In recent years, Diversity in STEM has dominated debate in the media. STEM fields are an “old boys club,” we are assured, and we must take measures to bring equality and fairness to them. In particular, great focus has been put on achieving a “gender balance,” despite the fact that women actually make up a majority in four out of eight STEM fields. Academics will spend hours collecting data and analysing gender ratios at different levels of education, and a lot of research grants are now contingent on an institution attaining a particular type of award, such as the Athena SWAN in the UK.
Many jobs have been created to tackle these “issues.” Most large organisations—certainly universities—now have Diversity Officers, Diversity Consultants and Women’s Officers. Many of these Officers and Consultants and the like have academic backgrounds in gender or women’s studies.
The point is, Diversity is just another industry now. And these people are rent-seekers who have a vested interest in solving nothing.
This isn’t an argument against diversity as such. By all means, Diversity can be valuable, but forced diversity implores us to see people by their status as member of a group, rather than their merits as individuals. Take, for instance, this recent article in the New York Post where it was declared that “Gay white guys are not diversity hires.” My response to this (myself, a “gay white guy”) is “Good, thank you,” though I will add, the idea that simply having more diversity adds value to an organisation is a baseless tautology.
Of course, this all came from gender and women’s studies departments in the late ’90s. Perhaps this is why diversity bosses have chosen to focus on the four areas in STEM where men still make up the majority, rather than education, where men make up less than 25% of undergraduate and post-graduate students. This is a much more alarming statistic, given that only one-in-four British primary schools have a single male teacher, and there are over a million children in the UK growing up without a father. With the possible detrimental effects of not having positive male role-models, this is a much more pressing issue than the concerns of middle-class academic women seeking special privileges in their career.
Nothing — other than a desire for work-life balance — is keeping women out of STEM industries. Recent evidence indicates that women applying for positions in STEM are now favoured over men when all else is held equal. There is certainly no problem with equality of opportunity for women. But there are a number of social factors actively keeping men out of teaching, particularly the fear of being falsely accused of abuse and social attitudes to male gender roles. Decades of Institutional Feminism, right up to government level, has done nothing to encourage more men to become teachers. If anything, Institutional Feminism has reinforced problematic social attitudes about male gender roles. Today’s Feminism, the movement that claims to be about equality, is actually just a gynocentric lobby group preoccupied with the first-world concerns of a very small number of women.
Another field where women make up over 75% of the studentship is psychology. Most psychologists in the future will be women. What effect is this going to have when men seek mental health services? What effect is it going to have on the output of research? Given that men are three to seven times more likely to commit suicide, this seems like a real issue.
Curiously, I don’t ever recall seeing much concern about any of these “gender gaps.”
If the Diversity whingers were interested in solving problems, they’d have focused on these issues long ago. It’s time to kick the axe-grinding gynocentrism out of our societal institutions and bring forth a more egalitarian approach.
Stephen Beard is a freelance writer based in Liverpool. Follow him on Twitter @SMABSO
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