I’ve read the infamous Google document, and I found it a mixed bag, though I don’t think the guy should have been fired for it. (That said, I have no idea about his history with Google). As reader Coel pointed out in a comment in the discussion thread on the Google fracas, there’s a much better article on the Slate Star Codex by Scott Alexander, “Contra Grant on exaggerated differences“, which makes the case that disproportionate outcomes, like a different proportion of men versus women in different professions, might reflect at least in part a difference in preferences based on psychological differences between men and women. The point is not that there’s no gender bias in the tech industry (my techie friends whom I trust say that there is), but that the disparity in representation might not completely reflect sexist barriers to entry but also different preferences (Alexander discerns no differences in abilities). That is, even in the absence of gender bias, and with free entry and equal opportunity for women, you might still not get the desired 50/50 male/female ratio in any field, much less technology, since representation reflects abilities, interests, and bias.
I can’t evaluate the literature he cites, nor do I know the evolutionary psychology literature about psychological preferences, so I can’t evaluate that either. Nor can I say anything about to what extent differences in preferences reflect evolved genetic differences (which of course don’t constitute “unchangeable differences”) versus culturally instilled differences. But nearly everyone agrees that there are differences in both behavior and preference between men and women, whatever their source. (I’m pretty sure, for reasons I’ve discussed before, that a lot of the differences in sexual behavior and preference between men and women are based on evolution.) My view is that we need to guarantee equal opportunity for the sexes and people of different ethnicities. But that’s a hard thing to do, for it involves detecting and eliminating biases that can affect children at an early age, making sure all school systems are equal in quality and in the opportunities they afford different kids, and so on. And that will take decades. In the meantime, some form of assuring diversity seems to me desirable. (Even that’s hard, for what are we aiming for: should people in all professions be represented in the same proportions as their groups occur in the general population?)
Too, the data on preferences and abilities are not completely consistent; different studies give different results. That’s not surprising given that we’re dealing with human behaviors and studies that differ in populations and methodologies. But Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, (a research associate in particle physics at the University of Washington, a philosopher of science, and editor of the online literary magazine Offing, has written a piece in Slate saying that the Google study and the sexism she sees it reflecting is inherent in the nature of science. Her piece, “Stop equating ‘science’ with truth,” was published just yesterday and already has over 1800 comments (I haven’t read any). I was surprised at this, for she’s not indicting sexism for the Google study, but the nature of science itself, which, she says, not only finds false evidence for sexism and other inequities, but acts as an imprimatur for bias:
It is impossible to consider this field of science without grappling with the flaws of the institution—and of the deification—of science itself. For example: It was argued to me this week that the Google memo failed to constitute hostile behavior because it cited peer-reviewed articles that suggest women have different brains. The well-known scientist who made this comment to me is both a woman and someone who knows quite well that “peer-reviewed” and “correct” are not interchangeable terms. This brings us to the question that many have grappled with this week. It’s 2017, and to some extent scientific literature still supports a patriarchal view that ranks a man’s intellect above a woman’s.
. . . Science’s greatest myth is that it doesn’t encode bias and is always self-correcting. In fact, science has often made its living from encoding and justifying bias, and refusing to do anything about the fact that the data says something’s wrong.
I think she’s wrong on several counts here. First of all, science is a methodology, not a body of data, as that data and the “facts” it uncovers are provisional—even though some of those facts, like the observation that DNA is normally a double helix, are unlikely to be proven wrong in the future. Of course science can reflect and buttress the biases of its practitioners, but that’s why we have things like peer review, statistics, replication, and so on. And, in fact, I don’t think modern scientific literature “supports a patriarchal view that ranks a man’s intellect above a woman’s.” You might be able to cherry-pick different studies that show that, but you can find other studies that show the opposite, or that women’s intellects are superior to men’s. Such a statement seems insupportable anyway since the sexes rank differently in different areas of endeavor, regardless of the cause.
I’m not sure what Prescod-Weinstein means by saying that science “refuses to do anything about the fact that the data says [sic] that something’s wrong”, but if she means science refuses to correct flawed data showing inequities, she’s wrong. In his book The Mismeasure of Man, Steve Gould went after Samuel Morton’s data on skull volume showing that non-Caucasian skulls had smaller volumes, arguing that it was a case of fudged data reflecting Morton’s racist bias. A reanalysis showed that Morton’s measurements were actually accurate, and I think people may still be working on this. Assertions of female inferiority based on data have been roundly attacked by scholars like Cordelia Fine. There are now plenty of women academics who are well placed to analyze data on sex differences, and they’re doing so. But if people use scientific data, or distort it wrongly to reflect their own preconceptions, that is not the fault of science. Yes, science can “encode” bias, and yes, it sometimes takes a long time to correct, but I deny that the nature of the enterprise is not self correcting. After all, some of the important tools in the toolkit of science are doubt, replication, and constant questioning—not just of yourself, but of others. If science can’t dispel data that supports bigotry, what can?
In fact, it looks as if Dr. Prescod-Weinstein is guilty of just what she accuses others of, for she wants scientific educations to become politicized, and to teach people that science is biased in exactly the way she thinks it’s biased:
Most saliently in the context of the Google memo, our scientific educations almost never talk about the invention of whiteness and the invention of race in tandem with the early scientific method which placed a high value on taxonomies—which unsurprisingly and almost certainly not coincidentally supported prevailing social views. The standard history of science that is taught to budding scientists is that during the Enlightenment, Europe went from the dark ages to, well, being enlightened by a more progressive mindset characterized by objective “science.” It is the rare scientific education that includes a simultaneous conversation about the rise of violent, imperialist globalization during the same time period. Very few curricula acknowledge that some European scientific “discoveries” were in fact collations of borrowed indigenous knowledge. And far too many universally call technology progress while failing to acknowledge that it has left us in a dangerously warmed climate.
Much of the science that resulted from this system, conducted primarily by white men, is what helped teach us that women were the inferior sex. Racial taxonomies conveniently confirmed that enslaving African people was a perfectly reasonable behavior since, as Thomas Jefferson put it, black people were “inferior to the whites in the endowments of body and mind.” Of course, this apparent inferiority never stopped Jefferson from repeatedly raping his wife’s half-sister, Sally Hemings, herself a product of rape. Jefferson is remembered as a great thinker, but when one reads his writing about race, it becomes immediately evident that rather than being much of a scientist, he was a biased white supremacist who hid behind science as a shield.
Actually, she’s talking not about science, but the history of science, and I, for one, didn’t get any of that during my science education. As for global warming, that phenomenon was uncovered by scientists, and now everybody knows about it. To call science responsible for global warming is just wrong. The technology that gave rise to global warming is a product of science, was often used for financial gain by greedy people at the expense of the environment, and, in fact, people didn’t know about the phenomenon until fairly recently. It is science that has found it out, scientists who are alerting us to its dangers, and if anything can fix it, it’ll be the scientific method. And yes, science was used to buttress racism, but believe me, while slave owners might have justified their actions post facto with bogus science, the institution of slavery was not built on scientific data. Science can be used to support many bigoted views (although, contrary to some, Hitler didn’t use Darwin to prop up his genocides), but that’s the fault of the bigots, not science. It’s simply unfair to use Thomas Jefferson’s relationship with Sally Hemings as a weapon against science. You might as well use the existence of the Nazi gas chambers as an indictment of both architecture and chemistry.
There’s more, too, but I’ll let you ponder this:
The problem is that science was just the shield he needed in the 18th century, and unfortunately, it seems that it continues to function that way today. In other words, pseudoscience has always been a core feature of post-Enlightenment scientific knowledge and it remains that way because scientists refuse to integrate contemporary science, technology, and society studies research into university curricula. And so too many of us get out of school and end up in a world where we are suddenly forced to grapple with the reality of how science, in practice, is not as objective as we hoped. Enough of us have heard a man, sometimes the president of our college, sometimes our research adviser, express the view that women’s brains “just work differently” and “aren’t suited to technical skills” the way men’s are. Nonbinary people don’t exist, and transgender people are de-normalized in these narratives. Women of color listen to white women normalize Europe as the birthplace of scientific intelligence while telling us that our curly hair isn’t professional-looking. Senior men who we would hope could be mentors turn out to be our sexual harassers, and with some frequency, senior women tell us to suck it up and lean in, rather than helping us.
Here she’s dragging in examples not of science misused, but bigotry and oppression that have nothing to do with science, like disapprobation of curly hair and sexual harassment. It’s almost as if Prescod-Weinstein wants to pin all the issues of social justice on science, even if they have nothing to do with it. But that won’t stick; by and large, scientists these days are nearly all sensitive to how their findings might be perceived. After all, the guy who produced that Google document was fired. If Google, a science-based firm, really supported bigotry, he would have been promoted. The bulk of Prescod-Weinstein’s piece seems to me to reflect an anti-science bias infecting certain elements of the Left (it of course infects the Right, too, but Prescod-Weinstein and I are both Leftists).
But she and I do agree on one thing. As she says in her last paragraph, we won’t know for sure about differences in abilities and preferences—and how they produce outcomes— until the playing field is fully leveled, and to me that means equal opportunities. So (with the exception of the term “bro,” which I consider sexism—the equivalent of calling a woman a “babe” or a “chick”), I agree with the “experiment” she proposes at the end of her essay:
Google bro would argue that we ought to consider the possibility that white women and racial minorities simply produce lower-quality work, which is why we struggle to be recognized as competent knowledge producers. It’s time to turn the tables on this debate. Rather than leaning in and trying endlessly to prove our humanity and value, people like him should have to prove that our inferiority is the problem. Eliminate structural biases in education, health care, housing, and salaries that favor white men and see if we fail. Run the experiment. Be a scientist about it.
153 thoughts on “Slate article questions the veracity of science because of the Google document”
I feel like I recall an engaging discussion on the SGU regarding this topic, and how the inclusion of history of science would be of benefit to scientists.
I can’t imagine how it would hurt, at any rate.
No, it wouldn’t hurt, but one course wouldn’t really suffice. For evolution alone you’d need one course: from Darwin to Gould.
While I personally would have enjoyed being a perpetual student, I can see that there would be time constraints for most degree seekers.
That said, I’d take this class.
I think there’s room for history when it leads somewhere, like discussing how the search for the luminiferous ether and the planet Vulcan eventually gave us relativity but there’s a point where time spent on scientific dead ends is just a dead end in itself.
Students go into the sciences because they want to work at the cutting edge of human knowledge. not become curators of cabinet of curiosities.
I think science students should learn about Lysenko though. But that’s also something humanities students should be taught about before they start ramming their ideology-led epistemologies down our throats. Science learns from its mistakes. The humanities don’t.
ideologies or true believers do not recognize mistakes. Humanities learn, particularly history, as the ideologies are re evaluated. Historians of science and of medicine, as the sociological study of science and bias are important.
i concur with the need to follow the experiment mentioned at the end. My sister is a retired biochemist and medical school Dean,I a retired physician with degrees in humanities. both us enjoy both parts of learning. She, however, lived through the difficult part of being a fifties female graduate student as well a mother.
If one takes a longer view of the History of Science (like back to the ancients), I think it would be a valuable addition to any STEM program. Men (in both the general sense of humanity, and the particular sense of the sex) have held innumerable views about the nature of the world that demonstrate both the limits of mere observation as well as biases from both authority and society. (Some of these are still with us, but generally regarded as the views of cranks.) I think it would teach the rationale (rather than the practice) of the scientific method as well as instill a sense of humility. I wish I could remember where I saw the article in the last few months about the woman who taught a course that instilled scepticism in the students by studying various conspiracy theories and junk science topics. She found it much more effective than just lecturing on the scientific method. Anyone?
He said no such thing.
Chandra Whatsherface is a raving lunatic who thinks telescopes are colonialist. Seriously, she’s mentally ill.
He didn’t say it, but it is true nevertheless.
Not for any reasons having to do with innate ability, and not necessarily because of bias either.
But it’s simply empirically true, as the list of Nobel, Fields Medal, Turin award, etc. laureates clearly shows
Really? Prizes, medals and awards are your empirical evidence for this?
Do you have a better measure of what the most important scientific work is?
‘most important’ is subjective, no? I certainly don’t think that this is a good measure of objective ability to do good science.
OK, so are you saying that all those Nobel prizes for quantum physics were given for irrelevant science?
So the discoveries of people like Lise Meitner, Emmy Noether, Henrietta Swan Leavitt and Jocelyn Bell Burnell are low quality because they were not awarded prizes (which they should have received)? Sheesh.
Congratulations, you just failed both Logic 101 and Reading Comprehension 101.
Enlighten me, then. You say that the blanket statement “white women and racial minorities produce lower-quality work” is “true nevertheless”–quote, unquote–and then adduce the paucity of women winning science prizes as proof. And I simply point out the weakness in your argument because women who did produce prize-quality work were denied prizes.
You are making a point of logic, right? Well there are a lot of men who similarly did not win prizes.
His argument is that the fraction of prizes corresponds to the fraction of top work. Now he may be wrong, but your objection is not logically well taken. To refute him you have to argue either that his representativeness assumption is wrong, or that he got the sex of some of the winners wrong.
Yes, I find it baffling that I need to explain why that statement is true.
95% of the major contributions to science have been made by males, 85-90% by people of European descent.
How is that controversial?
How is it also controversial that the work done at MITetc. is of much higher quality than the work done at the University of Ouagadougu?
And so were many men. But you only hear about one group and not the other.
But let’s set that aside, the number of women who were denied prizes is still very small compared to the total number of prize winners, so it would not change anything regarding the overall trend.
*work done at MIT/Stanford/Cambridge/etc.
We can all count. It is your interpretation of the numbers I am challenging. Have you bothered to read how women were excluded from scientific positions? How can the number of prizes possibly be a measure of ability when women were not allowed to compete and still face formidable barriers? And how can the number of men who did not win possibly matter when women couldn’t even get jobs as scientists? There were more white baseball players who did not reach the majors than black players who did not reach the majors (zero!) before Jackie Robinson. Do you think at proves anything?
And I would like to add Chien-Shiung Wu, whose experiments showed parity violation, one of the most important discoveries in nuclear physics, as an example of how the contributions of women have been ignored by those who award prizes.
Read what GM actually said. He didn’t say greater ability. He said it’s an empirical fact they produce better work. If you start talking reasons why that might be the case you are conceding he’s right.
BJ and Travis have much more compelling rebuttals.
First, as I have pointed out, where women have demonstrably produced better scientific work, it has not been recognized with prizes (Curie is an exception.) So prizes do not properly measure the contributions of women to science. Second, what does it matter to the question at hand that men have produced more or better scientific work if women have been excluded from science up until recently? Again, the absence of black baseball players from major league baseball before 1947 says nothing about their ability or desire to play baseball. So what is the point of using outcomes to try and prove your point, whatever the hell it is?
Your hypothesis was “women produce inferior work”, not “women collectively win fewer prizes for their work”.
There awe so many things wrong with the argument “there are more male winners of the Nobel prize therefore women produce inferior work” that it’s hard to know where to begin.
The obvious problem is that discrimination depresses the number of women who go into science at all. If you have a bigger pool, you are going to have more prize winners.
Secondly, the Nobel prize winners are a very small sample of the total scientist population and, by no means, a statistically unbiased sample. To suggest that it is an indicator of the quality of science done by all female scientists and all male scientists is complete nonsense. Why not raise the bar? Why not only count double Nobel prize winners? If you use that as an indicator then you would conclude that, until the latter half of the 20th century all the best scientific work was done by women – Marie Curie, in fact.
Maybe, on average, women do superior science to men, but the distribution for men is more spread out and has a longer tail at the top end.
And there weren’t any great black baseball players before Jackie Robinson because they didn’t make it to the major league?
Now that is a cogent objection, because ita attacks his representativeness assumption. But it’s harder to prove in this case than in baseball, due to such examples as Marie Curie.
The representation argument fails, because the proportion of females among prize winners is not the same as their proportion among the scientific workforce.
As a classic example, until very recently 100% of Field Medal winners were males. It has never been the case in the last 100 years that 100% of mathematicians are male.
Similarly, there is a single female Turing award winner, and it is definitely not the case that females are only 2% of computer scientists.
Neither are females <1% of physicists, as the fraction of female Nobel Prize winners would imply.
I have pointed out many examples where women who deserved prizes were not given prizes, so your argument is meaningless.
I don’t know that that is really a good yardstick, since it comes at the end of a process whereby women and minorities might already have been excluded. If women are generally discouraged (as they were for much of the 20th century) from pursuing science and math careers, or pursing serious research, then, of course, they would be under-represented in these awards. Of course, it is also possible that women and minorities excel at science, math, etc., but choose to pursue more practical applications that don’t tend to get recognition from these groups.
You are conceding GM is right then? Because you are giving reasons how his claimed empirical result might have come about. And without any innate inferiority just as he said.
I am not defending GM’s claim. I am just pointing out the logic.
@GM To this statement: “we ought to consider the possibility that white women and racial minorities SIMPLY PRODUCE LOWER-QUALITY WORK…” … you answer: “…it is true nevertheless. Not for any reasons having to do with innate ability, and not necessarily because of bias either. […] it’s simply empirically true, as the list of Nobel, Fields Medal, Turin award, etc. laureates clearly shows”
So why do you think white women & racial minorities produce lower quality work? You discount innate ability. You discount bias [bias of the awards committees I think you mean?]. So what reasons are plausible in your mind?
Of the 203 people awarded a Nobel Laureate in physics only one is Muslim – I assume the reason you’d give for this shortfall is the cultural, scientific & educational milieu of their upbringing?
Would you give same/similar reason for the shortfall in women laureates?
For myself I would claim you can’t use medal awards alone to argue that x group produces lower quality work…
1. Self-selection. The whole debate about gender balance at the post-graduate level is extremely stupid because it fails to appreciate that the imbalance is set up when kids are in their early teens, long before they enter academia or the workforce. You do not become a great scientist by suddenly deciding to pursue that career in your mid-20s, it takes decades of dedicated work, starting in your early teens. Girls do not do that as often as boys. We can speculate why (I personally remember very well the moment the girls I grew up with that were interested in science as little kids stopped caring about it — it was once puberty hit and it was quite sudden), but the effect is very real and it has little to do with any real or imagined hostility towards women in tech and academia — we’re talking about little kids with no conception of those things.
2. Differential parental investment. Like it or not, human biology being what it is, females invest much more time and energy into child bearing. This will never change, for fundamental biological reasons. But guess what happens when you have a hypercompetitive field and equally talented participants in it (we’re assuming no innate differences) — the people who cone out on top are the ones who put in the most work (because, again, everyone is supposedly equally talented so that is the only remaining variable). Naturally that means fewer females will be among the winners, unless they decide to behave like men and not have kids.
Correct. Sunni Islam philosophy is fundamentally incompatible with scientific thinking (not for the reasons most people will immediately think about, it has to do with the extreme occassionalism that dominates it). It is one reason why the Scientific Revolution did not happen in the Middle East in the Middle Ages even though they were very far ahead of Europe at the time.
If you take the collective group of people called Jeremy, we have won fewer Nobel prizes than the collective group of people called Marie. This is a fact (I just checked it).
However, do you honestly think that allows you to draw the conclusion that people called Jeremy produce inferior work relative to people called Marie? Yes, the best Marie was a better scientist than the best Jeremy, but that is an outlier.
What is the probability that a randomly chosen scientist called Marie is better at science than a randomly chosen scientist called Jeremy? Do you think it is significantly more than 50%?
That’s an absurd measure of what group is supposedly better at science. First off, you’re taking the people that are supposed to be the absolute best in their fields. How many of these people are there? If the answer is “barely any,” then you need to ask yourself what all the other scientists in the world are doing, and whether they’re good at it.
It’s also ridiculous because awards can be arbitrary, and we certainly can’t use any of these awards before the last couple of decades, as science was more restricted before then.
If you want to claim your opinion is somehow objective and logical, present studies supporting it.
The Nobel prize list is picking from the very extreme end of the curve, where men dominate (this goes for stupidity, too… men lie more at the extreme than women when it comes to IQ, even though the average IQ is the same). So it’s not exactly representative of what you’d expect software engineers or other STEM employees to fill up: the 110-130 IQ range I would guess most fall into.
So even though geniuses may have a much higher ratio of men to women, and it gets more extreme the smarter you go, when you’re talking about the average “intelligent” person, just one standard deviation above the mean the ratio will be much smaller (ex/ 11:10)
You’re making the massive assumption that IQ is the only factor that matters
Ugh. Yes, there are bad people and stupid people and people with biases, and Science (the search for truth, not truth itself) is a human institution susceptible to all of these (as the autheor herself demonstrates). I find these screeds to be bad History (which is not the fault of the discipline, but the practitioner). The fact that Enlightenment Science co-existed with warfare (which was not new to the human condition) is no more relevant than that Trump co-exists with transgenderism. What I ultimately find unhelpful about these attacks on Science is the failure to provide an alternative, other, that is, than merely surrending any attempt at objectivity. By all means, let’s chuck Science, and we can go gather sticks and stones, and on the 21st we can throw them at the eclipse to make it go away.
The fact that Enlightenment Science co-existed with warfare (which was not new to the human condition)…
Indeed, and neither was racism or misogyny. I mean, does Prescod-Weinstein really believe that before “the invention of whiteness and the invention of race in tandem with the early scientific method,” our ancestors didn’t see color? Or that before “this system” was established, no one thought “women were the inferior sex”? Off the top of my head, I can think of at least one authoritative text on the subject claiming otherwise.
Steven Pinker’s Science Is Not Your Enemy piece, which was aimed mainly at humanities professors but could just as well apply to any “philosopher of science” with an axe to grind, is as relevant as ever:
Link fail: Science Is Not Your Enemy
Thanks for posting this – Pinker always good value.
Apparently he’s turning the themes in that essay into a book about how awesome the Enlightenment was/is, due out next year.
I can’t wait!
Saw that article; wasn’t impressed. It was one of those pieces that felt like because the science didn’t agree with her political views therefor the science was wrong. That might be the case for some, I can’t say for sure, but I think it’s very likely that there are inherent differences between men and women. That does not justify discrimination but non-discrimination also does not justify ignoring the science.
“my techie friends whom I trust say that there is [gender bias in the tech industry]”. How do they know this? Have they heard the expression of bias? I’ve worked in software development for nearly 30 years (within the fields of scientific instrumentation, gambling, insurance, and investment banking). I’ve never one seen or heard evidence of anti women bias. There has always been a massive majority of men (less of a majority in the more managerial roles, populated often by women programmers promoted to those managerial roles because they wanted it and were good at it) but never one have I seen evidence of bias (which of course doesn’t mean it’s not there). I’ve been in a position of interviewing new candidates and was yearning for at least one CV from a woman.
It actually makes zero sense even from the feminist perspective of men all being sexist pigs who treat women as sex toys and think only about sex.
Why would anyone want to spend all his time surrounded only by other men, especially in fields (academic science, tech, etc.) that require you to work 12-14-16 hours a day meaning that you rarely get to go out and socialized with people outside of work? Who are you going to ever have sex with under such conditions if there are not female coworkers?
Then there is the question of marriage and family — when your work is of that nature, those things work best when both partners are in the field, and can understand how STEM work imposes certain requirements on one’s life that more conventional jobs do not. Accordingly, it is in the best interest of the men in those fields that the gender balance be near 50-50 — then they can find a suitable mate.
And not only does it make no sense in the abstract for men ins STEM to be discriminatory, I know for a fact that this is precisely the situation in many places with extremely skewed gender balance.
P.S. The above is not to be taken to mean that men in STEM do not have a low opinion of women’s abilities. They generally do. It’s just that they wish it wasn’t so.
Also, what is always left out of the discussion is how that opinion is formed.
The stereotypical STEM male is the nerdy guy who was shunned and ridiculed by the girls in school. Is it any surprise he did not develop a positive opinion about the other sex?
So… middle school girls are to blame for their future colleagues holding a low opinion of their ability based on their gender?
Though above you stated it was the feminist opinion that
you seem to rather be championing that idea yourself.
To be fair, I doubt there’s a lot of sex going on in Silicon Valley
Hmm, my sarky tag doesn’t show.
Agreed (though I’m unsure whether the final sentence is saying in such situations the men aren’t or are biased. I’m assuming you mean aren’t). Though I might add that the situation you’ve described could actually lead to screwed up attitudes to women in not well adjusted folk (not something I’ve seen), akin to the screwed-upness found in religious gender segregation.
I meant that the men working in places with highly skewed gender ratios would in fact be happier if there were more females around, are conscious of it, and will readily hire any qualified one that appears. The problem is that they simply can’t find such females.
I have worked on the docks for many many years.
I was lucky for a time to have a circle of friends of both sexes outside work.
I went to Uni as well at that time, but after that I did indeed bemoan the lack of women around me.
Now that technology has taken over more and more, more and more women are around, and it is better.
And, when I was at Uni(as well as working on the docks) I seem to remember quite a large representation of women in computer science and philosophy. That was in the 80’s
And before that I was a student nurse.
My father was a nurse.
I’m not sure you know many geeks. 😉
As a recovering geek, I can tell you first of all that many are uncomfortable around women, and second, as a result, are resentful of women. They are quite happy to work in a unisex atmosphere.
As someone who is still largely a geek, you should back of with such generalizations. My geek groups have always been interested in women, the men who were in our groups were happy to talk with women, and some of us may not have had a ton of sexual encounters in high school, I don’t know of anyone who has had any problems since then, nor any problems talking to or being around women.
Contra that (and I know we’re talking generalisations and one data point is not a trend), after attending a single-sex secondary school and university engineering school (which was way out in the country and essentially single-sex), I was extremely awkward and ill-at-ease around girls. I liked them, I wanted to ‘chat them up’, I just didn’t have a clue how to go about it. Even when they were being perfectly nice, I found them intimidating. It took me several years to get over this and regard them as ordinary people.
Had I been to a co-ed school, I don’t think I would have suffered from this.
Contra Dr Brydon though, I wasn’t resentful of them, nor did I particularly wish to work in a unisex atmosphere.
(some sort of nerdy geek)
There was a tech conference recently where they asked for papers to be submitted anonymously so speakers would better represent diversity. All the papers selected turned out to be by men so the con was cancelled. That suggests there’s more at play than ‘bias’.
And or that the bias is someplace else, or many other places. Surely the most likely circumstances are that there is more at play than just bias, but that bias surely is in the mix. There is opportunity for bias starting at birth.
The issue is that whenever certain policies fail to lead to the expected outcome, there never follows any examination of the underlying assumptions. Nor is there any change of tact other than “do it more aggressively and surely it will work this time.”
Did you read the Slate Star Codex article? There’s a very interesting part that addresses this. Even in various primates, we have found similar breakdowns in preferences to those studies have found in humans.
I did. ?
Sorry, it was more of a suggestion if you hadn’t. I was talking about three parts: (1) the portion where he discusses the fact that the preferences shown by studies go as far back as we can go; (2) the studies showing similar preferences by sex in primates; and (3) how women dominate plenty of other STEM fields, so it doesn’t make sense that because men dominate other specific STEM fields, women were somehow exposed to bias at extremely young ages that colored their preferences for the rest of their lives.
Yes, I read the whole thing. I personally don’t find any of the reported findings of the studies referenced surprising but I don’t think they support the conclusion in your final sentence for several reasons.
1) These kinds of studies are notoriously difficult. Difficult to figure out whether results are applicable to the problem and difficult to figure out what the results might mean.
2) I am certainly no expert in this but I have read several articles by experts that are notable in relevant fields and have done research on these specific issues. In at least one case the article was by a scientist that headed research referenced in the Google memo. Pretty much all of them said that the research referenced in the Google memo was legitimate and that the memo author did not misrepresent it. They pretty much all also said that they don’t think that the research warrants the conclusion that there is no bias against women, only that removing all bias would not result in equal numbers of men and woman in all jobs and that if we really want to address bias issues then we need to base any measures to address them on the science.
3) I have direct personal experience with bias against woman in STEM fields so I know we don’t have the problem licked yet. You could argue that sure there is some but it is not significant enough to warrant active measures to address. Based on my own experience along with what various others of all sorts have to say on this issue I think that is clearly wrong.
4) Regarding bias at young ages, holy shit. It is ubiquitous. Not necessarily with intent. Probably largely cultural inertia. Doesn’t matter, it’s still there. Anyone who has a daughter and isn’t on board with helping to create the bias (intentionally or not) can confirm that. Unless perhaps they are a relatively rare outlier. You have to be proactive about preventing this bias from inhibiting a daughter in a way that you don’t with a son. I’m doing that right now.
5) Not directly on point but I figure I’ll put it out there anyway. I think it is unwarranted how belligerent (maybe not exactly the right word I’m looking for) many opponents of women’s rights are. And / or opponents of the claim that bias against women is still a problem in our society. Even if they are correct that we have licked this problem, and I don’t think that is correct, it has just happened. Sometime in the past 20 years at best. I think that after being 2nd class citizens for pretty much all of history that we should be a bit more tolerant and gracious towards woman still fighting to level the playing field. Since I don’t agree that we have licked bias against woman such belligerence looks much worse to me. Yeah, I get that 3rd Wave Feminists and SJWs are often pretty nasty, ludicrous, wrong, etc.. I agree they are often extremist nuts and almost entirely wrong. And that they should be opposed. But not everyone who thinks we still have a bias problem is a 3rd Wave Feminist or SJW. Far from it. Yet every time this subject comes up, here or anywhere else, there’s always belligerent responses to reasonable non-belligerent comments by people who think bias is still an issue and it’s virtually always males.
6) Given human history, given the history of the modern fields of science relevant to this issue (difficult, “soft,” many examples that previously accepted research is not reliable) and given that up until a generation or less ago bias against woman was with out reasonable doubt a problem in our society, I don’t see how anyone could hold too tightly to the conclusion that we have licked bias. Tentatively perhaps. But the assuredness that so many seem to have is unwarranted in my opinion.
Sorry for the length! TLDR!
Thank you for your whole comment, darrelle, but especially this part:
It’s so tiring arguing over and over and providing examples as an actual for realizies woman only to be told that I’m wrong and don’t really understand what it is like to be a woman because these studies contradict what I’ve lived through and witnessed happen to other women. It’s really soul destroying after a while and having a man say this, well, you can’t imagine how much it really means. It’s the reason why I won’t accept hearing someone be racist. It helps when a person of a different race supports a minority.
I agree. I am a woman, and I think GM above was right that women and minorities produce less science. But he expressed this in a way that pushed many people’s buttons.
At my university, admission is by anonymously evaluating entrance exam papers. I think it works well, and I have several times praised it to Americans who have an enormously complicated admission procedure and keep complaining of it. The standard reply is that our system wouldn’t let in enough minority members. I’d say, so what? Do patients deserve to be treated by 2nd rate doctors just because somebody decided to give minority members doctor jobs at any cost?
I never encountered it until I started dealing with Indian men. Then it was often blatant, I’m sorry to say.
I’ve been in the tech industry for almost exactly 30 years. In fact, I think my 30th anniversary has just passed last month. I have witnessed an instance of gender bias. The woman involved consistently was awarded lower salary raises than her male counterparts in spite of bering extremely competent at her job.
So I know for a fact that it does happen, but I can’t tell you how prevalent it is. I’ve witnessed one instance in the 30 years. I probably wouldn’t hear about most instances.
I can tell you exactly what the immediate cause of the gender gap (in the UK) is. Over the last 10 years, I have interviewed a lot of people for jobs at my company and I’ve seen hundreds of CVs (resumés to Americans) from new computer science graduates. Maybe one in ten is from a woman. I can’t tell you why women are spoiled much less likely to take CS degrees though.
They will eventually come after science itself, this has been abundantly clear, and for a long time too — you can find these kinds of screeds first appearing decades ago, and not on Slate, but in the “serious” peer-reviewed feminist literature.
And it’s not even some sort of a fringe movement, it has been pretty mainstream.
The movement you’re discribing even has a name, it’s postmodernism.
The article is one of the more worrying incarnations of it I have seen lately, given that it was written by a physicist.
It’s good that we establish firmly that sites like Slate and Salon are no friends to science. They will use it as a cudgel when it suits them (March for Science; Trump is anti-science), then discard it when it does not.
Yeah, I can’t pick up a science journal these days without endless articles on dreadlocks and cornrows written by white women. There’s barely enough room left for gravity waves and the Higgs field.
You’ll notice she constantly shifts the argument away from gender to race, even denouncing white women at every opportunity.
And yet Asians are overrepresented in the tech industries. If you wanted Silicon Valley to better reflect the demographics of the US you wouldn’t be replacing white people with black people, but Asians with black people.
“And yet Asians are overrepresented in the tech industries.”
Now is that because their brains are biologically better suited to that sort of logical analysis, or because the stereotype of ‘techie Asians’ leads to a sort of feedback loop that leads them to choose that sort of career? Or some other reason altogether?
(Is it possible to even discuss this without someone levelling charges of ‘racism’ ?)
Reblogged this on The Logical Place.
I have followed this story fairly closely. I also have quite a good layman’s grasp of the serious empirical evolutionary psychology work in this field. The whole tenor of the “memo” by James Damore is extremely balanced, unlike the responses, which have been that he is a Nazi and a rapist. He makes the point over and over again that averages between groups (in this case men and women) tell you nothing about individuals. He posts a graph that shows the overwhelming overlap between male and female traits. He repeatedly emphasises that differences between men and women are about preference rather than ability. He comments on the fact that the status quo at Google is stifling in that it generates a fear of diversity of opinion while promoting diversity of representation. And then, in a demonstration of how wrong he is, he is fired for diversity of opinion… QED. That having been said, he is clearly a simpleton in his understanding of the extent to which politics and ideology trump reality…
Yes, he’s really arguing for equality of opportunity but also conceding this isn’t going to produce an equality of outcome because of preferences.
Most people are either straight of gay. They consistently choose partners from a particular gender. Now, that’s either because they recognise that their partner has personality traits that complement their own – which is to recognise that personality traits correlate with different sexes – or because they simply prefer a particular set of oriffices and protuberances. Which is the most dehumanising point of view here?
So, given that most of us recognise that personality traits correlate with the sexes why is it unacceptable that those personality traits might influence career choices?
Who is it more acceptable to say that the over-representation of women in teaching, certain branches of law and medicine, and psychology, reflects a statistical preference for people rather than things, but not accept the logical corollary that a statistical preference for things rather than people might lead to a male dominance in tech?
We should not underestimate the influence of the total environment and subconscious prejudices on where men and women end up (from childhood onwards). That is why calls for “hiring only based on expertise” change things only extremely slowly – somehow men always (or mostly) find a man to be most suitable for the job.
I think it is interesting what the Norwegians did: by introducing a law that requires at least 40% women in the boardroom (with stiff sanctions), they ‘reset’ history, and it seems to work. So maybe it is not a bad idea.
The issue with hard quotas is you first create a shortage of supply which is quickly followed by a lowering of standards.
Look at US college admissions. Smaller schools struggle to enroll enough minority applicants because larger, more prestigious schools obviously get first pick.
Please check out the link I gave. The problem you mention was predicted, but it did hardly happen in Norway, if my memory serves me.
And personally I think that such a temporary setback (if there is one) is a small price to pay to solve a bigger problem permanently. Maybe it seems draconian, but apparently you just need a ‘hard reset’ to overcome centuries of history.
I haven’t time to check it now, but there must be lots more discussion about the Norwegian experiment on the web.
So, how many women in STEM in Norway?
I’m more gender-egalitarian societies men and women gravitate towards more stereotypical behaviour, not less.
“That is why calls for “hiring only based on expertise” change things only extremely slowly – somehow men always (or mostly) find a man to be most suitable for the job.”
I understand why people feel differently, as I often do, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with desiring the slower, less disruptive change for such complicated issues. After all, without a concrete goal (50:50? 45:55? >20:<80?) we don't know how to measure progress if we don't have a quantifiable model to compare to. There is such a thing as "going overboard" as I would argue we have in some respects in society, and this too will take time to reach equilibrium, especially without the acknowledgment that we have possibly even overshot the goal (since it's not well defined).
If what you say is true, why do women dominate many other STEM fields,and we do we not think this is the result of bias by women, if men dominating other fields is the result of bias by men?
If you want more women, just freeze the pay.
JAC, You are being wayyyy too easy on this writer re Jefferson and Sally Hemmings. There is an abundance of evidence that there was genuine mutual affection between them, and many African-American historians have acknowledged this.
A relationship that lasts 40 years and produces 4 children (all of whom Jefferson freed) is hard to characterize as “rape”. (Some would do so on the basis of SH’s young age at the time this began- the standards of the 18th century were a bit different.)
Black playwright Thomas Bradshaw’s play “Thomas and Sally” will have its world premiere in Marin this October. I look forward to it.
(The first portrayal of Hemmings on screen was in the film “Jefferson in Paris”. Actually, Thandie Newton is technically too dark to be playing SH who was 1/4th African- referred to in those days as a ‘quadroon’.)
“Science is a methodology, not data”- Well said, and a point hard to get across to its doubters.
Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle, and Carl Linnaeus all had very curly hair.
Is it just me, or has this post exposed the sexist attitudes of a few commenters?
The author of the Slate article has got a few things wrong, or is clearly demonstrating her own biases, therefore all women are emotionally unstable and unsuited for science seems to be the response from many.
I don’t think the make up of people in every profession is ever going to represent the general population. There are differences between men and women that make that unlikely imo. However, we do need to do a better job of promoting certain subjects in schools and making sure all students have equal access. That’s going to be difficult in the US where the education system is so screwed up by money, religion, and more.
Our education system in NZ isn’t perfect either, but it’s certainly better than the US. One current initiative is that all primary school children, from their first year, are being taught simple coding as part of the technology curriculum. The subject is as normal for them as any other. When those children reach university age, there is likely to be a much greater demographic range represented in higher education.
I was also a bit bemused by a comment above that only STEM workers work long hours. Does that person even know people from other professions? As for getting more women into STEM jobs so you can have sex with them? Perhaps it’s attitudes like this that are driving women away.
Very good analysis of this issue and I speak only as an outsider not being a scientist. It is a human occupation and has it’s share of problems with diversity and bigotry just as any other career would. Why some might think that science can solve these problems I don’t know but far too much is being blamed on science for which it has nothing to do with. The Jefferson issue comes to mind but that one is so strange I will just let it go. My understanding on google at the present time is that they are being looked at for sexual harassment just as any company might be and has been in the past. Why people might think that is unusual, I have no idea. There seems to be some who have an elevated opinion of some of these firms that puts them above such things, and I do not understand that either.
Not just you, not just this post.
LOL I gave darwinwin a +1 for his +1 so I should really be giving you a +1 for your original comment. 😀
Oh, wait a minute. That’s a bit narcissistic isn’t it?
Ha ha or extremely loopy. We’re stuck in a +1 infinite loop someone code us out of it!!
This is an unfair characterization. He argued that guys in tech workplaces would want more women in the same area — in order to meet them more easily and more comfortably, not as you put it “to have sex with them”.
Agree with Craw there. That characterisation is a quite unjustified and unfair taking-of-the-argument-to-extremes (there’s probably a Latin name for that).
Of course in biological theory ‘everything’ is ultimately driven by sex, but that completely ignores social interactions or the desire for more female company for its own sake. A mixture of the sexes does completely change the atmosphere.
Oh, I just found the comment. He (GM) did specifically mention sex with co-workers BUT it was in the context of being a logical consequence of “the feminist perspective of men all being sexist pigs who treat women as sex toys and think only about sex.” (with which I think he disagrees).
It was not a statement of (presumed) fact.
An unfair characterisation?
Shades of Tim Hunt’s attitudes literally destroying women’s lives.
Oh Heather. I’m glad you said so re: commenters. I’ll leave it at that but this post seems to have brought out all of it, including the disparaging generalizations about the Humanities (my favourite).
Oh and one example of a non STEM profession with gruellingly long hours is the legal profession. Many Humanities grads there too (Ken Kukec – paging Ken!) just to pull it all together for the posts.
Also, public accounting. Try no days off for months on end, in addition to 12-14 hour work days.
Right now I work in IT & support Finance so I have a good exposure to all that fun fun stuff. 😉
Hey, it is no picnic being a commentator on internet bl*gs either.
Law was one that immediately came to mind for me.
And the long hours in STEM are exaggerated too. There are bursts to be sure, but it’s really not a sweat shop day after day.
Yes, it is, and guess what the composition of people at the very top of that profession is…
Because those lazy women don’t work hard. It’s actually not true but it’s The it fun to think how there is nothing wrong and it’s all the fault of lazy women?
I didn’t say it was because of laziness, but yes, they do not work as hard, that is correct.
And I’m saying that’s a big fat steaming pile of crap.
Thanks for this! I can comment on Slate every other day, and today I could not.
I wanted to note that the link that Prescod-Weinstein linked to does not bear out her accusation of “shoddy science” having been relied on, see Coel’s reference as an opposing example. Rather, it contains among other things Prescod-Weinstein pointing more fingers against science.
This part of the article is classic: “The standard history of science that is taught to budding scientists is that during the Enlightenment, Europe went from the dark ages to, well, being enlightened by a more progressive mindset characterized by objective ‘science.’ It is the rare scientific education that includes a simultaneous conversation about the rise of violent, imperialist globalization during the same time period.”
Yes, let’s teach a history course in which we pretend (as regressive leftists always do) that colonialism didn’t start until white Europeans did it. All those empires that existed thousands of years before? They didn’t really exist because they don’t fit the narrative. Is it any wonder nobody wants to teach her supposed “history” of science?
The Enlightenment did usher in a new age of science, freedom, and progress — just not absolutely perfect progress that comports with today’s ideas. Why should events from several hundred years ago somehow remain entirely palatable to us today?
Anyway, that Slate Star Codex article was phenomenal and answers a ton of questions. It also demonstrates that there are just as many lucrative and prestigious fields in which women dominate as there are in which men dominate (but regressives naturally aren’t concerned with those).
“Google bro would argue that we ought to consider the possibility that white women and racial minorities simply produce lower-quality work, which is why we struggle to be recognized as competent knowledge producers.”
This is not at all what the memo writer was arguing. It seems that almost no one is capable of reading what he actually wrote.
BTW, I highly recommend Damore’s interview with Jordan Peterson (50 min, on Peterson’s youtube channel) because it explains where the document came from, and that he wanted to have his ideas challenged and proven wrong by the “google skeptics”. Apparently, they leaked it to others or the public and now everyone just thinks he went on some unprovoked “screed” and all the major headlines mislead regarding it’s contents. For example: He was explicitly PRO-DIVERSITY in his memo. The entire point was to find alternative means of accomplishing said goal of diversity.
One might argue this is a failing of the author, not the readers.
Qiote often that is the case, but in this particular instance I think the author packed in as many qualifiers and TL;DRs as possible to dissuade and possible misunderstand among those honestly interested in what he actually wrote, not what people wanted to write on his behalf, in their minds. Most of this problem arises from deliberate misrepresentation by the media, combined with people forming an opinion without reading the memo itself. MY brother was guilty of this as well before I urged him to actually read it.
Have you read it?
It really isn’t. The memo doesn’t require out of the ordinary reading comprehension yet many of the reactions to it are off target and hyperbolic. I’ve read/heard good criticisms of it but most of the negative articles I’ve read the authors pretty clearly either didn’t read the memo or are simply dishonestly attributing things to the memo author that he didn’t write. There is at least one rather prominent case in which such a critic, who had worked for Google as a senior engineer, later admitted that he had not read the memo but relied on what he’d heard about it. I’m sure there are many more. There always are.
Notice how many of his critics are using exactly the same words, e.g. ‘screed’.
How many times do these critics normally use that word in everyday life? And by ‘coincidence’ that’s the exact same word they have all settled on?
That kind of linguistic convergence is usually an indication of ideological conformity, not critical thinking.
My response was to the assertion that no one could.
I hoped it was obvious that I was being hyperbolic and that it’s not “no one” but “very few”. Still, with that said, I don’t think it’s his fault at all. The only problem with his delivery, imo, is that he threw about 40 different cognitive dissonance mines into the piece so that the vast majority of people would hallucinate over what was actually written and intended
Apologies for the delay, just back from grouting my bathroom. I suspected it was hyperbole, but we can’t have it both ways, that ‘no one understands the memo!’ and ‘everyone understands the memo!’.
At times like these I like to ponder two questions:
For what purpose?
To what end?
Did the author have a clear purpose? Did he achieve his end?
Suppose he did have a purpose, and that purpose was that which it seems to be, we all know the massive difficulty of achieving such purpose, clear or otherwise, thanks to the incessant rattle of all those knees jerking.
Ah, my apologies. I assumed you were talking specifically about this Google memo.
Not when so many of us are capable of understanding what he actually wrote and when so many of his critics are forced to completely make shit up that isn’t even hinted at in his post.
The author rather undermines her own case. She criticizes science and disconnects it from truth and then presents scientific evidence for the truth of gender bias. I guess some scientific research must be more truthful than other research, apparently determined by the conclusion she wants to draw.
Her argument is a typical “Galileo Was Right After All” maneuvre and is fallacious. The form is this: Galileo proposed knowlegde that was suppressed by bias and dogmata. There is now some other knowlegde, typically a crackpot theory, which is also not taken seriously (or is suppressed, too, if you ask Alex Jones) but it must be right, because Galileo was also proven right eventually.
In this case: Because in an earlier age, scientists were wrong about “race”, it follows that current research on sex differences are also wrong, and therefore her views must be correct. Wrong.
Astonishingly, according to her, this shows that the correction-mechanism doesn’t work. What’s more, she asserts “pseudoscience has always been a core feature of post-Enlightenment scientific knowledge”, but ironically uses a fallacious argument that is typical for pseudoscience peddlers. How she distinguishes science and pseudoscience, yet maintains one is a core feature of the other, remains mysterious.
Perhaps the most exquisite example of this unintentionally ironical piece is how she assumes that every place is concerned with “whiteness” or “race”, as American society is, yet writes with cocksure confidence against culture-imperialism.
Only the Woke Brigade achieve this level of projection, suitable to alert an alien race in the Andromeda Galaxy to our presence. In most “white” countries, people of african complexion are such rare, and more suitable “others” present, that “race” is typically not the concept of choice for othering. Religion or nation, or ethnicity are a far more likely source of xenophobia and discrimmination. That doesn’t mean there is no racism, obviously. The key is “looking different”, not american ideas about “whiteness” or “POC”.
According to her site, the author, Prescod-Weinstein, is already in intellectual palliative care as editor in chief at a literary magazine called “the Offing”, which perhaps suggests advanced postmodernism in an end stage. Their About page indicates proper (neo) “intersectional” wokeness, which is often irremediable.
1. Prescod-Weinstein diminished the value of her article by bringing in non-scientific personal biases.
2. As has been mentioned, Many scientists are considered for prestigious awards such as the Nobel prize, most of whom may be deserving, but only a few are chosen to receive the award. The
unchosen include women, but are not exclusively women. This is not to say that historically the scientific work of women has either not been recognised, or only recognised if in the name of her husband or male co-workers. But, I notice a great many more women programmers, systems analysts, and scientists working, writing and speaking. They are not absent.
3. The number of males vs. females, and vice versa, choosing particular jobs or being selected for them, to some degree changes as more such jobs become available, desirable and better remunerated. Secretaries used to be a males only job. The first “computers” were women. The field of nursing has seen a great increase in male nurses. There are more women doctors. Women are working in construction and other such high labor fields. Etc.
4. Not all males are sexists and not all males wanting women in the workplace mix are desirous of sex with the females they work with. There are always going to be some male mentors of female computer techies. My husband was such a one. One of the women he hired, and championed, has been in the computer science field for 40+ years, largely as a result of his hiring and mentoring her. She has had her own business for most of those years and has expressed her gratitude for his help.
5. Anyone who has been responsible for hiring employees knows the numbers of resumes that
are screened out of possibly hundreds due to lack of qualifications. The same problem exists when tests for physical fitness are administered to individuals applying for jobs as policemen, firemen, etc. (I guess I should say policeperson, fireperson, etc.) Many years ago, when my husband was in personnel giving such tests, a great many applicants failed the physical to the point that it was sometimes difficult to find enough “qualified” people to hire. My guess is that with the fattening of America, even greater numbers of people fail
now. Ditto for our military.
@whyevolutionistrue When you say it is a mixed bag, what do you mean specifically? I’d love to know.
PCC(E) appraisal deserves a wide audience.
There is a certain irony to the fact that Dr Chanda Prescod-Weinstein would seem to be a living example of her concerns, although I too agree with the experiment of a level-playing field. My understanding has always been that being aware of the potential for bias is part of the scientific method, and that bad science or biased interptetations are just that – not a fault of science itself. Her observations and writings from a feminist perspective may be culturally significant, but do they have any relevance to her work in astrophysics? Being a god scientist and being an astute social commentator are not necessarily correlated. The idea that science has been usurped by the capitalist white man is a tired old meme that provides some fairly indigestible roughage, but it does help at least to keep one regular.
Given the studies about resumes with men’s and women’s names being evaluated differently, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if many scientists had an unconscious bias against women scientists when it comes to reviewing and accepting papers (and yes, I know you can’t tell anything by a last name; but I also know that in many cases reviewers know exactly who the authors are, so it’s not a blinded review in any rigorous sense). That being said, this is the sort of problem scientists are at the forefront of working to solve. Blaming science for that cultural bias while it tries to uncover and stop it is sort of like blaming a very generous donor to poverty causes for poverty. Maybe they could do more; maybe we all could. But it’s not like they caused the problem, and they are trying – significantly and substantially – to help.
Rather than leaning in and trying endlessly to prove our humanity and value, people like him should have to prove that our inferiority is the problem. Eliminate structural biases in education, health care, housing, and salaries that favor white men and see if we fail. Run the experiment. Be a scientist about it.
Actually I disagree with her approach. I think ‘being a scientist about it’ here would mean ignoring race and sex as poor correlates to skill. I don’t care what the distribution or avearge trait is; I care about the candidate in front of me.
Look, decidening not to hire a woman engineer based on “women are less suited for such jobs” even if true is as stupid as deciding Yao Ming can’t play basketball because of the true fact that Chinese men are, on average, about 10 cm shorter than U.S. men. The average is useless in such evaluations, because in highly competitive jobs that require a lot of training and other factors, nobody who walks through the door reflects the average.
The Truth Cannot be Sexist
I am very much enjoying this! The Pinkah has some good things to say about this subject.
Impressive. Never debate the Pinkah!
I agree with the final paragraph that Jerry agrees with and here’s the science-y thing I would like to add to it. Assume the null hypothesis. What do I mean by that? Chanda Prescod-Weinstein says that woman should stop “trying endlessly to prove our humanity and value” and lordy do I wish I could stop doing that but as a woman in IT, I don’t see that happening any time soon. You see, as a woman in IT, even a woman who has been in IT for over 20 years, like me, every single time you change jobs, you start over. Every single time, you report to a different person at the same company, you start over. Every single time you start a new project, you start over. Because, as a woman, it isn’t assumed that you bring knowledge and experience with you, it is expected that you will demonstrate that you have the knowledge and experience to do a job (even one you have done for 20 years) every single day. “Oh, but you should never rest on your laurels. Do you expect your employers to just trust you”? One might say. But here’s the difference. When a man with the same experience starts a new job, reports to a new person or starts a new project, it is assumed he can do the work. He has much less to prove.
Then there is the day-to-day. Put out an idea and watch the push back. But watch your same idea be articulated by a male colleague and witness the relatively instant acceptance.
I’m tenacious. I, despite what’s best for my health, fight the good fight but at the end of it all, most of us can’t put energy into this fight, long and short term, AND work on our career. It’s why we quit at higher rates than men. It’s why you don’t see us in the upper ranks. We want that promotion and that job just as much as our male colleagues and we will fight for it. We will sacrifice our home life. We will put in the hours. But in the end, all we really sacrifice is our mental and physical health when we watch our male friends move up the ladder.
I hesitated to comment on this thread and to actually articulate this because, in meta like profundity, I expect the push back of “women don’t want the jobs”, “your study isn’t as good as my study”, “I don’t believe you understand how corporations work” and as a woman who works hard in IT (I just now at 9 PM had time to read this post), you can bet making these arguments is something I just don’t have the energy for either.
So, let’s assume the null hypothesis, shall we? Let’s assume women are willing and able and highly skilled enough to get those techy, science-y jobs. And then put the onus on everyone else that say we don’t want it, can’t do it and won’t fight for it.
This sounds really draining. I wonder if the constant changing of jobs in the tech industry is one of the contributing factors for women having a tougher time establishing themselves in their positions.
Very articulately put.
In my industry, it doesn’t even have to be a man with ‘the same experience’. I’ve watched many trainees and how people treat them, and a man can have little to no experience and still is given the benefit of the doubt that they can do whatever. Most saliently, it was a male receptionist that people really had a hard time with. They assumed he was the ‘IT guy’, the office manager, etc. regardless of what he actually did (he was terrible with computers). Young women who were hired to positions in IT and other areas were not given the same blind deference.
This is happening to me after 30 years in non-IT academe.
“Every single time, you report to a different person at the same company, you start over…. Because, as a woman, it isn’t assumed that you bring knowledge and experience with you, it is expected that you will demonstrate that you have the knowledge and experience to do a job (even one you have done for 20 years) every single day…. When a man with the same experience… reports to a new person… it is assumed he can do the work. He has much less to prove.”
Why do you think it is this way Diana?
I think it is gender bias. Why the bias, I don’t know but I can say that when you don’t see women in a role, you just don’t think of them as doing that job and men and women both think that way about women.
Hopefully it is mostly just a matter of familiarity.
What with the women? This happens in meetings where most of the participants are barely known to one another.
No, not familiarity with individuals.
Familiarity with women in those roles, so that it is not in any way unusual to see women doing that job.
Because you said ‘when you don’t see women in a role’.
So, the more we see, the more familir it becaomes and no one has a second thought about it being a women in that role.
As I said above, I have worked on the docks most of my life. I do have a perspective on women comining into tradirional areas.
However I have zero mangamnet, decision making experience.
I like women in my workplace.
I spelled managment wrong, maybe that’s why.
Yes, I think that would make a difference and both men and women carry this bias. I once caught myself, seeing a woman architect (IT not buildings) thinking that didn’t seem right and I immediately realized it’s because I don’t expect a woman to be in that role.
How does this square with the fact that in countries with more sexism than the USA (e.g., Zimbabwe) there is more gender parity in IT? And in countries with less sexism than the USA (e.g., Sweden) there is more gender disparity in IT?
Here’s another point I want to make.
Let’s say that 10% of men are misogynists. In a field where there’s 50/50 representation, the 5 misogynist men will have to distribute their misogyny across 50 women.
On the other hand, in a field where there’s a 10/90 gender skew of women/men, the now 9 misogynists will spread their misogyny across 10 women.
Would it be fair to say that the 50/50 field is more or less sexist than the 10/90 field? Aren’t they, by probability alone, equally sexist? And it’s the pre-existing gender skew that makes it seem more sexist?
Excellent comment Diana.
From a different industry, which has it’s share of racist and sexist pricks, we do make efforts to recruit and retain evenly across genders and races. On the race front, there’s moderate success – some countries refuse to allow you into the country without hiring, training and promoting to significant positions, people from their country. And once they’re trained well enough to be useful, they’re valuable in and of themselves. There are still people who think that “tartan Arabs” are almost as disposable as “real towelheads”, but they’re a decreasing minority.
Women, on the other hand … recruitment rarely manages 15% ; sexist behaviour is dumped upon from a very great height. And after a few years, retention struggles to make 10%, even in the Northlands where the Noggin jokes go. Rest of the world, it’s lower to negligible (that’ll be in the sands of the desert; Rub’al Khalid etc).
Some people have a preference for sleeping at home, and not having to go through underwater escape training with tedious regularity in order to get to work. That preference seems to be strongly gender-linked.
[Does mental count] I know more gay males who work the rigs than I know women who do. Far more even balance in “the office” though.
I’m writing this post as a chemist who worked in the chemical industry for about 20 years, starting in 1981, when it was still quite novel for women to work in industry.
From my experience, the biggest determinant of having a level playing field is the attitudes and actions of upper management in how they run the work sites they are responsible for.
I worked in a lab at a large company that switched its attitude toward women chemists and engineers 180 degrees over a five year period, all due to a change in lab directors during that time. We went from having a director who insisted that women joined the company to hunt for husbands, to a director who was a no-nonsense engineer who expected everyone to pull their weight and get things done.
My observation is that it took a lot more effort for the latter lab director to do his job, because he actually had to pay attention to who was doing their job, and who was goofing off. He removed some of the older chemists who spent their time lording it over younger chemists, and instead allowed more of the better assignments to go to younger people, about 20% of whom were women. This finally opened up opportunities for women to move up the ladder, instead of them leaving the company due to lack of good work assignments (and not because they couldn’t find a husband!).
The better lab director did this without lowering standards. In fact, he raised standards by expecting everyone to be productive, and by studiously paying attention to each person’s achievements (or the lack thereof). He didn’t do this because of some diversity initiative. I believe he did this because he couldn’t stand to see people goof off. He was one of those people who focused on results, and he didn’t care who produced them, male or female.
This is why I have serious doubts about the usefulness of diversity training. I don’t think it does a thing to change the management styles of work site directors, and it likely causes resentment amongst many workers. Right now, my current employer, a government contractor, has started up a ‘diversity and inclusion’ initiative, for reasons nobody knows. I can’t wait until it is over.
Thanks for sharing this. Work environments and their dysfunctions can be so different. I think the one I’m in now is a lot better for the standard IT gender bias stuff but it’s challenging in other ways. One day, I hope to find & stay in a utopia environment. I hope that doesn’t mean I’ll be dead. 😀
I think you are right.
If Slate wants me to be concerned about the “bad science” that asserts that there are material differences b/t male and female brains that might explain some of the variance in professional outcomes at the group level, then perhaps they should look no further than their own house.
In 2012, DoubleX (a site connected to Slate) founder Hanna Rosin wrote The End of Men, a screed which argues that men are ill-suited to the modern information and service economy. Though she does not come right out and say it, the book strongly implies that men’s failings are due to innate factors. I say “strongly implies” because she sees the rise of women as inexorable and never even considers that fact that poor socialization (which could be addressed and corrected) of boys and men is to blame. She is no more moved to try to correct the dominance of women in education as a male sexist would be to try to correct the dominance of men on corporate boards; both see these as just the natural outcomes of innate and immutable differences between the sexes. She has also done things like subject her son and husband to an online video “debate”, where she and her daughter more or less mocked and ridiculed the boy, the meek, doormat-like husband, and men in general for the duration.
But Hannah was not fired from Slate for publishing her highly dubious and potentially harmful book. In fact, Hannah has never received any substantial criticism from the mainstream left for her opinion that women are inherently better than men. This is because 1) many on the left share her views and 2) for the left these days, just like the right, ideology comes first and informs what science is considered acceptable.
From Scott Alexander: “An article by Adam Grant called Differences Between Men And Women Are Vastly Exaggerated is going viral, thanks in part to a share by Facebook exec Sheryl Sandberg. It’s a response to an email by a Google employee saying that he thought Google’s low female representation wasn’t a result of sexism, but a result of men and women having different interests long before either gender thinks about joining Google. Grant says that gender differences are small and irrelevant to the current issue. I disagree.”
Wrong, Damore clearly specifies that he believes the differences are small, and are probably only part of what causes bias. Furthermore, he recognizes cultural biases and even suggests that men should be open to traditionally “feminine” attitudes (Damore’s quotes). When Mr. Alexanders commits such a basic mistake, I don’t know what else to think.