper. The math/science females were often identified with their fathers: "Perhaps most interesting was that the career choices of these exceptional females often corresponded to their father's career field. That is, these extremely mathematically talented females were following in their father's footsteps." A further conclusion was that mentioned above; that females dropped out as a result of the quality of their junior high school and senior high school academic experiences. Arnold suggested that the young women do not absorb the tacit knowledge, the practical knowledge that is necessary for building a career; they do not understand or cannot break into the informal networks of connections and acquaintances, of mentors and mentees, that are necessary in building any career.
Still, most students who are targeted in school for special intervention for underachievement are boys, just as most students who are in special education programs are boys. Girls often achieve well enough not to be noticed as underachievers; their underachievement comes in course selection and in getting the gentlewoman's low B instead of the rebellious gentleman's low C.
How does a talented student proceed in a career? Taking the courses is not enough. Tacit knowledge, an aspect of Sternberg's triarchic theory of intelligence is necessary. What does one do besides take courses, and get good grades, in order to position oneself for success in a career? Tacit knowledge is cognizance of what one must do in order to proceed. This knowledge is often imparted casually, if at all, during a student's life. Sometimes this knowledge is conveyed over what came to be called "the old boys' network," at the golf course, in the private men's club or fraternity, and the talented female might not know what she should do. Arnold said that while girls and women perceive themselves as good students, they have difficulty in "imagining their career ends." In her study of Illinois valedictorians, Arnold said, "Not only do they have difficulty imagining exactly how career and family will be combined but vocational ends themselves are unclear. " Arnold said,
Group and individual counseling, and the enlisting of faculty mentors for talented young women is especially important in late high school and in late college years. One young woman quoted by Arnold said of her high school counselors and teachers, who didn't dissuade her from dropping out of honors mathematics:
Many of the most successful and productive scientific creators were precocious, which means they began their career productivity earlier than other scientists. This holds true for other creative people as well, including artists, writers, and musicians. The earlier a person begins to be productive, the more productive that person is likely to be. Simonton noted that being productive early in life is about the best single predictor of how productive a creative person will be. He said this early productivity applies to all creativity domains. In fact, the statistics are so compelling that "the odds that 'late bloomers' will establish a scientific reputation are minuscule." Simonton quoted Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., saying, "lf you haven't cut your name on the door of fame by the time you've reached 40, you might as well put up your jackknife."
The necessity to achieve early and to continue producing, and the necessity for commitment and intensity in pursuing a career that calls for creativity, may work against women. Females have different career and productivity patterns. Females, because of reproductive and family necessity may peak later than males and may begin their career productivity later. It might then be too late for genuine eminence in the field. The bind of delaying having children, or having children early and not being able to single-mindedly create, seems to be the crux of the problem for many creative women.
Thus it is evident, as Gruber and Davis found, that the seeds of adult achievement are within the youth. The predictive behaviors of these youth were evident early. Young creative writers read and write; young visual artists think visually and draw; young musicians demonstrate their auditory talents; young dancers and athletes like to move; young scientists have oddly classified collections; young mathematicians often think in algorithms. Young inventors tinker. Young entrepreneurs are enterprising. Young actors would seem to be the ones in whom it would be most difficult to find predictive behaviors, although the two check lists mentioned earlier seem helpful. Family support and approval is necessary in the families of all these talented youth. Tying the identification measures more closely to the specific domain behaviors expected would seem to be the logical choice for school districts who want to identify those with talent. However, personality traits are extremely important in the realization of potential, so it would seem, at the elementary school level, that the development of personality traits such as risk taking, assertiveness, androgyny, flexibility, imagination, and intuition should be part of the curricular agenda. How to develop such aspects of personality is the instructional challenge.
There is some evidence that early personality attributes are stable over the years. Another study that Helson undertook was longitudinal. Following 51 women in the 1958 and 1960 classes of Mills College specially selected because of tests and checklists which showed they possessed creative potential, the newly named Institute of Personality and Social Research (ISPR), retested the women through mailings when they were 27, 53, 52, and 60. Helson found that some of the women were "well-known novelists, choreographers, psychotherapists, journalists, and academics" and others were "teachers, social workers, administrators, entrepreneurs and housewives." The longitudinal work showed that when a person is assessed as having a creative personality at a young age, the creative personality endures.
However, Helson noted the importance of surroundings and relationships. These could interfere with and impede and also enhance and empower the women to create the works that would mark them as creative producers. Personality attributes such as openness and unconventionality were related to "intrapsychic personality growth," which was defined as a continued tolerance for ambiguity and a growth in intellectuality over the years. Creative achievement was fostered by having a strong sense of identity and generativity, or the desire to pass along what the women knew to the younger generations.
Decisions made in high school are important but not irrevocable. The presence of "late bloomers" in the ranks of the talented is under-researched. In the literature on talented adults, most thinkers give a timeline that is somewhat rigid. The lives of those who would go into science, mathematics, and technology are said to be so circumscribed that one cannot make a world class contribution if one does not get a Ph.D. in their early twenties. Women and rebels need not apply.
Yet, so few people make world class contributions that the phenomenon may not be really worth talking about, even in talent development education circles. Students should be made aware of their potential whether or not they are on the timeline needed for world class contributions. Re-entry into a career path after years of child care, or after bumming around the world and having adventures, is possible. Making significant contributions to the chosen field is also possible, even after the age of forty, fifty, sixty. Changing careers and trying something new is also possible.
Even in elementary school, gender differences become apparent. Dance is more often thought to be appropriate for girls, and getting good grades in science and mathematics are expectations for boys. Students themselves assimilate gender expectations early. These expectations are amalgamations of expectations and observations that students make. Eccles and her colleagues have studied gender socialization and found that parents and teachers had different gender socialization. Boys were socialized even early more toward math and science and sports such as baseball, football, and soccer, and less into drama, art, and music. Girls were socialized early into verbal areas and into drama, dance, art, and music. Their parents support them once they do make these choices. And there is even less basis if these socializers actively discourage such consideration.
In a recent article on postmodern curriculum theory (http://personal.ashland.edu/jpiirto/implications%20of%20postmodern%20curr%20theory.pdf), I asked this question: is this so bad? The dearth of women in technical and high academic fields in mathematics and science is comparable to the dearth of men in the fields of teaching and certain arts. If pay were equal, would this be a bad thing? Most of the researchers into the gender differences in the field of the education of the gifted and talented are women, and most of them seem to devalue the humanities and the arts and to push for the entry of women into the sciences and mathematics.
We are all familiar with the studies of the American Association of University Women and of Sadker and Sadker which led to the conclusion that the academically talented female is at risk. Such statements as these by Magda Lewis are common among academically talented women:
Joanne Pagano, an educational researcher, also had this kind of experience:
Yet the issue of gender is more than this. The personality characteristic of androgyny is known to be present in creative producers. Yet the presence of gay academically talented and creative students has received no attention in the literature of the field of the education of the talented. The presence of androgyny as a personality attribute common to creative people is sometimes acknowledged, but the needs of these students for role models, approval, and humanness are not addressed by educators in our field. However, a consideration of the personality characteristic of androgyny is only a small part of the shame in how we have ignored our talented gays, lesbians, and bisexuals (GLB). The 1997 World Conference and the 1997 National Association for Gifted Children conference posed a beginning as there were several sessions given by parents of gays and lesbians as well as by gay and lesbian teachers.
Yet this is not the only issue. All fields suffer when they do not admit the whole. Shepherd discussed her own scientific training. "Early in my training I absorbed the worldview that characterizes science. Unquestioning, I accepted statements such as, "emotions have no place in science," and "science is value-free." . . . Over the years I lost the vocabulary to describe feelings." She noted that most scientists function with an over-emphasis on sensation and thinking, while ethics must base judgment on the personal repercussion something will have. All fields need both types of emphasis. She said, "the potential danger of continuing a single-minded, devil-may-care, hell-with-them-all approach to science is no less than annihilation of life on the planet." Considering and being receptive to the whole, "bringing the Feminine out of the shadow," is necessary.
The push to engage girls in science and math has not been followed by a complementary push to engage boys in the arts and literature. This has led to a gender-bias that favors scientific and mathematical discourse over aesthetic and humanistic discourse. One could even say that there is a revulsion toward encouraging male participation in the arts, especially dance.
The overwhelming number of teachers are women. The lack of presence of men and of minorities must have an unforeseen and unconscious influence on the development and direction of this field. Are there solutions to this latter situation? How can we attract women to male-dominated fields and men to female dominated fields?
Developmental differences are not the only reason for the creative women's delayed achievement of eminence. A pioneering study of women's development of self, voice, and mind contrasted females with males in expression of and styles of discourse. Females were found to favor connectedness rather than separateness. This was also the finding of Gilligan and her colleagues at the Emma Willard School, where they studied the maturation of young girls from childhood through adolescence. Females experience conflict between the selfless mother script and the superwoman script. Although creative women may have more androgynous personalities than other women, there is no reason to suspect that they are not as culturally and socially tied to these expectations as less creative, or more traditionally feminine women.
Reis has proposed that gifted girls may have a later time line than gifted boys. As Nochlin so strongly suggests,
And as Belenky et al. added:
Belencky's co-researcher, Blythe Clinchy re-visited their gender research, saying "My colleagues and I may have unwittingly colluded in the misunderstanding of connected knowing, not only by being women . . . but by labeling and defining the two modes in contrasting terms." Connected knowing makes use of intuition and emotion. Its opposite is separate knowing, or problem-solving, linear knowing. Separate knowing is considered "masculine" and connected knowing is considered "feminine." It is the style of even pre-school girls. However, connected knowing, or bricolage, is also the admired way of invention and creation, and is practiced by people (both male and female) who are creative.
Is the new developmental research on girls going to provide another excuse given for women's lack of achievement in creative fields? Since creatively gifted boys and girls are remarkably alike in personality, except for their intensity and commitment to the field of creativity, educators should focus on encouraging commitment and intensity for both boys and girls. It is that sort of motivation that may rectify gender inequities and allow an open and unrestrained exploration of the best that each person can be.
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