Saturday, May 16, 2015

Risky to ask a woman to cut the cake

It is sometimes argued that STEM subjects should be minimized to make them more appealing to women. A female mathematical physicist attacks the idea:
But by proposing that women focus on work that is “societally meaningful” and that supports “humanitarian” goals, Ms. Nilsson indulges in two fallacies.

One is the premise that women are attracted to work consistent with the cultural notion that these are appropriate roles for women (traditionally, nursing and teaching).

In some sense, she is advocating “pink science” while ignoring the large number of female mathematicians, physical scientists and engineers who find the subject matter itself attractive.

It is analogous to telling women in medical school that they should become pediatricians and ob-gyns rather than neurosurgeons.

The other fallacy is that women are so shortsighted as to see only projects directly aimed at improving “the lives of people living in poverty” as having a meaningful societal effect. Surely, we all have a vested interest in enterprises like designing bridges and airplanes that are structurally sound.

We need to move forward with more female scientists in all fields rather than relegate them to certain subspecialties and pretend that such work is more valuable to our society.
And then there are those women who want to be treated like men, such as this one who refused to cut the cake:
My daughter majored in electrical engineering and got a job at a major electrical company. At a social gathering during work hours, her male associates asked her to cut a birthday cake, serve it and do the dishes. She refused, left for the day and eventually resigned.
Any attempt to push women into STEM fields might be pulling them away from better choices.

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