Why do women make different choices than men
March 6, 2018 4:18 PM   Subscribe

Women will make choices that benefits all first “Women, on average, were more concerned with fairness: that members of society should not go without what they needed, and that they had a role to play in ensuring that fairness.”
posted by Yellow (16 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
Also interesting the bit near the end about how fewer women end up in STEM fields because we tend to be good at a broader range of things than men are good at, so men end up disproportionately in STEM not because men have more aptitude for STEM fields but because they have less aptitude for other fields.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:31 PM on March 6 [36 favorites]


I feel like this is focusing on one tiny piece of gender/equality and the parts of it that seem to say "Men prefer STEM! Women prefer nurturing!" are going to be cherry-picked and trumpeted by the usual suspects.

Also of note, the phrase "even if a gender-continuum exists."

Also also: pretty much seems to be "[White upper-middle class] men prefer STEM! [White upper-middle class] women prefer nurturing!"

Therefore, I am regarding this with the Feminist Side-Eye.
posted by emjaybee at 5:11 PM on March 6 [48 favorites]


There is so much bizarre circular thinking in this article:

Question: why do women choose different professions, is it culture or biology?
Answer: It's gotta be biology, we know because women choose different professions!

There is a counter theory to why women in less egalitarian cultures have higher representation in STEM, which is that stricter gender separation means that young women in those cultures are, perhaps paradoxically, more likely to have female teachers and mentors throughout their careers. The availability of female mentors is especially important for cultivating women in science since those fields are frequently so insular and unwelcoming. It's also mind-boggling to me that, especially in the present moment with the conversation we are having about sexual assault and harassment, that no one bothers to mention or consider that women go into traditionally female lines of work not because they just love to nurture, but to avoid constant, crushing abuse by men.

STEM as a broad job classification has been around for like 20 years, which makes it a bit ridiculous to say that men have 'traditionally' gone into it. My guess is that what we'll see with professions like software engineering is what we've seen with other traditionally male occupations over the past few decades: women start to enter the field, pay drops, men leave for newer fields with higher pay and less gender diversity, barriers to entry are erected, slowly the percentage of women in that field increases, pay drops, men leave, the cycle continues. All of the fields she lists as female, were once dominated by males. We only think of them as female jobs now because women do them.
posted by scantee at 5:48 PM on March 6 [49 favorites]


I am sincerely having a hard time finding a huge difference between her views re: gender essentialism and James Damore's, for example. The difference in their views seems to be one of degrees rather than principle.
posted by PhineasGage at 5:53 PM on March 6 [7 favorites]


I suspect that part of why women are so concerned with making everything fair is that they have to be peacemakers/appeasers and make sure the men don't get mad, because we know who gets it when men get mad.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:26 PM on March 6 [34 favorites]


Also of note, the phrase "even if a gender-continuum exists."

I stopped reading article there.
posted by Annika Cicada at 6:38 PM on March 6 [9 favorites]


Disrupting the Pink Aisle (best to start at the 5 minute mark).
posted by Chuckles at 6:39 PM on March 6


There is a counter theory to why women in less egalitarian cultures have higher representation in STEM, which is that stricter gender separation means that young women in those cultures are, perhaps paradoxically, more likely to have female teachers and mentors throughout their careers.

That, but also STEM careers (n'est pas E*) feeds back into the bigger cultural attitude tht women should be indoors, and as they're seen as 'office jobs' or indoors jobs, it's much safer for a woman.

*Engineering isn't included in this cultural attitude.
posted by cendawanita at 6:42 PM on March 6 [3 favorites]


I had a hard time getting past the title: "Why Women Choose Differently at Work."

Implicit in that is that men are the default, and women choose differently than men.

Couldn't we just as easily ask why men choose differently?
posted by maurreen at 6:45 PM on March 6 [43 favorites]


I found the discussion of college majors in non-egalitarian countries pretty shallow. At least anecdotally from my experience, anyone smart in the developing world is lot more likely to have a STEM major than in the US or Europe. Majoring in literature or history really just isn't done ... and she notably doesn't claim that the relative ratio of non-STEM majoring is lower, which is the metric of interest. (i.e., if 30% of men and 15% of women are STEM majors in the US, and 80% of men and 40% of women are STEM majors in India, one hasn't necessarily demonstrated anything about the impact of egalitarianism on choice of field).
posted by MattD at 7:38 PM on March 6 [4 favorites]


Couldn't we just as easily ask why men choose differently?

Indeed. I think she kind of hints at that with e.g. this:
If we focus our telescope on what men have traditionally valued, which is high-income and STEM jobs and long work-hours, say over 60 or 70 hours a week, then yes, women are not there, at 50/50, and I don’t think they will ever be—even if we had the most gender-neutral society possible.
But without addressing the broader context of what society men are making those choices in, this still comes across as a discussion about the cumulative effect of individual choices made by individual men. And if that's the way you see it, then of course a "gender-neutral society" wouldn't look much different, because the most important thing here is the individual and their choices - society is just a veneer over the top.

If OTOH you see a 60-70 hour workweek in a competitive corporate setting as something that men value because society values, then you can see it differently - like, it's not a default state of What Men Choose, it's something that's enabled and encouraged by a capitalist, consumerist society because it's essential for that society to function. And then you can start asking other questions about what else is essential to that society, like oh say the un- or underpaid/acknowledged reproductive and caring labour of women. Ignoring that is like looking at a pyramidal corporate hierarchy and saying "well, not everyone can be the big successful CEO - some people just choose differently!" Yeah sure they do. More importantly, though, not everyone can be the big successful CEO because the kind of structure where big successful CEOs exist requires a large number of supporting people underneath them.

(To be fair I suppose the counter to this is "but in a truly gender-neutral society, either men or women could choose to do the 60-70 hour high-paid jobs and either men or women could choose to provide the caring and societal support that enables them to do so." But no, our society is so deeply entwined with patriarchal values that you can't pull the patriarchy out and leave the society intact. We devalue "women's work" because it is "women's work", not because its objective value was handed down from God via Adam Smith.)

And also 'what men have traditionally valued' remains a really frustrating thing to see in the context of 60-70 hour corporate workweeks and nuclear families with stay-at-home mothers, as if these are timeless, universal values and our ancestors all lived like the Flintstones.
posted by Catseye at 1:04 AM on March 7 [16 favorites]


oh, and this:
Another study showing this paradoxical effect, from 2008, was led by David Schmitt.4 He and his colleagues found that gender differences in personality are way larger in cultures that offer more egalitarian gender roles and opportunities. This is not what one would predict if men’s and women’s preferences were exclusively constrained by cultural forces.
Our notion of "egalitarian" after all can't possibly be constrained by cultural forces, it's just an objective truth of the universe.
posted by Catseye at 1:20 AM on March 7 [3 favorites]


Apparently it runs in the family: Her brother is evolutionary-psychology gasbag Steven Pinker.
posted by Weftage at 6:17 AM on March 7 [3 favorites]


scantee: "It's also mind-boggling to me that, especially in the present moment with the conversation we are having about sexual assault and harassment, that no one bothers to mention or consider that women go into traditionally female lines of work not because they just love to nurture, but to avoid constant, crushing abuse by men."

This. Dear god this.

scantee: "STEM as a broad job classification has been around for like 20 years, which makes it a bit ridiculous to say that men have 'traditionally' gone into it. My guess is that what we'll see with professions like software engineering is what we've seen with other traditionally male occupations over the past few decades: women start to enter the field, pay drops, men leave for newer fields with higher pay and less gender diversity, barriers to entry are erected, slowly the percentage of women in that field increases, pay drops, men leave, the cycle continues."

Computer programming went the opposite direction actually. It started out as under-appreciated women's work, and then, as it's importance became apparent, women were gradually pushed out:

How "Computer Geeks" Replaced "Computer Girls"
The First 1940s Coders Were Women–So How Did Tech Bros Take Over?

I understand that medicine is following the traditional pattern though, now that women are starting to outnumber men in many medical schools.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 8:33 AM on March 7 [5 favorites]


This narrative of choice seems like an insidious thing. Like it's not really the science that's being advanced, but the explanatory voice of choice, as if social structures don't really exist, and making life decisions is like choosing what brand of peanut butter to buy at the grocery store, and not a years long muddled half conscious thing with all kinds of external influences and pressures and discouragements and soft restrictions even in the "egalitarian" societies.
posted by fleacircus at 11:12 AM on March 7 [5 favorites]


This reminds me of enjoying the Becker Posner blog back when.

I love the factoids that come out of it. I think it's fascinating and worth thinking about. Yet the conclusions that come out of it are so bonkers and clearly rooted in some strong biases about how the world works.

I read these facts and I think about about Ricardo's theory of comparative advantage and how taken too far, it runs against the common sense of having a diverse portfolio. Men have been able to take their careers farther on the backs of domestic labor. They do the thing they're good at, and other people meet all the other needs that need to get done.

And that's pure privilege, but it's also an entirely risky venture. A divorce or job loss leaves them unmoored and more prone to adverse outcomes like suicide or shorter lifespan.

Women had to make sure the domestic needs were met before they asked for more. And to some extent, women still need to be able to let go of domestic duties so they have more bandwidth for other things. The superwoman ideal is not sustainable. But the fact that their successes are diversified might mean they are less appreciated in a male world, but they're also healthier and we should be learning from them.

And I say that as a woman who often sees feminism as the struggle to get access to the same privileges as men, and often forgetting that maybe we should get rid of some of those privileges altogether because they are a double edged sword.
posted by politikitty at 11:57 AM on March 7 [3 favorites]


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