Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Women in STEM

This is another one of those posts where I try to work out my opinions on something I'm conflicted about. Looks like you're in for a fun ride - if, that is, I can get rid of this headache.

So, a few things have led me to blog about this, finding out about the Intel Women in STEM college scholarship being the main one. I started looking up stuff about affirmative action and the information available was very unclear, so hopefully I'm right in what I think it is - going easy on disadvantaged groups in terms of college admissions etc. Giving them some leeway.

Now, it's a pity I can't find that speech I wrote for Soroptimists, because that laid out my opinion on a similar issue (gender quotas in business and politics). I was staunchly against the motion, and I'm against this as well. 

Disclaimer for the Tumblr people: yes, I'm privileged in some ways (white, cis, able) so it's easier for me to refuse affirmative action than it would be for some other people. And let's face it, I'm going to apply for the scholarship because my selfishness/pragmatism beats my idealism up behind the bikeshed, but here's how I feel about artificial advantages for women. 

In short, insulted. 

I personally have this weird aversion to being unfairly helped. I'm exceedingly preoccupied with both justice and independence, and absolutely hate feeling vulnerable, so I refuse to be victimized. 

Essentially, my opinion is - and this spans across a lot of the gender gap thing and other problems for women - is that yes, it probably is harder for women. But that means we just have to work harder and quit moaning. I plan to be so colossally rich that I escape this typical wage situation and become entirely financially independent, just so you know. Wage gap solved (well, for me). 

This is terribly structured. I'll probably fix it up at some point.

I'm not sure how I feel about the disproportionate amount of boys in STEM courses and careers. I hear all this stuff about how it's an unwelcoming environment for women, but eventually I do start wondering if women just aren't (on average) suited for STEM. I know many of us are, but I mean as a whole. I know this sounds sacrilegious and awful, but I don't want to ignore any possibilities just because I'm so biased (you know, since I am a woman/girl). "Girls are being discouraged" just doesn't hold water for me. I know everyone is different (I hate all these disclaimers), but i can't imagine letting people whose opinions I don't care about influence whether or not I do something I love. Again, boys have it easier, but we all know girls are tougher anyway. Hard work never killed anyone (that's a total lie, have you never heard of Marathon?). Let's all be Hermiones.

I hear girls in my class talking about their weddings and what kind of ring they want and what the Kardashians do and sure, they can do whatever they want, it's their life, but I'm in an all-girls school and there are so few people interested in science. There's also the fact that my school doesn't offer Engineering or Tech Graphics, which is another problem altogether. 

(This writing is remarkably tangential, but I'm tired.)

Back to affirmative action. It's just so condescending, and quite simply unfair. I'm mostly avoiding race because I don't have experience there, but I've read articles saying that in America black and Latino students can get in on much lower scores than white kids, and Asian kids are held to even higher standards. I mean, that's literally racism, holding different races to different standards. Aren't you literally just saying you think black and Latino people are less capable then?

I know, I know, the justification is that maybe they grew up in a poor area or something similar - to get back to gender, that they were discouraged from pursuing STEM - but you really haven't earned your place if accomodations were made for you based on something you can't control but that you can adapt for. 

Life isn't fair, deal with it. 

Again, I'm still going to take advantage of the relative lack of women for my own selfish purposes, but if you really must compensate, please find a way to do it that doesn't feel like the benevolent hand of the patriarchy forcibly laying out a space for us. Independent women my ass, if that's the case.

I suppose the real question is, do the ends justify the means? That's one I can't definitively answer. More women in STEM is a good thing, and I'm alright with prizes etc. that are only open to women (because I'm annoyed about the lack of female Professors, that sort of thing) but the term "Women in STEM" is really starting to irk me.

If you really accepted us in STEM, you wouldn't constantly have to point to us as tokens like "look how diverse we are!". I'd rather by respected on the basis of my achievements. 

So, in the end, I can't really blame initiatives to help women in STEM. They have noble ideals. I could say "I just wish they didn't have to exist", but that would be ducking out. I think people should stop treating women in STEM like an exotic species and work on getting the hell out of the way because I'm coming.

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