Xixiang: The phenomenon that women only occupy a small proportion of STEM fields has existed for decades. I think the opinion is divided over that if this is sexism. We can talk about this issue and analyze them deeply together today.
Haoxiang: Yeah, I also mentioned it in my Diary of Systemic Injustices. I found that some surveys indicate that, for STEM areas in America, the female worker only has 15% of the engineering workforce. The main reason behind this is women’s pregnancy will increase companies’ costs. Companies need to not only give them long-term maternity leave but also continue to pay their insurance fee. Meanwhile, during that time, companies need to find substitutes for them to remain the project in operation. Because of such concern, most companies in STEM fields prefer to recruit males. Do you think this is a kind of sexism?
Xixiang: I think we can’t deny that if the female workers in labor, it may cause the company to pay the higher cost to make her job done. However, I think that giving birth to the next generation should be the responsibility of all society, but not pushing this responsibility to just females. Also, we shouldn’t make them fall into a vulnerable group because of this irreplaceable contribution. Therefore, I think the case you mentioned should be classified into sexism.
Xixiang: I also noticed that some people hold the view that the amount of female students in the college who are studying the STEM major is significantly lower than the male students. Therefore, this naturally leads to the result that most of the STEM job positions are occupied by males. In other words, they think it is not caused by sexism, but just many female students didn’t choose STEM majors in college. What do you think?
Haoxiang: In my mind, the cause of this phenomenon is because many females know it is not easy for females to find a job in STEM fields which causes them to avoid STEM as their major in university. And I think it is a result of sexism.
Haoxiang: However, there is another scenario. In general cases, males always have better physical strength than females, which makes males able to adapt to a high load working-environment. From that point, many people claim that the reason why many companies prefer to recruit males is that these companies only want to maximize their profits instead of having a bias on females. So they don’t think it is sexism.
Xixiang: I think I can’t agree with the people’s points you mentioned. Nowadays, most of the job positions in the STEM field don’t have a very high requirement for physical strength. For example, like software development, the most vital factor of brain power but not the physical strength. Therefore, although the average physical strength of the male may be stronger than the females, I don’t think hiring more male staff can help the company raise profit.
Xixiang: Following what I just say, some people also claim that the average level of the college degree of females is also lower than the males. Although we can say the difference of physical strength between males and females doesn’t count too much on today’s STEM working environment, in the field of brainpower, males still perform better than the females. Therefore, the reason why we see the company select more males than females is just that the male’s average education level is higher than the female’s. They don’t think it is sexism.
Haoxiang: It might be true that in the past decades males often have better performance than females because of educational differences. However, in recent years, some statistics reports show that the proportion of college-educated women has nearly matched that of men. However, as the proportion increases, the fact that it is difficult for women to find a job in STEM fields doesn’t get changed.
Xixiang: Yeah, from the discussion we just made, I think the phenomenon that male occupy much more workforce in STEM fields represent sexism. It reminds me of the class materials we have read in the first two weeks in this semester. As de Beauvoir says in her novel, “The Second Sex”, the male has always been on the more powerful side in the comparison with the female since ancient times. For instance, the male is referred to the Sun, but the female is referred to as the Moon. With the rise of the feminist movement in modern times, the status of the female has a significant promotion. However, the prejudice among females since the ancient age still exists in many people’s minds. The unfair treatment women faced in the STEM workplace can clearly represent this issue.
Haoxiang: Yeah, I totally agree with you. The reason why many people don’t think it is sexism is that they are a group of males who are Ones in our story. As de Beauvoir mentions in The Second Sex, “The other consciousness, the other ego, sets up a reciprocal claim”. Because males are not experienced in searching for a job as females, their point of view is different from females. They never have the dilemmas faced by females. The reciprocal claims against each other lead to that many males don’t think it is sexism but most females think it is.
Haoxiang: What’s more, decades ago, women’s rights had not been liberated totally before. The factors like educational differences and social prejudice against women’s work led most STEM jobs which require sophisticated skills to be occupied by males. And the sexism of it leads to the phenomenon that females are Othered in STEM fields. In order to solve the issue, in my mind, females also need to make efforts. Like de Beauvoir mentions in The Second Sex, “the Other is posed as such by the One in defining himself as the One. But if the Other is not to regain the status of being the One, he must be submissive enough to accept this alien point of view.”