One of the common unquestioned answers encountered by anyone working in a male-dominated profession such as science, engineering or (especially) IT, is that the lack of female participation in such industries is a “problem” which needs to be solved. Curiously one does not tend to hear such angst over the scarcity of female train drivers, mechanics or dustmen, presumably because over-representation of males in such mundane occupations is not considered prima facie evidence of discrimination like it is in more lucrative career segments. But in the world of technology, just like with executive management and politics, an employer’s inability to recruit at least one woman for every man is treated as a symptom of a grave social injustice.
When attempting to solve a problem it is always important to have a good grasp of precisely what the problem is — and in particular why it is a problem — only after which does it make sense to discuss the cause and potential solutions. Unfortunately any desire for rational analysis tends to fall by the wayside in the case of politically charged or controversial issues, which, aside from the “women into technology” dogma, is also what drives the ever-turning treadmill of thought crimes and knee-jerk legislation. No matter if it’s gender imbalances, video games or people being offended on the internet, the attitude is the same: it is Just Obvious that this is a Bad Thing, no justification is required, and we must progress immediately to solving this problem by whatever means necessary (which will probably involve banning stuff).
It seems that in this particular case the reasoning (to use a term very loosely) goes as follows:
What is the problem? Duh, look at the numbers! Females make up half the population but less than five per cent of computer programmers. This is a Problem.
Why is this a problem? It just is, OK? What are you, stupid? Why do you hate women so much?
What is the cause of the problem? Obviously it’s the evil oppressive misogynistic men. You can hardly walk down the street without bumping into girls who would be technological geniuses if they weren’t put off by smelly bearded geeks in unwashed T-shirts leering at them and grabbing their asses at every opportunity.
What is the solution? Er…can I get back to you on that? Quotas, maybe? Positive discrimination? Maybe we’ll just paint all of the computers pink, it works for cellphones and useless plastic crap in accessory stores after all.
A slight exaggeration of course, but the actual arguments used are hardly any better. A study at the University of Edinburgh, for example, asserts up front that a gender imbalance is “unfortunate” and that there is a “need” to recruit more women into computer science and engineering. It presents an argument based on resources, relying on the politically-correct but unproven assumption that aptitude for scientific work is equally common in both genders and therefore the abilities of women are being wasted — ignoring entirely the possibility that such skills are naturally more prevalent in men and that this is a cause, not a victim, of the imbalance. The author then goes on to advocate allocation quotas (surprise!) and attempting to fashion-ise the industry in order to appeal to young women (so… pink, then?).
To its credit though, the Edinburgh study does suggest avoiding stereotypical approaches based on conventional images of femininity, and at least pays lip service to the need for an actual argument to support the desired conclusion, even if the examples it offers are rather weak. This is more than can be said for the women’s “support groups” found in universities, workplaces and even open-source projects, which are defended with little more than the feeble mantra of “minority… minority… minority…”. Lacking any clearly defined objectives or strategy, such organisations devolve into echo-chambers of self-pity and whining that only perpetuate the belief that women are incapable of functioning in the real world without a chorus of angry sisters to cheer from the sidelines.
The notion that being part of a “minority” automatically justifies special support is nonsense. Redheads, amputees, diabetics, the left-handed and people over 6’4″ are all minorities in most situations, with their own particular needs and sometimes even suffering discrimination, but the suggestion that there should be a “Diabetics Into Astronomy” campaign would be considered ridiculous — having diabetes has no impact on a person’s ability to be an astronomer, and recruiting more diabetics has no impact on the field of astronomy. But somehow, by invoking the mythology of the perpetually disadvantaged weaker sex, the inventors of the gender agenda have managed to establish in the popular mind the idea that “doing XYZ as a woman” is in some way different from simply “doing XYZ”, and includes its own unique set of challenges that you primitive men just wouldn’t understand.
So the requirement for the Women In XYZ society is manufactured out of whole cloth, enthusiastically promoted by the indignant white knights of political correctness and rubber-stamped by compliant bystanders so familiar with seeing special treatment for women that no question of its need ever enters their awareness. What issues does the campaign adopt?
- The pay gap. This is the observation that women on average earn less than men on average, which is obviously evidence of sexual discrimination. Except that it isn’t. Sexual discrimination would be paying a woman less than a man for doing exactly the same job, which these days is very rare and almost certainly illegal. What the gender warriors are actually complaining about is the fact that women tend to pursue lower-paid careers, work fewer hours and take time off to have children — all of which are lifestyle choices freely entered into by the women concerned. If they want high salaries they should train as accountants and lawyers instead of social workers and special-needs teachers.
- Sexist attitudes and behaviour. It used to be that “sexism” referred to the belief in certain stereotypical differences between the sexes, or that one sex was inferior to the other. Nowadays it has expanded to include almost any action which fails to treat women with the expected level of awe, reverence and submission. So when some self-important student feminist chooses to take offence to your Britney Spears poster or your refusal to leave a communal toilet seat in the female-prescribed position, you can expect to be declared a “sexist”, irrespective of what your actual views on gender roles might be.
- Violence and abuse. A serious topic to be sure, but not one which is exclusive to women, however much they might like to claim it as their own. Not only do men comprise almost half of the victims of domestic abuse, but they also have the disadvantage of being ignored, ridiculed or treated as perpetrators-by-default by law enforcement. The fact that “violence against women” even exists as a separate concept, with the resulting implication that violence doesn’t matter if it is directed against men, is one of the more obnoxious examples of the gender agenda’s influence.
- Random crap with no relation to gender. One university women’s society somehow managed to convince itself that energy generation is a women’s issue, and passed a resolution in favour of wind power. If the turbines could be made to run on worthless hot air they might be on to something.
As we can see, not all of the topics adopted by women’s societies are entirely without merit, but the ones that do have value are not specific to one gender. If there are concerns about supporting a family or avoiding harassment in the workplace, then create a group to address those particular issues, and if the audience isn’t perfectly gender-balanced then so be it. There is no logic in pointlessly restricting participation by gender, or labelling things as “women’s issues” when they don’t exclusively affect women — unless of course the intention was never to solve problems in the first place. There does exist a certain core of Julie Bindel-worshipping, chauvinistic female supremacists for whom social equality is the very last thing on the agenda, and while the majority may distance themselves from such extremists, it is clear that the moderates are not entirely immune from such delusions of superiority themselves.