A chara, – The recent article on the new female-only professorships by Muireann Lynch and Selina McCoy (“Will female-only professorships make the difference?”, Opinion & Analysis, July 15th), responded to by Dr Rachel Hilliard (Letters, July 19th), put the low number of women in Stem (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) down to bias and discrimination. Could it not be that women and men make different career choices, and are happy in these choices?
If bias and discrimination were indeed the explanation, then countries which have championed female empowerment (such as Sweden) would have far higher number of women in Stem than more traditional societies. Not so. In fact, research suggests exactly the contrary.
For example, women make up 40 per cent of engineering majors in Jordan, but only 34 per cent in Sweden and 19 per cent in the US. This is the well-known “gender equality paradox,” with “enlightened” countries such as Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands having very low rates of women in Stem, while countries like Algeria, Tunisia and Albania having the highest rates.
This isn’t because women lack the aptitude for Stem. The research authors posit that countries that empower women also empower them, indirectly, to pick whatever career they’d enjoy most and be best at. And it seems women don’t choose Stem.
This is important. The drive to get women into Stem may not only be doomed to fail, it may actually be pushing women into careers they don’t want. Note the high levels of drop-out of women from Stem courses across Europe.
This unchallenged “women into Stem” policy may be wasting years of education at a large cost to both the exchequer and to the women themselves in terms of years lost following career paths they ultimately end up dropping out of. – Yours, etc,