#WomenInSTEM – Problem or Excuse for Social Engineering

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640px-US_Navy_101106-N-8863V-113_Girl_Scouts_compete_in_the_Mission_Ocean_Challenge_during_the_USS_California_Science_Experience_at_Naval_Surface_WarfareThere must be a hashtag for everything, and the concept of trying to get more women in STEM fields is no exception. The only problem is that #WomenInSTEM is a concept that is imagining a problem by offering a misguided solution. Yes, that does sound muddled, but to someone who arguably is from the STEM neck of the woods – namely from the realm of social sciences – it should make some sense, albeit with a little clarification.

The perceived problem is the fact that the percentage of female workers in many STEM fields do not equal anything remotely close to 50% – the theoretical “fairness” standard. This is a results based assessment, as opposed to examining whether or not there actually is discrimination in the first place. In nations like the US, and most European nations, opportunities for women are not controlled by laws, cultural restrictions, or religious doctrine. Arguably, the only thing stopping young girls from pursuing careers in STEM fields is choice.

Of course, there are arguments about inhospitable attitudes, or discouragement early on in a girl’s education. Perhaps that was a factor a decade or more ago, but thanks to multiple initiatives like the Girl Scouts focus on technology illustrated here, that isn’t a significant factor. If the activists seeking the mythical 50% were honest with themselves and the masses, they would have to admit that the real problem now is selling STEM careers to women who may not be interested in those fields enough to make the sacrifices necessary for success. Many men and women alike who are already in STEM fields can explain that it can often take long hours, grueling competition within their fields, and sometimes cutthroat atmospheres in the workplace. We are talking about the daunting task of discovering the “next big things” in these areas, or fine-tuning previous ones. Either way, these fields, particularly where research is concerned, can be high stress careers that are not a good fit for the majority of human beings in general, let alone women.

The World Economic Forum released some information on women in STEM, with particular emphasis on the higher stress and standard positions in research. There are no statistics on their map for the US, but otherwise, it is not very surprising to see high concentrations of women in these fields in portions of the world where men are scarce – war torn areas, in particular.

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But, this hashtag gained quite a bit of traction in the US, where women do not have to step up because of a shortage of men in STEM fields. Also, the argument of educational opportunities for women being restricted here falls flat when one remembers that women are outnumbering men on college campuses across the country. The simple fact is that women are not choosing STEM fields for whatever reason. Nations with higher percentages of women in STEM jobs are either suffering from a lack of men to fill those positions, or those countries are already engaging in social engineering which pigeon-holes all citizens based purely on aptitude testing throughout their scholastic careers. Is that really what these STEM activists in the US want here? Perhaps instead of just jumping to support them, someone should bother asking them if that is their real agenda.

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