Dr Gijsbert Stoet thinks we should stop trying to correct gender disparities.
Speaking at the British Education Studies Association conference in Glasgow on Friday, he argued: "We need to have a national debate on why we find it so important to have equal numbers. Do we really care that only five per cent of the programmers are women?
"Well, actually, I don’t care who programmes my computers. A wealthy, democratic society can afford to let people do what they want.
"What is better? To have 50 per cent of female engineers who do not really like their work but say, ‘Yeah, well, I did it for the feminist cause.’ Or do you want three per cent or female engineers who say, ‘I really like my job’?"
I would say that if only 5% of programmers are women, we should ask why — that kind of difference represents an interesting problem. And if, while exploring the problem, we learn that many more women are interested in the profession, but find themselves actively discouraged by various elements of the field, then that means there are institutional roadblocks in the way, and we should remove them.
There is, after all, no actual known biological reason why having ovaries should interfere with the ability to program. If we can afford to let people do what they want, and it is in the interest of a democratic society to have its citizens occupied with rewarding, fulfilling work, then we should be trying to make it possible for people to do whatever they are good at, and finding evidence of extreme disparities suggests that there may be a problem that is interfering with that goal.
Dr Stoet seems to think it’s all about him — he’s happy when men program his computers, so he can ignore any injustices in the profession. But then, he’s not exactly consistent in this attitude.
The lack of women in science and technology was diverting attention from the real issue, he said, because it was boys who generally did worse at school.
He said: "Nobody seems to be that interested that boys have problems. We have, as human beings, a natural tendency to see woman as vulnerable and needing help. But if it’s a boy who needs help, he’s responsible for himself."
Oh, well then, do we really care? If women are succeeding at academics, then obviously they have a natural aptitude for it, and we shouldn’t be concerned if women naturally gravitate towards intellectual occupations. After all, what is better: to have 50% of the professoriate be men who do not really like their work but say ‘Yeah, well, I did it for Men’s Rights.’ Or do you want 3% male academics who say, ‘I really like my job’?
Clearly, men, with their testosterone-stimulated larger muscle mass, are better suited to manual labor. I actually don’t care who digs my ditches and totes my bales, so if they’re all men, I’m happy. And I’m sure they’d be happier doing the work Nature has best suited them to do.
Of course, Dr Stoet has an evolutionary argument for the difference…an evolutionary psychology argument. Prepare to cringe.
"In the face of limited resources, we should be cautious in spending money on interventions that will have no effect. Instead of focusing on equal numbers of male and female students in all subjects, I think we should strive to get boys and girls to at least perform equally good [Sic. See? Women would naturally understand grammar well; men should just shut up] in all subjects (which will be very hard in itself)," he added.
"People are often guided by their unconscious desires. In the stone age, it was useful for men to be hunters and women to look after babies, and nature has helped by encoding some of these skills in the hardware of our brain. That still influences how we think today.
Aaargh. The stupid…!
All right, let’s embrace this ‘reasoning’. In the stone age, women stayed in the cave or sought out tasty roots, and mashed things together to create flavorful food, while men went hunting and flung spears at things. Therefore, skill at chemistry is encoded in women’s brains, while ballistics is a natural male talent. Stone age men went on long walks to hunt game, so they’re better suited now to do field work in ecology, while women sat and did intricate weaving, therefore their brains are adapted to do data analysis.
I could do this all day, inventing pseudo-scientific evo-psych rationalizations for why particular stone age tasks shaped brains in a sex-specific manner, but at least I wouldn’t be doing it to somehow magically always fit 21st century Western cultural expectations. But I can’t, because it’s stupid.
Why do these people forget that stone age men had mothers and stone age women had fathers, both members of the same population and sharing the same genetics, and that novel adaptations aren’t likely to somehow be restricted to one sex or the other? I swear, these loons are always treating men and women as separate species evolving in parallel.
Double-aaargh! Now another article: If a girl isn’t interested in science, don’t force her to be.
Look, science is always going to be a minority occupation — only a small fraction of the population will have the aptitude or the interest for it. It will be intrinsically unequal, in that in the panoply of jobs required to maintain modern society, only a tiny fraction of the available positions will be for scientists. No one is suggesting that we need to frog-march girls into math and science. This is a non-problem. It is not an issue. It’s a debate no one is having. We are not planning to staff the apparatus of science with unwilling feminine slave labor. You are not a lesser human being if you’d rather study literature or history or philosophy, or if you’d rather skip college altogether and become a travel agent or a cook. There will be no compulsory science work camps.
But if you’re a woman who is interested in science (and many are!), the argument that girls like dolls and nurturing occupations is irrelevant; we are talking about individuals who ought to be given a fair opportunity to pursue a career they love, and not discouraged by some moronic writer for the Telegraph who uses stereotypes to make generalizations about half the population of the planet.
I also think he’s probably right in suggesting that females, as a whole, are not hugely engaged by science. The problem with science is that, for all its wonders, it lacks narrative and story-line. Science (and maths) is about facts, and the laboratory testing of elements. It is not primarily about people. Women – broadly speaking – are drawn to the human factor: to story, biography, psychology and language.
Jebus. Fuck you, Mary Kenny: that nonsense is not just offensive to women, it’s an affront to men and a hideously mangled distortion of the enterprise of science. She doesn’t understand women, men, or science, yet her ignorance doesn’t seem to inhibit her in the slightest in parading her stupidity for an international audience.