I’m not a fan of small sample sizes. “Anecdote” is not the singular of “data.” But every time I read a mainstream news article, I can’t help but notice how neatly it conforms to the social trends openly acknowledged and analyzed among the Dark Enlightenment writers. Progressives spend a lot of time telling the public that “not every X is like Y,” and they are right. However, when a repeated samplings of “X” turn out to be “Y,” it is both useful and prudent to form a worldview that takes both facts into account; something which would be an anathema to the standard Progressive mindset.
One such issue is that of women in STEM careers. The Progressive party line is that women make up a minority of STEM workers because they are discriminated against in both educational and employment opportunities. They believe that in a world free of discrimination, the demographics of all sub-populations would exactly reflect the demographics of the overall population, and any deviation is prima facie evidence of discrimination, a belief codified as the doctrine of disparate impact in the United States.
While Progressives are right to attack actual discrimination, and the jury is still out on whether there are genetic (to include gender) factors which influence certain cognitive capabilities vital to STEM, their claims that women are just as interested in STEM as men have always struck me as baseless. These claims appear to be rooted in a desire to achieve a genderless world, rather than in any actual, empirical evidence. By assuming equal interest and then interpreting unequal ratios of men-to-women in STEM fields as evidence of discrimination, Progressives manage to create a problem from scratch…one which, of course, can be solved with significant government funding and displays of contrition from all men everywhere.
The problem is that even in Progressive-friendly media, nearly every woman-on-the-street seems to serve as counter-evidence to the Progressive worldview. Unless an article’s purpose is to shine a spotlight on women-in-STEM, it seems like not many women-in-STEM become subjects of articles. As an outside observer of the cause, it almost makes me want to grab the writers and tell them to maintain consistency in their narrative…to help them help theirselves, as it were.
At issue today is this article from CNN.com: Opinion: College Graduates, a Job is Just a Job. The article itself is fine, and contains decent advice. The issue lies with the two examples used to discuss the difficulties in finding jobs.
First is writer Peggy Drexler’s friend’s daughter:
A friend’s daughter graduating this week from UC Berkeley with dual honors degrees in sociology and math and four years of experience working in sexual assault advocacy on campus will be spending the summer working at her local Williams-Sonoma — and readying grad school applications — after a number of dead-end interviews with women’s rights groups. “And I feel grateful,” she told me.
Second is the author’s daughter’s friend, Stephanie:
Stephanie, a friend of my daughter’s, graduated from her Ivy League school two years ago. She imagined a career in magazine publishing — she really wanted to be a beauty editor — but ended up in finance instead. The money is good, and the job is fine, but it’s not her passion. And so she has an end date in sight.
Example #1 has degrees in sociology and math. While the sociology degree is meh, the math degree had real promise. Then I read about the work with sexual assault advocacy on campus and already knew where this was heading. Did she pursue a STEM career with her math degree? Nope; she attempted to go to work with women’s rights groups.
Example #2 graduated with an unknown degree, but one which obviously qualified her for a job in finance. Finance is a decidedly numbers-oriented career…but note that her aspiration isn’t to continue on in finance but rather to become a beauty editor in a magazine.
So, let’s recap: article in a Progressive-leaning media outlet, where the lack of women-in-STEM is a perennial issue, uses two young female college grads who are qualified for work in STEM yet don’t want to work in STEM as examples of how difficult it is to find a fulfilling job early in one’s career. In a world where women were just dying to get into STEM jobs denied them by evil discriminating men, I would expect to see the reverse. Yet I don’t.
Again, this is admittedly a small sample size discussed here. And there are many capable women working in STEM. I only mention this particular article to aggregate it into the case file against the Progressive myth that all demographics want all the same things in all the same ratios, and any deviations from this even distribution are prima facie evidence of discrimination. None of those things are true, and we need to remove them as assumptions guiding public discourse and policymaking.