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During much of the 1970s, more than one in three physics students at two of China’s top universities was a woman. Today, the number has plummeted to fewer than one in ten.

This shift towards male domination of the field is prompting concern among many academics, who blame the sharp decline partly on powerful media messages steering women away from science.

But other Chinese physicists say that earlier numbers were greatly inflated, because the government needed to produce large numbers of technically trained workers, and so dictated what students would be allowed to study.

Reference: Science 295, 263 (2002)

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