His idea cuts across all parts of the cultural discourse. If you want to believe conservatives are brain damaged, you can find a study for that - the 80% of academia that are progressives feel some proofiness about that one also. If you want to believe radiation from the Fukushima nuclear reactor was killing US babies on the west coast weeks after the earthquake in Japan, proofiness is for you.
In Women In Science - You Are Oppressed, Even If You Are Not I got a variety of comments, some using statistics they found after searching for 15 seconds on the Internet - and using those statistics as proofiness instead of looking with objectivity at the actual data. Proofiness in that if they see female stock clerks make less money on average than male stock clerks, or I am a man, well then by golly the whole article contending wonderfully progressive academia is not sexist just has to be invalid.
Except it isn't invalid. Statistics are misused all of the time, as a 1970s bit of proofiness about 50% of marriages ending in divorce caused more actual divorces because people believed everyone else was doing it.
One commenter even quoted the advocacy group American Association of University Women (AAUW) conclusions without even bothering to look at their underlying data, including its militant lament ("hostile environment and discrimination") that women only get paid 80% what men make. Except, as Kay S. Hymowitz writes in the City Journal, when proofiness is more important than accuracy, you make sure to only state wayyyy down at the bottom of your 'study' that when factors like education and hours worked are controlled for, women actually make 95% what men make - it's something, but not a call to arms. 5% is not nothing but it is a distinction too small to be accurately determined and in categories so broad - "business" - as to be maddening. Men work more hours than women, for example, and there are differences in education and careers. Some lower paying jobs like counseling and psychology, are 70% women. Numbers of hours worked differences can be due to kids, since studies show in childless women the gap below, and the wage gap, disappears.
Sure, there can be discrimination - it is the nature of human beings, both men and women, that given freedom of thought, some people will be assholes. Nothing we can do about that. But the AAUW and other groups want to lead us to believe discrimination is institutionalized in science academia - and the numbers simply do not show it.
One interesting item Hymowitz references I had not seen before, despite tilting at windmills in arguing that progressive academics are not sexist pigs for four years, was a 2010 American Economic Journal study by Marianne Bertrand of the University of Chicago and Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz of Harvard. Goldin is notable for a 2000 study showing that blind auditions increased the likelihood female musicians would be hired, so she is not exactly some old guy rationalizing a "Mad Men" 1960s misogyny lifestyle.
right after graduation, men and women had nearly identical earnings and working hours. Over the next ten years, however, women fell way behind. Survey questions revealed three reasons for this. First and least important, men had taken more finance courses and received better grades in those courses, while women had taken more marketing classes. Second, women had more career interruptions. Third and most important, mothers worked fewer hours.Not much we can do about females of the species giving birth, nor can we artificially impose wage minimums based on gender.
Critics will then contend that evil America needs more 'family friendly' policies to let women work more but surveys show that while women do work fewer hours as they have kids - they seek jobs with a lighter schedule - it isn't because the men in their lives are all 1950s era holdovers , it's because they have a choice. We can't be against choice for women, can we? Hymowitz references Iceland and its absolutely over-the-top insistence that the private sector be framed through gender issues - corporate boards must be at least 40 percent female, families get paid public child care and a very generous family leave policy - but in Iceland far more women still take family leave than men. They want to take it more than men.
What wages do women make in hyper-fair Iceland? 62% of what men do.
As I have noted many times, what we need to watch is current hiring trends, not average wages or average employment by gender. A lot of fine researchers are still working who came up through the ranks when it was harder for women and those men, who have done nothing wrong, can't be forced into retirement to make numbers artificially equal right now. Recent hiring shows women are actually being hired more than men for faculty jobs that come open so the problem is fixing itself while maintaining a culture of excellence in science - and not a culture of equality regardless of quality.