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Elizabeth Gu

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How do we bring more and more women in STEM fields really?

A few days ago, I read a couple of articles of women in STEM fields on nytimes.com
Some who support affirmative action are saying, “This type—I’ll call it “affirmative effort,” is essential in providing a level playing field for women who aspire to STEM(science, technology, engineering, mathematics)field careers," through affirmative action--Nancy Hopkins in a biology professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The others are saying that rather than affirmative action, it’s more important to convince girls to pursue careers in STEM fields while they’re young. Janelle Wilson a teacher at Lanier Middle School in Gwinnett country, Georgia mentions, “I’ve observed that most girls are still interested in science, but something happens as they begin to worry more about friends, looks and being “cool”. ” There might be a debate going on fb, I assume. Anyway, is this fundamentally all because of the prejudice against women that we can’t do better than men in this STEM field? Or as Janelle says, our interest, and ultimately, the fear that others wouldn’t consider us to be attractive if we’re just too engrossed in studying science and mathematics prevent us from pursuing careers in this field? Above all, the efforts to bring more women in STEM field, are they effective? I wasn’t good at scoring high on math tests whenever I take them. Personally, I wasn’t really fond of mathematics. But most of my friends who were pretty good at it didn’t really excel in their field compared to their male companions. Are women too emotional to focus on such subjects?(which I consider to be groundless, though)
What are your thoughts?

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    Oct 7 2012: I would suggest the main barrier is sex. Men only learn science and math to make money, thus impressing women, and eventually providing security for a family... If a man is unattractive, he must bolster his social resume with a good job...

    The problem, thus... is men. If a woman is having trouble finding an attractive partner... learning science won't help her, as much as exercise. For a man, learning a job skill, is more valuable socially and sexually than 20 minutes of exercise, for a women, it is not, because men are idiots.

    The problem isn't that women can't do STEM work... The problem is that it's hard, and no one wants to do it, so if a woman has an attractive partner and a family, already... why would she want to work in an engineering lab or a mine? I think this is one of the fundamental problems with the sexual revolution in general, though it was an absolutely necessary step in human evolution. When the womens movement began, it was said that women wanted equality... In the 1950's equality, was farming, mining, or working in a factory... No one wanted that. Women wanted to work on Wall Street, and be doctors, and lawyers... No one was fighting for their right to do hard math in a physically demanding environment.

    Someone has to do that stuff though. If it was fun, people wouldn't have to pay you to do it. That's the big lie of the womens movement... "How dare you not let us do the jobs that made you miserable?"... The universal male response "We thought we were being nice".
    • Oct 7 2012: "Men only learn science and math to make money"

      If you're smart enough to get a degree in science or mathematics and you want to make a lot of money you go into finance or medicine. Science doesn't pay that well, compared to other, easier jobs with easier education and it's not seen as sexy at all. I don't know a single scientists or mathematician who's in it for the money and doesn't work in finance.
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        Oct 7 2012: Yeah... Pay them what the average factory worker gets paid then... We'll see how quickly the money matters. Men only get degrees in general to make money. I was a math genius in my youth... It doesn't make sitting in a room writing numbers any more entertaining or fascinating. In fact, the more naturally easy something is, the more boring it is, and the more you have to force yourself, or be forced to do it.

        Science pays better than labor, and labor is what 90% of men do for a living. If you have a STEM degree you are financially secure, and that is attractive, to women. It is less attractive to men, do to social conditioning, and physical bias built in to our reptilian brain.

        Personally, I am conditioning myself as much as possible, to see a woman with a STEM degree as particularly sexy, but I have to admit I'm fighting my own internal built in systems for evaluating attractiveness.
        • Oct 7 2012: "Yeah... Pay them what the average factory worker gets paid then..."

          They have to earn back the money their education cost, plus the (at least) 5 years they didn't have a paid job while pursuing their education, even in Europe that would be at least 150.000 euros (part of it is collecting interest too), then there is the fact that many work ~4 years as a research assistant during which they actually are paid the wage of a factory worker. Factor in higher taxes and lower credits and subsidies and your average scientist won't have that much more purchasing power over a lifetime than a factory worker. Of course there are exceptions (and of course there will be differences by country, I'm talking mainly about Europe here where factory workers are paid more and scientists paid less than in the US, though tuition is much higher in the US), but, seriously, if you want to go for the big bucks and you have the brain of a scientist, go get an MBA or become a medical doctor, you'll get to party (with girls) a lot more in college as well.

          Doctors have much more reason to be in it for the money, in many countries female med students outnumber male ones, in the US it's 50/50, most teachers are female as well, so there goes your theory...

          Btw, to me a STEM-educated woman is more attractive than she would have been without it, and I never had to condition myself to feel that way.
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        Oct 7 2012: Oh ya... You see a womans degree, and just go all googley eyed. That's the natural built in human response, you don't need to condition that at all : p

        In California you can get a four year STEM degree, for about 32,000 dollars... Then you make 60 k a year as a public school teacher. After 2 years of work, you can never be fired, and you're guaranteed to have a pension. Some places are different than others. None of the millions of teachers are doing it for the money though... It's all altruism.

        PS I picked teachers, not because they are a bad example. Most people in the western world believe teachers should be valued highly. Engineers make more money than most teachers. All STEM degrees pay very well... Especially stem + trade, plumbers, and electrical engineers make a great living. I'm not saying these people aren't worth the money, but the average person with a STEM degree in America will make more than two million dollars more than the average person, so I'm sick of hearing how altruistic scientists are.

        It's a secure job, that's a particular type of sexy. It's not coke and hookers sexy like business... but no one sane with self control really wants that anyway.
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      Oct 7 2012: I do it for the fun of it. I study everything but that's just me.
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        Oct 7 2012: I'm merely suggesting that is a culturally learned behavior loosely attached to our sex drive, but directly attached to financial motivations. You have learned to enjoy studying everything because it is beneficial in society for social and financial reason.

        If engineers and teachers were paid less than farmers, there would be much less incentive to study and learn things, and more incentive to do necessary physical labor. It's a balancing act.

        Also, as I mentioned, everyone wants to learn enough to work on wall street, or be a doctor, or lawyer, or engineer... Very few want to be plumbers and farmers.
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          Oct 7 2012: I think it depends on your level of education or what you find interesting when you're still young.

          When I was 15, I wanted to be a truck driver because all my buddies dads drove trucks. Their dads took us on trips across the country and we loved it. One summer when I was in Clear Water Florida, my pals and I went out on a sponge boat with a friends father. After that, we all wanted to be sponge divers. :)

          We didn't really think too much about the money.

          My sister was always a part of the pack so she wanted to drive trucks and dive for sponges too.
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        Oct 7 2012: And, then you grew up.
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          Oct 7 2012: Yes I did. I started three businesses. Junk business, Lock Smith Company, Software development. Of course, the most fun was Software but the most money was the Junk Business. Lots of money there. My sister worked with me in the Junk business. She could tear a motor apart as well as any man and still cleaned up nice for her boyfriend. :)
        • Oct 7 2012: lol
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        Oct 7 2012: Case in point. The best money, came from not sitting in the air conditioning. I'm not saying some women aren't interested in junk business... I'm saying why would anyone choose the junk business, if it was not more profitable? Why would we care to make more than a sustenance wage if we were not trying to provide comfort for our family?

        You must remember I think the future of an equal society, is that productive women will soon find attractive partners who cannot compete in the work environment... The way men used to... A level playing field in which some people choose to do the hard work, and for that they are rewarded with enough money to allow someone to raise the children. I don't think gender should be the deciding factor... I'm just saying... It's insane to pretend that women, in general, are chomping at the bit to work in junk... No one ever wanted that job, they want their family to survive, and realize it's a useful service.

        Following your dreams didn't lead you to junk. I'm not sure that sort of equality is what women had in mind though... To be clear, most men want to be lawyers, and doctors, etc. too, but we can't all be, some people have to clean up garbage.
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        Oct 7 2012: You said the junk business made the most money... I don't know what you're talking about.

        In the scenario you describe however, I would, of course, kill myself. No one who would treat people like that deserves to have anyone listen to them... I refuse to submit to slavery.
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        Oct 7 2012: "David, in the future, people like you won't exist."

        I know... and thus progress will cease. It's very entertaining to watch you all destroy yourselves though.

        You need to learn to read or write by the way, I said nothing about the junk business running your life. Just that you said junk was profitable... and obviously it's not a dream job... so people don't do it, for the sake of doing it... I'm not proposing an incredibly controversial perspective here.
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        Oct 7 2012: PS... If we ever actually got attacked, or had freedoms to protect... I'd sign up. When America had a constitution, I was very patriotic. The Republicans erased that, so I no longer feel any sense of duty or responsibility.
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        Oct 7 2012: That's called a straw man. Not a single thing I said in this conversation was demeaning to women... I think women are capable of everything that men are capable of. I just think most of them don't want to be plumbers.

        A world where "everyone will be an engineer, everyone will work"... Sounds like a much worse world than one in which half the people will work aided by automation. In fact it sounds like a dictatorial hell.

        Also, if "For a man, learning a job skill, is more valuable socially and sexually than 20 minutes of exercise, for a women, it is not, because men are idiots.", sound sexist pro men... We need to agree on word definitions.
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        Oct 7 2012: If it were just me... that would of course be true... I am nothing special. I am however representative of a dying breed. A generation of potential, which gave way to alcoholism, drug addiction, and suicide, for lack of adult male role models. A generation with the worst math scores, in American history, despite being shored up by dramatic improvement among female mathematicians... A huge portion of the population must be dragging that number down... Oh yeah, boys.

        Again, you can't read. I said running, not ruining.

        You asked me "David, where on earth did you get the idea my life was dedicated to Junk?"... I had said nothing of the sort, so responded "You said the junk business made the most money... I don't know what you're talking about.".

        You replied "You need to learn to read" To which I again insisted, that I had never claimed that junk was running your life... To which you again responded "you need to learn to read". Maybe you need a thicker prescription.

        I have a tech degree, and I always contribute as much as I take by the way, so, I'm not standing in womens way, have at it... I just think when prescription drug use, suicide, and mental illness, are through the roof... You might want to look at what kind of societal values you're creating. I know... I know... Everythings much better now.
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        Oct 7 2012: They're not that bad in California, they're that bad in America. Your generation is going to show up and vote for Mitt Romney in mass, by the way, and you're a much larger generation than mine, who votes in much higher percentages so you still run the show... nice ofiscation of responsibility though. Luckily, I will admit, most of the women will vote for Obama, and he'll probably win, certainly the lesser of two evils.

        You have no idea what I'm capable of John. If the nation of Afghanistan had attacked us, I would have happily signed up on 9/12... They didn't... Crazy people did. We should have violated their sovereignty, and killed the crazy people.

        I think you really might just need thicker glasses or reading/computer glasses. Also, I talk in circles at times, so that doesn't help, but I didn't say junk ruined your life. I said a generation of young men won't do junk work, and it's a problem. Incentivizing both sexes to do hard labor, is a good idea... It should pay better than it did 50 years ago, not worse.
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        Oct 7 2012: I care nothing for Utopia... I merely want to stop murdering muslims, and have a constitution. That wasn't much to ask 15 years ago, when your parents were still alive. Womens issues are fun to express my niche crazy perspective on... but they are not a fundamental motivation of my strike.

        I'll pay the taxes your generation refused to pay for the programs you are now entitled to, which will keep you alive longer than me... don't worry. I didn't realize your whole generation worked on the computer by the way. I thought a few brilliant men who believed in industry and individuality built them... Obviously I'm wrong about that as well.
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          Oct 7 2012: I've consistently worked on hardware and software since 1977. After my first computer project took away the jobs of 14 of my fellow workers, I became a free agent looking for alternative solutions to computers taking away more jobs. I enjoyed creating programs that augmented human skills. I became involved with the open source project at the same time we created freeware in the industry. I've written tons of freeware and scripts for people at no charge because I believe that the computer is the instrument of change and hope for our civilization. It is my weapon of choice to fight back against tyranny and dictatorships.
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        Oct 7 2012: "Men find joy in killing. Women find joy in giving life"... I love how that statement isn't sexist in todays culture. It couldn't possibly be that a few psychopaths ran the world until very recently, and men had no choices... It's all men, are evil... That's obviously the lesson we should teach all of our male children...

        Women who sleep with evil men, by free choice, on the other hand... They're victims...
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          Oct 7 2012: I suppose you could twist it around that way if you want to David, if you lack the ability to generalize the message.

          We always have a choice David.
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          Oct 8 2012: Holy cats there is so much wrong with this rant it's hard to know where to start.

          GROW UP.

          You're like a child talking all kinds of sh*t to make his parents angry. Stop.
    • Oct 7 2012: “The problem isn't that women can't do STEM work... The problem is that it's hard, and no one wants to do it, so if a woman has an attractive partner and a family, already... why would she want to work in an engineering lab or a mine?”
      Why wouldn’t she? Many women want to challenge something and pass the limit these days. Living in a comfortable place with a nice husband doesn’t satisfy her desires. It’s like saying “why bother?” to women, but I don’t think that way.
      “Someone has to do that stuff though. If it was fun, people wouldn't have to pay you to do it. That's the big lie of the womens movement... "How dare you not let us do the jobs that made you miserable?"... The universal male response "We thought we were being nice".”
      Even for me, I see some problems we should solve in the process of advocating equal rights for women. However, the one thing I’m certain of for now is that we should get rid of people’s endless biases here. Women’s equal rights at least shouldn’t be misunderstood by something irrelevant or something distorted. While trying to be rational, I’m also trying hard to find the truth, so to speak.
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        Oct 7 2012: I'm saying that the big secret, is that for all of human history, 90% of men, have been virtually enslaved, by a very small number of men... Equality, is 90% of women being virtually enlaved, by a very small number of men.

        I think we can do better than equality. Why wouldn't you want to be an electrical engineer? Most of the ones that make money, provide a service... You know what that service is? They go underground every day and manage the installation of wires, and conduits... Very, very, very few jobs, are worth doing for their own sake.

        We do them to contribute to society, so society contributes to our livelihoods and families. The fun part of life isn't work, the fun part is family and community... If women don't think that way... Men will... I'd be happy to be a housband : p
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      Oct 7 2012: Many people, both male and female, actually prefer to do things that are hard or complex and are happy to sacrifice income to do things that interest them. Many people do not fit into your stereotype of seeking out the easiest path to the highest possible income.
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        Oct 7 2012: Lucky for you, America has not yet put that philosophy to the test. Many other countries have, and it failed, miserably... We're well on our way.
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          Oct 7 2012: What philosophy? Are you saying that you do not know people who are intrinsically interested in tackling complex problems and challenging work?!

          Also, I thought I remembered that you personally do not act to maximize your income.
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        Oct 7 2012: You're talking about outliers. I'm talking about the vast majority of human beings on the planet. Do some people like tackling complex problems, yes of course. However, is all of society designed to make the best and brightest interested in tackling those problems? Yes, of course. Every aspect of society is designed for the specific purpose of encouraging, and rewarding complex solutions to problems.

        If society was not designed to provide more comfort and security for doctors, than lounge singers... many people would prefer to sing 6 hours a week for a living. If easy jobs, paid more than hard jobs, would people still prefer tackling complex problems? Of course not... At least, it obvious less people would.

        I am on strike because I refuse to support murder, and holy war... I'm an insane outlier, statistically insignificant. Still if I were to solve a major problem humanity is facing, yes, I would like compensation. I simply refuse to solve any problems or design anything until people stop stealing my money for violent insanity. I'm not a fan of lots of the other stuff people steal my money for either, but I could live with it.

        When we stop killing muslims, I'll start releasing products. At which time, yes, I would like to buy a nice little house on a river, and retire with a family at some point, just like everyone else.
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          Oct 7 2012: I think many people would prefer to provide medical services as doctors or nurses than to sing for the same number of hours, even if both jobs paid the same. There are many TED talks that underline the great value in terms of human happiness in doing meaningful work.

          For some people, inquiries in math and science provide the sort of "flow" experience Czikzsentmihalyi talks about in his TED talk, the same that a professional basketball player may feel when he is "in the zone" or that a fine actor can feel on the stage.

          If a person does not find math or science captivating in their own right, perhaps it is difficult to understand how others could.

          If a person is afraid of heights or gets airsick, it may be difficult for him to understand why others enjoy hang gliding and bungee jumping because they love the feel of flying.

          Some people, of course, prefer to sing, and many people don't enjoy science or excel enough in it to prepare for medical careers, even with the prospect of a good income.

          While each of us is unique, there is more variety in others (their interests and motivations) than some of us realize.
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        Oct 7 2012: Yes... Let's make lounge singers and doctors equal. Exactly the same number of men and women will wish to spend 8 years of their prime working on a doctorate... People who want to be cooks, or waitresses, or flight attendants, or lounge singers... They all deserve the exact same degree of respect as a neuro surgeon. And, I think to myself... What a wonderful, world.
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          Oct 7 2012: Before it was only the stream of income (net of the cost of education) that you suggested would drive occupational choice, with the inherent interest of the work making no contribution. Now I see respect is being thrown in.

          It may be hard to believe, but the universities are full of students pursuing the doctorate in one field or another because there is nothing they would rather being doing in the moment and because they envision an interesting work life thereafter.

          Obviously whether a person wants to see the world and the people in it through a narrow lens or a broad one is ultimately any individual's choice. I see there is no further purpose in this.
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        Oct 7 2012: Okay... I forgot. Stream of income, and respect, have no causal relationship, in America. Yeah... That's the world we live in. I'm partially playing devils advocate, but if you're seriously trying to pretend that no one does anything out of self interest... or to provide comfort and safety for their family, you're creating a world with no incentive to do anything... and you think it will be heaven. It boggles my mind.
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          Oct 7 2012: I have not made the claims you suggest. You are simply constructing for your convenience an extreme position, a straw man, which is easy for you to mock or refute.

          You can consider what I have actually put forward, that is, a broader view of self-interest than you assume but one consistent with what most serious students of human behavior typically find are people's motivations, or you can go on believing that maximizing income is the singular factor that drives people's occupational choices. You could even do some research on the matter which would allow you to consider the matter with an open mind.

          I will leave things at that.
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        Oct 7 2012: Okay... Did I say everyone acts out of self interest to protect and secure their family?... No... I said most human animals do that... because that's what human animals do. Yes some people do other things... and that's wonderful. Most people live their lives and provide for their children through labor they do not enjoy. Plumbers are getting paid well again, because no one wants to do it... By paying better, this low desire job becomes more secure and attracts people, because it allows them to provide for a family.

        If you really want to pretend that no one fits into categories, and this isn't something that the vast majority of mammals let alone human beings do... Aagh! I'm confused right?

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