Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Women Say No To Science and Yes To Gay Porn

Hey, I could be a headline writer for The New York Times. I'm just that good. Well, what do you know? Women are free. Finally, after years of oppression, women are making their choices, even really smart, scientifically gifted women, and choosing what researchers think they shouldn't like: "soft sciences". Oh, and some women are turned on by gay porn and they're (shhhhh) heterosexual and female. Can a woman be any more free?

I don't think so.

Women are free and yet they prefer, for reasons researchers cannot fathom (oxytocin, brain differences, biology?) professions that were once and still are, the domain of....women. Shit. That just sucks. Women should be donning goggles and peering through microscopes with all the fervor of the typical knobby headed man-geek. And some are doing just that--just not enough to make everyone happy. Huh. Imagine, a woman claiming her right to choose and she's not choosing feminist enough, but feminism is all about choice. Oh, the irony:

The results were striking. The lower numbers of women in IT careers weren't explained by work-family pressures, since the study found computer careers made no greater time demands than those in the control group. Ability wasn't the reason, since the women in both groups had substantial math backgrounds. There was, however, a significant difference in one area: what the men and women valued in their work.

Rosenbloom and his colleagues used a standard personality-inventory test to measure people's preferences for different kinds of work. In general, Rosenbloom's study found, men and women who enjoyed the explicit manipulation of tools or machines were more likely to choose IT careers - and it was mostly men who scored high in this area. Meanwhile, people who enjoyed working with others were less likely to choose IT careers. Women, on average, were more likely to score high in this arena.

Personal preference, Rosenbloom and his group concluded, was the single largest determinative factor in whether women went into IT. They calculated that preference accounted for about two-thirds of the gender imbalance in the field. The study was published in November in the Journal of Economic Psychology.

It may seem like a cliche - or rank sexism - to say women like to work with people, and men prefer to work with things. Rosenbloom acknowledges that, but says that whether due to socialization or "more basic differences," the genders on average demonstrate different vocational interests.

"It sounds like stereotypes," he said in an interview, "but these stereotypes have a germ of truth."

I'll just speak for myself here. I'm a sucker for aptitude/personality/psychological testing and have taken many, many of them. One of the best is called Johnson-O'Conner an aptitude assessment. That means, not only do they study personality, they study a persons talents--such as fine motor, gross motor, music memory, spacial reasoning, verbal reasoning, etc. Well, the kind mentor who funded this testing for me was deeply dismayed at my results. He was an engineer and prided himself in his mathematical ability. Lo and behold, I scored higher than him in both higher mathematical ability and spacial reasoning. My aptitudes skewed toward engineering.....until my personality was factored in. That threw a monkey wrench in the works. I was so people-oriented, so verbal (I know, who would have thought it?), so excessively so, that no engineering job wouldn't work for me because the isolation and task-orientation, verses people-nature of the work, would make me crazy. In short, I'd get bored.

Alas, I ended up in alternative medicine, not unlike the women in the study. While I'm pretty good at reading an x-ray thanks to my spacial ability, my satisfaction comes from helping people. I know, I'm a disappointment to women.

Now, let's talk about the poor fellas for a minute. Dr. Helen notes that while women have more choices, the nerdy dudes might have less:
So men who are skilled at math may have less flexibility to branch out and go into other areas that involve dealing with others. If women must be equal in terms of pursuing hard sciences, wouldn't it also be fair that men should have to be equal to women in terms of verbal skills so that they too, could have more job flexibility?
But that's just it. I don't think everyone needs to be stroking out about women in hard sciences. Women choose. Men choose. And while there probably aren't as many, there are some amazingly verbal men who are scientists, I have a reader (you know who you are Kevin), who is a technological genius while possessing the verbal skills of a politician. To say that he enjoys a rewarding career and that the world is his oyster is an understatement. Should there be all sorts of research as to why most poor men are not as verbal and don't enter other professions like teaching, say (and there are amazing exceptions here, too)? Oh, pish-posh. People choose. There are biological reasons for this. We can beat the discrimination drum into eternity but estrogen and testosterone do change brains and therefore, change career choices. That's just life.

Is it possible to acknowledge that men and women are different and it's okay? And that individually, people can choose to be whatever they choose to be. And there will always be exceptions.

Oh, and Rand Sindberg says this in his snarkily titled post, "Math is Hard" (very funny, Rand):
Even if there is tremendous variation among individuals within genders (which there clearly is) it doesn't follow that there won't be average differences in traits between genders. For instance, when it comes to math, what Larry Summers noted (and lost his job over after some of the mature, rational, scientific women present got the vapors and had to hie to their fainting couches) was that in fact men have a much greater standard deviation than women. They have both more geniuses, and more morons, when it comes to higher mathematics, whereas women have more of a tendency to stay near the mean. And there are brilliant (individual) woman mathematicians and hard scientists. But that doesn't mean that we can therefore conclude that there are no statistical differences in these traits between men and women. And the fact that there are allows us to draw no conclusions about any particular man or woman (if I call Ms. Barnett illogical, it is because she conveys illogic, and has nothing to do with her genital configuration.) It remains perfectly reasonable, on a statistical basis, to make some broad statements about the genders ("men are like this and women are like that") without having to infer that every man is like this and every woman is like that.
Indeed. The man is correct. Using myself as an example yet again. Among women, I am in the higher 90th percentile for engineering. Super. But when men are added to the mix, my abilities suddenly get more average--somewhere in the 60%. So, that means that I'm better than the average guy engineering-talent wise, but not much. So there are gender factors here, too. Now, maybe I work my ass off and outperform my co-workers due to sheer sweat. That happens, too, but an equally hard-working, more gifted person, male or female, will have an easier time of it--at least as an engineer.

Oh, this is such painful stuff, unless, like Rand says, you look at each person as an individual. And that's the key. There will be gender trends, but in real life, it matters not. Forget skin color and gonads, what are you good at and more important, what do you want to do? Thankfully, we all have choices. Yes, women have choices now and they're choosing. The feminists just need to suck it up and accept that this is what success looks like.

3 comments:

Chalmers said...

I had friends at Lockheed that went into engineering because they were pretty good at math and there was no competition for them (as women in the field). As engineers, they were mediocre, at best. Some quit because they were so unhappy in their work, the others are in management, because at Lockheed they have quotas. Being a mediocre female engineer can take you to upper management. I guess that is what feminist success looks like.

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