This cartoon was created in collaboration with the wonderful Becky Hawkins.
A young man (20s or 30s) is talking with cheerful optimism to a woman who is about 60 years old. In the background a female secretary works on a laptop.
MAN: The reason most executives are male isn’t sexism. It just takes time for women to get promoted! In thirty years lots of top executives will be women!
WOMAN: Do you ever get deja vu?
A caption says TEN YEARS EARLIER. The same woman, who looks about 50, is listening to a different cheerful man talk. In the background, a different female secretary works on a computer with a flatscreen monitor.
MAN: The reason most executives are male isn’t sexism.
A caption says TWENTY YEARS EARLIER. The same woman, now about 40, is listening to a different cheerful man. In the background, a female secretary works on a computer with a huge boxy monitor.
MAN: It just takes time for women to get promoted!
A caption says THIRTY YEARS EARLIER. The same woman, now about 30, is being talked out by a cheerful man with a big mustache. But the woman has turned and is listening to the secretary in the background, an older woman working on an electric typewriter.
MAN: In thirty years, lots of top executives will be women.
SECRETARY: Do you ever get deja vu?
CAPTION FOR ENTIRE CARTOON: People grow old, excuses live forever.
Further reading: Fact Sheet: The Women’s Leadership Gap | Center for American Progress
It’s just biology – women don’t have the upper body strength to cleanly bisect a live baby in a single movement, which prevents them from completing the 5th blood ritual of Azathoth, without which they cannot harness the forces of chaos to deliver value to shareholders. And since 87% of all Wall St. transactions are governed by Azathoth, it would be bad economics to change the status quo.
An exemplary cartoon in every way. Clear theme, bitingly delivered, with a great twist at the end. The transition from laptop to typewriter is delightful and subtle, as is the transition in people’s attire and hairstyle. Plus, the shading makes Amp’s familiarly Playmobile-shaped characters seem rounder and cuddlier than ever!
Some cartoons – even brilliant ones such as Doonesbury — resist being read; ya gotta WANNA read it. In contrast, Amp’s cartoons resist NOT being read. To see it is to read it; you can’t help yourself.
For whatever reason, I totally missed the caption until well after I’d read the cartoon. It works anyway, though, just thought you’d want to know.
Of course it’s sexism that usually causes the disparity–but sexism by the employers is less of a factor than it may seem.
It seems to me that there can be only so many targets. Focusing on the end employment stats seems like a never ending fight because so many of these things (from math ability to self confidence to personality type to negotiating style) are fairly well-determined long before folks seriously enter the employment field at all, or are determined by things outside the employment field.
For example, the low # of women in STEM is certainly related to sexism, but it is mostly caused by sexism at the pre-college level. Because when you have this big of a difference in ability coming out of high school, for groups that had identical (if not girl-superior) potentials going in, it is clear that pre-college sexism produces horrible results. But STEM companies do not run elementary schools: given the differences in ability between groups who are too old to play catch-up, it remains pretty unsurprising that the resulting pool (who is for most purposes long past the time when they can cure that gap) will be unequal. Is the differing # of women in STEM caused by sexism? Yes. Sexism by the STEM companies? Only to the degree that you correct for entering-ability differences.
Similarly, in settings like law, the perks tend to go to Type A people who work crazy hours, never take breaks, and such. For a bunch of reasons that relate to or are entirely caused by sexism, gender roles, and the like, fewer of those “crazy hours no breaks Type A” folks are women. Sexism? Yup. Sexism by the law firms? Only to the degree that you correct for “crazy hours no breaks” differences. And so on.
The argument against employers is based on “disparate outcomes as proof of sexism.” But in many cases a large part of the disparity is actually a symptom of the real problem–and in many cases the real problem is relatively unrelated to employers. Focusing on employment seems inefficient sometimes.
Yes, the whole society is sexist.
But what about the fact that middle management is now about 50% female–so some progress clearly has been made–but tend to be ~20% or less of highest-level management roles?
What about the fact that in interviews many people still think certain jobs can’t be done by women, or say that in their companies women are more likely to be promoted based on past performance, and men more likely to be promoted based on expectation of future success?
Sexism is present all throughout education. Since we have a disparity upon college entrances, are you saying we shouldn’t care that the STEM pipeline is leaky, with women more likely than men to drop out of the field at every career step?
And anyway–I feel like we were just recently having a discussion about the fact that people spend a lot of time at work, and that work is important because lots of people have to do it to survive. Even if work isn’t the place these problems originate…isn’t it one of many reasonable places to attempt to address the effects?
I like the cartoon substantively, but was anyone else confused by the ‘same’ woman going back through time? Her facial features are consistent, but the thirty-years-ago hairstyle and the present-day hairstyle don’t look to me like anything that would be likely to be on the same woman — thirty-years-ago has frizzy-curly hair, and present-day has a straight bob. (It’s not impossible, you can straighten hair, but it’s a jarring enough change that I didn’t get it until I read the description.)
More likely she had a perm in the 80s than that she straightened her hair every other decade, I should think.
G&W: I am boggled by your assertion, particularly with regard to STEM, given recent study results about discrimination against women in those fields.
Oh yes: “the pipeline”. Which is really a subset of this cartoon. Sure, there is/was discrimination early on, but once that is/will be fixed, women will move through and become management! Deja vu, indeed.
Also, re law: c’mon. It’s not a magic bias in favor of people who work long hours. Books of business, networking, the “2 a.m. rule” – all of these are things that tend to favor the established network, which isn’t majority female.
Also also, it’s a bit silly to say that employers never discriminate anymore. Of course they do. It just tends to be of the more unconscious ‘culture fit’ variety, rather than the open, hostile “broads don’t belong here” variety.
Last time I looked, new chemistry PhD’s had a sex ratio of 1:2 and new chemistry tenure track professorial hires had a sex ratio of about 1:5. Even the 1:2 ratio is worse than the ratio in super high math SATs (which are about 2:3 according to g&w’s link). CompSci ratios are abysmal and getting worse. A poster on one of the recent threads (I’ve forgotten who, sorry) described some of their experiences with the sort of direct, aggressive sex discrimination that exists in tech start-ups.
Women in aggressive professions like law and upper echelons of management are penalized for being aggressive, because most people (men and women) are biased against aggressive women while they are biased towards aggressive men. Likewise, they are penalized for not being aggressive, because you need to be aggressive to make partner or CEO.
Following up on mythago and Charles S, in academic STEM at least (my area of knowledge) there’s absolutely significant sexism that goes on at the post-graduate level and above. I don’t have the cite in front of me but not only is there a significant shift in sex ratio from PhD to tenure-track assistant professor positions in many STEM fields, but that shift is exacerbated as you go from assistant professor to associate professor to full professor. And these are certainly not all women who don’t want to work long hours or be type-A or whatever – everyone who gets a job at a STEM academic research institution has already shown they’re up for that, because the positions are so competitive right now. Based on what I’ve seen personally and been told by colleagues, I’d agree with mythago that there’s a lot of “culture fit” arguments used by more senior male faculty to limit the career progress of some of their female colleagues.
I think the pipeline is a much bigger issue than it seems. More to the point I think that the pipeline gets much less attention relative to its importance in outcomes, than it should.
As a practical matter, my daughter’s ability to become a engineer was significantly determined before she got into middle school, and will be almost fully determined long before she ever gets an iota of attention from any “STEM Girls” group. If she wasn’t already on track for BC calculus now, there’d be almost no possibility of catching up when she’s in high school, much less a chance of her doing it in college. But although there are plenty of places which will treat her nicely when she grows up, they aren’t around when it matters.
Yet the political arenas have almost no push there. It’s all about employment. Shit, they don’t even collect (or release) the data you need to understand it. (You can see the %age of girls who take the AP; and you can, in other sources, see the %age who “pass.” But you can’t see the %age by actual score/gender, and a “3” is way different than a “5.”
The problem is that “bias” arguments are, usually, predicated on the assumption that the compared groups are identical. But we have a data gap. If they’re substantially not identical (as is certainly true in STEM) then the bias argument gets worse. It may be much more efficient to make them identical rather than trying to find ways to force people to treat non-identical groups in similar fashions. After all, you’re going to do it anyway: if you make them identical first the bias issues are easier.*
But I admit that’s just my focus, mostly because I have two girls in school and am fighting that particular battle all the time. Rereading my comment I concede that I should have framed it as a “this is important too” issue rather than “Amp’s cartoon is wrong” issue. Sorry.
Still, I do think that perhaps we are focusing a bit too much on post- and not enough on pre-.
There are a bunch of programs for younger girls for STEM, but they aren’t nearly as wide-spread as is needed. Girl Scouts have been doing a lot of stuff lately, though most individual troops need someone who actually knows this stuff in order to guide the girls to do the activities. Some of it even has to start with preschoolers and toddlers, and the toys that they get and how they’re encouraged to play with them, and that’s a pretty difficult thing to do, especially when so many parents have no problem saying, “I’m terrible at math.”
One of the big things, actually, is that fear of math–not ability to do math, but the self-perception that you can’t do math–can be picked up by female elementary-age students from their female teachers. (It doesn’t appear to be picked up by male students from their female teachers; I don’t remember if there were not enough male teachers in the sample to test, or if male teachers didn’t transmit math fear to their students.) So part of the problem is that most elementary-school teachers are female, and many don’t like math.
Still, there is no step where the decrease in number of women in STEM can be solely attributed to differences in preparation or ability up to that step, since you’re more or less thresholding at every step and even so you lose more women than men, and beyond about the Ph.D. level it’s about demonstrated competence in a specific subfield rather than general ability.
Also, the cartoon isn’t about employer-side discrimination alone; it references “sexism,” which is a much larger concept than just employer discrimination. I agree with you that there are a whole lot of things that go into occupational segregation, not just any one element.
g&w, the pipeline is important too. But what Amp’s cartoon is talking about is not the importance of getting women into ‘the pipeline’; it’s about the fact that no matter how many women are in that pipeline, it’s of no use if that pipeline is blocked, or leaks.
Reading the comments here on women in STEM with interest.
Here in Israel, we have a stereotype-busting, decades-long influx of “ultra” orthodox Jewish women into computer science – which is perceived as intellectually stimulating, clean office work that can sometimes be done from home. This is supported with subsidized daycare and many employers or subcontractors who accommodate “mommy track” arrangements.
My mainstream orthodox community has lots of women in traditionally female roles like teacher/social worker/nursing – but about 1/3 of my female neighbors are in law, computer science, and biotech – including 2 R&D team leaders at technology multinationals.
One of my sons attended a high school for gifted orthodox boys – which has no problem filling its school for girls. All kids graduate with a BA in Computer Science, and concentrations in electronics and biotech are also available in both schools.
The Jewish culture of respect for scholarship and the economic realities of large families – backed up by subsidized daycare and some other policies – seem to be yielding different outcomes than in the States…
Regarding g-and-w’s comment about equal abilities going into high school:
My sister was in one of the last all-girl classes to graduate from a public high school for gifted girls back in New York (Hunter – sister-school of the famous Stuyvesant High School for boys) – and she views the rapid adoption of tech careers for Orthodox women as vindication of sex-segregated education in the high school years. She will tell you that the all-girl environment of her (non-religious) high school freed her and her friends to excel without social baggage. A few short years after her school was integrated, researchers found girls regularly abdicating leadership roles to the boys.
for gifted girls
Isn’t that where Elena Kagan went?
I do have some data to share on this. MIT’s male:female ratio in their undergraduate classes runs about 54:46. But the male:female ratio of the students that they offer admission to is not skewed towards men as far as that. It turns out that a higher ratio of men accept the offer of admissions than women do.
Why, I do not know. If you want to go into a STEM field, getting into MIT is pretty much the golden ticket. Whether the women who do not accept go to another STEM oriented school or not I do not know – I don’t think MIT does either.
I also suggest that not as many women who get a STEM degree decide to actually pursue a STEM career. I cannot offer any objective evidence, but I’ve observed this in my own family and with other people.
I’ll posit that sexism is definitely a factor in the dearth of women in C-level corporate jobs. Do you think that’s the only factor, or do you think there are any innate differences between men and women that might also be a factor?
I think that’s sometimes a false dichotomy. For instance, that nearly everyone who gets pregnant is a woman is an innate difference that is a factor; but the choice to not use policies that mitigate that innate difference is (imo) sexist.
Not to mention that “innate differences between men and women”, to the extent they exist, are group-level. Nobody disagrees that male and female median height differs, but this doesn’t mean every man is taller than every woman. Similarly, to assume that “innate differences” haven’t been sorted out by the time we get to C-level executives seems a bit wishful.
Mythago – to extend your metaphor, then, while every man is certainly not taller than everyone woman, if you select the group of “1% tallest people” out of any sizable group composed of 50% men and 50% women, it’s almost always going to be nearly all male. The subset of “C-level people” – or even “C-level qualified people” – in a group of people is, I would suggest, comparable in it’s exclusivity.
True. But it’s quite the competition to get to that level, isn’t it? I would find an proposition that said subset has some quality that is exclusively found in males to be difficult to defend. But are there some reasons not rooted in sexism but in some innate differences between men and women that are a factor (although not necessarily the entire cause) in more men reaching that level and becoming members of that subset than women do, whether by choice, fitness or both?
Positing for the sake of debating this point that there is some such factor (I am not claiming that the existence of such a factor is established) then – why? To mitigate that innate difference in order to push the ratio all the way to 50:50 will take some kind of effort. It will consume some kind of resources from the organizations in particular and society in general, thus reducing their efficiency. It will put into these positions people who for some innate reason did not get to that place on their own.
Why do this? Why is this necessarily a social good? And what makes it worth expending the resources in this fashion instead of some other?
The subset of “C-level people” – or even “C-level qualified people” – in a group of people is, I would suggest, comparable in it’s exclusivity.
Why? What is the trait that you would equate to “tallest”, keeping in mind that height is an objective measure, while things such as ambition, aggression, persistence, skill and so forth, are subjective?
But are there some reasons not rooted in sexism but in some innate differences between men and women that are a factor (although not necessarily the entire cause) in more men reaching that level and becoming members of that subset than women do, whether by choice, fitness or both?
Could you maintain a consistent position through the same sentence? If they’re innate characteristics, then it’s not ‘choice’ – I can’t ‘choose’ to be taller. If there is some innate characteristic that you believe is significant enough to actually account for an across-the-board difference in high levels of success, I’d be interested to hear it.
Though since in the past you’ve maintained – in the face of significant evidence to the contrary – that there’s no such thing as sexism in STEM fields, and success depends purely on one’s talent and nose-to-the-grindstone-ness, I’m wondering why you’re hedging now.
What resources? How does using resources reduce efficiency?
Supposing that’s the case, why does that matter?
If women, as you’re arguing, lack “fitness,” why would spending resources to make them more productive / “fit” be a waste? Given that across the board, men are not equal to one another, are you suggesting that men are never given the training, education, and opportunities to compete with other, “fitter” men?
I’d say yes. We know that many mental traits (both specific and general) are at least partially determined by genetics, and we know that women and men tend to have some specific brain differences. Though it’s very hard to tease out what the results are, courtesy of the nature/nurture problem, it seems pretty clear that biology will be “a factor,” for at least some things.**
You might reasonably say “but what are the chances that all of the good job descriptions would just so happen to preference male traits?” That wouldn’t be accidental: job descriptions are arbitrarily constructed from scratch, and were, in almost all circumstances, made by men. Anyone who can make the rules tends to favor their own traits in making them. If there are biological differences in behavior, even small ones, then over time I would expect men who design high paid, high status jobs to focus on those traits in particular. And a small difference in group behavior can be exacerbated if you design the rules to focus on it. Since we don’t know precisely what the differences are that can be hard to prove but I personally think it’s likely.
**Most obviously, there’s childbirth and related shit. That is very hard to compensate for because it’s not like people can stop their careers from progressing while women are out of the workforce. And it’s not like we can change society to prevent people from targeting their “best” employees for advancement, thus creating an exponential effect for lower-level differences.
Amp’s reference to it being sexist not to compensate is difficult. The more immediate the job is, the less likely it is that “a woman who has worked all year” and “a woman who got hit with blood pressure issues and who ended up taking a nine-month maternity leave” will be equivalent. It’s not like the effect of “not being at work” is magically erased because it’s for a good reason; it may literally take years to catch up, which has a huge effect w/r/t promotions and exponential growth.
It must be sexism that’s been keeping women out of the ditch-digging, truck-driving, roofing, warehouse, landscaping, mining, and sewer-maintenance jobs for the past thirty years, too. Darn those sexist institutions!
Yes, darn those sexist institutions!
Also, as Amp said above, it’s still partly sexism that makes women think they’d be unsuitable for those jobs, too.
Wait a second, I know this one. Ooh, just a second …. umm … Yes. Yes it is.
Well, not just sexism, also its closely related cousin, “essentialist gender roles.” It works in a couple of ways.
The (well-policed) essentialist gender roles are what stop women from applying to these jobs, whether it’s because they don’t feel it would be ‘appropriate,’ because they fear the reactions of others, or because they figure they won’t be hired, so why bother.
It’s the sexism (which includes things like a belief in essentialist gender roles, but also the old boy’s network, the defense of the entrenched status quo, etc) that makes a hiring manager laugh (like you just did) at the idea of hiring those who do apply.
PS. Though I didn’t see it before I posted, I just wanted to say that Harlequin’s link is really fantastic, and shows what a bundle of outright lies Copyleft’s sneering rests on.
As someone who’s worked at a company with a lot of warehouse and truck driving positions I’d like to say, “Yes. Sexism has indeed kept women out of those positions.”
In a related story, our warehouse supervisors wouldn’t hand out chocolate helmets as rewards for safe behavior because, “They’ll think I’m gay.”
Also what Harlequin & Myca write.
Have people seen the Israeli study (discussed here by P.Z. Meyers) in which two sets of tests were given in math, English and Hebrew, one graded by teachers who knew the student’s genders and the other anonymously? Results were the same with English and Hebrew. But, with math the boys scored higher when graded by teachers who knew them and the girls scored higher when graded anonymously.
And then there’s the famous resume study, in which the “male” candidate is ranked higher than the “female” candidate, even though the only difference between their resumes is their first name. These results have been replicated in various ways over and over again.
Sexism exists in math and science education. It exists in STEM hiring. It exists in jobs relating to management. It is demonstrated in controlled studies which have been replicated.
As long as there is so much sexism at all levels of the STEM pipeline, it seems premature to attribute disparities to innate gender differences in the ways our brains work.
I don’t think we should limit this discussion to just STEM fields–there is, of course, gender bias everywhere.
If we’re going to discuss whether there’s sexism in STEM, though, you don’t even need to look at things like the very well established tendencies of any group of people, on average, to rate women as worse at that stuff than men. You can just look at the distribution of women within STEM itself. After all, what are the usual arguments for why women don’t go into or excel in STEM careers? Worse math ability; preference for working with people; preference for doing things which help people. Yes? And so let’s take some STEM fields: computer science, engineering, math, physics, biology. In order of decreasing mathematical rigor, that’s math, physics, engineering, comp sci and biology roughly at the same level I think; increasing work with people, probably math, physics, biology, then comp sci and engineering close to each other; helping others, math, physics, comp sci, engineering, biology. Fair enough? So you’d expect from that that math would have the fewest women as a percentage, then physics, then comp sci and engineering in some order, then biology. And the actual order (at the bachelor’s level and at the Ph.D. level) is something like engineering, comp sci, physics, math, biology. (It depends a little what statistics you look at, but engineering/compsci/physics are always lower than the other two, and physics is usually the highest percentage of women of that group of three.)
There’s basically no way that, given the “native ability” arguments, math should have the second-highest percentage of women from that group of fields. And yet it does. So whatever’s going on in engineering, comp sci, and physics, at least some of it has to be cultural things about those fields, and the cultural things about the field can be changed. (Not easily, and not quickly.) And given all the external arguments I think it’s fair to say that the gender distribution in math is also affected by sexism, but I’m just saying, even without reference to external measures, it’s really obvious that there has to be sexism in STEM.
So, I think that article has an interesting perspective on the term. I think it’s a problem when we conflate “losing women more frequently than men” with just “losing women out of STEM”–the second thing, as the author notes, causes a lot of harm, as does the general idea of being a failure if you leave academia. And I don’t think we do a good enough job distinguishing those two things, when it’s the first that’s really the problem.
However, the author is wrong about the nonexistence of the leaky pipeline–or at least I expect that he’s wrong in the same way previous studies of the sort that he coauthored have been wrong. Basically, there’s a trend where if you follow individual students, you find that the women drop out faster than the men. But if you look at the percentage of women at every step, it doesn’t seem to drop. What’s the difference? The percentage of women at every level who spent the previous level of their career outside the US increases as you move on. The percentage of women is flat, but the cohort it’s describing is changing faster than the male cohort is changing. (I was just trying to tally this up, and of the three departments I’ve been a student or postdoc in, there were a total of 6 female tenure-track faculty, 4 from outside the U.S.; of the 38 male tenure-track faculty, 11 were from outside the U.S. Small numbers, but it seems representative from what I can tell.)
The reason more women don’t get to the top is precisely the same reason why more women aren’t elected to office. Study after study has shown that when women run for political office, they raise money at the same rates as men and win at the same rates as men.
They simply cannot be gotten to run.
Sure, some do. Their freedom to do so should completely be supported. But feminism has always gone on and on about what women can do, while almost never examining what women want to do. To the extent it comes up at all, feminism tries to tell women what to want. Which, since feminists would look pretty ridiculous trying to use the “sexist” whip on women, rarely works. By and large, it appears to me that most women are content to let the nominal leaders mostly be men, while they themselves acquire and exercise power in various other ways.
The fact that they are subjective does not mean that they do not exist. Skills can be learned. But things such as ambition and aggression (perhaps persistence) are not necessarily things that are taught. Certainly not the way skills are. And a difference in such between groups can certainly account in part for why one group would be disproportionately represented in C-level positions.
As far as a difference between choice and fitness – aggressiveness might well be a fitness characteristic that would make one more effective in a C-level role, whereas ambition might be something that would influence ones desire to spend the time and put forth the effort to attain such a position.
But I’m not naming what such factors are, or might be – those are your proposals. They are possible candidates. There may be others. I want to explore the more basic question. Do you think that the only reason that men and women are not represented 50:50 in C-level corporate roles is sexism? Or do you think it’s possible that there are some innate differences between men and women that might also be factors?
“It must be sexism that’s been keeping women out of the ditch-digging, truck-driving, roofing, warehouse, landscaping, mining, and sewer-maintenance jobs for the past thirty years, too. Darn those sexist institutions!”
Insofar as those jobs require upper body strength, they are going to favor men because men in general have more than women do. Of course there are outliers, and women who have the requisite capability should have equal opportunity at the jobs.
But if you take a look at the last 30 years especially, a lot of jobs like that have been impacted by automation. Ditches are not dug with 10 guys with shovels anymore. 90% of the work is done with someone running a backhoe, which a woman can do as well as a man I should think.
I can anticipate an issue, though. Some of the work still has to be done by hand. What I would wonder is whether the career path there for men is lower level laborer -> backhoe operator, whereas women, fewer of whom are fitted for lower level laborer, get a preferential jump in the queue straight to backhoe operator. I would imagine that you learn a few thing on the job of lower level laborer as to how things work that would help when you graduate to equipment operator – and thus employers would rather hire people with that kind of experience, which would tend to favor men.
Just realized that my earlier statistic was slightly unfair, because the oldest faculty cohort is entirely male and almost entirely American–they get less American as you get into the regime where there are also women of the same age present. If I limit myself to faculty no older than the oldest woman present, it’s 10 of 25 men rather than 11 of 38–still less, but not quite so extremely.
As long as sexism is as pervasive as it is, I think that is is rare to be able to really put our finger on what is innate and what is the result of environmental impact when dealing with matters of cognition and behavior.
I don’t think math and science skills are likely to be among the things with sex-liked differences when (if) all of this shakes out. But, I think the Israeli study cited above and studies of stereotype effect indicate that a significant portion of the current difference is due to sexism. So, why not work on the sexism that clearly exists and see where we are when studies like the ones I cited stop showing sexism (as they already have for white women and girls in some subjects, like English). Why speculate on how much of it is innate now, when there are clearly strong environmental effects that can be addressed?
I agree with Kate. Is there some portion of differences in outcomes that is based on innate sex-linked traits? Hard to say there is zero when we aren’t even specifying what those sex-linked traits might be (I mean, Hell, we know there is height discrimination, height is sex-linked, so there is probably some portion of the sex ratio of C-level executives that is explained by the sex-linked component of height + height discrimination). But really the question is a pointless distraction from addressing the differences in outcomes that are clearly the result of sexism.
I think the reverse set of questions is more productive at the direct level of the late stages of the C-level executive pipeline (or lots of other situations, that just happened to be the current example). For anything that you can identify that increases the imbalance in the sex ratio, you should ask, “Is this characteristic that we are (directly or indirectly) selecting based on actually directly connected to the core capabilities of this position?”
Harlequin posted about the Vanderbilt-Fisk bridge program, which discovered that by selecting applicants on proven grit, it could consistently generate excellent PhD student candidates in a way that it couldn’t have by selecting on math GRE scores, and while GRE scores show a race bias, grit presumably does not. That is an example of looking at the filtering mechanism you are using and actually evaluating whether it is excluding lots of people who shouldn’t actually be excluded.
I suspect there is a similar thing going on with the effect of parental leave (which both g&w and Amp mention as an example of sexism merging with sex-linked inherent differences). Where parental leave is treated as normal procedure for all new parents, I suspect it mostly stops being an event that has permanent negative effects on all parents’ career paths. The detrimental effects on career performance of taking a year off to have a child and raise and infant aren’t necessary effects, they are just a side effect of a “married man with a stay-at-home wife” model of employment.
I have a cartooning question.
When you post a cartoon, you typically include a transcript.
What is the purpose?
It seems like closed captioning, but that analogy does not fit; if I can’t read the cartoon, I can’t read the transcript.
Or, do you start with the transcript and then proceed to draw the cartoon?
Jut – I am pretty sure Amp does that because many visually impaired people rely on screen readers to access the web. Unfortunately, screen readers have limitations. Some may not be able to decipher text embedded in a picture. Even those that can won’t be able to decipher the visual layout and read the text in the desired order. For example – the words “Ten Years Earlier” would probably be read AFTER the panel’s text rather than before it. This can cause confusion. And, of course, the visually impaired may rely on the description of the artwork as well.
Here is a link with more information about screen reader limitations.
That’s the original reason I started doing the transcripts – a visually-impaired reader requested it.
Then over time, I realized that the transcripts are also nice for letting search engines find the cartoons. :-)
Or do you think it’s possible that there are some innate differences between men and women that might also be factors?
As the old saying goes, anything’s possible, counselor. It’s entirely possible that it just so happens that white dudes dominate the C-level executive positions across all industries because of some undiscovered genetic superiority found only in white dudes. That doesn’t make it likely or even credible, especially in light of long standing and pervasive sexism that, objectively, seems a far more likely explanation, particularly when that sexism also has the effect of exaggerating the effects of any ‘innate’ differences.
(Also, seriously, who in the US gets nine months of leave?)
Executives and CEOs have to also be entrepreneurial and have a “vision” and all that other crap.
But it has apparently only been men who have started up the really high-growth, high-earning companies within a generation. Intel, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, Google and the like were all founded by men. Even if we declare that companies more than 75 years old are now “public property” and nationalized, and 1/2 now have to have female CEOs, it would get a bit much to tell the 2 guys running Google to now step aside for a female CEO. At the company they built.
Almost all of the patents that are relevant for starting core businesses have been filed by men. Yeah, I know that a woman invented Kevlar, or rather (if you look at the listed inventors on the patent), she was a woman on a team that invented Kevlar. Inventors working out of their garage still exist and are still filing relevant patents.
It gets a bit more difficult to explain why women can’t also come up with an invention in a garage. I know that the old standby excuse is that society trains women to not think that way, so society (“Patriarchy”) is at fault.
Society has been giving women affirmative advantages for quite a while now. There are US government set-asides for female-owned businesses. I know for sure that at least one US university was requiring lower grade-point averages for women vis-a-vis men for entry into its engineering program in the early 1980s. Lots of encouragement, yet women are just not filing patents, or starting the relevant high-growth companies.
A side note: You’ve fallen into a bad habit of constant snark and insulting language. You can get away with it here, but it doesn’t make you look very good or grown up.
Frieden, everything you just listed could equally be the result of sexism, so you haven’t proven anything.
Fewer women have filed patents? You can invent things out of your garage, sure. But it certainly helps if you have a STEM background, particularly in materials-heavy fields like mechanical engineering, and, as we’ve been discussing, STEM fields are biased against women, especially engineering. I don’t know about overall patents granted, but certainly the most lucrative are often the ones made under the aegis of a business of some kind, usually in teams, and again: a STEM background is useful there.
(Patents seem a particularly weird place to point, by the way. In addition to being heavily male, they’re even more heavily white–like, order of magnitude fewer Black people have received patents than women. You’re making a pretty bold claim if you’re saying that the distribution of patent recipients is an unbiased indicator of ability to create new technology on which to found a business. Also, few women, even fewer non-white/Asian folks? That sounds an awful lot like the biases in STEM that we were discussing before…)
No woman has started a high-growth business? People rate men as more competent; they’re more willing to judge men on their future potential rather than their past performance. Men do better at raising venture capital. Given all those things, they have an easier time funding their companies and making good connections and collaborations with other businesses, as well as hiring the best people to work for them.
Women can get government grants to help their businesses? You’re complaining about women having to run a 10-foot shorter course while wearing a 50-lb backpack men don’t have to wear. It’s attempting to fix one kind of shortcoming that’s hard to address (all the stuff in the previous paragraph) with a different advantage (giving them money). We can haggle about whether it’s the right amount of advantage to offset the disadvantage, but it is definitely not like everyone started out equal and then the women just got moved forward 10 feet. Perhaps the government grants aren’t enough money; certainly, the structural things that prevent some women from starting businesses won’t be completely addressed by offering them more money to do so.
Yes, that is definitely an accurate representation of our position.
@Harlequin, it’s pointless to argue with one of the crowd that wants to argue that men built civilization. If you point out that a woman has founded a company, or invented a device, or came up with an idea, it’ll be dismissed as ‘she was just part of a team’ or ‘she got her idea from somewhere else’ or, ultimately, ‘so what, she was an exception, look at all these MEN who did the same thing’. If you talk about long-standing institutionalized sexism that kept women out of relevant fields or blocked their access to capital, they’ll change the subject to how totally spoiled women are now and where’s the female Steve Jobs?! If you point to current evidence of, say, venture capital firms being a boys’ club, they’ll insist that can’t be true because [insert tedious parable about the market punishing bad actors], and if it is, well, what’s really going on is that the women just aren’t having any good ideas worthy of funding.
@Frieden: I shall give your side note due consideration.
Fair enough, mythago. But I do have a point. If you want to say “Sexism is a major reason that there are so few female C-level corporate executives” then you and I have grounds for agreement. But – and I’m not saying you said this – if someone wants to say “Sexism is THE reason that C-level corporate executives are not 50:50::male:female”, then I would not agree with that – I think there are other factors involved.
RonF: what other factors?
Also, RonF, going back to the original cartoon, which as you note talks about “lots of” female executives rather than a precise 50/50 split – if we’re arguing that other factors besides sexism are at work, then you’re in essence agreeing with Amp’s cartoon. That is, it’s not true that the only problem is ‘the pipeline’ and in a generation everything will be different, because in thirty years, women aren’t going to suddenly have evolved to be more ambitious or aggressive or vision-having. But the optimistic guy(s) in the cartoon are saying, in effect, that sexism is all over now, so in the next generation that won’t be a thing.
Not to get too “meta” but I think that the many definitions include
“Sexism: treating two identical things as different, because of gender, in a manner which advantages men over women”
“Sexism: assigning value/cost to a behavioral or physical characteristic which correlates with gender for biological reasons, in a manner which advantages men over women”
“Sexism: assigning value/cost to a behavioral or physical characteristic which correlates to gender for social reasons, in a manner which advantages men over women” (by which I mean to say that after having grown up in the USA, one might expect that women in their 40s and men in their 40s are now going to be different based on 40 years of differential treatment, even if there is no reason biologically for them to be different)
As with many such ill-defined terms (see also: “false,” “racism,” and feminist”) a lot of the argument comes from which definition you’re using.
For example, a C-level recruiter is obviously entitled to come up with a definitional pool of candidates, and to choose standards which might include “how fast did they get their first partnership offer;” “what is their prior job history;” “have they founded a company;” “were they president of their grad school’s journal;” “who are their references.”
Each of those seems reasonable on its own, but each of those will play off a past history of sexist education, training, hiring, promotion, and the like. Moreover, they will also be subject to the other social effects of gender. The effect is multiplicative. Even if the C-level recruiter gets all of that information in a fashion that is totally blind to gender, you can end up with a huge disparity in gender outcomes. Here’s a paper talking about something similar in the race/law school category.
The solution is complex and balanced. Imagine a set of perfectly non-biased, gender-blind recruiters. To what degree do you expect them to adjust their current,
non-sexist,hiring to accommodate past sexism?
The more that you say “there are limits on how much of this is their problem to fix,” the more that you need to focus on pipeline issues. Conversely, the more that you say “whether or not they caused it, they need to help solve it” the more that you need to focus on AA issues.
(edited to strike “non-sexist”)
Fair enough. I do get a case of somebody’s wrong on the internet and try to argue for the benefit of bystanders sometimes, but that tendency leads me astray more often than I’d like.
I think that it is pretty clear that some proportion of many disparities between the genders is the result of this. In addition to the studies of maths tests and resumes I cited above, there is the result of symphonies changing to blind auditions, which was a major factor in increasting the representation of women from in orchestras in the U.S. since the 1970’s..
Even if the effect in any particular case is small, when multiplied by dozens of teachers and hundreds of tests; and then a few employers and dozens of clients and assignments just that alone could snowball into something pretty huge over time.
But, of course most people can’t be subject to a drip, drip, drip of bias like that and not have it erode either their self esteem or their patience.
So, let’s try to eliminate bias where we can with blind testing, with first round reviews of resumes with gender-identifying markers redacted. Let’s look at the science which tells us how to reduce the triggering of stereotype effect by no longer asking people to answer questions about their gender (and race, while we’re at it) before taking standardized tests. These are just off the top of my head.
g&w @54, it’s a bit simplistic to say that it’s merely a system that ‘advantages men over women’ – for example, gender-policing of men so they do not exhibit behavior associated with women is certainly an aspect of sexism, whether or not that advantages women.
‘This is not something recruiters can fix alone’ and ‘this is something recruiters can help fix’ are complementary, not opposites (particularly as recruiters do not work in a vacuum, and ostensibly neutral criteria are not handed down by God). The pipeline is a problem. It’s not the only problem, though, and putting women in the pipeline won’t work if women take a look at what’s at the other end of the pipe and say “Yeah, no thanks.”
True, although in the context of women and employment it tends to be more of a focus of obtaining benefits for women. If asked, I suspect most folks would concede that “men being discouraged from becoming preschool teachers, babysitters, and nurses” is also a thing, but unless asked it’s mostly ignored.
Also, the cartoon itself if pretty simplistic (like most such cartoons, I know) and I’m certainly happy to agree that the actual problem/solution are more complex.
Sure. I didn’t intend to suggest they were; I was just illustrating weighting whih is why i used “the more that…”
Yes, which is why I said in #27:
I am not sure if you think I’m disagreeing, here.
True. But I think the pipeline is very important, and gets relatively starved for political attention. Probably that is because it is taking the long term view instead of short term benefits. Spending $500k on pipeline won’t get ANY women hired, at least not in a standard 2 year political cycle, so I can see why it is less appealing, but the results are poor.
Also, pipeline discussions require people to make some tricky political acknowledgments. In particular they require people to concede that there are (or could be) reasons OTHER than “employer sexism” for a disparity in hiring. But again, you run into short term/long term: even though those concessions are needed in order to find (and fix!) any issues which may exist, they are politically risky because they would impact your ability to make short term claims.
After all, imagine that you are suing ABC Corp because only 25% of new hires are female. It is very tricky to simultaneously acknowledge that the pipeline and discrimination prior to ABC Corp’s involvement is responsible for a bit hunk of that, rather than accusing ABC of doing it all. Unfortunately, that’s a bad long term strategy.
Actually, g&w, the only thing I am disagreeing with you on here is the belief that the pipeline issue is shunted aside because it’s tough or is a long-term view. I would argue that the pipeline gets a lot of attention precisely because it kicks the can down the road, and more importantly, it’s a diversion. It’s much easier and more publicity-generating for a big tech company to give a million dollars to a Girls Can Code initiative than for that company to take a hard look at its own attitudes and practices – particularly since there are real-world consequences if the sexism is coming from inside the house.
(And of course this isn’t limited to sexism. Both STEM fields and law are notoriously and disproportionately white.)
Okay, I guess I also disagree that the cartoon oversimplifies things, as it’s not really painting a picture of What Causes The Glass Ceiling; it’s criticizing the view that the only problem is that we used to have sexism, but that’s all a thing of the past, and in thirty years all our problems will be solved.
Jay Smooth has another great clip. It’s about the Oscars, but it is also relevant to the topic here, particularly this point:
Hair: My mom has naturally straight hair and had a perm for about a decade in the 80s, so the hair looks plausible to me.
Or do you think it’s possible that there are some innate differences between men and women that might also be factors?
Yes, it’s possible. It seems probable to me that there are some innate psychological differences between men and women that hold across cultures, though I’m damn sure not placing bets on what exactly they are–I suspect we know less than we think about what they’re likely to be. And it’s certainly possible that those differences lead to differences in potential performance in different careers.
But jumping to this explanation seems too lazy and convenient to me. It’s like if my fish dies and I say “Maybe it died of old age” instead of thinking about water quality issues.
Or if all of your fish die after six months, and you start doing intensive research into the lifespan of fish rather than thinking about water quality. You might, indeed, be wrong about how long they’re supposed to live–but the size of that error is probably way smaller than the current environmental factors. (Especially so if all the current research into fish lifespans had been done in heavily polluted waters.)
The Israel study on math vs language grades: That came up in a Boskone panel! (“Women in Science and Technology”) I think it got a fair amount of buzz, so there is some anecdotal evidence that people are also paying attention to the pipeline. From everything I’ve seen so far, including that panel, the types of people talking about that study are also the types of people who talk about sexism among employers/coworkers, FWIW.
Okay, I guess I also disagree that the cartoon oversimplifies things, as it’s not really painting a picture of What Causes The Glass Ceiling; it’s criticizing the view that the only problem is that we used to have sexism, but that’s all a thing of the past, and in thirty years all our problems will be solved.
I agree with this.
I think the cartoon is really good overall.
Re: Blind orchestra auditions
I thought that was interesting, so I read up a bit on it. Top orchestras started implementing that in the mid-1970s, and all of the major orchestras have blind auditions behind a screen today.
Orchestras are comprised of around 25% women. That’s up from the early 1970s (before the blind auditions started becoming popular), but it pretty much reflects the grown of participation of women in the workplace. Fewer women today are just career housewives over their life.
I think more women than men get music or fine arts degrees.
So why are orchestras only comprised of 25% women today – and not 50/50? Why haven’t blind auditions contributed much past the simple growth in the greater pool of women?
It’s not merely “up”; before blind auditions, which of course are only part of the process, orchestras were almost entirely composed of men, and the blind-screening process – which is generally used for preliminary rounds, and is not the sole factor in hiring – is responsible for a significant part of the increase. (The linked study notes that not all orchestras in the US use the blind screening process, a few have used it for a long time, and most gradually implemented blind screening over the 1970s and 1980s.) Certainly, a working environment where it was no longer legally or socially the norm to force women out of the full-time labor force would like have had an impact, though it seems to me a stretch to assume that accounts for the entire change.
“Fine arts degrees” cover a wide range of arts other than music; a B.A. in sculpture or a writing MFA are different than programs specializing in the study of music, and more to the point, extensive study of particular instruments, although it would seem that a degree is not strictly necessary. So guessing at how ‘fine arts degrees’ break down by gender may not tell us much about that factor in orchestral composition. (And there doesn’t seem to be a clear answer on those degrees; the census lumps music in with “visual and performing arts”, which again doesn’t tell us about overall musical training per se.)
Of course, blind auditions and a changing legal and social climate have also likely improved diversity in orchestras in areas besides gender.
And it strikes me that since we’re talking about management rather than employment per se, shouldn’t a better comparison be to the number of women conducting orchestras?
The study I linked to is a classic, nearly 20 years old (1997). At that point, there was still a significant percentage of members hired before blind auditions started. According to this article, parity in the top 250 orchestras was reached in 2013.
Actually, I read that wrong (middle of the night – insomnia) – here’s the quote:
So, as of 2013 the numbers reached parity in half of the top 250 orchestras, and were approaching parity overall.
I do not contest Amp’s cartoon. I thought I’d made that clear. I agree that one reason that there are not more female C-level executives is due to sexism. How much of it is outright “Women are not suitable for C-level appointments” and how much of it is simply a bunch of guys tending to select “someone like me” over females without any conscious thought on the matter is impossible for me to say.
What I’m trying to do is to get a better handle on what the thinking among the group here is. Amp’s cartoon is not particularly nuanced on the concept of whether sexism is the only reason for such or not. I don’t see that as a negative – it’s a cartoon, not a social attitudes research paper. But I wanted to know what you all thought and figured I’d bring it up.
Not much at all.
The job of someone hiring a C-level executive is to find the best leader they can for their company. Their focus is – and should be – on keeping their company growing and profitable, which benefits the stockholders, management and employees. It is NOT their job to attempt to address social issues by giving the job to someone less qualified but whose hiring will affect the current imbalance of women/blacks/whoever in the ranks of C-level executives. Now, should a black/female/etc. candidate who is can check off all the tick marks on a list such as you give present themselves, that’s another story.
Indeed. According to this article in USA Today, “only 2% of pre-K and kindergarten teachers are male and only 18% of elementary and middle-school teachers are.” So where is the outcry against the gross sexism in K-12 education? Where is the discussion on how this must affect boys in schools where there are bereft of male role models? Perhaps Title IX-style legislation is needed for school boards.
@RonF and @g&w
And yet, even in women-dominated fields, the glass escalator ensures that men earn more than women, get hired more frequently than women (relatively speaking, obviously), get promoted more quickly than women, etc. (link, another link) So it seems unlikely that the reason these fields mostly employ women is because men are at a disadvantage within them.