Women-in-Stem

Waddaya Mean, Is It Really a Problem?

July 5, 2019|Posted in: Uncategorized

Recent studies show that a much smaller number of women are enrolling in and graduating doctoral programs in fields related to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) than other disciplines. This despite the fact that women earn more doctorates overall. And a new report from The Ohio State University indicates that the fewer women entering a STEM class, the less likely any one of them will graduate within six years.

Didja catch that? The fewer women there are trying to get a science doctor, the less likely any of them will succeed. Women joining a “typically male” program (fewer than 38.5% females) were 7% less likely to graduate within six years; in cases with only one woman in a new class, she is 12% less likely to graduate within six years than her male peers.

Only 27% of all students taking the AP Computer Science exam in the United States are female; only around 18% of American computer-science college degrees go to women. Meanwhile, in countries like Algeria, with shining histories of employment equality for women (yes, that was sarcasm), 41% of STEM graduates are female.

But—and here’s the kicker—detractors want to say the reason for this is that women are just not genetically equipped for science.

WTH?

True story, folks. In the most infamous example, a leaked Google memo attempted to show how women being underrepresented in fields related to STEM is due to inherent psychological differences between the genders. Oh, sure. That’s it. Can’t be anything like workplace discrimination, no. Women should leave science to the menfolk, and not worry their pretty little heads about it.

Makes me sick to my stomach.

Explain to me how this works. Here in the Land of the Free and all that, where anyone can grow up to be president (even if they’re not remotely qualified for the job), we’re saying women don’t have the brain cells to take over STEM fields… but countries who are actively discouraging women from succeeding at all are cranking out more female STEM-oriented graduates than we can shake a stick at. Is it just me, or do those numbers not add up?

To be fair, the fact that more women are graduating with STEM-based degrees in countries notorious for gender discrimination apparently has less to do with aptitude for science and more to do with simple economics: a new paper published in Psychological Science (see, this is what I do all day at work: read these weird articles that get me all pissed-off) suggests that women in countries with higher gender inequality are more likely looking for the clearest possible path to financial freedom…and that path often drives them straight to STEM professions.

That being said, it still shoots all kindza holes in the idea that women are genetically indisposed to science. So, what? Are we saying that encouraging gender equality is actually backfiring? That in reality, we’re pushing women away from STEM fields by opening up their options?

Yeah. I don’t think so.

Look, producing an environment of overall gender equality is noble as hell, but it can be a double-edged sword: by opening doors traditionally closed to women, we offer them the opportunities to accomplish things that were unthinkable a generation ago. BUT … the side-effect of this is that we’re also opening up the option for them to NOT go through those doors, as well.

In other words, leveling the playing field is good, but it may result in the ball rolling in a direction we weren’t counting on. It’s possible that this is solely the result of having so many alternatives, but it is just as easy to draw the conclusion that there is still remaining bias—tacit or implied—that is discouraging women from opting for STEM careers, despite their aptitude.

But the idea that they’re not in STEM because their genes aren’t cut out for it? That’s just stupid.