Tyler Cowen handwaves in the NYT:
… As a former chess player, I am struck by the growing achievements of women in this great game — one in which men were once said to have an overwhelming intrinsic advantage. (Among the unproven contentions was that men were better at pattern recognition.) Although women were never barred from touching the chess pieces, strong female players were few in number.
These days, many more women play very well, and the gap between the top men and women in the game is narrowing.
But is that even happening anymore? The Polgar sisters were extremely impressive in their primes, and Judit Polgar was a legitimate top ten contender for a number of years. From Wikipedia:
Judit Polgár (born 23 July 1976) is a Hungarian chess grandmaster. She is by far the strongest female chess player in history. In 1991, Polgár achieved the title of Grandmaster at the age of 15 years and 4 months, at the time the youngest to have done so, breaking the record previously held by former World Champion Bobby Fischer. She is the only woman to qualify for a World Championship tournament, having done so in 2005. She is the first, and to date, only woman to have surpassed the 2700 ELO rating barrier, reaching a career peak rating of 2735 and peak world ranking of #8, both achieved in 2005. She has been the #1 rated woman in the world since 1989 (when she was 12 years old).
But Polgar recently retired, and Marginal Revolution commenter US claims that there is only one woman still in the world top 250:
The current best active female player is Yifan Hou (2663 elo, #87 on the fide rating list), the only active female player with a rating above 2600 (top ~250 or so).
My general impression of the career world is that young women rapidly narrowed career gaps in the 1970s, but not much has happened to gender gaps among young people at elite levels over the last 30 or so years.
(There’s a very different trend of downward drift among average and especially below average males, but that’s a pretty distinct trend from the static or widening gender gaps in the really good jobs, like in Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and Hollywood. For example, no woman has ever been nominated for an Oscar for Best Cinematography.)
By the time I got my MBA in 1982, it was simply assumed that women could, would, and should go into virtually all corporate careers men went into. (The only word of caution I can recall being given to female MBA students at UCLA in 1980-82 was that ambitious women, especially gentile women, shouldn’t try for a career in Los Angeles department stores: you had to be a Jewish man to get to the top in L.A. department stores. Although I’m constantly reading news stories about discrimination in the Bad Old Days, for some reason I haven’t heard a single mention of that kind of bias in the 33 years since …)
I don’t see much change in the numbers for young people in the three decades since then. If there had been much change since then, there wouldn’t be the 2012-2014 hysteria about male privilege, would there?
Overall, I’m constantly struck by how elastic the past is to the Dominant Narrative. We’re out a couple of generations or so from the pre-feminist era, and yet the standard assumption behind most journalism on gender gaps is that it was only yesterday that young women were told they shouldn’t be trying for careers.
You know how people are always telling you that history is actually really interesting if you don’t worry about trivia like dates? Well, that’s not history, that’s just propaganda. History is dates. If you don’t know the date when something happened, you can’t do the single most obvious reality check on your theory of causation: if you claim that X caused Y, the minimum you need to know is that X came before Y, not afterwards.