This article is a weird mixture of “hear me roar” and “the boys aren’t playing fair!!!!!” An article about women actually trying to accomplish something in IT is a lot better than stuff like this suggesting that they are cause they have awesome MySpace pages and rocking emoticons, but it still strikes the same chord with me as this article and the general tone of media coverage, wherein male success in a particular area (such a technology) is a sign of failure whereas increasing female dominance (in, say, the number of college degrees awarded) is a sign of progress even when men are falling behind.
What got my attention is this:
Forty years ago women made up just 3 percent of science and engineering jobs; now they make up about 20 percent. That sounds promising, until you consider that women earn 56 percent of the degrees in those fields. A recent Center for Work-Life Policy study found that 52 percent of women leave those jobs, with 63 percent saying they experienced workplace harassment and more than half believing they needed to “act like a man” in order to succeed.
I ran across this article because that 56% statistic was cited in another article. That stat sounded so far out of left field that I had to follow the link. And I am rather dumbfounded as to where that statistic comes from. Actually, I suspect I know where that statistic comes from. 56% is about (or just below) the percentage of overall (and not just science and engineering) graduates are women. There’s just no way that science and engineering mirror that statistic so closely. Look at any school known largely for its science and engineering programs and you’re likely to find a skew towards men (and I doubt it’s because men are making up for their minority-status in science by taking liberal arts coursework).
I could say that this is deliberate misinformation, but I don’t think it is. Pointing out that only about a third or two-fifths of S&E graduates are women is often used to make the argument that there is discrimination at the university level. In fact, the notion that 56% of S&E graduates are women undermines a number of the points the author was trying to make.
In any event, the great thing about statistics like this is that they get forwarded, accepted as true, and really hard to subdue.