It boggles the mind that academia, commonly regarded as the most progressive occupation in America, much less science academia, which leads the world in quality science due to a focus on excellence regardless of gender or color or religion, can be regarded as sexist. It takes careful manipulation and filtering of data to make it seem so. And if the numbers really are what advocates claim, there have been zero improvements for women in three decades, none, despite the fact that women get more Ph.D.'s than men and women are hired for faculty jobs at greater rates than men now.
To advocate something in defiance of obvious reality, like that STEM fields are stuck in the 1960s, it also takes an insistence that no one makes choices - if people earn less money or don't go into a field, it must be outside pressure keeping them down. If that is true, then according to American Association of University Women (AAUW) data, environmentalists are the most sexist group in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields - the disparity between male and female earnings there is tremendous. Women only earn 79% of what men do in environmental sciences. Are environmentalists stuck in the 1950s? Mechanical Engineering, on the other hand, is a poster child for NOW, leading occupations with 96%.
Those are statistics they parsed out as evidence. That is data, advocates insist. Yet ask anyone in the real world if women in engineering are actually treated better than a female environmentalist.
If the metrics advocates use are valid in science academia, they are valid everywhere. That means Wikipedia, the progressive knowledge commune, is incredibly sexist. Where are the groups protesting that? Wikipedia contributors are only 13% women so using the same cultural standard as some groups want to apply to science, it must mean that Wikipedia is hostile to women, or because there aren't already a lot of women, women are suffering gender fatigue.
I'm not kidding about the gender fatigue. Jane Margolis is a senior researcher at UCLA's Institute for Democracy, Education and Access and co-author of a book on sexism in computer science called “Unlocking the Clubhouse” and she believes Wikipedia is evidence of it. If there aren't enough women in a field, they have less confidence about participation. Who knew women were so emotionally fragile? Not me, the women I know are darn tough. What about men in psychology or the teaching professions, which are overwhelmingly female? Do men suffer gender fatigue there?
The problem with trying to social engineer a creative community like Wikipedia, is that because its development was organic and intellectual freedom is essential, trying to force gender equality through overt efforts will backfire. Indirect approaches and time work, Margolis agrees, even if they take a little longer. It's the same in STEM fields and the creativity needed in science. Because women do not face hiring obstacles nor are they discouraged from science fields, the gender gaps, small or large, will fix themselves as people retire and new ones take their place.
In the meantime, some groups are taking a more positive approach to outreach than manipulating statistics to raise donations. Five female chemists at Berkeley sought to improve the diversity of Wikipedia by actually writing articles on Wikipedia instead of writing articles about the "hostile environment and discrimination" on Wikipedia. They called it WikiWomen and it was basically some alcohol and smart people, like all good parties are - and they made others out there a little smarter, as a result, always a good thing. If you are in the Bay area and want to join a WikiWomen party too, here is the place to sign up. Or start your own. Maybe it will catch on.
I assume men can join, anyway. If not, that's sexism.