Rand Fishkin of Moz wrote a wonderful and well-written piece on why he believes in the importance of increasing diversity in web marketing fields. Though I cannot speak about diversity of race and color, I can comment on diversity of gender and why I disagree with Rand.
Getting more women in STEM fields in general is something that there has been a huge push for in recent years but with fairly abysmal results. The reason for this? Women don’t really like those fields and professions. Now, before I get accused of some type of “splaining” let me point out that I’m a woman who has happily worked for 10+ years in technical support dealing with computers, networking and mobile devices, and before that, I was an estimator for a collision repair service.
The thing is, I’ve always liked working with computers and I enjoy science. My first computer upgrade was at the age of 12 when I put a chip on a video card that allowed the computer to display 32 bit graphics1. On the other hand, I have two female cousins who are 18 and 20. As far as they are concerned, computers are for Facebook. The end.
In fact, they actually don’t even use computers if they can avoid it because they have their phones. One went to cosmetology school and the other is looking to be a nurse. Should we force them to take computer classes or study physics in the hopes that they’ll go into a field that they have no interest in to improve gender percentages?
I’d like to point out that my mom works at NASA as a database analyst and their aunt works at a software company. My cousins are not women that have lacked for good role models to show them that computers are awesome. They just aren’t interested.
Have we failed them? Have evil microagressions and the patriarchy snuck into their home and made them not know or care what RAM is? Or do most women just not really dig computers and science?
According to surveys, women just aren’t that interested in science. These charts from NPR show that women just aren’t remotely as interested in the most lucrative (which tend to also be the most STEM related) majors as their male counterparts.
Now, in theory, you could say that somehow, some man is browbeating women into taking an education major (a degree that Forbes reports is 83% women) instead of something in engineering. And this is possible – just not probable. Women are now more likely to go to college than men based on findings from Pew, and women are being given preference for hiring in STEM tenured teaching positions in colleges according to this Washington Post report.
Outside of some very rare (and perhaps interesting) circumstances, women are free to choose their majors, and they chose not to go into STEM fields – and this is a good thing.
My personal experience with people who went to school and got a computer science degree because it would make them money, not because they loved computers and can talk for 20 minutes about why Windows ME2 was proof that God doesn’t love us, kinda generally suck at their jobs. This is something that is singular to no gender, age, skin color or religious background. If you don’t LOVE computers, you aren’t like to be good at dealing with them.
Why is there such a big thing about shoehorning women into jobs that they will tolerate at best? Money is important; my dad used to say, “No one ever said we could have made it if we had a little less money,” but studies show that job satisfaction and happiness do not really correlate to large amounts of money. This New York Times article notes that after about $75,000 a year, you’ve bought all the happiness you can buy.
Now, I will say that if there are women who are being told that they aren’t good at science or computers because they are girls, the people saying that should be kicked in the shins continuously. However, the reality is that the vast majority of women just aren’t that into computers. Further, every time I worked in tech support, I was treated with nothing but respect, admiration and kid gloves by my male colleagues.
Honestly, most men I dealt with viewed women as magic, unicorn like creatures that should be treated graciously. I had exactly 0 men who needed technical support ask for a man, but I constantly heard plaudits about how you needed a woman to fix (whatever problem I just solved). This was from mostly women, but men also said it as well.
That’s not everyone’s experience, and I honestly was probably treated better than I should have been because I was a woman, but the trend is clearly one of “You GO GIRL!” and not, “You go get me a sandwich.”
So, while I think that Rand is very well meaning, at the end of the day, the only way to get vast improvements in the male to female ratio in STEM fields and his own in particular is to make a lot of women very dissatisfied in their field of work. Furthermore, while more women in STEM fields may be good for businesses, it may not be for women.