Science Quotas for Women–A White House Goal

When college women study science, they tend to
gravitate toward biologyabout 58 percent of all bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral
degrees in biology
 go
to women
.
 In contrast, women earn some 17
percent of bachelor’s degrees in engineering and computer science and just over
40
 percent
of bachelor’s degrees in physical sciences and mathematics.
The likely
reason for this, found in the study The Mathematics of Sex” (2009) by Cornell
psychologists Stephen J. Ceci and Wendy M. Williams, is that women tend to be
 drawn to
“organic” fields involving people and living things, whereas men are
 more interested in
the objects and abstractions that are the focus of STEM
 majors. Aversion to
math plays a role too: a University of Bristol study finds
 that biologists tend
not to pay attention to scholarly articles in their field
 that are packed with
mathematical
 equations.

Yet the Obama administration sticks
closely to the hard-line feminist argument that 
the problem is bias: women are somehow being
denied access to STEM courses. On June 20 the White House announced that it would issue guidelines expanding the scope of Title
IX
 to cover science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Extending Title IX from sports to math and science majors has been a longtime
goal
of the Obama White House. Longstanding Education Department rules
interpreting Title IX have essentially set up a gender-based quota system. Back
in 1972, when Congress passed Title IX, only 43 percent of those enrolled in
degree-granting institutions were women; now, women make up 57 percent of
college and university students. Furthermore, many, perhaps most, women have
little interest in the team sports that draw many men into college athletics.
So colleges have struggled to maintain Education Department-imposed gender
parity in athletics, typically by reclassifying such female activities as yoga
or cheerleading as “sports,” or by eliminating varsity sports
programs for men such as wrestling, fencing, and diving.

But lately, and especially under the Obama
administration, the Education Department has been inserting Title IX
aggressively into other aspects of college life. One of them is sexual
misconduct, typified by the department’s new rule demanding that colleges lower
the standard of proof required to prove sexual assault in a campus disciplinary
proceeding. And now the department has been asked to intervene in what is
supposed to be a problem: that more women than men choose to major in the
humanities–or biology–rather than in the math-intensive STEM
fields. Yet the administration’s view that bias
reduces women’s entry into STEM fields has little scholarly support. A task
force from the National Academy of Sciences investigated 500 university science departments and concluded that men and women overall “enjoyed comparable
opportunities,” and that female candidates for jobs at major research universities
actually had a slight edge over their male competitors.

Nonetheless, there is now an entire ideological
industry that treats the gender imbalance in the hard sciences as a sexist
disease that can be cured by a combination of re-education and coercion. Over
the past decade, as Christina Hoff Sommers of the American Enterprise Institute
has pointed
out
, the National Science Foundation has spent $135 million on
gender-equity-promotion projects. The science money went to pay for, among other
things, a staging of “The Vagina Monologues,” the development of a
game called Gender Bias Bingo, and workshops featuring skits in which male
scientists mistreat their female colleagues, the New York Times’s John Tierney noted. In 2010
Congress considered–but mercifully did not pass–a bill that would have paved
the way for even more of those skits by using federal funds to establish
“workshops to enhance gender equity” in academic science.

In early 2009 a newly inaugurated President
Obama wrote a letter to the American Association of University Women and other
advocacy groups arguing that Title IX could be used to make “similar
striking advances” for women in science and engineering as it had in
sports–via “necessary attention and enforcement.” According
to Manhattan Institute fellow Diana Furchtgott-Roth
, one federal agency,
the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, has produced a manual,
“Title IX and STEM,” that recommends that every university hire a
full-time “Gender Equity Specialist” with a staff that would monitor
science departments and labs for bias. The manual also recommends that
universities fund departments based on gender and other “diversity”
representation. Expect the rules likely to be issued by the Education Department
under White House prodding to be similar–with the penalty for noncompliance to
be the loss of federal funds.

The use of Title IX to force universities to
restructure their curricula and alter the composition of their hard-science and
engineering departments in order to achieve a supposed gender equity that
matches neither the aptitudes nor the interests of many women isn’t just
heavy-handed and totalitarian. As study after study indicates, it’s bad science
as well. 

 

4 thoughts on “Science Quotas for Women–A White House Goal”

  1. There are certain college majors that are overwhelmingly female, for example Women’s Studies (whatever that is – don’t get me started) and Romance Languages. Women are a majority of college students overall. Are they going to work for “gender equity” in the French department, too?
    Eric

  2. As a trained PhD scientist I look at this and throw up my hands. With no due process if they are charged with “sexual harassment” and quotas cutting them away from science classes, I wonder what I would say to my sons about college (if I had any). I have two daughters. I have told them to take advantage of what they can get in this environment, but to be fair and be prepared for a backlash down the road.

  3. Right, so if 58% of biology majors are women, can we expect to see this limited to 50%, to guarantee men equal access? No? I thought not.
    In any case, quota systems undermine the very groups they are supposed to help. In order to enforce a quota, one reduces the qualifications required of the supported groups. The result: the entire group is regarded with distrust within the profession. Justified discrimination, because one *knows* the group is, on average, less qualified.
    Put simply: Quota systems are counterproductive.

  4. Of course, they’re going to work tirelessly to reduce the percentage of women in biology, too?
    Right? Right?

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