|Goldieblox founder Debbie Sterling|
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.
Image source: skimbacolifestyle.com
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.