Few social learning theorists or feminists, if pressed, would deny the preponderance of male genius, but would proffer an explanation in terms of the limited educational opportunities for women throughout history and general discouragement to achieve outside the realm of motherhood and the home. This explanation seems to be unsatisfactory on a number of counts.
Variations in the social position of women do not seem to be accompanied by any change in the sex ration of geniuses. For example, despite the increased number of women in science laboratories in the last three or four decades, the outstanding discoveries are still mostly made by men.
Many male geniuses have to override considerable disadvantage in their educational or social background and considerable social or religious opposition before their contributions are recognized. Galileo, despite being old, feeble, and virtually blind, was imprisoned by the Vatican for his heretical support of the heliocentric theory. Michael Faraday was the son of an itinerant tinker, had practically no schooling and could not afford any books. Isaac Newton came from a family of small farmers, was a premature child so puny and weak that he was not expected to live and received a poor education at the local village school. Charles Dickens and Charlie Chaplin both came from backgrounds of working-class poverty that they capitalized upon in their art. Charles Darwin defied his religious training and risked social ostracism by advocating evolution theory. George Washington Carver emerged from a background of civil war and slavery in Missouri to become one of America's greatest biological scientists, despite constant hunger, poverty and ill health and having been denied education because of his colour. Social and educational advantages cannot be held accountable for the achievements of men such as these, so why should disadvantage be invoked to account for the absence of female achievement?
Social learning theory does not adequately explain why a proportion of women do occasionally achieve quite well in certain areas (e.g. literature and politics) but not in others (e.g. science and architecture). Music composition is an interesting case in point, since it is a male-dominated profession despite the fact that girls are given more than equal encouragement to learn music at school and there are many accomplished women performers. British composer Peter Maxwell Davies recalls asking to study music at high school in Manchester and was told very firmly by the headmaster, 'This is not a girls' school!' For hundreds of years European ladies have been expected to sing and play an instrument such as the piano as a social grace, and yet the great composers have without exception been men.