Inside Higher Ed reports that a workshop at the University of Washington is attempting to reduce the number of women who work in STEM fields in industry. Neither the IHE article nor the organizers of the workshop put it quite that way, of course, but that nevertheless is clearly the workshop’s purpose. “The organizers of the On-Ramps into Academia workshop taking place Monday and today [May 16 and 17] at the University of Washington,” the article states, are “encouraging and coaching talented and accomplished women to leave their positions in private industry and return to campus.”
On-Ramps into Academia “strives to increase the participation and advancement of women faculty in science and engineering.” Nothing wrong with that (except when it involves preferential treatment in funding, admitting, hiring, promoting, etc., based on sex), but the diversiphiles who permeate higher education, the foundations, and scientific organizations never seem to recognize that “diversity” is zero-sum game. If Harvard gets more blacks or Hispanics, Yale and the state universities get fewer. A woman who decides to pursue a career in chemistry by definition decides not to become a physician or a tax attorney. There’s no way around this zero-sumness: Women who leave industry to go back to academia … leave industry.
“The effort at Washington is notable,” IHE reports,
because it seeks to woo back scientists who may, in turn, serve as role models for younger women about to consider their career options. Some experts on women in science have warned that industry has been attracting talented women away from academe. Many of these women may have left the academic track because of a lack of opportunity, or because they wanted to avoid the insecurity of tenure-seeking while starting a family.
Warning! Warning! Industry woos women! Heads up, academic STEM women! Be on the lookout for corporate raiders offering your women graduates (whom you have so carefully nurtured to be just like you) better working conditions and, who knows? maybe even more money.
Perhaps women students do need “role models” of the same sex to teach them, but aren’t women scientists and engineers who succeed in industry also role models? Would the nation really be better off if there were fewer of them? What sort of role model would they be if they left in droves to return to the academic nest?
In the bad old days one of the common arguments against hiring women is that they would quit their jobs to raise a family. Encouraging them to quit their jobs to return to campus hardly seems like progress.