One of the most frustrating things I hear from people who claim to have all the answers about issues surrounding women in STEM is “If women really wanted the job, they’d just apply.” The people who say things like this (read: dudes) are speaking entirely from a position of ignorance. Power, but ignorance.
At the end of the day, yes, a solution to women being underrepresented in computer science would be to get them to magically start applying. That would be great. The thing is, women, being the intelligent, capable people they are, can put together the fact that more applications would lead to more hirings, so maybe we can work from the point of view that there is a reason they don’t apply in the first place.
STEM Isn’t For Girls
This one is the most straightforward reason young women don’t get into fields like computer science. Girls are told (unfortunately usually by older women in their lives) that there are some fields for girls and some for boys. If not something so direct, they are asked why they can’t get into something more “female friendly.” The goal isn’t to change the paradigm but give into it for the sake of being amenable, which, of course, gives way to a bunch of OTHER issues young women face in STEM and other careers. Being amenable is great and all, but being a pain in the neck has its advantages. We’ll never make any progress if we keep considering being a pain in the neck a masculine trait, while those of us in the “fairer sex” are stuck trying to get along with everyone. Being amenable isn’t feminine, it’s just appearing non-threatening. Be threatening.
Having Children is a Disability
Now, before anyone gets upset, of course having a child isn’t a disability. It’s a great thing for both men and women and the fact that America doesn’t have paid child leave is a travesty. That said, when you have a child, in order to get ANYTHING while you care for your infant, you have to apply for disability. This is indicative of the mindset of how children are seen. Men don’t have any way to receive anything for time off, indicating it’s just an accepted fact that they won’t have to take that time, and women have to take disability, indicating something has gone wrong with their body. Should I have kids someday, they won’t be a disability. They’ll be a blessing. And how dare anyone try to contradict me on that.
Why Should Computer Science Want Women Anyway?
This is really the crux of my post. It’s something I’ve been asked before. “If you really want men and women to be equal, why should we make special accommodations for women at all?” The thing is, people made the same argument during Reconstruction. “Sorry slaves, you wanted freedom and now you have it. Go do stuff. What? You want help? Sorry… freedom doesn’t help.”
Now I’m not equating the two experiences, but the idea that you can keep an entire half of the population from a particular profession or set of professions through institutionalized sexism and then not give them a hand up when you claim the sexism doesn’t exist any longer ONLY PROVES THE SEXISM STILL EXISTS!
Amenable enough for you?