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Monday, December 2, 2013

The Latest Piece of "Women in STEM" Propaganda

Goldieblox founder Debbie Sterling
For equalitarians, any desirable field or domain in which men dominate must not remain so.  STEM jobs are thought to be lucrative, are observably disproportionately male, and women who make it to STEM occupations have a low retention rate, making STEM a very high profile target for the sex levellers.* We must have more women in STEM. Because patriarchy™.  Or something.

While classic explanations for the lack of enduring female particiaption in STEM range from "everyday sexism" to a lack of female role models to a strongly merit-based culture that drives women away, this article (ht Mangan) suggests that its not marriage or children that leads to female STEM exits, as some speculate, but rather that "there is something unique about the STEM climate that results in women leaving". Two of these "things", claims the article, are men with more "traditional" performance and gender role conceptions, as well as a work-life balance that women in STEM find disagreeable.  Added to these, I suspect there is also a mismatch between the KSAs of female STEM graduates, their interests, and the field of STEM itself--a sector which involves lots of math, lots of long hours working with male nerds, stagnant pay (Mangan also busts the "STEM shortage" and attendant high pay myth), and a masculine work culture which likely doesn't look kindly on lower productivity, high absenteeism, and unearned social/legal advantages based on nothing more than possessing a vagina.  In other words, many women in STEM, even the ones with the talent to hack the job, don't like what they do and who they do it with, and would rather be someplace that works more with living things than inanimate ones. And has more women.

But we must have more women in STEM! Because sexism and misogyny! And stuff.

So, back to the "women-in-STEM" propaganda machine...which, inter alia, again recommends more pinkified construction toys (Lego already did this, only to be panned by feminists--damned if you do, damned if you don't) in an effort to foster greater STEM interest in girls. This latest case (ht Sailer)  is brought to you by a Stanford grad who majored in "product design",** and an advert to get the word out which has since gone viral. Oh, and it doesn't hurt that she's not hard on the eyes, either:
In the ad, three girls are bored watching princesses in pink on TV. So they grab a tool kit, goggles and hard hats and set to work building a machine that sends pink teacups and baby dolls flying through the house, using umbrellas, ladders and, of course, GoldieBlox toys. The ad has become a hot topic of conversation on social media, generating discussion about a much broader issue: the dearth of women in the technology and engineering fields, where just a quarter of technical jobs are held by women. 
Cindy Gallop, who started the United States branch of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, the advertising agency, said the ad also illustrated how advertising created by and for women and girls is powerful because women share so frequently on social media and control most purchases. Yet ad agencies are predominantly men, she said, and the men in ads are generally heroic and funny while women are sidekicks or homemakers. 
In 2010, women earned just 18 percent of computer science degrees, down from 37 percent in 1985, according to the National Center for Women and Information Technology. Analysts say the low numbers are partly because girls are not encouraged to pursue science as often or as enthusiastically as boys.
Ms. Sterling started the company two years ago, after graduating with a degree in product design from the mechanical engineering department at Stanford, where she was disappointed that there were not more women in her classes. She then worked in design and marketing.
... Brett Doar, an artist who specializes in making machines, created the Rube Goldberg machine.
Putting aside the fact that it was a man who built the Rube Goldberg machine in the girl-power Goldiblocks ad, that women don't control as much purchasing power as popularly thought, and the implied sexism in noting that ad agencies are staffed by men, there is a reason why companies advertise and market the way they do. That reason is simple...they are in business to make money.  They can't afford to spend resources marketing equalitarian-friendly niche products if there is no profit to be made. So they study human psychology and shape their messages in ways to attract attention, create demand for and eventually sell products. For instance, they know that imagery of comely women will attract the attention of both men and women, makes their product more attractive by association--with higher sales as a result.  They know that depicting men as bumbling idiots plays to the fragile egos of women and generates positive feelings about their product...ergo, more stuff sold...and that boys play with "blue" toys and girls with "pink" toys ("blue" and "pink" referring not so much to their physical color, but to the gendered nature of the toys themselves). This targeted design and marketing based upon the observed and tested inclinations of consumers...you guessed it...sells more stuff.

Debbie Sterling
Image source: skimbacolifestyle.com
Thus, as an advertising / propaganda campaign, Goldiblocks has a lot going for it.  It features a just-tech enough female STEM graduate to tap into the "women in STEM" narrative. It features cute / attractive females in ads marketing toys produced (in China, natch) by a company led by a comely CEO...an advertising two-fer, as female imagery sells, and beautiful women sell even more. Especially when one can tag-team product marketing with a human interest story.

The jury is out as to whether or not Goldiblocks will inspire young girls to go into STEM, the wisdom of which, given the trends toward outsourcing STEM occupations and US companies flooding the STEM market with H1-B visa holders, is dubious. Doubly so since the historical evidence suggests that a high proportion of women in a particular field drive men out, depresses wages, and turns it into a "pink ghetto".  And it is likely to be triply unwise since the data suggests that, after having spent all that money on a STEM education, most women will exit anyway, sometimes into more life-oriented quasi-technical occupations such as medicine, or they quit full-time employment entirely. STEM degrees, like any other degree, are expensive. What will be the return on such an investment?

* Conspicuously, the sex levellers aren't much interested in promoting men in fields in which women dominate, nor do we find much interest in equalizing women's representation in undesirable or dangerous occupations, like, say sulfur mining. And as for the glass floor, through which men fall into jail, homelessness, and suicide but women do not...fughettaboutit, not much interest there either.  We gotta look up, not down. Because rape.

** "Product Design" sounds like it's on the fuzzy end of the tech major mechanical engineering...like "Software Engineering" is to computer science.  So as far as STEM goes, it kinda qualifies. Sorta.

16 comments:

Carnivore said...

Yeah, it's obviously an attempt to increase sales of a new toy by milking the current "STEM needs more women" meme.

When Goldiblox surfaced a little while ago (just in time for Christmas, of course), I was very unimpressed. They are nothing more than dumbed-down Tinkertoys,which are much more capable and have more variety.

The idea that if something is offered in pink, girls will flock to it is ridiculous. For example, Tinkertoys have sticks color-coded by length and are not all blue. They have no boy bias based on color of the toy. Same goes for erector sets (do they even make those anymore?).

The assumption seems to be that a trip to Home Depot or Graingers would reveal row after row of blue-colored hand tools and power tools. Or if the plastic cases of computers, monitors, keyboards and mice are all blue. Or if building materials such as steel and wood were all painted blue and floor tile and electrical outlets are all packaged in blue boxes.

heresolong said...

Then throw in the fact that they ripped off the Beastie Boys song and are being sued which I guess means that they didn't think this through particularly carefully. Did they think it didn't matter, were they ignorant about fair use laws, or did they figure it was OK because, well, girls.

newrebeluniv said...

Lots of PC SAHMs will buy these using their husband's money and give them to their little girls this Christmas. The girls will predictably ignore them in favor of their last year's barbies, princess costumes and baby dolls.

But PC isn't about what kids want. It is about parents spending money in ways that benefit the marketers.

--Hale

Unknown said...

As a female STEM (who hilariously falls perfectly into your stereotype, I might add), I would think the desire to put women into STEM fields is because technically minded, mathematically capable, logically sound, and with a tidbit of creativity type people are very much regarded as RARE, ELITE with respect to brainpower, and RESPECTED.

I don't think it has anything to do with the field itself, so much as the outside perspective of people in the field that drives the desire to put women in it. WE want to be considered rare, elite, and respected. In fact, feminists believe women ARE rare, elite, and respected, so it MUST be men that keep women out of this field.

- C

Elusive Wapiti said...

"They are nothing more than dumbed-down Tinkertoys"

Yeah...they didn't look too terribly impressive to me, either.

" Same goes for erector sets (do they even make those anymore?)."

No. The women-in-STEM folks got rid of those a long time ago. Too phallic. I mean, come one, erector sets?

Elusive Wapiti said...

"they ripped off the Beastie Boys song and are being sued"

Didn't know that. Here's a link to the story. In an interesting development, it appears that GB sued the BB, not the other way around.

I guess they were ignorant about fair use laws, then filed suit because they didn't think fair use applied to them. Because girls. And patriarchy. And stuff.

Anyways, it appears GB "rolled" and withdrew the suit and have since changed their ad.

Elusive Wapiti said...

@ PH,

"But PC isn't about what kids want."

No doubt. What kids want, what sells, is the invisible hand that keep all this carping about patriarchy and sexism and whatever going. It's just how we're designed, and liberalists are nothing if not contemptuous of intelligent design.

Yet their contempt founders every time a little girl runs into the "pink isle" at target.

Elusive Wapiti said...

@ Christina,

"As a female STEM (who hilariously falls perfectly into your stereotype, I might add), I would think the desire to put women into STEM fields is because technically minded, mathematically capable, logically sound, and with a tidbit of creativity type people are very much regarded as RARE, ELITE with respect to brainpower, and RESPECTED."

Er, what stereotype? IIRC, I only stereotyping I did was of the guys...

As far as women in STEM, those gals with the cognitive horsepower to hang with STEM guys are by definition rare and elite. As far as respect, well I'd say that probably hinges on keeping the bar high and not letting the standards lower just to let in more womenfolk.

"it MUST be men that keep women out of this field."

Speaking about feminists here, it must suck to have nature oppose and defeat you at every turn. OTOH, it does keep the money flowing, because you can blame Patriarchy.

Unknown said...

Sorry, EW, I didn't mean to accuse you of anything.

The stereotype was in regards to STEM women dropping out for family or because the work-life just wasn't to our liking... which is EXACTLY why I am no longer in it.

I dabble on the side, but I far prefer sewing projects over computer engineering/software design.

Totally OT - but has there been a noticeable decline in my ability to communicate sound arguments in the last 6 years? While working, I felt my "creative" brain dying... Now, I feel like my "Logic" brain is. It's why I don't comment as much anymore =p I can't keep up.

0x0014 said...

...because technically minded, mathematically capable, logically sound, and with a tidbit of creativity type people are very much regarded as RARE, ELITE with respect to brainpower, and RESPECTED...

Yep, no one gets that rare, elite respect quite like a software engineer. It's like just being a rock star. Catnip for the ladies, too.

Er, wait. No. For a man, being "technically minded, mathematically capable, logically sound, and with a tidbit of creativity" get's him 3/4s of the way to Omega-ville. For women, maybe it's different, but if so, I suppose we'll all have to draw our own conclusions from that.

Elusive Wapiti said...

@ C,

No sweat...I wasn't sure to which stereotypical behavior you were referring.

"...has there been a noticeable decline in my ability to communicate sound arguments in the last 6 years?"

It has been that long, hasn't it?

I personally haven't noticed anything, other than a drop-off in commenting frequency. But I figured you got busy with life, or had other, better things to do than read my drivel lol.

Lord knows things have certainly sped up for me, and it's much harder to find the time to put quality content together now than when I started back in 07.

Unknown said...

Er, wait. No. For a man, being "technically minded, mathematically capable, logically sound, and with a tidbit of creativity" get's him 3/4s of the way to Omega-ville.

From a social perspective, yes. They are not highly desired on a social level because their brains work on a completely different level, often resulting in humor that no one gets (HS freshman making witty quips using Louisa May Alcott didn't really get the laughs she was going for...) and the ability to draw conclusions that others find hard to follow.

BUT they are respected past high school and college and very much considered to be far smarter than the average population - and the "common" folk DO, indeed, consider them rare - I can't even begin to list the things that I do now that were considered nerdy/geeky when I was young that now are highly coveted now that I'm an adult (by my female peers... the hardest critics known to man).

I do not think lacking in some social skills is the worst thing in the existence of man. It can be learned... Sheldon of BBT not withstanding =p

- C

newrebeluniv said...

When my daughter was four, some PC aunt bought her a toy firetruck. The daughter wrapped it in a blanket and named it "trucky" and carried it around like a baby.

--Hale

Elusive Wapiti said...

lol. Another nature-nurture defeat. Did the PC aunt see the PC fail?

Elusive Wapiti said...

"For a man, being "technically minded, mathematically capable, logically sound, and with a tidbit of creativity" get's him 3/4s of the way to Omega-ville."

I figure a great many of those guys graduate to become deltas, the fellows that make the world go 'round.

The trick is, I think, to come alongside those guys, administer the red pill (so as to help those guys not jump at the first woman who expresses interest in them) and enable them to find worthy women to pair with when the time is right.

Certainly they should avoid any used-up former Carouseler incapable of committing.

Dexter said...

As soon as you see that the ad features a perfect smorgasbord of diversity - a white girl, a black girl, and a yellow girl, yaay! - you know the content of the ad will be insultingly stupid lies.