Should We Reinstitute The Draft … To Ensure We Have Enough Women In Math And Science?

According to an article in a recent Chronicle of Higher Education,

Two U.S. senators accepted a petition on Wednesday that asks Congress to do something about the limited involvement of women in the sciences, mathematics, and engineering.

The petition, signed by 6,000 scientists, engineers, and educators, was addressed to Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat of Oregon, and Sen. George Allen, a Republican of Virginia. The senators led hearings on the issue in 2002. The petition asks Congress to examine why women are not entering the fields in numbers similar to those of men, and to make efforts to reverse that trend.

“An in-depth investigation of the problem,” the petition says, “should include the cultural factors and economic factors affecting women in these fields, possible gender discrimination in these areas, federal laws that may help address any inequities, including Title IX of the Education Act, and specific actions that may help increase opportunities for women.”

Perhaps, along the way, it might also be useful for the Senators to identify any math or science programs that actually limit opportunities for women.

Oh, wait. I forgot. In our new victim-laden world, “underrepresentation,” i.e., fewer numbers of any group doing something than one thinks should be doing it, can only be the result of lack of opportunity.

ADDENDUM [16 May]

Hmm. Perhaps drafting women and sending them off to engineering school could be combined with drafting minority students who otherwise would choose to attend historically black colleges, sending them to colleges that are woefully white and, as a result, offer their current students an education that is fatally flawed by the absence of sufficient pigmentary “diversity” …

ADDENDUM II [17 May]

… and after those minority students are admitted, Woefully White U. should then take affirmative action to ensure that they actually provide “diversity” by limiting the number of minority students who can enroll in any one class, encouraging them to enroll or even assigning them to classes that are the most un-diverse, etc. Although this imposition on individual choice may seem draconian, it is really not that different from from requiring students admitted with, say, football scholarships to play football, etc.

Say What? (31)

  1. Dom May 16, 2005 at 11:20 am | | Reply

    I’m really concerned about the phrase, “including Title IX of the Education Act”. In sports, Title IX means equality is to be achieved by denying young boys the opportunity to play sports. And this is a typical tactic of feminists — consider the nonsense of “take our daughters to work, leave your boys at home.”

    Are they hinting that the US needs legislation that will deny young boys the opportunity to enter the educational fields where they excel?

    Dom

  2. actus May 16, 2005 at 12:11 pm | | Reply

    “In our new victim-laden world, “underrepresentation,” i.e., fewer numbers of any group doing something than one thinks should be doing it, can only be the result of lack of opportunity.”

    the fact that underrepresentation can be rectified by increasing opportunities does not mean that the current underrepresentation is solely due to a lack of opportunities.

  3. John Rosenberg May 16, 2005 at 12:21 pm | | Reply

    actus:

    the fact that underrepresentation can be rectified by increasing opportunities does not mean that the current underrepresentation is solely due to a lack of opportunities

    actus’s statement is a perfect example of what I’m complaining about. Why? Because it assumes that all “underrepresentation” is caused by a lack of opportunities. In fact, only the “underrepresentation” that is caused by a lack of opportunities can be cured by increasing opportunities.

    I’m still waiting for someone to show me a math or science program that denies opportunities to women.

  4. actus May 16, 2005 at 12:28 pm | | Reply

    ” Because it assumes that all “underrepresentation” is caused by a lack of opportunities”

    Actually I said the opposite:

    does not mean that the current underrepresentation is solely due to a lack of opportunities.

  5. John Rosenberg May 16, 2005 at 12:44 pm | | Reply

    Yes, but you began your statement by writing that “the fact that underrepresentation can be rectified by increasing opportunities….” That, as I said, is true only for any “underrepresentation” — so far, I re-repeat, unidentified — that is caused by a denial or lack of opportunities.

    Thus, as I understand it, your position is rather like saying “the underrepresentation of whites in professional basketball” can be rectified by increasing opportunities. Again, that is true only insofar as that “underrepresentation” is caused by a lack of opportunities.

  6. actus May 16, 2005 at 12:58 pm | | Reply

    “That, as I said, is true only for any “underrepresentation” — so far, I re-repeat, unidentified — that is caused by a denial or lack of opportunities.”

    And I said just the opposite of that. We can increase things without first noting that they are lacking relative to something else. And this increase can have a beneficial impact that overrides some other negative impact.

    Women could be not going into the video game industry because they don’t want to. One way to increase the number of women in the industry is to increase their opportunities. It could even be that to have participational parity with men there would need to be a disparity of opportunities.

    I would be hard pressed to say that there was a lack of opportunities to begin with in this example. It would also be true that increasing opportunities diminished the disparity.

    But I thikn you can go on and on repeating yourself without understanding this very simple logic going on here. Just because something is a fix does not mean that that something is the only wrong.

  7. John Rosenberg May 16, 2005 at 1:05 pm | | Reply

    Just because something is a fix does not mean that that something is the only wrong.

    But it’s NOT a fix if what it purports to fix is not broken. You, and others, go on and on about a “fix” to a problem that you have not demonstrated actually exists.

  8. actus May 16, 2005 at 1:17 pm | | Reply

    ” You, and others, go on and on about a “fix” to a problem that you have not demonstrated actually exists.”

    Whether there is a disparity or not is a different question than what caused it. Which are both different questions than what can fix it. I know that. But you just go on and on in circles reading not what I said but whats in your head.

    Are you really getting advanced education in this subject?

  9. bcl May 16, 2005 at 4:33 pm | | Reply

    “Women could be not going into the video game industry because they don’t want to. One way to increase the number of women in the industry is to increase their opportunities. It could even be that to have participational parity with men there would need to be a disparity of opportunities.”

    But if the 10000 female programmers (artists/producers/whatever) choosing not to go into video games avoid the field because they don’t want to work there, how can adding another 1, 10, 100, 1000, or even 10000 programming jobs, even ones set aside for women, yeild an increase in the number of women in video games?

    The point of John’s post is that if disproportional representation is the result of some reason other than lack of opportunity (could be nature, nurture, both, or something else entirely), then how will additional opportunites address the disparity.

    Your mention of disproportionate opportunity sounds more like disproportionate incentives (as in paying female programmers more or addressing their lack of desire to work in video games in some other way).

    If the amount of water flowing through a pipe is less than the pipe can carry, putting in a larger pipe will hardly increase the flow.

    If the disproportionate representation is caused by a lack of opportunity, then increasing opportunities should increase representation; if the disproportion has some other cause, then it is logical that increasing opportunities will not address it.

  10. meep May 16, 2005 at 4:41 pm | | Reply

    My own opinion is that actus is right – in a way. There needs to be an increase of opportunities for everybody in math, science, etc.

    But not by opening more slots in a program or promoting science and math heavily — but by actually teaching kids math and science when they’re younger. I’ve run into plenty of men and women who wanted to be engineers, but who were woefully mis-served by their elementary math education. If math education were improved for everybody, I bet one would find a rise in absolute numbers of both males of females in math and science-related fields.

    Still, I think they ought to research why men are woefully underrepresented in education programs, especially early education. It is a horrible injustice. I wonder if the overwhelming dearth of male elementary school teachers has anything to do with the crappy math education elementary school kids get. Hmmm. Yet another research idea! I’m just giving these things away!

  11. actus May 16, 2005 at 5:01 pm | | Reply

    “don’t want to work there, how can adding another 1, 10, 100, 1000, or even 10000 programming jobs, even ones set aside for women, yeild an increase in the number of women in video games?”

    By making it more attractive for them or others to go. I don’t know about you, but I have taken jobs that I didn’t want because the work was plentiful.

  12. Michelle Dulak Thomson May 16, 2005 at 5:02 pm | | Reply

    actus,

    Whether there is a disparity or not is a different question than what caused it. Which are both different questions than what can fix it.

    Is it your position that there is a problem wherever there is a disparity? One that needs “fixing”?

    It seems to me that if there are no racial or gender barriers to entry to a profession, there is nothing remaining to be “fixed.” Unless you want to “fix” the unseemly overrepresentation of Jews in the law, or the unseemly overrepresentation of Asian-Americans in the hard sciences and engineering (and at the top music conservatories, for that matter).

  13. Garrick Williams May 16, 2005 at 5:40 pm | | Reply

    I think I agree with Michelle here. Actus has a point that increasing incentives might increase the number of women in science and engineering, but what he fails to do is tell us why the “underrepresentation” of women in these fields is actually a problem. If all the women who want to be in the field can get into the field, then where is the problem? What is fundamentally wrong with engineering being only 30% women, as long as women aren’t being denied opportunities to get into the field?

    Frankly, it’s probably better to have a small group of female engineers who are there because they want to be, rather than a large group where half the women are only there for the incentives. This is, I think, what John was getting at- the only “problem” that preferences fix is lack of opportunity, so if there is no disparity of opportunity, increasing opportunities is a solution without a problem.

    To say that reducing the disparity, no matter what the cause, is a “solution” first requires proof that the “disparity” is fundamentally bad and not simply the result of personal preferences. And that, Actus, is what you fail to do. Adding opportunity can ONLY solve lack of opportunity. Even if Actus’ plans reduce gender disparity, they fail to address the real problem if the real problem is anything other than lack of opportunity (i.e. actual job or education discrimination). It’s like giving morphine to an injured man… it makes the pain go away but does nothing to cure the disease, and might ultimately do more harm than good if used inapproporiately.

    So, Actus, if you wish to convince John and the rest of us, you must do two things:

    1) Prove that gender disparity in science and engineering is a real, quantifiable problem. And you have to do more than prove that it exists… show us why it is bad.

    2) Identify the root cause(s) of this disparity and demonstrate that your proposed solution SPECIFICALLY addresses this cause.

    I don’t think you’ll be able to do it, because I just don’t see the barriers. If anything, women engineers are heavily recruited and extremely coveted. For example, I was rejected from MIT with an SAT of 1550, while a female student I know got in with slightly lower grades and an SAT in the 1300s. Now obviously MIT looks at more measures of merit than grades, so maybe her application made her look like an uber-citizen, but I rather doubt that her gender didn’t play a role in her admission. I don’t particuarly begrudge her her success, as I like where I ended up at Michigan, but it seems rather ridiculous to argue that there aren’t any opportunities for women in science.

  14. actus May 16, 2005 at 7:20 pm | | Reply

    “Is it your position that there is a problem wherever there is a disparity? One that needs “fixing”?”

    At first glance, no. Take my video game example. I’m kind of assuming a disparity — I don’t have actual statistics on that. I have no idea why it exists. In itself, it is not bad.

  15. Michelle Dulak Thomson May 16, 2005 at 8:44 pm | | Reply

    actus,

    Take my video game example. I’m kind of assuming a disparity — I don’t have actual statistics on that. I have no idea why it exists. In itself, it is not bad.

    Well, ought we not at least to address whether a disparity is a bad thing before we start deciding what’s the best way to remove it? I really don’t understand why the problem (if it is a problem) ought to be tackled from that end.

  16. actus May 16, 2005 at 10:49 pm | | Reply

    “Well, ought we not at least to address whether a disparity is a bad thing before we start deciding what’s the best way to remove it?”

    Sure. if you’re going to go ahead and do it. Don’t change the fact taht you can remove it though. Changes whether we want to.

  17. Michelle Dulak Thomson May 16, 2005 at 11:49 pm | | Reply

    actus,

    Sure. if you’re going to go ahead and do it. Don’t change the fact taht you can remove it though. Changes whether we want to.

    I doubt very much whether we can “remove” disparities, but I certainly see no point in discussing whether we can before deciding whether we want to.

    (I should say that we can, in a sense, “remove” any disparity if we’re ruthless enough. Not enough women in your engineering program? Pay them to join, and if that doesn’t close the gap, put a cap on male enrollees. If the result is an embarrassing gap between male and female grades, gender-norm the results. &c. It can be done; it just shouldn’t be.)

  18. actus May 17, 2005 at 12:03 am | | Reply

    “I doubt very much whether we can “remove” disparities, but I certainly see no point in discussing whether we can before deciding whether we want to.”

    The problem is we were discussing how to go about correcting disparities, and how these fixes relate to how the disparities came about. The point of the discussion, which you cannot see, is that because we can address a disparity in a given way does not mean that the cause of the disparity is the failure to do what it is we are doing.

    I agree that this is obvious. But John didn’t get it for a while.

  19. Michelle Dulak Thomson May 17, 2005 at 3:03 am | | Reply

    actus,

    The problem is we were discussing how to go about correcting disparities, and how these fixes relate to how the disparities came about. The point of the discussion, which you cannot see, is that because we can address a disparity in a given way does not mean that the cause of the disparity is the failure to do what it is we are doing.

    No, actus, I’m sorry, but John and your other critics above have it right, and you have it wrong. You can correct a disparity (assuming arguendo that you want to “correct” it) by expanding opportunity only to the extent that lack of opportunity contributed to it in the first place.

    If you think it’s terrible, say, that nursing is a female-dominated profession, making sure that men have the opportunity to become nurses is not really going to do the trick, is it? Because men already do have the opportunity to become nurses. And some do.

    There are lots of things you could do to try to achieve a gender balance in the nursing field if you really wanted one. You could put an absolute cap on the number of female nurses nationwide, so that any new nurses hired would have to be men. You could hold male and female nursing candidates to different standards, with the latter being much stricter. &c. But you cannot get there by “expanding opportunity” for male nurses, because there’s no room left to expand in, because the disparity has nothing at all to do with denial of opportunity.

    Alles klar?

  20. LTEC May 17, 2005 at 10:00 am | | Reply

    I think the problem with the preceding discussion is with the phrase “expanding opportunities”. Some people are taking this term literally, and merely remarking that one can’t expand opportunities if they are not currently restricted in some way. Others are using the term as a code for preferences of some form.

  21. Dom May 17, 2005 at 10:02 am | | Reply

    I’d like to open a new thread. Is disparity always a bad thing? If it is due to discrimination and a lack of opportunity, then yes; otherwise no.

    If there are fewer women in video games, then their labor can be better used elsewhere.

    A social program aimed at reducing disparity, and a general program aimed at creating equal representation in all fields (boggles the mind, but some people want that) probably works against society’s best interest.

    Dom

  22. John Rosenberg May 17, 2005 at 10:44 am | | Reply

    Michael McKeown, a regular reader, posted this comment in the wrong place. I have copied it here:

    In a rational world, data matters.

    Pardon the spacing issues in the table.

    In a different but related context I had occasion yesterday to look at the SAT “College Bound Seniors: A Profile of SAT Program Test Takers” booklet http://www.collegeboard.com/prod_downloads/about/news_info/cbsenior/yr2004/2004_CBSNR_total_group.pdf . Page 8 has the intended majors that students report. These categories do not match standard majors exactly, but give a clue.

    Bio Sciences XY 36% XX 64% # of students 52K

    Engineering 84 16 84K

    Health and rela. 24 76 160K

    Language and Lit 29 71 15K

    Mathematics 59 41 9K

    Physical Sci. 58 42 14.7K

    Plans for advanced standing in

    Bio XY 41% XX 59% # of students 110K

    Chemistry 51 49 83K

    Comp Sci 75 25 38K

    English 37 63 256K

    Math 51 49 232K

    Physics 63 37 72K

    These data do not, a priori, mean that biology discriminates against men in high school or in their college plans, nor should we conclude that English in HS forces men out and away from Lang and Lit majors (although Christina Hoff-Sommers might make a case that this is so, with some strength).

    On the other hand, there are some interesting differences and similarities between high school and college. The numbers for Math and Chemistry advanced standing are nearly the same for boys and girls even as the college numbers are different in math. Is it high school math that discourages girls from wanting to do math in college even before they arrive? Is it something else (this is a high SAT score group in general, but the scores are not broken down by sex)? Not clear.

    There are related observations for physical science majors (which I take to mean, as a first approximation, Physics and Chemistry). 56% of those expecting advanced standing in Chem or Physics are boys (this disparity is driven by the difference between boys and girls in physics). This number is not all that different from the expected major numbers of 58% boys and 42% girls in physical science majors. Hard to blame that split on expected discrimination on college, as it was pre-existing.

    From the data it is clear there is tendency for girls to stay out of the most geeky fields (Jessie R not withstanding) like Comp Sci and physics, but discrimination is not clearly indicated as the cause, nor is it indicated in other fields. Similarly, there are fewer boys going into bio or language or history majors. Do these fields set up various social structures that drive boys out? Are there other reasons? Why isn

  23. actus May 17, 2005 at 10:55 am | | Reply

    “You can correct a disparity (assuming arguendo that you want to “correct” it) by expanding opportunity only to the extent that lack of opportunity contributed to it in the first place.”

    Why? lots of things can fix a problem, which doesn’t meant that each one of those things is the cause of the problem. We can attack the symptoms of the disparity or we can attack the cause of the disparity, for example.

    “If you think it’s terrible, say, that nursing is a female-dominated profession, making sure that men have the opportunity to become nurses is not really going to do the trick, is it? Because men already do have the opportunity to become nurses. And some do.”

    “expanding opportunities” for men would be to give more opportunities for men toenter nursing. And it can be done completely consistent with the fact that there are plenty of male nursing vacancies.

  24. John Rosenberg May 17, 2005 at 11:37 am | | Reply

    lots of things can fix a problem, which doesn’t meant that each one of those things is the cause of the problem

    You will never get reasonable people to accept your solution until you convince them that there is a problem, which you manifestly have not done.

  25. actus May 17, 2005 at 11:56 am | | Reply

    “You will never get reasonable people to accept your solution until you convince them that there is a problem, which you manifestly have not done.”

    Of course. We’re speaking generally here. I’m not even talking about a particular problem. I gave the example of the video game industry as an illustration. I have no idea if something should be done about it because I have no idea what the causes or effects of the disparity are.

  26. Garrick Williams May 17, 2005 at 12:35 pm | | Reply

    Okay, actus, so are you saying that you don’t think that there is a problem with the gender disparity? It sounds like you are admitting that you don’t know the cause of it.

    You still manage to confuse my by saying that you can stop disparity by the rather vague “expanding opportunities” option. Most people on this thread are taking that to mean “removing barriers”, that is, making sure that every female who wants to be an engineer can be an engineer. If that is your definition of “expanding opprtunities” (and I think this is the most reasonable definition) then simply “expanding opportunity” won’t reduce disparity. The point we’ve all tried to make is that, essentially, any woman who wants to be an engineer or scientist can be if she chooses.

    On the other hand, you seem to imply that “expanding opportunity” should mean “providing incentives/preferences”. These are two very different things, however, because “opportunity” and “incentive” have two entirely different meanings. For example, I have the opportunity to become a historian, if I choose. However, I decided that I want to become an engineer instead. “Expanding opportunity” by making it easier for me to become a historian wouldn’t make me become a historian, because I didn’t want to be a historian. You can’t give me an opportunity that I already have, and providing three spots for me to fill won’t change anything because I can only fill one seat anyway. Now, say that you give me “incentives” or “preferences”; you might make it impossible for me to get into engineering school or force me into the Classics department, or maybe offer me a $1,000,000 bonus to become a historian.

    That might end up making me a historian but 1) could that really be a good thing? and 2) don’t you think that goes a little beyond “opportunity”? At that point, you’re essentially forcing me into a career I didn’t really want, and if you’re applying preferences by, say, capping the number of female historians, you’re now denying opportunity to someone who really wanted to be a historian (because you can’t just magically make the economy support more historians) with someone who is only there for the money. That seems like more than “opportunity”.

    Unfortunately, I think affirmative action has thrived on this same confusion. They aren’t “discriminating against whites” they are “providing opportunities for blacks”. In this sense, actus actually may have the definition of expanding opportunity just about right, at least in its current practical application. But that probably isn’t a good thing.

  27. Scott May 17, 2005 at 2:20 pm | | Reply

    actus, you wrote:

    “Women could be not going into the video game industry because they don’t want to. One way to increase the number of women in the industry is to increase their opportunities. It could even be that to have participational parity with men there would need to be a disparity of opportunities.”

    Many subsequent posts centered on what you meant by ‘increasing their opportunities’, but I’m much more concerned with the last sentence. Would you actually condone disparity of opportunities (a quaint term for discrimination) to force parity into a situation with no discriminatory cause?

  28. actus May 17, 2005 at 6:16 pm | | Reply

    Many subsequent posts centered on what you meant by ‘increasing their opportunities’, but I’m much more concerned with the last sentence. Would you actually condone disparity of opportunities (a quaint term for discrimination) to force parity into a situation with no discriminatory cause?””

    I don’t think that would be a good idea. But it doesn’t change the fact that it can be done.

    “Okay, actus, so are you saying that you don’t think that there is a problem with the gender disparity? It sounds like you are admitting that you don’t know the cause of it.”

    There certainly can be a problem with it. I picked an example to illustrate how one could end the disparity. Not to decide whether we ought to. T

  29. Stephen May 18, 2005 at 2:22 pm | | Reply

    Now, you folks are bloviating in my area of expertise… technology.

    You are writing as if opportunities are limited in this area. False. This is an arena of cowboy capitalism. Anybody who wants to work themselves to death, take risk and be inventive has the opportunity to write his or her own ticket.

    I’ve taught in this field. Men are enthusiastic about creating tech games. Women are not. Women don’t enter the field because they don’t want to be there. Nothing is stopping them from doing so.

    On the contrary, the more established tech fields (IT in a corporation) have large female constituencies. Unfortunately for the purposes of this discussion, they are overwhelmingly Asian, and primarily Japanese and Chinese.

  30. Claire May 19, 2005 at 1:07 pm | | Reply

    I have to agree with several of the posters on this: women don’t go into science in droves because they aren’t interested in it.

    I’m a scientist myself, as well as a woman. My degrees are in chemistry and physics, and I have the equivalent work experience of three more degrees in mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, and materials science. I am also quite an anomaly.

    See, what many people consider politically incorrect is the documented fact that there are some traits which are sex-linked. This is not 100%, of course, but generally you find that women tend to be much more socially/people oriented, with emphasis on feelings and relationships and on interacting, while men generally tend to be more oriented on things and tasks and on doing.

    Unfortunately, when you have men who have traits that are generally considered ‘feminine’, they find themselves as something of social misfits. The same things happens to women who like mechanics and math and problem solving.

    It took me a long time to realize that there wasn’t something ‘wrong’ with me because I didn’t enjoy spending hours chatting with other girls, discussing clothes and hair and boys and relationships. I found it all totally boring. Instead, I’d rather be reading a good book about the latest advances in particle physics or stellar astronomy.

    Men are by nature spatially-oriented problems solvers; women are by nature socially-oriented nurturers. Those of us in both camps who disrupt the curves find ourselves struggling all our lives to fit in.

    Trying to force more women into science and math makes about as much sense as trying to force more men into child care and social work. Try to fit a square peg in a round hole, and all you do is make the peg miserable.

  31. Selling STEM “Diversity” September 25, 2014 at 1:13 pm |

    […] on women in science are several that discuss a percolating attempt to use Title IX to, in effect, require colleges to enroll more women in STEM […]

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