Sexual Vocational Assault

All the discussion about sexual assault these days gave me an interesting perspective on this article.  So why isn’t the idea that we must have equal numbers of men and women in the workplace as well as within specific vocations in the workplace a form of sexual assault if we’re trying to manipulate women into doing what we want them to do?  The Wired article above laments that only 12% of engineers in the US are female.  This is called a depressing number.  Why?  And to whom?  The preferred reality for that writer would be to have as close to 50% of engineers be women as possible, I assume.  The language in the article is patently offensive in terms of seeing women as something to be manipulated.  The United States has a serious problem with getting women into STEM jobs and keeping them there.  How is that not the language of abuse and objectification?

Anecdotally, I’ve known several female engineers.  Very capable women who were clearly doing what they enjoyed.  I have yet to meet a woman who has expressed a secret longing to be an engineer, but was never able or willing to act on that longing.  My anecdotal conclusion is that fewer women are jazzed about engineering than men. My anecdotal conclusion is not that we need to figure out ways to convince more girls and women that they should be engineers.

What if women don’t want to be engineers?  Or what if once they become engineers, they don’t want to stay there because there are other things in life that become important o them?  There’s the unstated assumption that there are all these girls and women out there who desperately want to be engineers, they just don’t know it.  Or they don’t think it’s possible.  We just have to make them aware that they really want to be engineers, and then of course make sure that companies are forced to hire them in equal numbers to men.  And there’s the other assumption that once in a STEM field, women shouldn’t want to leave for any reason.  Like to raise children.  Or pursue other interests or other careers.  Those impulses are for some reason not preferred.  Not desirable.  They skew the pie charts in ways some people don’t like.

All of that sounds highly oppressive to me.  Equally sexist if not more so to the alleged sexism that allegedly prevents women from entering STEM vocations.  How about if instead of trying to force kids down certain paths to justify our assertions for and definitions of equality, we actually work to empower kids to pursue what they want to pursue – even if that doesn’t necessarily make all the lines on the employment graph absolutely equal?  If a girl wants to be an engineer she should be.  But it should be because she actually wants to be, not because we drill it into our kids that we must have equal gender representation in all vocations, all the time.  And if a woman engineer or CEO decides she would like to stay home and raise her kids, or tackle a new vocational challenge, we should encourage her to do what she wants in those regards, rather than making her feel like some sort of traitor to her sex.

I’d rather have 12% female engineers who are excited and happy about their work than to have 50% female engineers, many who are unhappy and dissatisfied.  The same holds true for guys, and other vocations.  Differences in interests and abilities between genders shouldn’t be seen as an inherently bad thing.

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