Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Title IX for Science and Engineering Departments

"Instead, they complained of being pushed so hard to be scientists and engineers that they ended up in jobs they didn’t enjoy. “The irony was that talent in a male-typical pursuit limited their choices,” Ms. Pinker says. “Once they showed aptitude for math or physical science, there was an assumption that they’d pursue it as a career even if they had other interests or aspirations. And because these women went along with the program and were perceived by parents and teachers as torch bearers, it was so much more difficult for them to come to terms with the fact that the work made them unhappy.”"

This paragraph resonated with my own personal experience. My wife would seem to be a poster child for women in engineering. In fact she was. She was featured in an article for a university publication. She was good at math and science in high school and got funneled down the engineering path by various advisers. She had great internships, great science, math and engineering grades throughout high school and college, and got a good job after college making good money. The only problem was she never liked school or her jobs, and eventually she quit engineering to work in health care. What a waste of 6 years of her life. I tried to convince her otherwise, even getting her an offer for a research position in the engineering department where I was getting my own master's degree. It sure would have been nice if she had remained an engineer, from our pocketbooks perspective, but perpetuating a career where one is miserable is a ludicrous waste of potential.

Applying Title IX to engineering and the sciences worries me. College sports are over-rated, and ancillary the fundamental mission of a university to educate young adults. But science is right in the heart of a universities educational mission. Are we going to drop programs that have difficulty attracting females in order to keep the ratio of women to men in science programs the same? Honestly, I don't think it will ever be implemented on the same scale as in sports. People will talk about changing things. Studies will be done. Recruitment efforts will be launched. Minor changes will be made here and there. Tons of money will be spent. Heads will roll if they question the prevailing feminist doctrine. More women like my wife will end up with miserable careers, but in the end all the efforts won't actually change much and programs won't get cut. 20 years from now, there will still be large imbalances in gender ratios for nursing and engineering careers. Despite (what I hope are) sensationalist claims otherwise, I believe the costs are too great and too many women see through the bullshit to foist Title IX off on engineering/science departments in a form anywhere near what has prevailed in sports.



steviepinhead said...

I happened to see this same article, MB, and share some of your concerns.

It's one thing to attempt to guarantee equal access to an opportunity, and non-discrimination when pursuing the activity... It's another thing to try to guarantee numerically-equal participation.

Kevin said...

Do you think that a similar argument against Title IX for athletics would be valid?

It seems that we are continually pushed in directions regardless of our own predilections. I expect schools to channel students toward their aptitudes, leaving it to the student to figure out what they actually like and to push in that direction. Of course, that is a daunting task at which I doubt my own success.

I generally disliked school as well. Perhaps it is because I rarely felt like I was learning what interested me. And when I would find something interesting, it would skip by so quickly. Sometimes I felt like there wasn't enough time to really understand things, which seemed to breed my disinterest.

Stevie's assessment makes sense but it leaves me wondering, how should we measure equal access to opportunities? How do we measure if there is systemic discrimination?

I'm not sure exactly how Title IX is implemented, though it seems like it has implications for funding and program structure proportional to student enrollment or, more recently perhaps, to surveys, which sounds interesting.


Anonymous said...

That is something that really bothers me. Feminists and management get upset over "the ratio" in "male-dominated" fields. I think today a woman has the freedom to choose what she wants to study. If more men than women want to study mathematics and engineering, then that is just fine. Let the women choose for themselves!