I work in technology. And for the past decade or so, the tech industries and the educational-industrial complex have been fairly begging women to go into “STEM” – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math”. Which is a fine and dandy thing – I work with a lot of exceptional engineers who happen to be women, and it’s not actually a new thing; it’s been true my entire career.
But the appeal has been getting louder, stronger, more strident lately. And I had an idea why.
Turns out I was only half right.
For thirty years now, the education system from kindergarten through the university system has been becoming more and more remorselessly feminized. Boyhood traits – physical play, roughhousing, restless energy – were stigmatized, pathologized and medicated. Being a boy – a young man – was, to the educational-industrial complex that sprang up over the past generation, something to be overcome.
It became, in the parlance of corporate human recourses, a hostile environment.
And as Christine Hoff Summers predicted in The War On Boys, a major result has been higher education becoming largely a female preserve. Currently, about 60% of post-secondary degrees go to women – up from under half forty years ago. Hoff Summers has data predicting it’ll level out around 66% sometime here. That’s two-thirds of all higher education.
“Is this a good thing” is one question – distorting higher ed by making it a hostile environment for one sex is a bad thing – but that’s not the real discussion here.
There’s been an interesting shift as a result of this distortion. Check out this graph, of percentages of bachelors degrees going to women, by year and by degree, over the past five decades:
While the percentage of women in engineering and hard sciences crept slowly up over the past nearly-fifty years – from just about nil in the case of engineering – the share of women in computer science programs actually peaked when I was in college (don’t I know it), has been eroding ever since, and seems to have plunged in the early 2000s. The velocity of the up-curve in engineering slowed around that time, and the percentage of physical science degrees peaked around the same time and is broadly down ever since.
I have absolutely no empirical, objective idea why. But I have a couple of theories.
Solid Ground – if you want to start a fight with a “woke” person with a background in soft science but who is nonetheless an expert at sciencing because they think Neil DeGrasse Tyson is the dreamiest sciencer ever, tell ’em there are innate differences between the sexes. But there is actual scientific evidence that a predisposition toward some traits that are well-suited to sciences – three-dimensional spatial visualization, single-track analytical affect and some others – tend to be associated with males (in a bell-curve distribution with exceptions all over the place, like most human traits).
As a result – my theory, here – young men fled the soft sciences, and especially the humanities (which were in the midst of being taken over by even loonier theorists than had run their high schools), as an alternative to four years of ritual self-abnegation for grades. Young men gravitated toward fields that didn’t innately hate them. Which may have both swelled the numbers of degrees going to males and lowered the proportion of women in the field.
Which, tangentially, is why I suspect gender theorists and “woke” administrators are trying to sqeedge gender theory into, and logic out of, engineering programs.
But I think its also…
Built On Sand – Thirty to forty years ago, before the compete feminization of the academy and the education profession, someone in school – male or female – with an interest in science, learned their math and science from people who taught, well, math and science. To both young men and women.
And that as that focus switched from teaching discplines (and discipline) to teaching ephemeral feelings and lessons in the new social rules, they became less capable of nurturing the STEM-oriented traits of young women who might have been interested in the field. Meaning fewer attempted it.
Since the public schools began their terminal dive into PC twaddle about twenty years ago, I’m going to call it a solid correlation.