Also, there is a middle ground. Few women want to remain stay-at-home moms forever, but many want to at least be with their little ones for the first year or two. It is very hard to go back to work when your baby is very small. I can tell you I've had more than one crying fit as I was pumping at work, wondering why the heck it was the electric contraption relieving me rather than my son.
Well, the problem has changed since your days, I think. The real problem in anti-intellectualism (I'm badly hoping Obama-as-role-model can begin to cure it at least a little), and girls are just always picked on more than boys in those kinds of situations.I'm sad to hear about the only girl in the advanced math class, and her struggles to be anything but a social pariah.
I think there are two different issues here - is there an issue of who is better in math, and who has the brains/ personality/ etc. to become so outstanding as to be a professor. Studies show that men and women have the same average IQ but there is a major difference in the curve - there are both more geniuses and more idiots among men, whereas women's IQ curve is not nearly as steep.In that background, it's hard to take the research interests of Larry Summers seriously about the inferiority of women as mathematicians.
I do, though, agree about the importance of different educational approaches. My husband is a big history buff, and his recounting of stories from history can beat any fairy tale in their excitement. When he tells some of those stories to school age children of our friends, there is a general pattern - boys want to know everything about the battles, whereas girls perk up when they hear about how a particular innovation changed people's lives. This reminds of how I, too, was never all that interested in history in school (too many battles!) but fell in love with it in college when I learned it in light of art history.