The New York Times is reporting that some folks want to apply Title IX (which requires gender equality in college athletics) to hiring in academic department, particularly (you guessed it) to science and math departments. Whether or not you believe this could ever happen, the article has an interesting discussion about the gender gap in science and math. In particular, it suggests that the gap has more to do with personal preference than ability, since female high school students now do as well as male students on standardized math tests (this is also discussed in this article) and a female science major in college is just as likely to end up with a PhD/teaching job/tenure as a male science major. So the gap seems to occur because female college students choose non-science majors despite having the same level of ability as the male students who are choosing science majors.
As for whether the gap in preference is due to social forces, the article hints at anecdotal evidence that some females who show ability in science are actually encouraged more strongly to pursue a science-based career than their male counterparts. Of course, the second article I linked to hints at anecdotal evidence that female students are steered away from science careers by misguided counselors who think that women still don’t do as well at math. Across the country, I’m sure there are plenty of both these types of situations.