Have you been following this foolishness?
The European Space Agency landed a probe on a comet. That’s pretty impressive, right? But overshadowing this milestone of human achievement, is a controversy over the shirt one of the scientists chose to wear. (FTR, I don’t agree with governments spending money on space exploration, but I don’t deny the achievement.) The scientist in question wore a bowling shirt that had scantily clad women on it. And that, you see, illustrates why the scientific and technical fields are so dominated by men. This sort of casual misogyny scares off otherwise interested women.
The Verge article I linked to above is so breathless that it reads like an Onion piece, but apparently it is serious. First of all, the shirt is admittedly tacky and inappropriate from a moral standpoint. It is also grossly inappropriate for the occasion. Dude should have put on a coat and tie if not a suit for such a momentous occasion. But as the stereotype suggests, brilliant scientists are often a bit socially clueless. I highly suspect that social cluelessness more than either deliberate or casual misogyny is behind this faux pas.
But The Verge article takes this tacky shirt and runs with it. It is symbolic for why more women don’t pursue careers in STEM fields. I don’t deny that there is likely a male centric milieu in these fields because they are dominated by men, just as there is likely a female centric milieu in fields like elementary education, nursing (less so these days) and hair styling which have long been dominated by women. So it is certainly possible that a woman interested in a STEM field could be intimidated by this and chose another route. But if you are intimated enough to change career paths by some doofus in a tacky and inappropriate shirt, then that doesn’t really say much about your fortitude or stick-to-itiveness, does it?
Here is how a scientist, rather than a PC addled ideologue would look at this question. There are three broad possible explanations for why there are disproportionately fewer women in STEM fields. First, there might be extrinsic factors, like male chauvinism and early educational expectations, that give rise to this discrepancy. Second, there might be intrinsic factors, like men are inherently more talented at and inclined to such fields. Third, it could be some combination of both.
As an objective scientist, you can’t simply rule out option number two because you don’t like it. That is not how science works. In fact, given the ubiquitous nature of these observations, across culture and time, option two seems to me to be the Occam’s Razor explanation. We know that males on average do better on math standardized tests and especially at the outer limits. It is easy to suppose that the numbers we see are a reflection of that reality. It strikes me that the burden of proof is really on the “extrinsic” folks to demonstrate that the majority of what we observe is related to these extrinsic factors. Now it is almost certainly true that both extrinsic and intrinsic factors play a part, because complex phenomenon like this are almost never just one or the other, but the issue is how much of a factor does each play.
The Verge article makes no attempt to address this. It just comes off as whiney and pathetic, and does its cause no favors.
On a side note, the poor scientist has been so hounded by Social Justice Warriors that he cried during his apology. Now he shouldn’t have cried. He should have just said the shirt was inappropriate and he’s sorry. But I hope the SJWs are happy. They made a grown man, who has done more with his life than they ever will, cry. These PC enforcing goons need to be called out for their campaign of terror.