In the end, we do not think that there is a ‘gender-equality paradox.’
February 13, 2020 11:01 AM   Subscribe

A Controversial Study Claimed To Explain Why Women Don’t Go Into Science And Tech. It Just Got A 1,113-Word Correction. “When we looked under the surface, this appears to be a case of massaging one’s data — selecting for different countries, particular gender measures, particular women-in-STEM measures — to produce the narrative that you want to see.”

The 2018 finding drew widespread attention from mainstream media outlets, like the Atlantic and Ars Technica, as well as from conservative think tank the American Enterprise Institute and Jordan Peterson, the controversial psychologist most famous for his YouTube videos addressing what he’s called the “crisis of masculinity.” Peterson and others cited the study to argue that, free from societal constraints, women choose to stay away from technical fields — a choice they make because of an innate lack of interest, not because of the patriarchy.
posted by shoesietart (41 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
 
The researchers had reported, for instance, that “the percentage of women among STEM graduates” in Algeria was 40.7%. But Richardson found that in 2015, UNESCO reported a total of 89,887 STEM graduates in Algeria, and 48,135 of them — or 53.6% — were women.

So where did 40.7% come from?

Eventually, Richardson’s team would learn that Stoet and Geary had added different sets of numbers: the percentage of STEM graduates among women (in Algeria’s case, 26.66%) and the percentage of STEM graduates among men (38.89%). That added up to a total of 65.55%. Then they divided the percent of women STEM graduates by the total, producing a rate of 40.7%.
Sure, you can draw all kinds of wrong-ass conclusions if you come the part where you have to math and just make shit up.
posted by axiom at 11:43 AM on February 13 [59 favorites]


I stared at that exact paragraph for several moments. Are they really saying the original authors were adding percentages for different groups? That ... I mean ... what? That's basic arithmetic! Division and addition don't work that way! Surely I must be missing something.

Right?

(1% of X, 2% of Y != 3% of X and Y)
posted by introp at 11:52 AM on February 13 [17 favorites]


Oh my lord. The fact that the corrigendum has to spend so much time explaining the bad math that they did is really just *chef's kiss* -- the most beautiful irony.

Love this bit from the BuzzFeed article (with my editorializing): "[Male researchers who are bad at math] Stoet and Geary had added different sets of numbers: the percentage of STEM graduates among women (in Algeria’s case, 26.66%) and the percentage of STEM graduates among men (38.89%). That added up to a total of 65.55%. Then they divided the percent of women STEM graduates by the total, producing a rate of 40.7%.

“What they had done is create their own ratio of those two, which has never been validated or used in STEM research,” Richardson said.

That metric was not explained in the paper. In the recently issued correction, the authors went into detail on the math they’d come up with.


Except that it's actually SO MUCH WORSE than it sounds!!!

They were looking at percentage of female graduates who have STEM degrees and comparing that to the percentage of male graduates who have STEM degrees -- which neatly elides any disparity in college enrollment or graduation. As they say in their corrigendum:
Note that the resulting number can be interpreted as the percentage of women in STEM when equal numbers of men and women enroll at university. (emphasis mine).

So imagine that 20% of all women in this society go to college, and 40% of all men go to college. If 25% of women are STEM majors and 25% of men are STEM majors, which would be precisely parity in BadMathBoys' ratio, you'd actually have half as many female STEM graduates as male STEM graduates (0.5% of all women versus 10% of all men). Or, to put it another way, if 50% of women who go to college in this society are STEM majors and only 25% of men who go to college are STEM majors, you'd have the same number of male and female STEM graduates. Like, FFS, guys, obviously it's a different question to skip over whether or not women even have access to college.

I wonder why the hell this is a correction instead of a retraction.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 11:54 AM on February 13 [38 favorites]


That sounded incredibly strange to me at first, but now I sort of see the appeal. It seems that about 65% of people who get undergraduate degrees in Algeria are women, so if 54% of STEM graduates were women, that indicates something unequal about STEM education. It was phrased extremely misleadingly in the paper, though.
posted by value of information at 11:57 AM on February 13 [4 favorites]


I wonder why the hell this is a correction instead of a retraction.

A new version with a substantial correction may get propagated across the Internet and databases. A retraction doesn't replace all of the inaccurate copies that are already out there.
posted by explosion at 12:08 PM on February 13 [8 favorites]


That percentage adding error is horrible... but aren’t the corrected results actually more supportive of the authors’ conclusions? That makes it seems like this is more a case of incompetence than fraud.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:27 PM on February 13


So - the men hired to write the paper on why men are "better" at science, technology, engineering, and math....can't do math.

Sounds about right.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:32 PM on February 13 [68 favorites]


I strongly recommend skipping the Buzzfeed article and reading the blog posts critical of the study at https://www.genderscilab.org/blog.

The point the posts make which was most compelling to me was that the metric of country gender equality being used is a very broad metric, covering all kinds of attributes about how women are being treated in society. I don't see any particular reason why increased (e.g.) female labor force participation should cause an increased propensity for women to get STEM degrees, so I don't think it's much of a paradox if it goes the other way around. In addition, the authors point out that the original study doesn't do anything to provide evidence of a causal relationship.

So in the end, I guess the original study just doesn't seem very surprising or interesting to me anymore in light of these points.
posted by value of information at 12:33 PM on February 13 [16 favorites]


Black Friday sales predict STEM degrees?! Click here to find out why.
posted by geoff. at 1:33 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


I mean, I guess we could, instead, listen to the bajillion women who have described shifting paths after being ignored, alienated, and/or sexually harassed while trying to enter their field?
posted by evidenceofabsence at 1:45 PM on February 13 [31 favorites]


The infuriating hinky math aside for a moment, even if it were true that fewer women go into STEM in more-egalitarian countries, it seems like a hell of a leap to conclude that this is because women just naturally don’t like STEM. I’d get raked over the coals by Reviewers 1, 2, and 3 if I made that kind of causal claim based on this kind of evidence in my field. (Although maybe if I didn’t publish with an obviously feminine first name, that would be different… sigh.)

I’m really looking forward to digging into the detailed critiques at the link provided by value of information. I definitely think the interesting question is what that gender equality metric is actually telling us.
posted by snowmentality at 1:47 PM on February 13 [10 favorites]


I mean, I guess we could, instead, listen to the bajillion women who have described shifting paths after being ignored, alienated, and/or sexually harassed while trying to enter their field?

Retracting or correcting studies like this which provide ammunition to people demanding that women be listened to is part of that. Things that seem obvious to many of us are not always obvious to everyone, and it's important to be able to rely on good data and evidence when pointing this out.
posted by sciatrix at 1:53 PM on February 13 [8 favorites]


The irony of this is incredible. The right claims that "the left" makes claims about gender disparities based on feelings and ill considered, low rigor studies (it doesn't - this particular gender disparity is borne through by hundreds of rigorous studies) and then when it gets a nice little cherry of a study that sort of supports their counterargument (which is based almost entirely on feelings and intuition) it turns out to be at best heavily flawed. At worst this is a hatchet job by the two original authors to try and get far right cred. If you ever want to know what the far right is up to, just see what they're currently blaming on the left.
posted by codacorolla at 2:16 PM on February 13 [12 favorites]


Jordan Peterson, the controversial psychologist most famous for his YouTube videos addressing what he’s called the “crisis of masculinity.”

I think now he's most famous for being brain damaged after severe withdrawl in a medically induced coma in Russia. What a bizarre story.
posted by ODiV at 2:29 PM on February 13 [13 favorites]


I am looking at the authors' response, and the first thing they say is that the % calculation is valid because it actually shows that Algerian STEM levels are not on parity. Their point is that since Algerians going to college are 62% women, the 51% women in STEM is actually a sign of inequality. That's why they divide the fraction that way; it's a percentage of percentages as a metric. That actually kind of makes sense to me.

The next part of their review is too dense and specialized for me to skim but I wish the buzzfeed actually explained that part of their reponse rather than framing it as something insane and mathematically illiterate.

I think the key issue in the dispute is whether the summary of trends is actually there (is there a paradox), but secondly, what interpretation that should be (if paradox, then does that counterintuitively support that different forms of inequality exist). They are two different issues and raise the possibility of crosstalk.
posted by polymodus at 2:42 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Another example of, "If it sounds too good to be true, ..."

When I first came across some of the hype of the initial study - I was like, meh - pretty sure there was some cherry picking to get those sort of results.

I have been in education systems on three continents, and what I saw was that if the environment values STEM people, the education system makes every effort to identify every potential STEM candidate. If however the environment gives preference to any of the --cracy or --archy, then it all goes downhill pretty rapidly.
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 2:50 PM on February 13 [4 favorites]


OK I then flipped to page 2 of their response, and I disagree with the authors' hypothesis that STEM could be an endogenous interest (I think that's really premature and one should check their personal biases as well as the fruitlessly controversial history of such debates, if they want to speculate such hypotheses), but I do agree as the authors point out that a confounding factor is economic pressures to study STEM. Minorities like myself often have a narrative that we're pressured to go into STEM for stability and so are denied other interests like pursuing the arts, etc. I think that part makes sense.
posted by polymodus at 2:55 PM on February 13 [4 favorites]


I once spent a semester teaching computer science at an all-women's university in a conservative area of the Middle East. I was astonished to see that CS was the most popular major at the university--so I tried to interview a few students to find out why they were attracted to CS. The interviews were a disaster; the students couldn't point to anything in CS that they particularly liked and weren't at all sure of what sorts of jobs that a CS graduate might do.

Then I overheard a journalism student doing practice interviews on other students about their university experiences. One of the questions was, "who chose your major for you?" The answer was almost always "my father".
posted by tumbling at 3:19 PM on February 13 [12 favorites]



I mean, I guess we could, instead, listen to the bajillion women who have described shifting paths after being ignored, alienated, and/or sexually harassed while trying to enter their field?
posted by evidenceofabsence


anti-eponysterical?
posted by lalochezia at 3:29 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Plenty of dipsticks in this world think that anything men say is “facts” and anything women say is “emotions.”

Therefore, women’s first-person accounts of misogyny in STEM are dismissed as paranoid delusions, while men’s failed attempts at arithmetic are upheld as brilliant insight/unassailable logic.
posted by armeowda at 3:59 PM on February 13 [15 favorites]


The interviews were a disaster; the students couldn't point to anything in CS that they particularly liked and weren't at all sure of what sorts of jobs that a CS graduate might do.

This gets at exactly why it's so misguided to conflate the pursuit of STEM as a chosen field with the actual desire, skill, and propensity to engage with STEM as a field of knowledge. So much research asks why women are not "interested" in STEM, but takes for granted that if men choose STEM as a major, it must be because they are drawn to it on an intellectual level.

I was an Anthropology major in college in the U.S., but I had a lot of friends in STEM majors, and when I asked them why they chose that major, most of them would shrug and give some variant of "well, it's practical and I want a well-paying job after I graduate," even if they enjoyed social science & humanities coursework more. Sure, there were some who were genuinely passionate about STEM, but a lot seemed pulled by the centripetal forces of parental guidance and economic incentives. That is to say, I've known a fair number of male STEM majors who found their field boring and difficult, but power through it because they feel they need to pursue a pragmatic, "breadwinner" career path. But somehow their noncommittal choice is still counted towards evidence that men are more inclined towards scientific modes of inquiry.
posted by adso at 4:25 PM on February 13 [39 favorites]


I think (drawing on some of the points in the main link) the maths is a reflection of the question begging approach. They're basically taking "all other things being equal", including overall higher education participation rates, but also including diverse cultural, economic and otherwise sociopolitical factors as their starting point. That seems insane to us, but somehow fine to them. I'm guessing they miss this fundamental methodological flaw because they have already taken as given that "countries like Finland" are feminist utopias in which the patriarchy has been done away with, and so represent what women on some entirely imaginary level "naturally" want, and hence can be treated as a baseline. Which is just nonsense to us, because we're not invested in denying the obvious and extensive patriarchal and otherwise exploitative hierarchical structures that control our societies, but to readers like Peterson, it makes absolute sense.

But we already knew Peterson was a greedy foolish bore; what bothers me is that the authors are working academics unable to even recognise the biases making their work meaningless. It's just embarrassing.
posted by howfar at 4:27 PM on February 13 [11 favorites]


There's a bigger problem with their approach: Using country-by-country data, you get a maximum of a couple of hundred data points, and, more importantly, you have no idea if the children who produced the "less interested in math" part of the results from each country are the same as the children who produced the "experienced more gender equality" part of the results. An anti-vaxxer recently pointed me at a study which used a similar technique to show that autism and vaccines are totes related.

I'm also reminded of this study, using similar cross-country comparisons, in which the researchers - all men - found exactly one significant effect correlated with lower interest in math among girls in more developed countries:
[W]e found that boys reported higher perceived parental valuation of mathematics than did girls, and parents actually rated mathematical development as more important for sons than for daughters. The differential valuation of mathematics between the sexes was larger in more developed countries.
But... but... that did not fit the conclusion they wanted to come to - because they really wanted to pin it all on intrinsic interest, not on any social or parental factors - so they dismissed their only significant finding in the summary:
[O]ur main conclusion is that the development of an alternative explanation to the influential gender-stratification model is therefore preferable; below, we make a suggestion of what such an alternative may look like, but this alternative model goes well beyond the main aim of our study and beyond the dataset. ... We propose that while economic considerations may play a more prominent role in STEM-related interest for individuals living in less developed countries, intrinsic subject-specific interest will play a more important role in educational and occupational attitudes and choices for individuals living in countries with higher levels of economic well-being.

...

Further, we propose that the influence of parental opinion on children’s mathematics anxiety is not well-established, and that correlations may reflect the influence of children’s interests on their parents’ opinions at least as much as parents influence their children’s interests.
In other words, we found some facts that didn't fit our feelings, so we're pretty sure the facts are wrong.

The study has the same problem that the autism study above does, but the deeper problem is with the researchers and how they responded to the imperfect facts they found.
posted by clawsoon at 4:52 PM on February 13 [10 favorites]


I mean, I guess we could, instead, listen to the bajillion women who have described shifting paths after being ignored, alienated, and/or sexually harassed while trying to enter their field?

And, like, in more egalitarian societies, women tend to have more opportunities to shift career paths without losing their livelihood?

Why... just WHY... do the bros need to jump to "it must be biology" at every turn?
posted by MiraK at 7:13 PM on February 13 [4 favorites]


I think now he's most famous for being brain damaged after severe withdrawl in a medically induced coma in Russia. What a bizarre story.

Sorry to indulge a derail in this interesting thread, but what the what now?
posted by medusa at 7:21 PM on February 13 [5 favorites]


He was/is addicted to benzodiazepines. Whatever happened in the short/medium term is some mix of him reacting weirdly to meds and him doing foolish things like trying to quit cold turkey, but treatment was going poorly so fuck it why not a Russian clinic? It sounds like he was in an induced coma to deal with pneumonia for some reason? Somewhere along the way, something gave him enough neurological damage that he can't walk or type.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 7:54 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]




Just want to add, in addition to all the other result-killing problems that people have correctly pointed out, that "the percentage of STEM graduates among women" is not the same thing at all as "the percentage of women among STEM graduates" and there's simply no way they could have meaningfully converted one quantity into the other.

Other things that may be easier to visualize:

Among Olsen family actors, what percentage are twins? 66.67%. (Mary-Kate and Ashley, but not Elizabeth.) But among twins, what percentage are Olsen family actors? There are approximately 120 million twins in the world, so 2 out of 120 million, or approximately 0.00000167%. So, on the one hand, two-thirds, on the other hand, a negligible quantity.

Or, among books you currently own, what percent have you actually read? 25% tops, let's be honest. But, among books that you've actually read, how many do you currently own? Could be 0%, maybe they didn't spark joy and you've given them all away, or maybe you're a hoarder and have kept every single book you've ever read, but whichever it is, it should be clear that despite the superficially similar wording, the latter percentage has nothing whatsoever to do with the former. You could go out and read a shit-ton of books from the library and that would lower the latter stat without changing the former one in the slightest.
posted by xigxag at 8:12 PM on February 13 [27 favorites]


Xigxag, those are great analogies.
posted by medusa at 8:25 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


Just want to add, in addition to all the other result-killing problems that people have correctly pointed out, that "the percentage of STEM graduates among women" is not the same thing at all as "the percentage of women among STEM graduates" and there's simply no way they could have meaningfully converted one quantity into the other.

Based on the critical posts, my understanding is that both of those metrics have been used elsewhere in the literature, but this paper used neither one, nor did it try to convert one into the other. Rather, this paper created a third metric, which was trying to capture the notion of "given that you are in college, does your gender change how likely you are to pursue a STEM degree", by comparing the percentage of STEM graduates among men in college to the percentage of STEM graduates among women in college.
posted by value of information at 9:05 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


xigxag: or maybe you're a hoarder and have kept every single book you've ever read

Not sure if I'm being judged or being appreciated.
posted by clawsoon at 9:37 PM on February 13 [12 favorites]


CBC News: Jordan Peterson seeks 'emergency' drug detox treatment in Russia

I wonder how much of this was Peterson buying into the right-wing meme that illiberal states are better at handling complex problems because they're not constrained by political correctness/human rights concerns and thus are unafraid to just cut the damn Gordian knot. I remember one troll posting gleefully about Russia being a world leader in heroin-addiction rehabilitation because, instead of pampering their addicts with methadone, they chained them to beds and, when withdrawal kicked in and they started screaming, a big burly guy came in and beat them with an iron bar. (Apparently the recidivism rate of this program was very low.) Perhaps he was thinking approvingly of this tough-love philosophy as he considered his options?
posted by acb at 1:23 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


From Wikipedia:
In late 2016, Peterson went on a strict diet consisting only of meat and some vegetables to control severe depression and an autoimmune disorder, including psoriasis and uveitis.[26][141] In mid-2018 he stopped eating vegetables, and continued eating only beef (see carnivore diet).[142] In 2019, Peterson entered a rehabilitation facility after experiencing symptoms of physical withdrawal when he stopped taking clonazepam, an anti-anxiety drug. He had begun taking the drug upon his doctor's recommendation following his wife's cancer diagnosis.[143][144][145] In early 2020, his daughter revealed that he had spent the previous year struggling with addiction to benzodiazepine tranquilizers and had gone to Russia for an experimental treatment that included a medically induced coma. He was neurologically damaged and unable to type or walk unaided.[146]
posted by hat_eater at 4:19 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


Somewhere along the way, something gave him enough neurological damage that he can't walk or type.

Like I don't wish ill on anyone but I'm still pretty glad this dude can't type anymore.
posted by aspersioncast at 5:06 AM on February 14 [7 favorites]


Dude said his all meat diet completely cured his anxiety and depression... while he was addicted to benzos. His daughter is *still* peddling her beef-only eating plan and products to his dwindling fandom.
posted by MiraK at 5:08 AM on February 14 [3 favorites]


Okay so for folks interested in reading a recent (April 2019), well-researched, and well-written report on these issues by women, I came across this one last year when researching for a class presentation thingy. It is through the lens of AI specifically, but many of the findings and recommendations are generally about STEM. It's not too long, and I'll just excerpt the summary findings and recommendations here. The full 33 page pdf is here and is totally worth your time to read if this area is of interest.

RESEARCH FINDINGS


There is a diversity crisis in the AI sector across gender and race
The AI sector needs a profound shift in how it addresses the current diversity crisis.
The overwhelming focus on ‘women in tech’ is too narrow and likely to privilege white women over others.
Fixing the ‘pipeline’ won’t fix AI’s diversity problems.
The use of AI systems for the classification, detection, and prediction of race and gender is in urgent need of re-evaluation.

RECOMMENDATIONS

1. Publish compensation levels, including bonuses and equity, across all roles and job categories, broken down by race and gender.

2. End pay and opportunity inequality, and set pay and benefit equity goals that include contract workers, temps, and vendors.

3. Publish harassment and discrimination transparency reports, including the number of claims over time, the types of claims submitted, and actions taken.

4. Change hiring practices to maximize diversity: include targeted recruitment beyond elite universities, ensure more equitable focus on under-represented groups, and create more pathways for contractors, temps, and vendors to become full-time employees.

5. Commit to transparency around hiring practices, especially regarding how candidates are leveled, compensated, and promoted.

6. Increase the number of people of color, women and other under-represented groups at senior leadership levels of AI companies across all departments.

7. Ensure executive incentive structures are tied to increases in hiring and retention of under-represented groups.

8. For academic workplaces, ensure greater diversity in all spaces where AI research is conducted, including AI-related departments and conference committees.

posted by lazaruslong at 5:42 AM on February 14 [6 favorites]


Retracting or correcting studies like this which provide ammunition to people demanding that women be listened to is part of that.

Yeah, I get that. My comment was more about the fact that two male scientists tried to refute the self-reported and lived experiences of women who are or have been in STEM with a bunch of poorly manipulated statistics.

And that a bunch of other guys eagerly picked up on the stats, and the veil of factual authority that we attach to numbers, to tell women that they are wrong and have misunderstood their own lived experiences.

If anyone involved was actually interested in understanding why women in patriarchical societies pursue, enter, and persist in careers in STEM, they could, perhaps, have started by asking those women directly.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 3:06 PM on February 14 [8 favorites]


Don’t be silly, they could get COOTIES !!!
posted by Pendragon at 3:31 PM on February 14 [1 favorite]


Here is a quote from value of information's GenderSciLab link that pretty much tells the tale:
Champions of the notion that males and females exhibit deep, thoroughgoing sex differences in abilities, preferences, and aspirations used to stake their claims on differences in cognitive abilities. After all, on average, women reliably scored lower on STEM tests as recently as a few decades ago. They could also point to sex differences throughout the entire STEM realm - from medical degrees to astronomy, women were underrepresented in the STEM fields.

Of course, this has all radically changed in the last several decades. Girls and women now outperform boys on STEM tests in many countries, leaving little basis for a blunt cognitive capacity claim. And the so-called STEM fields have been reduced to a mere sliver of their former male dominance, as women increasingly approach parity or become the majority of graduates in disciplines such as Agriculture and Natural Resources, Architecture, Biological Sciences, Mathematics and Statistics, and Physical Sciences (National Center for Education Statistics) - at this point, it’s really Computer Science and Engineering that lag behind.

In response to this shifting terrain, those looking to nature to explain the lack of women in fields like computer science have moved from capacity to preferences, arguing that women simply do not like these fields.8 This is often short-handed as “people vs. things,” with women preferring to work with people, while men prefer to work with things. With the emergence of the notion of relative strengths, the argument shifts yet again - from natural preferences of women for people and men for things, to the idea of relative ability in different domains, self-efficacy, and aspirations.

Even more radical than the shifts from ability to aspirations is the shift from sex differences as innate and fixed to sex differences as contingent on the environment. The Gender Equality Paradox completely concedes that behavioral differences can be radically altered by the environment. At face value, the Gender Equality Paradox finds that women have just as much potential to be engineers or computer scientists as men - indeed, they are the majority of degree earners in some countries.

But issues with the Gender Equality Paradox go far beyond logical inconsistencies of men’s rights activists in using it to bolster a failing position of women’s innate inferiority in STEM fields. There are deep methodological and theoretical issues at work in this field of research.
We can argue at length about various contributing factors, but I can testify from first-hand experience (as a man--I'm sure I haven't by any means seen the worst of it) that bro culture in Computer Science & Engineering is astonishingly toxic.

I'll add that they tend to have a serious ageism bias as well--particularly the computer science end of the technology world.

Assholes of a feather flock together, or however you want to summarize it.

But the technology sector is currently so influential in our society as a whole that all of us are reaping the whirlwind that the asshole tech-bros have sown.
posted by flug at 7:54 PM on February 14 [5 favorites]


Speaking of the technology sector:

I wouldn't want to be a woman working in that field, and it's not really that nurturing for men, either. My wife was basically forced out of the field due to a combination of such factors but it was such a relief to be out of that mega-toxic environment that she has no interest whatsoever in going back.

She would rather take a 2/3 pay cut.

And so she is walking out out of her field with a knowledge store built on 25 years of experience in the field, and which--quite frankly--her previous employer could really, really have used.

But instead the "products" will be built by 25-year-old know-it-all jackasses who, unfortunately for the rest of society, don't actually know 1/10th as much as they think they do.

They are smart, yes.

In 25 years, they'll be even smarter. But they'll also be out on the street on their ass because that is how the "industry" works.

(And nothing whatsoever against 25 year olds. But the idea that a whole sector should have a cultural norm of running people out the door in their 40s and 50s is just plain dumb. Cultural suicide. Many people have the potential to work productively into their 70s and even 80s any more, particularly in knowledge-based sectors.

Turning your back completely on that vast resource of knowledge, experience, and energy is the worst form of idiocy.)
posted by flug at 8:00 PM on February 14 [6 favorites]


Minorities like myself often have a narrative that we're pressured to go into STEM for stability and so are denied other interests like pursuing the arts, etc. I think that part makes sense.

This gets at exactly why it's so misguided to conflate the pursuit of STEM as a chosen field with the actual desire, skill, and propensity to engage with STEM as a field of knowledge.

THANK YOU. Growing up in Malaysia, STEM was seen as the only valid educational/career choice, regardless of gender. I went to all girls schools and there was constant pressure to pursue Science, not for any feminist reason (our school wasn't particularly feminist by any measure) but because "arts and humanities are for stupid underachievers and we're a Premier School that demands Straight As all the time". I caused a big controversy by opting for Literature over Bio/Physics/Chem despite being a "good" student (doing both wasn't an option presented to me at the time and I was way more interested in Lit).

When I was more actively involved in alternative education activism, I heard a ton of stories from people who would much rather do anything else but were pressured into studying Medicine (almost always Medicine) and were close to suicidal but saw no way out. Nobody cared about your passion or interests - there were only a limited number of Acceptable Pathways and the only reason you'd do anything else is because you weren't good enough.

People look at places like Malaysia/Singapore/etc and see a lot of women going into STEM and think we're some kind of paragon for gender equality. But really it's because we aren't often given the support to try anything else seriously.
posted by divabat at 6:03 PM on February 15 [8 favorites]


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