Gründe für Geschlechterunterschiede in STEM: Nivellierung des Spielfelds vs. Angleichung des Geschlechterverhältnisses (Teil 6)

Eine interessante Studie bespricht eine Vielzahl von Gründen, warum sich Geschlechterunterschiede im STEM-Bereich ergeben.

It is a well-known and widely lamented fact that men outnumber women in a number of fields in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths). The most commonly discussed explanations for the gender gaps are discrimination and socialization, and the most common policy prescriptions target those ostensible causes. However, a great deal of evidence in the behavioural sciences suggests that discrimination and socialization are only part of the story. The purpose of this paper is to highlight other aspects of the story: aspects that are commonly overlooked or downplayed. More precisely, the paper has two main aims. The first is to examine the evidence that factors other than workplace discrimination contribute to the gender gaps in STEM. These include relatively large average sex differences in career and lifestyle preferences, and relatively small average differences in cognitive aptitudes – some favouring males, others favouring females – which are associated with progressively larger differences the further above the average one looks. The second aim is to examine the evidence suggesting that these sex differences are not purely a product of social factors but also have a substantial biological (i.e. inherited) component. A more complete picture of the causes of the unequal sex ratios in STEM may productively inform policy discussions.

Quelle: Men, women and STEM: Why the differences and what should be done?

Die Einteilung in der Studie ist wie folgt:

  1. Sex differences in preferences and priorities
  2. Sex differences in cognitive aptitudes
  3. Sex differences in variability
  4. Bias and discrimination in the workplace
  5. Policy implications
  6. Levelling the playing field vs. equalizing sex ratios
  7. Conclusion: Many factors at play

Ich dachte ich gehe diese Punkte mal einzeln durch, weil da viel interessantes dabei ist

Heute also:

Nivellierung des Spielfelds vs. Angleichung des Geschlechterverhältnisses

Los geht es:

Having looked at how our analysis of STEM gender gaps might inform the conversation about policy options, we should step back and ask another, more fundamental question: what should the ultimate goal of these policies be? Should we strive for a 50:50 sex ratio in every area where men currently dominate? Or should we strive instead simply to eliminate bias and equalize people’s opportunities, then let the cards fall where they may?14

Eine gute Frage:

Sollten wir ein Geschlechterverhältnis von 50:50 in allen Bereichen anstreben, in denen Männer derzeit dominieren?

Oder sollten wir stattdessen einfach nur danach streben, Vorurteile zu beseitigen und die Chancen der Menschen auszugleichen, und dann die Karten fallen lassen, wie sie wollen?

Also letztendlich „Chancengleichheit“ vs „Ergebnisgleichheit“.

Den meisten Lesern dieses Blogs wird die Antwort da recht klar erscheinen: Chancengleichheit ist eine gerechte Sache. Ergebnisgleichheit erzeugt nur neue Ungerechtigkeiten

If men and women were identical in their aspirations and aptitudes, these would quite possibly amount to the same thing: levelling the playing field would automatically result in a 50:50 sex ratio, or something close to it. However, given that men and women are not identical in their aspirations and aptitudes, we have no reason to expect gender parity, even under conditions of perfect fairness. On the contrary, the natural expectation would be that men and women would not be at parity, but rather that men would be more common in some fields, and women in others, as a result of their freely made choices. To the extent that this is the case, it becomes much more difficult to justify pursuing a 50:50 sex ratio in every field. Most women do not want a career in STEM and nor do most men. Why should the small fraction of women who do want such a career be the same size as the small fraction of men? To put it another way, as long as everyone has the opportunity to pursue a STEM career, and as long as the selection process is fair, why would it be important to get as many women as men into jobs that fewer women want?

Eine viel zu selten gestellte Frage. Die Antwort aus feministischer Sicht wäre wohl: Weil STEM-Jobs zum einen häufig sehr gut bezahlt sind, eine gewisse Macht geben über die Firmen, die daraus entstehen und Frauen damit aus Geschlechterrollen befreit sind. 

The pursuit of happiness

One way to start tackling this question would be to observe that a 50:50 sex ratio in STEM is presumably not a good in itself, but is a good only in as much as that it increases human wellbeing. Importantly, though, to the degree that occupational disparities are a product of men and women acting on their own preferences and pursuing their own best interests, it is doubtful that forcing a 50:50 sex ratio would actually achieve this end.

Das ist natürlich eine recht amerikanische Diskussion, in der der „Pursuit of happiness“ eine sehr eigene Diskussion hat, schon weil es auch in deren Verfassung vorkommt („We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness“)

Hier eine Definition:

The pursuit of happiness is defined as a fundamental right mentioned in the Declaration of Independence to freely pursue joy and live life in a way that makes you happy, as long as you don’t do anything illegal or violate the rights of others

Es entspricht, jedenfalls nach der „Reiten im Walde“ Entscheidung des Bundesverfassungsgerichtes vielleicht am ehesten der  deutschen Allgemeinen Handlungsfreiheit

To begin with, men and women could have different life outcomes, but still be happy with their lives. One longitudinal study found that, among two cohorts of individuals identified as academically gifted as children, men and women had somewhat different aspirations and took somewhat different paths, but ended up similarly happy with their careers, their relationships and their lives overall (Lubinski et al., 2014). In other words, even among those best positioned to achieve their life ambitions, occupational gender parity appears not to be necessary for happiness.

Vermeintliche Gruppeninteressen sind eben ein gefährliches Ding. Oft muss einer aus der Gruppe „in den saueren Apfel beißen“ um sie umzusetzen und hat dadurch Nachteile. Das ist in gewisser Weise die Tragik der Allmende. Wenn Frauen eher auf eine andere Work-Life-Balance aus sind, dann ist es ein Verzicht in dem Bereich, sich für das allgemeine Wohl der Gruppe Frauen im (vermeintlichen Kampf um Macht) in die Schlacht zu werfen und mit einer 60+ Stundenwoche zu leben bzw ein Fach zu studieren, dass man weniger interessant findet. Das trifft natürlich nur zu, wenn die Vermutungen über andere Interessen etc zutreffen. 

Not only might it not be necessary, but policies that artificially engineer gender parity – financial incentives and quotas, for instance – could potentially lower aggregate happiness. To the extent that these policies work, they necessarily mean that some people will be funnelled into occupations that are less in line with their tastes and talents. To get more women into university physics programmes, for instance, would require persuading at least some women to choose that option when they otherwise would not have done so. (At the same time, unless enrolment numbers were increased, it would also mean turning away some men who otherwise would have.) The women in question would presumably not come from the ranks of housewives or secretaries; more than likely they would be women who would otherwise have gone into other, equally prestigious fields, such as law or medicine. Is there any reason to think that these women would be happier doing physics? Given that people tend to choose careers they think will suit them best and be most satisfying for them, it seems plausible to think that, on average, they might be somewhat less happy (Bretz & Judge, 1994De Fruyt, 2002Verquer et al., 2003).

Dazu aus dem legendären Jordan Peterson Interview:

Newman: So do you do you agree that you would be happy if that pay gap was eliminated completely? Because that’s all the radical feminists are saying.

Peterson: It would depend on how it was eradicated and how the disappearance of it was measured.

Newman: And you’re saying if that’s at a cost of men, that’s a problem.

Peterson: Oh there’s all sorts of things that it could be at the cost of it. It could even be at the cost of women’s own interests.

Newman: Because they might not be happy if they could equal pay.

Peterson: No, because it might interfere with other things that are causing the pay gap that women are choosing to do.

Newman: Like having children.

Peterson: Well, or choosing careers that actually happen to be paid less, which women do a lot of.

Newman: But why shouldn’t women have the right to choose not to have children or the right to choose those demanding careers?

Peterson: They do. They can, yeah, that’s fine.

Newman: But you’re saying that makes them unhappy, by and large.

Peterson: I’m saying that… No, I’m not saying that, and I actually haven’t said that so far in the program…

Newman: You’re saying it makes them miserable, at the beginning.

Peterson: No, I said what was making them miserable was having part was having weak partners. That makes them miserableI would say that many women around the age of I would say between 28 and 32 have a career family crisis that they have to deal with and I think that’s partly because of the for short and timeframe that women have to contend with. Women have to get the major pieces of their life put together faster than men which is also partly why men aren’t under so much pressure to grow up. So because for the typical woman she has to have her career and family in order pretty much by the time she’s 35, because otherwise the options start to run out and so that puts a tremendous amount of stress on women especially at the end of their 20s.


Peterson: Well, the first question might be… why would you want to do that?

Newman: Why would a man want to do it? It’s a lot of money, it’s an interesting job…

Peterson: There’s a certain number of men, although not that many, who are perfectly willing to sacrifice virtually all of their life to the pursuit of a high-end career. So they’ll work… these are men that are very intelligent; they’re usually very very conscientious,; they’re very driven; they’re very high-energy; they’re very healthy; and they’re willing to work 70 or 80 hours a week, non-stop, specialised at one thing to get to the top.

Newman: So you think women are just more sensible. They don’t want that because it’s not a nice level.

Peterson: I’m saying that’s part of it, definitely. And so I worked…

Newman: So you don’t think there are barriers in their way that prevent them getting to the top of those companies.

Peterson: There are some barriers, yeah, like… men for example, I mean, to get to the top of any organisation is an incredibly competitive enterprise and the men that you’re competing with are simply not going to roll over and say “please take the position”. It’s absolutely all-out warfare.

Es ist schon faszinierend, dass Vor- und Nachteile so selten wirklich behandelt werden. Natürlich gibt es sehr rationale Gründe dafür keine Karriere zu machen und schlechter bezahlte Jobs zu wählen, wenn diese andere Vorteile mit sich bringen. Und bestimmte Jobs können schlicht auch eher den eigenen Vorlieben etc entsprechen. 

Admittedly, this whole line of argument is premised on the assumption that the wellbeing of individual STEM workers ought to be the deciding factor, and some might reject that assumption. Anyone who does, though, should, we think, be expected to make a strong argument for that position. Why should we put a statistical, collective goal – i.e. more equal sex ratios in STEM – above the happiness and autonomy of the flesh-and-blood individuals who constitute those collectives? Why should policy makers’ preference for gender parity take precedence over individual men and women’s preferences regarding their own careers and lives?15

Eine Feministin würde vielleicht antworten, dass das „Wohl vieler wichtiger ist als das wohl des Einzelnen“ aber noch eher wohl, dass man zum einen Frauen damit aus der Abhängigkeit der Männer befreit und sie damit eine Menge Vorteile erhält und zum anderen es Männer gefällt und es damit keinen Grund außer Diskriminierung geben kann, dass es Frauen nicht im gleichen Maße gefällt. Der andere Ansatz wäre, dass Frauen jedenfalls die hohen Positionen in allen Bereichen haben müssen und diese, wenn sie ihnen dann weniger Spass machen sollten, eben so geändert werden müssen, dass sie besser zu den Vorstellungen der Frauen passen, etwa CEO eines DAX-Unternehmens in Teilzeit, 20 Stunden und dann Feierabend ohne Bereitschaft oder Wochenendarbeit. 

Sex differences as a sign of social health

A recurring theme in discussions of occupational gender disparities is the often-unspoken assumption that sex differences are inherently problematic, or that they constitute direct evidence of sexism and the curbing of women’s opportunities. Some research, however, points to the opposite conclusion. A growing body of work suggests that, in nations with greater wealth and higher levels of gender equality, sex differences are often larger than they are in less wealthy, less equal nations. This is true for a wide range of variables, including aggression (Nivette et al., 2019), attachment styles (Schmitt, Alcalay, Allensworth, et al., 2003), the Big Five personality traits (Schmitt et al., 2008), crying (Van Hemert et al., 2011), depression (Hopcroft & McLaughlin, 2012), enjoyment of casual sex (Schmitt, 2015), interest in and enjoyment of science (Stoet & Geary, 2018), intimate partner violence (Schmitt, 2015), self-esteem (Zuckerman et al., 2016), spatial ability (Lippa et al., 2010), STEM graduation rates (Stoet & Geary, 2018), subjective wellbeing (Schmitt, 2015) and values (Falk & Hermle, 2018).16 Importantly, the pattern is also observed for objectively measurable traits such as height, BMI and blood pressure (Schmitt, 2015), which gives some reason to think that it is not simply a product of cross-cultural differences in the ways that people answer questionnaires or take tests.

What, then, is the cause of the pattern? One possibility is that when people grow up in an enriched and relatively unconstrained environment, nascent differences between individuals – and average differences between the sexes – have more opportunity to emerge and grow. In the case of psychological traits, the suggestion would be that men and women in wealthier, more developed nations have greater freedom to pursue what interests them and to nurture their own individuality. This freedom may, in turn, result in larger psychological sex differences (Schmitt et al., 2008; although see Fors Connolly et al., 2019Kaiser, 2019).

Das ist das Gender Equality Paradox. Ein aus meiner Sicht durchaus sehr starkes Argument. Eine wirkliche Antwort aus dem Feminismus steht IMHO noch aus, wird aber wahrscheinlich in die Richtung gehen, dass die Gleichberechtigung der Frau in der westlichen Welt eben nur eine scheinbare Gleichberechtigung ist und das Patriarchat dort nur um so härter zuschlägt und mehr Geld hat um Frauen zu beeinflussen etc. 

Regardless of the reason, though, if certain sex differences are larger in societies with better social indicators, then rather than being products of a sexist or oppressive society, these differences may be indicators of the opposite: a comparatively free and fair one. If so, this casts society’s efforts to minimize the sex differences in an entirely new light. Rather than furthering gender equality, such efforts may involve attacking a positive symptom of gender equality. By mistaking the fruits of our freedom for evidence of oppression, we may institute policies that, at best, burn up time and resources in a futile effort to cure a ‘disease’ that isn’t actually a disease, and at worst actively limit people’s freedom to pursue their own interests and ambitions on a fair and level playing field.

Ein Absatz, der für eine Feministin nicht akzeptabel sein dürfte: Mehr Freiheit die mehr Ungleichheit produziert? Das kann nur falsch sein. 


The sexist assumption underlying the demand for parity

Finally, the strong emphasis on increasing the numbers of women in male-dominated fields is arguably somewhat sexist. As Susan Pinker (2008) argues, it tacitly assumes that women do not know what they want, or that they want the wrong things and thus that wiser third-parties need to ‘fix’ their existing preferences. It also tacitly assumes that the areas where men dominate are superior. The psychologist Denise Cummins (2015) put the point well when she observed that, ‘The hidden assumption underlying the push to eliminate gender gaps in traditionally male-dominated fields is that such fields are intrinsically more important and more valuable to society than fields that traditionally attract more women.’ Given that traditionally female-dominated fields include education, healthcare and social work, this assumption is not only sexist; it is also clearly false. As Judith Kleinfeld observed:

We should not be sending [gifted] women the message that they are less worthy human beings, less valuable to our civilization, lazy or low in status, if they choose to be teachers rather than mathematicians, journalists rather than physicists, lawyers rather than engineers. (cited in Steven Pinker, 2002, p. 359)

Hier würde eine Feministin vielleicht einwenden, dass es ja deutliche Zeichen dafür gibt, dass sie weniger wert sind, eben weil sie weniger bezahlt bekommen, weniger Einfluss haben, Männern an den Schalthebeln der Macht sitzen etc. 

Man würde dann eben darauf abstellen, dass eine Änderung her muss, solange Kindergärtnerinnen nicht wie Mitarbeiter eines großen Autoherstellers oder Sozialpädagoginnen nicht wie Programmierer oder Ingenieure bezahlt werden. 

Certainly, many female-dominated fields pay less, on average, than male-dominated STEM fields.17 There is a great deal of debate about the reasons for this, and the extent to which it is a product of sexism vs. factors such as market forces (e.g. the fact that many female-dominated fields have a greater supply of workers) and personal preferences (e.g. the fact that, on average, women view pay as a less important consideration in choosing a career than men, and view things such as job security and flexible work hours as more important; Funk & Parker, 2018Gino et al., 2015Lubinski et al., 2014Redmond & McGuinness, 2019). Such matters are beyond the scope of this article. We would point out, though, that even if current pay disparities were entirely due to sexism, the most appropriate solution would presumably be to strive for fair pay in female-dominated fields, rather than trying to get more women into fields that pay more but which, on average, they find less appealing. And to the extent that the explanation is that women place less weight on a high income in choosing a career, and more weight on other things, efforts to get women to prioritize income tacitly assume, once again, that women’s existing priorities are misguided, and that they ought to adopt more male-typical priorities instead.

Nur das eine gleiche Zahlung im Sozialsektor mit einem hochprofitabelen industriellen Sektor eben nicht zu ereichen sein wird. Insofern eben ein schlechter Vorschlag. 

To be clear, we completely agree that we should endeavour to root out sexism wherever it still lurks, and tear down any lingering barriers to the progress of women in STEM (as well as any barriers to the progress of men). These are eminently good goals. However, for the reasons discussed, striving for a 50:50 sex ratio – or indeed any pre-specified sex ratio – is not a good goal.

In der Tat.