By: Jericho Cook
Over the weekend a 10-page memo was released by a disgruntled male Google employee regarding the company’s new diversity initiatives, prompted by an ongoing U.S. Department of Labor investigation claiming that the company is actively discriminating against female candidates in both pay and employment.
In short, the gentleman now identified as James Damore (who, unfortunately, has been fired), argued that the reason women are “underrepresented” in the tech industry is due to psychological and biological differences between men and women, not an inherent sexism that simply exists within the industry itself.
The question is, is he on to something or not?
Let’s look at some of the differences in male-dominated and female-dominated careers here in North Carolina. These graphics come from a study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, that constitutes each of these listed careers as being male-dominated or female-dominated if either sex makes up at least 90% of North Carolinians employed in that field:
Even at a glance we can infer several key points:
- Men tend to choose careers that are much more laborious.
- Men tend to choose careers that have a much higher risk of job-related fatality.
- Women tend to choose careers that are more people-oriented (exclusively so, in regard to this particular data).
- Men tend to choose careers that require either vocational or trade school education.
- With the exception of RN, women tend to choose careers that yield less compensation than men.
This is not to say that women can’t work and be successful in male-dominated career fields, it simply highlights that on average men and women tend to choose widely different paths.
So does this prove James Damore’s point that sexism is not the cause of a lack of representation of women in the tech industry? Maybe. But in order to be as thorough as possible, we need to examine data outside of the realm of one state (even if it’s the greatest state in the Union).
NPR’s “Planet Money” breaks down female representation among several college majors, nationwide, and the findings help piece together the bigger picture:
- Women make up less than 20% of students majoring in Computer Science/Engineering.
- Women make up over 75% of students majoring in Social Work, Education, and Psychology.
- Women make up between 50%-75% of students majoring in Art, Communications, and Languages.
- Women make up slightly more than 50% of students majoring in Biology, and slightly less than 50% of students majoring in Math, Statistics, and Physical Sciences.
- Women make up right at 50% of students majoring in Business.
Upon analyzing this data in particular, we can clearly see James’ point. Women aren’t “underrepresented” in the tech industry because of sexism, they’re “underrepresented” because less than 20% of women opt to enroll in tech-related majors. The same way that men are “underrepresented” in Social Work, Education, and Psychology because less than 25% of men opt to enroll in those majors.
It is already illegal to pay men and women differently for the same work. So rather than perpetuating the false notion that systemic misogyny is to blame for representation and compensation disparities between men and women, we should instead understand that men and women simply choose different paths when it comes to their careers and livelihoods, and that’s okay.