If You Want More Women in STEM, Try Discriminating Against Them

Where do women study STEM at high rates? Sweden, where gender equality is a super important cultural value? In the US where we spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to get more women into tech? Or in the Middle East, where some women can’t (yet) legally drive and are the property of their closest male relative?

If you answered the latter, you’d be right. In a fascinating article about education in the Middle East, Amanda Ripley writes at The Atlantic:

In fact, across the Arab world, women now earn more science degrees on a percentage basis than women in the United States. In Saudi Arabia alone, women earn half of all science degrees. And yet, most of those women are unlikely to put their degrees to paid use for very long.

This is baffling on the most obvious levels. In the West, researchers have long believed that future prospects incentivize students to invest in school. The conventional wisdom is that girls do better in school as women acquire more legal and political rights in society. But many Middle Eastern women do not go on to have long professional careers after graduating; they spend much of their lives working at home as wives and mothers. Fewer than one in every five workers is female in Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman.

All throughout the world, girls outperform boys in school. That’s not the shocking part. The shocking part is that we claim that women aren’t studying STEM subjects at school and aren’t entering tech careers in the US because of discrimination and oppression, but in countries where women don’t have a lot of rights (and granted, those rights vary drastically even within Middle Eastern countries), they manage to succeed in STEM in school.

To keep reading, click here:  If You Want More Women in STEM, Try Discriminating Against Them

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7 thoughts on “If You Want More Women in STEM, Try Discriminating Against Them

  1. Culture is everything. In America, education is not as highly-valued as it is in some other countries, especially those countries where educational opportunity is more limited — is not a given — particularly for women. Sexism is everywhere, just in different forms.

  2. Excellent and thought-provoking article. I enjoy reading your stuff and have done so for many years, so I’m going to nitpick. The use of the term ‘lady’ instead of ‘woman’ was jarring. Saying ‘a brilliant young lady’ just seems more…diluted… compared to saying ‘a brilliant young woman’.

  3. Your sources may be making the wrong causal connection.

    I opine that women move toward political and social equality (in part) because of education, not vice versa

    Furthermore, the benefits of better education for women are many and various: rising literacy rates, lower infant mortality, better health overall to name a few. We think purely in terms of jobs these days, but there are many reasons to get an education.

  4. Nice article but barely grazed the reasons more women aren’t in the STEM program in school and out in field. I loved being in my science and math classes in school (got a BS degree) but unless you have connections to someone in the technology fields, any jobs available don’t allow growth development unless one is an entrepreneur.
    Women still face denial of ability even as we study and try to enter in non- feminine fields.
    Loved the representation of a successful woman in geology in Last man Standing show but even there, she got laid off over a man at her job.
    We, women have keep pushing despite being kept back, plus we need to re-enforce this with our daughters to not take the easiest path to living life.

  5. Correlation is not causation. Women are plenty discriminated against here, especially in sciences. I think the part about not having to use your degree is important. More women might study STEM if it was just because they enjoyed it. But here you are looking at a tough future. You can get that degree but there is still constant sexism at work in the field, having children can really derail your career, you can’t work from home if you’re in a laboratory, etc. It just seems more practical and smart to get a different degree. (I did study and work in science.)

  6. Dear Evil HR Lady,

    I really really want to like you. I like a lot of what you’ve written.

    But this article has a lot of words, and doesn’t manage to say anything of substance, other than being kind of offensive.

    Would you write an article that included demographics about the NFL, and call it “If You Want More White People to Be Professional Athletes, Try Multi-Generational Systemic Oppression, Unnecessary Police Brutality, and Incarcerating them Disproportionately?”

  7. I see what you are saying here! When faced with opposition, people will always try to push ahead and, likely, succeed. Gender biases in hiring are best thwarted, in my opinion, by striving to be as objective as possible. This doesn’t mean that you can just think you are unbiased – unconscious societal influences will slip in and undoubtedly sway your hiring decisions, regardless of culture. The best way to ensure you are being objective is to use a combination of HR tech and collaboration (source: http://bit.ly/2xgKg22). Thanks for sharing! Keep up the good work 🙂 Don’t be scared to push the boundaries. It gets clicks 😉

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