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PostWatch: An irregular correction to the Washington Post

Brought to you by Christopher Rake


Sunday, June 23, 2002
10:26 PM

Land of Plenty of Nonsense... Kevin Merida pats Title IX on the back in a piece highlighting the achievements of a bright young woman who is excelling in science.

He notes:

Women now make up approximately 24 percent of the scientists and engineers in the U.S. labor force, according to the National Science Foundation. And, though women are still less likely than men to choose science as a career, the gap is closing: In 1975, 34 percent of the bachelor's degrees in science were awarded to women; by 1998, that figure had climbed to 49 percent, according to NSF statistics.

Yeah, a 49%-51% gap is indeed a gap that is closing. What strikes me about these stats is that female gains are celebrated in the press but we rarely see concern about areas where boys are falling behind--in most areas of higher education, for example. Once women exceed men in a given field, they receive more accolades, we send them on their way and we never worry about the guys again. The best example is post-secondary education in general, where women outnumber men at generally higher rates every year. When feminists (and media) don't spend time misleading the public about the supposed disadvantages of women and girls, they applaud their development as a sign of female progress without pausing to wonder about the other half of the human race.

Merida also has this gem:

As a 2000 report by the National Science Foundation makes clear, female scientists and engineers still receive lower salaries than their male counterparts, and women teaching in those fields at the college level are less likely than men to have tenure or to be full professors

There's a busy little cottage industry devoted to portraying the downtrodden state of women in the sciences. In this case, I'm not 100% positive which report Merida is referring to, but I suspect it is one by the Commission on the Advancement of Women and Minorities in Science, Engineering and Technology (CAWMSET). Here is the CAWMSET report, whose abridged title is Land of Plenty. And here is the Independment Women's Forum asessement of it. They don't like it very much. Their report is called Plenty of Nonsense:

The defining characteristic of Land of Plenty is its selective presentation of facts. Also troubling is its tendency to offer assertions without evidence, make claims that defy reason, or present arguments out of context...

One problem is the unrealstic expectation of instant results. Many feminist claims about women making less than men on average in any field are true but misleading--people making the most money are at the mid-and end-point of their careers, reflecting career choices from two or three decades ago. This is where much of the baloney about women making 79% of what men makes comes from. The only way to instantly equalize incomes would be to start firing older, experienced, higher-earning men to make way for younger, less experienced women.

The IWF report continues in this vein:

Workplace data still bear the effects of older trends, particularly in the upper echelons of SET [science, engineering, technology] fields. Were females to "catch up" with males among those training for SET careers, the workforce could not fully realize the change for decades.

And of course in many competitive fields that require long hours and frequent relocations, women will drop out to bear children and men will not. And, having gone through the truly unique experience of having a live human being come flying out of their bodies, many women will choose to spend more time away from work to be with their children. Take it up with God.

But as far as a "2000 report by the National Science Foundation" is concerned, Merida's reference highlights a major problem with Posties and other reporters--referring to partisan studies as if they were established fact. Yes, many of these reports are accepted wisdom, which is the problem since they're just not true.

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