Have you heard about the Google memo? Have you heard nothing but “Google memo” all week? James Damore, an engineer at Google, wrote a memo suggesting that maybe there weren’t so many women at Google because women are less interested in sitting around and staring at code all day. The internet erupted. James Damore is no longer working at Google.
As a woman working in the brotastic atmosphere of IT, I ultimately came to a conclusion similar to his. So I sympathize with him. Let me explain.
Until the age of 26, I was employed as a technology consultant by a small firm that served the financial industry. I built servers and workstations, mostly for banks, and in a happy foreshadowing of my future writing for Bloomberg View, I installed some of the first PC-based Bloomberg terminals for a Japanese firm’s office in New York.
She had a career doing IT. She was a bit proud of it. Then she realized that she could not compete. Let us see why.
No, the reason I left is that I came into work one Monday morning and joined the guys at our work table, and one of them said “What did you do this weekend?”
I was in the throes of a brief, doomed romance. I had attended a concert that Saturday night. I answered the question with an account of both. The guys stared blankly. Then silence. Then one of them said: “I built a fiber-channel network in my basement,” and our co-workers fell all over themselves asking him to describe every step in loving detail.
At that moment I realized that fundamentally, these are not my people. I liked the work. But I was never going to like it enough to blow a weekend doing more of it for free. Which meant that I was never going to be as good at that job as the guys around me.
Here is a thought experiment: how many fellas do you know who would spend an entire weekend doing some machine type project (computers, motorcycles, electronics, etc.) compared to women? Are the fellas doing it because they really want to? Are they doing it because they are really into it?
Now for the flip side: do you know of any women who do the same? Personally I know one. But she doesn’t do it anymore. The shine apparently rubbed off.
In the modern era of self-esteem, STEM activities are literally shoved into girl’s faces, yet it just does not seem to make much of a difference with respect to their interest.
Can anybody point out any anecdotal evidence contradicting this?
Now onto this,
Within the field of neuroscience, sex differences between women and men—when it comes to brain structure and function and associated differences in personality and occupational preferences—are understood to be true, because the evidence for them (thousands of studies) is strong. This is not information that’s considered controversial or up for debate; if you tried to argue otherwise, or for purely social influences, you’d be laughed at.
Let us consider the tally: everybody’s anecdotal evidence suggests that women just are not into STEM, at least to the point of obsessively engaging in it such that their capabilities improve. Furthermore, there is science backing up the fact that there are differences; the genders are not the same.
So yes, it does seem that the fellas are more STEM oriented, especially when putting in the effort to become very skilled.