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Post-Feminism Reality

March 25, 2010
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I haven't had much to say because it's been one of those weeks. But wanted to link to this report: by the AAUW about Women in Science, Engineering and Technology, "Why So Few?" (Thanks to Historiann for the find). Some of their findings I found more interesting:
  • Women are more likely to succeed in STEM if they are trained to believe in a "Growth Mind-set" ("Intelligence can be developed") vs a "Fixed Mind-set" ("Intelligence is static"). Reminds me of the Malcolm Gladwell assertion that success can be achieved by those who have achieved practice in the field; I think he talks about Masters or Geniuses having 10,000 hours of practice in something to become particularly good at it, but I'd have to dig up the book to remember for certain.
  • Women (or girls rather) exposed to negative stereotypes prior to doing a test (i.e., girls are not good at math) will do more poorly than if they hadn't been told that
  • Women in STEM fields are often viewed as either competent or likeable. But very rarely both. And being liked can sometimes seem to inhibit achieving being perceived as competent.
  • The national percentage of women employed in my soon-to-be profession is 6.7%. My department is running below average at 2.5%. If you are generous and count all women in technical roles out of all technical employees in the department this figure rises to 3.3%.
So most days there's no overt bias crushing me. And obviously I can't read my colleagues minds. But one almost doesn't have to. The Wall Street Journal has this article of a worldwide study on working professionals that states the following:
 
…that 90% and 85% of men and women, respectively, believe qualified applicants of either gender have the same shot at landing a junior-level position. Yet 81% of men said opportunities to move to middle management are gender neutral, compared with just 52% of women. Similarly, 66% of men said promotions to the executive level are equally attainable by both sexes, versus 30% of women. As for appointments to leadership and governance roles, 69% of men and 31% of women said consideration is granted evenly among the sexes.
The fun part are the comments in response to the article. It's almost as if I can read my colleague's minds.
 
Is there anyone related to this article who is not a woman? The sponsor, the author and the interviewees are all women. The only competent thought in the whole article is from the sponsor at the end. I love how the entire tone of this article is how it's not the woman's fault.
 
I think a better interpretation of the results would be that women in general are more rational and better understand the odds. 80% of men think they're capable of succeeding at the executive level, when the odds in reality are closer to 1% are capable of reaching and maintaining that level
 
People should be promoted based on skill and aggressiveness, which translates into prudent risk taking. Women by nature are more risk adverse than men. For those women who do not fit the norm, there is plenty of opportunity for them to move up. If they don't, its because they are not as hungry for success as their male peers.
 
Interesting that the studies discuss perceptions of inequality and everyone assumes that means 'biased against women'. It's clearly easier for women to get to college, in fact high school guidance offices are more or less closed to men.
 
So competency can not come from women in a research article, I am more rational about my lower chances for success which is somehow a good thing, I'm more risk adverse than all the men in the world, and I had an easier time getting into college than my male peers. Yes these are the thoughts floating around in the heads of some of your male colleagues. I bet you didn't know that as a woman or a minority you actually had it easier than them, did you?
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One Comment leave one →
  1. March 25, 2010 6:25 pm

    Thanks for the link!I also remember reading the masters+geniuses article, I think I have it bookmarked on another computer. It was showing a strong correlation between hours of practice and level achieved (national, international, etc), with the overall hours required being quite similar regardless if you were playing the cello or swimming. I'm going to go around today and ask everyone if they think that I'm competent. I'm just going to assume that I'm likeable 😀 Ugh, must stay away from article comments with hammer.

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