Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Cult Of Ada Lovelace

Somehow I managed to avoid talking about "The Problem With “We Need More Women In —”", which is really surprising considering it addresses a longstanding bête noir of mine, the endless, and thus far, largely fruitless quest to get more women into the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields (STEM, commonly). Her solution is to acknowledge the reality, but declare it a non-problem:
I do not believe women should be sought out for jobs that are publicly posted if there are already qualified candidates interested. If you believe this should be the case, then you are promoting bias and discrimination on the basis of nothing but gender. You are more interested in the demographic breakdown of an industry/company/area of research than the quality of work, or employee, involved in said area. I believe that, by actively seeking out women to fill a certain percentage of a specific field, you are not only turning women into tokens, you are promoting a very troubling belief that they should expect special treatment and consideration for just being women. In addition, you are teaching girls and young women that, no matter what, they will be viewed by their gender first, and all else will be secondary. A troubling and heartbreaking side effect of this is that the same will happen with boys and young men, although the outcome will be much less pleasant for them.
This situation —which has existed my entire adult life — has been fought with a number of tools over time, the most prominent being the finding of suitable female role models. Ada Lovelace (arguably the first programmer) and Adm. Grace Hopper (creator of the despicable but important COBOL language, and originator of the locution "bug" in the sense of "unintended flaw") are two of the most commonly cited, with Lovelace even getting a (terrible) language named after her. Largely, all this effort hasn't helped, and over time, computer science in particular has suffered a significant decline in female graduates:

From shortly after I entered college in 1981, the trend line in female CS grads has gone nowhere but down as a percentage of overall graduates. And this despite no small amount of foment trying to get girls interested in the topic. What is utterly puzzling about this: if, as the author notes, some 90% of registered nurses are female, why aren't feminists agitating to equalize that field, or veterinarians, which produced 78% female graduates in the most recent year reported (2012), according to the AVMA (PDF)? And while this is pure speculation, my suspicion lies in the direction that
  1. Women must do important things in society.
  2. Science is important.
  3. Therefore, women must be scientists.
Of course, the problem with this observation is that all too frequently, the observer is a journalist or some other person with few or no credentials in the STEM fields. This puts such writers in the dubious position of telling others, "you go first", with bonus points for women advocates. This particularly terrible TechCrunch piece by Jon Evans is fairly representative. After banging away at some various, typical sexism-is-keeping-our-young-girls-outta-coding news stories, he pulls this:

Too anecdotal? OK: here’s a 2008 Harvard Business Review research report (PDF) on women in science, engineering, and technology, which found:
Between ages 25 and 30, 41% of the young talent with credentials in those subject matters are female … [but] 52% of this talent drops out … The most important antigen is the machismo that continues to permeate these work environments … 63% of women in science, engineering and technology have experienced sexual harassment.
I haven’t found any comparable studies from the last five years, but you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who thinks things have gotten much better since 2008 — until, maybe, just this last year, when more people seem to have become willing to at least discuss the issue. As long as you don’t suggest it’s anything more than a pipeline problem.
But guess what? If you create an environment wherein a whole class of entrepreneurs and employees goes unnoticed by deeply flawed industry-wide “pattern recognition” heuristics, and/or one where they have to be perpetually on their guard, and must pretend not to notice all the myriad microaggressions that make them feel vulnerable and uncomfortable and out-of-place…
If you actually drill down to the Harvard Business Review study, you'll realize quickly that it's nothing more than airy assertions piled on feminist cant, multiplied by mewling that women shouldn't have to work as hard as men to get the same recognition. Example:
In some industries, this hard hat culture is known as a “firefighter” culture, where the most admired individual at the plant is the larger-than-life male who runs around dealing with various emergencies—putting out actual and proverbial fires.
How terrible — having to actually be competent under stress. Another:
Tech women talked about the “diving catch” behavior that is center stage at technology companies. Alpha male techies come to the rescue—zooming in at the eleventh hour like Superman or the Lone Ranger to save a system that is threatening to crash. Women find it extremely difficult to take the kinds of risks involved in making these saves—their buddy system just isn’t strong enough to save them if they were to fail. They resent the fact that making a diving catch is often the only way to get promoted at a tech company.
Demonstrating that you can get the job done under pressure — well, we can't have that now, can we? Feminists demanding more women in STEM fields are all too eager employ the kind of infantilization that women must be treated with kid gloves vs. men in the same area.

One of the great counterarguments to the nonsensical trope that women make 70% of the wages of men is that if it were true, why aren't employers flocking to female employees in order to extract that 30% discount labor? And the answers, while complex, all come back to
  1. Employees are not all the same.
  2. The ones who get the job done despite long hours are more valuable.
And those people will get rewarded. This is why, when the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis looked at the matter very closely and included preferences for jobs with good benefits and flexible time off, the wage gap all but vanished (emboldening mine):
Economists Eric Solberg and Teresa Laughlin applied an index of total compensation, which accounts for both wages and benefits, to analyze how these benefits would affect the gender gap. They found a gender gap in wages of approximately 13 percent. But when they considered total compensation, the gender gap dropped to 3.6 percent.
 And here you might say, well, this is a tangent. No, no it's not, because this is really about recognizing women's choices have consequences. The advocates for "we must get more women in STEM careers" refuse to acknowledge those choices. Feminism, apparently, only gives women as much autonomy as aligns with the party goals for them; other choices, raising children, maintaining a household, spending time with their families, are simply Not Allowed.

No comments:

Post a Comment