But if you contend that income is the primary factor proving sexism, there are uncomfortable truths. In environmentalism, for example, the income disparities are so large that it rivals the worst pay chasms of the 1950s. Yet engineering, which is criticized as being male dominated, the pay scale has the most parity of any field in STEM. How many activists would claim environmentalists are sexist?
In engineering, women don't need for activists to speak for them. And the '49ers Cheerleaders recently proved it.
The Design Automation Conference is an annual meeting devoted to, you guessed it, electronic design automation. In my previous lives in the business units for Ansoft and Optimal I would attend, because we made physics analysis software tools and that was a small subset of the DAC vendor field. DAC would like to be bigger and the industry, dominated by behemoths, claim they would like it to be more fun and engaging. Since the conference this year was in San Francisco they had hired the San Francisco 49ers football team cheerleaders to give the event a post-coffee rush.
A female EDA blogger launched a personal protest of the cheerleaders and wrote EDAC Board members and DAC organizers and they canceled the appearance. Are 49ers cheerleaders bad examples for children? Absolutely not. While one of the things I love about being a Steelers fan is that they have no cheerleaders, I recognize the effort that goes into being one, and the enormous number of charitable work they do and the amount of fun they bring. A whole lot of them are pretty smart, and if you don't believe it, check out the roster at ScienceCheerleader.com.
Peggy Aycinena is the blogger who created the fuss. I don't know her and any comments I make will be automatically dismissed as "white male privilege" anyway - but numbers don't lie and engineering is not a hotbed of sexism, as I noted in the salary figures above. Yet it turns out screaming sexism about engineering is her way of being a big fish in a small pond, as John Cooley, EDA industry gadfly notes in this quote from her site in 2004 (bold mine):
"As evidenced by numerous parties and at least one mouse pad, women's bodies continue to be the currency of the realm in our industry. If you were lucky enough to be invited to several of the blow-out beer and booze orgies on Tuesday night at DAC in San Diego, you saw that engineers and executives continue to be titillated by young women with bouncing bosoms. It's not a surprise that sex sells beer; that it sells design automation tools may continue to amaze and amuse (a few)."Four clothed dancing girls on a stage aboard the USS Midway can hardly be considered an 'orgy', or that womens bodies are 'currency' nor was there 'titillation' by 'bouncing bosoms' - a thousand male engineers in public are not being titillated by women a football field away from them. This was all hyper-emotion verbage to hide the fact that there is no data for her new claim that "women are not welcome in EDA. It's obvious. Let's just admit it."
It's her blog, she can say goofy stuff if she wants and maybe in EDA blogging evidence is not needed. I can't say, but one question becomes apparent in her actions and the actions of the supposedly hostile EDA men; Who's being sexist, the men of EDA or Acyinena? I think "neo-Victorian" is the perfect way to describe her stereotyping of women and claims of oppression, without any reason to say so, except 30 years ago EDA may have been sexist and she can't get over that. Women are plenty empowered in engineering of the last 15 years, especially compared to a field that claims to be liberal and tolerant, environmentalism. Salaries talk, not pithy odes to tolerance. And engineering pays women better than anyone.
Dear Peggy: I know a whole bunch of cheerleaders a whole lot smarter than you are.
Plus, the afflicted that Acycinena patronizingly claims to represent don't have much need for her protecting them. The same way they don't need politically correct men at DAC doing it. From the Deep Chip site, the comments were:
"I dislike Peggy's presumption that women are helpless victims who need protecting. In my entire work career, it's been the men around me who needed protection. I can more than take care of myself, thank you."
Even the 'mancession', where women are employed more than men, is framed by some as being sexism. Numbers can be manipulated but they can't lie and these are speaking a lot of truth:
Another comment from the Deep Chip site:
"If we keep seeing the whole world through Peggy's gender lens, we will never be seen as equals."
That last comment is the crux of the issue. If you have someone claiming you are so helpless some pretty cheerleaders are going to crush your self-esteem and that it will send you into a ridiculous stereotype threat tailspin, they are basically telling you that you are too weak to make it in the real world. Maybe the people who believe that about women should work in the AAUW instead.