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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Microsoft ad on Girls in STEM

That microsoft ad is infuriating. Someone seeing that ad and thinking they have little chance in STEM fields because only 6.7% of women graduate in those fields ignores the fact that women get more STEM degrees then men in biological sciences. You know, like medicine, the field the little girl in the ad wants to study, to find a cure for cancer.

The biggest gap is in engineering and computer science. There is a gap in physics and other hard sciences too, but hardly anyone majors in those in the first place, of either gender.

The 6.7% figure, if not wrong, is meaningless, because psychologically it seems like a deterrent (those are my chances!) while ignoring the higher female college attendance rates (and graduation rates among existing students) in a wide variety of fields, some of them within the STEM rubric. STEM in fact is an arbitrary social construction, taking the scientific fields of the Liberal Arts colleges (chemistry, physics, math, biology) and linking them to the engineering school.

1 comment:

Thomas said...

It looks like the corresponding figure for men is 17%. I guess that means that about 12% of the (US?) population gets a STEM degree. Segmenting this by gender gives us 6.7/17. Now, much of that is probably driven by selection effects, i.e., enrollment. Fewer women enroll in STEM. The important question is whether women who enroll are less likely to graduate than men and, after they graduate, less likely to stay in their chosen field. Even if there's a disparity here, we have to correct for the different choices men and women make in regard to career and family. Then, finally, we to isolate the effect that Microsoft is trying to get us to think about, namely, some sort of "bias" against women, eliciting the desired response when one of the girls says, "We're as amazing as men!"

I think the "sexism" effect is very, very small and girls should not hesitate to go into science if that is their passion. They should be prepared for it to be hard, but they should not assume that it will be harder for them than their male counterparts, are that their particular difficulties are rooted in their gender. That gives them a battle that will only squander their energies to fight.