September 19, 2006

“A work environment in which 'anyone lacking the work and family support traditionally provided by a "wife" is at a serious disadvantage.'”

This is one of the reasons -- along with "unconscious but pervasive bias" and "'arbitrary and subjective' evaluation processes" -- given for the underrepresentation of women in academic science and engineering, according to the report of a panel convened by the National Academy of Science. Innate differences between men and women were rejected as a cause.

I can't see what the methodology of the study was, so I'm not going to critique the conclusion, but it's hard not to suspect the panel -- which included a psychology professor "who has long challenged the 'innate differences' view" -- of gravitating toward causes that seem to have solutions. To focus on innate difference is to promote complacency, the idea that there's not "underrepresenation" at all, but that things are the way they ought to be.

But is there a solution for the lack of a traditional wife? I'm sure there are plenty of things, like the scheduling required events and providing on-site childcare. It would also solve the disparity -- not that family related benefits wouldn't still be good -- if men no longer had traditional wives. And I wonder: Do many men in academia have traditional wives anymore? (And what's with the quotes around "wife" in the phrase "traditionally provided by a 'wife.'"? Traditionally, it really was a wife, wasn't it?) In law schools, it doesn't seem that men have the kind of traditional helpmeet who keeps the home and family in order and entertains colleagues. (I'm not doubting that women do more than half of the homemaking.) Maybe in the sciences, in some places, that sort of thing still goes on.

When I think of that traditional model, the first thing I think of is "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?," where the traditional academic wife is royally fed up with the whole routine.

The second thing I think of is the classic 1971 essay "I Want a Wife," by Judy Syfers:
I want a wife who will take care of my physical needs. I want a wife who will keep my house clean. A wife who will pick up after my children, a wife who will pick up after me. I want a wife who will keep my clothes clean, ironed, mended, replaced when need be, and who will see to it that my personal things are kept in their proper place so that I can find what I need the minute I need it. I want a wife who cooks the meals, a wife who is a good cook. I want a wife who will plan the menus, do the necessary grocery shopping, prepare the meals, serve them pleasantly, and then do the cleaning up while I do my studying.
Read the whole thing, if you haven't already. It's quite clear from reading it that not only will a woman never find a man who would act like that, but also that wives shouldn't be doing all these things either. Thirty-five years later, do they?

60 comments:

Icepick said...

Maybe in the sciences, in some places, that sort of thing still goes on.

My first thought was to dismiss this idea. Then I recalled how many foreign students and professors exist in various science departments. Perhaps those professors from East and South Asia tend to have more traditional wives at home than American borne professors? Perhaps this is another reason foreign-born professors have an increasingly larger presence in the hard sciences in academe in this country....

John Thacker said...

Maybe in the sciences, in some places, that sort of thing still goes on.

It's certainly still extremely common in the generation ahead of me in mathematics (early 40s to 50s, people with tenure). It's less common in the next generation, the postdocs and those working with tenure-- but many of those aren't married and don't have kids.

Just like becoming a VP or something in the corporate world, getting a tenure track job really requires working all the time for it and not having time for other things. One traditional solution is having a wife or someone to take care of all the household things; another is simply not to marry, or at least not have kids at all.

In the academic world, it seems that more and more are choosing not to have kids, or at least no kids until they're 40 or more and tenured. Some then seem surprised that it's so hard to conceive at that point.

MadisonMan said...

Whenever I read that essay, I think that the wife being described, save for the sexual part, is really a mother and that men who really want that just haven't grown up to take responsibility for things. In my world, healthy adults care for other people and are not an undue burden on anyone else. I might argue that men who depend on "wives" to do everything not related to work or study aren't healthy (in an emotional sense) at all.

I guess that's pretty judgemental. Really, if my neighbor wants to just kick back with some brews and play poker all weekend to relax after a high-pressure week at the office, that's fine with me (as long as I'm invited to the poker game). I couldn't live that way. Too leechlike.

altoids1306 said...

A few reactions:

1. It's nice to see the liberal establishment actually find value in stay-at-home moms and housemaking.

2. It's definitely true. Both of my advisors have spouses that stay at home - as do most professors I know. One has two small kids, the other has three.

3. What are you going to do about it? As long as there are women who are happy doing the traditional things, the men who marry them will have a workplace advantage. (Oh, I know! The key to gender equality is to outlaw happy wives!)

Icepick: While the more traditional values of Asians might have something to do with it, the real reason is that among Caucasians, the best and brightest go to Wall Street.

John Thacker said...

Perhaps this is another reason foreign-born professors have an increasingly larger presence in the hard sciences in academe in this country....

If you're foreign-born, academia is one of the easiest ways to get around immigration restrictions and come to this country. For many lucrative private careers it's much more difficult to get into this country to work. Hence the overrepresentation in academia.

tcd said...

Did we not discuss in a previous Althouse post about how educated, high-earning women will not marry someone below their socio-economic level? I say these women only have themselves to blame if they think not having a helpmeet at home puts them at a disadvantage to their male counterparts. After all, these men are willing to share their earnings with their wives.

Bruce Hayden said...

Sure, this may have an indirect affect on it, but IMHO, it is minor compared to all the other causes, and is evidence of academic political correctness gone wild.

The reality is that by high school, even when the parents are pushing their daughters, boys start to dominate math, some sciences, and what could be called pre-engineering classes. At one school, math league (where monthly the participants take 5 story problems, and then the results over the year are tallied), in middle school, the girls predominate, but by the end of high school, there are about twice as many boys as girls in the top 10.

Engineering schools are still 2/3 to 3/4 male, and even there, there seems to be some differenciation by sex in the various disciplines.

It is frankly silly to accept that women can dominate certain fields on their own merits, but men have to have society behind them to dominate in others. While the boys are dominating in math league in that high school, the girlrs dominate in writing contests. Can we blame that on society too?

Frankly, I find the other Barak Baron-Cohen's brother's theory in his book "The Essential Difference" more compelling - that there are traits that are more male and some that are more female, and that the most male brain traits tie into excelling in math, enineering, and physics.

Of course, we are talking means here, which means that there are plenty of women who can excell in those areas (as did my mother). But because the means of the two sexes are different here, as they are for other aptitudes, more males are going to excel here than females (as the girls excel in writing in high school).

bearing said...

Well golly gee. I guess I'm a traditional wife, although I was the "academic" in the family till I gave it up.

Altoids306: LOL! Breakin' the law! Breakin' the law!

I'm familiar with the "I want a wife" essay. Is that really how it used to be for most wives, or is that an oversimplification founded in a great deal of assumptions about the private lives of women that Syfers didn't know personally? That sounds more like "I want an enabler." Just to choose a single example, I don't pick up after the children; I work on teaching them to pick up after themselves. I find this to be a job that requires a surprising amount of time and attention. I'm glad that I have the time.

Anyway, from a perspective of The Woman In The Home, it's obvious that if one spouse can bring in most of the money and the other is free to take care of household and family responsibilities, things can go really smoothly (assuming that everyone is reasonably satisfied with their situation, which we are.) Simply put: Both of us have more time for leisure, and for being our kids' caregivers, than we would otherwise.

Fretting about the inequalities between two-career and one-career families, and trying to come up with solutions, is like fretting that people with less money have more problems than people with more money. You can try to fix the problems, but the underlying reality is, essentially, mathematical.

Perhaps someday both men and women will be able to look at their socioeconomic situations with perfect rationality and then, among one-career couples, the one at home will always be the choice that makes rational sense, and never be grounded in any kind of improper cultural conditioning. Then there will be more men at home than there are now. That will be nice, but I still think you'll wind up with more women than men at home. I'm the mother of a six-week-old baby and even SHE can figure out the innate differences between me and my husband.

But I'm a mother; that's a good excuse, so to speak. I know one woman who got fed up with her stressful corporate job and quit to become a housewife before she and her husband even had adopted their first child. I think that move took some guts, even though I think it probably saved her sanity and her health.

gj said...

The "traditional roles" of wives and husbands have come into stark relief in Massachusetts, where we have had to figure out what to call spouses in same-sex marriages. It feels odd talking about a man's "husband" because the word "husband" has the connotation of dominance. If I say "Peter's husband" it implies that Peter is subservient in the relationship. Similarly, it feels odd talking about a woman's "wife" because the word has connotations of subserviance. "Donna's wife" implies that Donna is dominant in the relationship, and is served by her spouse.

These connotations don't grate when you are talking about a heterosexual marriage. They fit in with our cultural world view. But when you are talking about a same-sex marriage, the terms clearly become inappropriate and insulting to one or the other of the partners.

Old Dad said...

First, there are significant differences in cognition between men and women, especially at the extremes of the bell curve. It's ridiculous to dismiss these without study. Perhaps, they will be shown to have no effect. Perhaps, not.

No doubt, the way that we manage our lives can have a huge effect on professional success. No doubt, too, that traditional marriage favors male professional success--by design.

Shalala's gang is simply positioning to impose quotas--hence, the obvious reference to Title IX.

It would be interesting to evaluate the relative proportions across all faculties before imposing a solution. One wonders if Women's Studies faculties are gender balanced?

Icepick said...

Crap. I hate having a crummy memory. See here for some info about marriage leading to a decrease in productivity amongst scientists. See here for a response to the current study.

Altoids, I was thinking of traditional values in East Asian cultures when I wrote the comment, specifically the bias towards education as a desirable profession. As for Whitey and what he's up to and why, the second link above has a bit on that as well.

I'm willing to bet that increasingly we will see more Americans of East Asian and South Asian descent going into finance in the future, as they become more removed from the root cultures of their ancestors. For example, I would expect this professor's children to be more inclined towards finance than physics. Of course, the Chets of the world will always have a certain advantage in some of those finance fields....

PS for Altoids: A few weeks ago in another thread we were discussing Standard Models and such. At some point you apologized if you had seemed snipppy. (I paraphrase, being too lazy to look it up.) I didn't see the apology until a few days later, but it wasn't unnecessary, as you hadn't been rude at all, and I'm sorry to have given the impression that I had taken any kind of offense.

Henry said...

Going back to the Lawrence Summers inbroglio, I remember that his focus was on the statistical extremes. In that light, let me mention that Richard Feynman was a strip-club-frequenting bachelor for much of his life.

Icepick said...

Innate differences between men and women were rejected as a cause.

An old battle that continues to rage.

Bruce Hayden said...

Another point. There are a number of reasons behind the number of foreign born in the math, engineering, and some sciences. I noted that there is probably some aptitude and interest difference that becomes evident in high schools - even when the girls are being pushed in this area.

But also, one place that culture definately comes into play here is that the best and brightest engineers have been coming here for decades now to make their fortunes. But in many cultures, it is the males who are allowed, even encouraged, to do move half way around the world to potentially make their fortunes (or at least build a career). The females are kept close to home.

And there does seem to be some culture behind this. When I was working in the semiconductor industry, I saw some Islamic male engineers, but no females. More Chinese women compared to men, and even more Indian. But still, the vast, vast, majority of foreign born engineers (with MS/PhDs) were male.

And this is the pool from which a lot of the engineering profs are pulled - foreign born PhDs. Why foreign born? First, you can make more in much of engineering in business than in academia. Add to this that fluency in spoken English is avantageous there, and you have a bigger preference given native English speaking engineers in business than in academia. The result is that academia has to draw from what is left over there - which is predominated by the foreign born.

Why would more of the native English speakers go into business than academia? First, as noted, there is a preference for them there. Secondly, base pay is higher. And, probably as importantly, you are far more likely to get rich there.

Indeed, I left what is now Freescale Semiconductor about 8 years ago. When it was spun off, all the mid to senior level managers and engineers got stock options. Last week, it was announced that an investment group was buying them. And guess what? A lot of those engineers (and patent attorneys) I worked with are ending up with a lot of money (from my point of view, not from that of former engineers at Intel or MSFT). You rarely can do that in academia.

Derve said...

While the boys are dominating in math league in that high school, the girls dominate in writing contests. Can we blame that on society too?
Maybe...
London, Swift, Wyss, Defoe, Stevenson, Clemens, Conrad, Collodi, Salten, Conan Doyle, Hawthorne, Twain, Poe -- genetic freaks all? or just protected from female competition then? Let's not mention male contributions to poetry.

Zach said...

Speaking as a physicist, one thing you notice is that many physicists appear to have similar biographies: the mother is a teacher, the father works in a scientific field (doctor, engineer, scientist, technician, etc). Maybe the people who are attracted to science are actually much less diverse than we think, and men just tend to have that kind of biography more than women do.

From my own experience, it also seems as though most activities that correlate with being a scientist or a future scientist also tend to be male dominated. Go back to high school, and the chess teams are male dominated, the science fiction fans are male dominated, the people hauling around popular science books on relativity and astronomy are male dominated.

In college, engineering is male dominated, and computer science is more male dominated than science is.

In casual conversation, if you say you're a physicist, the cliche'd response from a girl is "Oh, I hated physics!"

Go ahead and fix whatever problems you can find. The usual job path wasn't set up with women in mind, and I'm sure there are a million irritations. But even if you end up with the same proportion of women in professorships as in undergrad physics majors, the profession will still be mostly male.

Icepick said...

Zach wrote: Speaking as a physicist, one thing you notice is that many physicists appear to have similar biographies: the mother is a teacher, the father works in a scientific field (doctor, engineer, scientist, technician, etc). Maybe the people who are attracted to science are actually much less diverse than we think, and men just tend to have that kind of biography more than women do.

Zach, why would men tend to have this biography more than women do? Would such couples have more male children than female, especially in the numbers observed?

Bruce Hayden said...

Derve

You are citing a number of long dead authors, many from, for example, the 19th Century. We are now living in the 21st Century. Things have changed a lot since then, and one of the biggest is that many of the barriers in the work world between males and females have been significantly reduced, if not eliminated.

I think that a better metric would be to walk into a book store and look at what is being sold. This is better than doing so at the supermarket, because there the bulk are romances, written by women for women and put out in bulk because the grocery shopping is still female dominated. (And when we males go, we mostly go to buy, and not to really "shop" as so many women do).

dreamscapes said...

I am not sure if this would count, but I am a stay at home dad, with my wife going to school. while we enjoy this, it is hard when we try to explane our situation, where I have to finaly just say that I am unemployed. When society accepts men staying at home with their children, and does not degrade them for the choice, then we can have more equalaty in this

Joan said...

I love these discussions. Having graduated from MIT and then worked for 15 years as a software engineer, I can honestly say that the male-domination seen there was largely a matter of self-selection. I worked with a few women, and we spent a lot of time either rolling our eyes at how immature the guys were, or else trying to smooth ruffled feathers when personalities got in the way of meeting a deadline.

At this point, I'm debating get back into that world -- the money's great, sure, and the work can be fun and stimulating, but the atmosphere that comes with it often negates all of those benefits. I've spent a good chunk of my adult life walking with geeks, and let me tell you, it ain't pretty. A lot of women, given the choice, opt out. And smart women have a lot of choices. Why should we criticize women for choosing to avoid the internicean politics and petty bickering of academia or engineering, when they can have fulfilling careers elsewhere, or build happy families at home?

(Of course I speak here in generalities, and there are many exceptions, not all engineers are geeks, and some are as socially capable as anyone else. I was on Math Team in high school, and science fiction remains my favorite genre... but even these commonalities with my co-workers were not enough to compensate for all the downsides of working in that environment.)

altoids1306 said...

Icepick:

Hmm...interesting links. I think you're right in saying that a Confucian outlook makes teaching (or the search of knowledge) more desireable than it is in Western cultures. (Unbelieveably, wealth and status are not in perfect correlation under this system.) Also, as second/third-generation immigrants become more assimilated, they would tend to pursue finance/law.

As to marriage decreasing scientist productivity - I question his methodology. The very best of any field tend to be nearly insane - they have total dedication to their work, and forsake almost everything else (like the Russian mathematician from a few weeks ago.) So tracking the life-arc of these geniuses is not representative of most scientists. I think most scientists continue to increase productivity through their 40s. Certainly, about half of all PhDs (and more than half of foreign-born PhDs) are married before they graduate - are their best years behind them? I should hope not.

(And don't worry about apologizing for possibly making me apologize - that's just way too much apologizing!)

Derve said...

I think that a better metric would be to walk into a book store and look at what is being sold.

Sorry Bruce.
I thought you were making the argument that women are innately better at verbal skills like writing.

Are you are saying it's because those authors I cited did not have any competition from female writers for publication then, women would dominate?

I think societal reasons explain the bestseller lists, dismal as they may be. We sent messages to women, and to men, when we paint with broad strokes (guess what? I'm an efficient shopper too :)

peter hoh said...

Dreamscapes: I'm also an at-home dad. Been at it for 12 years now. I don't refer to myself as unemployed.

peter hoh said...

For what it's worth, politics is an arena in which “anyone lacking the work and family support traditionally provided by a 'wife' is at a serious disadvantage."

Perhaps Shalala can propose some solutions to fix that, too.

Bruce Hayden said...

Yes, all those dead male authors were giants of literature. But my point being that that says nothing about whether females on average are better verbally than males, but rather says that at that time, it was far, far, easier for a male to make a living as a writer, and, thus, the giants of that era were male.

I am not saying that men can't be great writers, because they obviously can be. But what I am talking about are the means between the populations, and not the individuals.

And, at least in high school, the girls do write better than the boys do. They also do better on the verbal part of the SAT, and get a lot more writing awards. For example, last year, in a school magazine, one (male) teacher published three short pieces from girls, and one from a boy, as being the best in his class last year.

Icepick said...

As to marriage decreasing scientist productivity - I question his methodology. The very best of any field tend to be nearly insane - they have total dedication to their work, and forsake almost everything else (like the Russian mathematician from a few weeks ago.) So tracking the life-arc of these geniuses is not representative of most scientists.

Yes, the methodology is questionable, but it has something of the ring of truth to it, as do your comments about insanity. The very best in mathematics and the hard sciences tend to have more than a touch of the fanatic about them.

Sometimes I think of my time in grad school (mathematics) as time spent in a seminary, studying for the priesthood. Ultimately, I decided that I didn't have the requisite level of personal commitment to my 'church', so I went looking for something both more lucrative and easier. Still, I wish I had been more fanatical about math, and I miss the calling....

(And don't worry about apologizing for possibly making me apologize - that's just way too much apologizing!)

Sorry.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Quote:
I want a wife who will take care of my physical needs. I want a wife who will keep my house clean. A wife who will pick up after my children, a wife who will pick up after me. I want a wife who will keep my clothes clean, ironed, mended, replaced when need be, and who will see to it that my personal things are kept in their proper place so that I can find what I need the minute I need it. I want a wife who cooks the meals, a wife who is a good cook. I want a wife who will plan the menus, do the necessary grocery shopping, prepare the meals, serve them pleasantly, and then do the cleaning up while I do my studying.

She doesn't want a wife. She wants a servant!!! I want one too. Kidding.....sort of.

I work as a woman in what is predominantly a man's occupation (Stockbroker/Financial Advisor) and I can attest to the lack of advancement of women in my field. Is it because of the misguided perception that a woman will not have the time or dedication to devote to the career, or is it because a woman really doesn't have the time or dedication?

I don't know.

David said...

"you can make more in much of engineering in business than in academia. Add to this that fluency in spoken English is avantageous there (business)"...isn't this kind of odd? Why would fluency in spoken English be more important in someone who is writing FPGA code in a business than in someone who is teaching classes--about a verbal an activity as you can find?

Derve said...

And, at least in high school, the girls do write better than the boys do.

So you think this is something innate, or does societal conditioning play a role too? You want us to think of women's fields and men's fields, and reinforce the stereotypes.

And I don't like what you're implying about "dead male authors". Their work had merit only because we couldn't see what the women would have produced back then? The success of so many "individual" men, whose work holds up, undercuts your beliefs, but thanks for cluing me into what century this is.

Icepick said...

Why would fluency in spoken English be more important in someone who is writing FPGA code in a business than in someone who is teaching classes--about a verbal an activity as you can find?

One doesn't get tenure in college because of one's teaching abilities, but because of one's academic output and the ability to get grants and such. Verbal skills aren't really needed that much for those latter activities.

David said...

Icepick..I was referring to an earlier comment by Bruce, in which he indicated that foreign-born engineers were more likely to wind up in academia than in business and suggested language skills as a reason. The decision to go into academia as a career would be many years in advance of actually getting tenure, in most cases.

David said...

Icepick...I was referring to an earlier bcomment by Bruce, in which he suggests a reason why foreign-born students tend to wind up in academia instead of business. The decision to pursue a career in academia would of course be many years in advance of (possible) tenure.

JohnF said...

Science and math are play.

Boys find it easier not to grow up than girls. That's why science and math is dominated by men.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bearing said...

Sippican: Fabulous comment.

Jim said...

If having one wife is good for your career, is having several even better?

The fact that brilliant men of science and engineering gravitate to the private sector must have something to do with the fact that the politics and groveling needed for tenure in academia are demeaning.

It also explains why Amerikan kids will never get a science and math education: no self-respecting scientist or mathematician will take a pay cut and endure education classes and certification in order to work around a bunch of women in a woman's profession when he can be free to use his brilliance to design WMDs, computers, missiles and spacecraft without undergoing any certification whatsoever!

Where would this world be if Steve Jobs, Michael Dell or Bill Gates were required to attend education classes or be certified by idiots?

altoids1306 said...

As an (future) academic - I'll take issue with the characterization that academia has more politics and groveling than business. (At least in the hard sciences.) If you publish good results, you could be a complete jerk, and still make tenure. Having done a stint in industry, I'd say there's a lot more ass-kissing there.

Also, as far as diversion to the private sector - the people drawn to money wouldn't choose engineering/science in the first place, and head straight up the investment-banking track (starting salary, $60-70k, with significant upside in 2-3 years). Those who decide to go to the private sector get a master in engineering, then head to industry (starting salary, $70-90k, with some raises). Those who chose to go for PhD are genuinely interested in academia, because they certainly aren't in it for the money - a PhD doesn't earn any more in industry than a Masters - but there is a chance for a professorship.

The goal for most science/eng PhDs is a tenure track position - $60-120k (depending on university), long-but-flexible hours, be your own boss, and (after tenure review) unparalleled job security. There's also the option of additional work/income in textbook writing, patent royalties, consulting, expert witnessing, start-ups, equity stakes in start-ups created by your students...

So don't write-off academia as the last refuge of eggheads who can't take the real world - at least for engineering/science, there's a bit more to it than that. Faculty parking lots are generally well-stocked.

Jim said...

Altoids1306-

I quit teaching college physics and math at age 22 and I haven't looked back. Here's what a bright physicist or mathematician working as a computer scientist can do:

1. Work independently on a 1099, starting at around $65/hour on a contract that lasts 3mo, 6mo, 9mo or a year, as he sees fit, taking about a third of his pay as tax-free per diem and writing off all computer purchases.
2. Avoid all "benefits" in place for breeders and those who are turned on by parking spaces.
3. Take a "sabbatical" of 6 months or more after every contract. (I have taken 33 weeks vacation per year on average in the 40 years since I came to my senses and got out of academia.
4. Take on a projects varying from design of medical devices, to that of spacecraft, nuclear weapons, consumer electronics, etc. Never do something as stupid as read student essays or teach the same vector calculus TWICE!
5. Work without ever getting involved in company meetings, let alone the politics of the company.
6. Work anywhere in the world in a foreign culture and language.
7. Take job after job in a different state without even once sitting for an interview!
8. Be subject to peer review by the CONSUMER!

Icepick said...

I have to second most of what Altoids just wrote. (My bona fides are that I have been in both academics and in the corporate world.)

Jim wrote: It also explains why Amerikan kids will never get a science and math education: no self-respecting scientist or mathematician will take a pay cut and endure education classes and certification in order to work around a bunch of women in a woman's profession when he can be free to use his brilliance to design WMDs, computers, missiles and spacecraft without undergoing any certification whatsoever!

The people who would be doing that would never become anything less than college professors anyway, and you don't need to 'endure' education calsses or a certification process for that. (Besides, education classes are considered a cake-walk to everyone else at a university.)

Eli Blake said...

This is another reason we won't get a 'secure border' or stop illegal immigration.

Most couples with two incomes and working full time hire a maid to cook, clean the house, take care of the kids, do the laundry and fold and put away the clothes.

And yes, most of those maids are from Latin America (whether they are here legally or illegally). Generally this trend is invisible, except when someone whose maid was here illegally gets nominated to a government position and we get another 'nanny-gate' scandal.

The good news is that their kids probably will do well in their Spanish class once they get to high school and the parents start paying attention to their grades.

altoids1306 said...

(Drifting off-topic, but...)

Jim:

Hopefully this won't become a pissing match about what job is better, but if you left academia at 22 and worked for 40 years, you must be at least 62. I'm not about to argue about life-choices with someone whose lived nearly three-times as long as me - but let me just observe that the computer industry and academia have probably changed substantially since you were starting out.

Professors don't grade anything, unless they want to (there are these wonderful creatures called grad students). And as someone who hopes to have children someday, "breeder" benefits are exactly what the doctor ordered.

John Thacker said...

Most couples with two incomes and working full time hire a maid to cook, clean the house, take care of the kids, do the laundry and fold and put away the clothes.

I don't think so. Perhaps where you live, I guess, but I don't know any couples who do (or did) that, and I come from an upper middle class background in Durham, NC and know a bunch of familes with two full time parents.

I think it really depends on the area. Perhaps in the more high-powered careers, and extremely wealthy areas, I guess.

Jim said...

Yes, Altoids, I am about to retire, at least as far as the IRS is concerned.

And yes, academia has changed since I taught. In 1966, you could drink at 18, there were virtually no drugs, no affirmative action, no grade inflation, and 4.0 was the highest GPA; to get an MS in Physics from my university you had to read a foreign language, for a PhD, two foreign languages. Tuition cost a couple thousand bucks a year, there was no such curriculum as “computer science,” and gas cost 35 cents a gallon. Computers used punch cards and 8-tracks were the latest in technology. Nowadays you can spend four college years without taking a single math or science course, get into college and then graduate without speaking proper English, and then go on to teach high-school English for the same pay the physics teacher gets!

You may not be aware of it, but then (same as now), the country was full of wonderful colleges where there were no grad students to serve as teaching assistants. I have nothing against grad students’ grading papers and even teaching classes in those schools where grad students exist, because they no doubt are better and more attentive teachers than the tenure-track profs, not to mention the tenured profs. Even in the public UT Law School I attended for fun, there were no “graduate” assistants to grade papers. As far as I know, Charles Allen Wright read every one of his exam essays!

You may think of me as an “old fogey,” but you are using a chip I designed and may soon be hooked up to a medical instrument I helped design or be killed by a weapon I helped design. Though I have spent over 25 years of my life sitting in classrooms and a few more teaching, I hold little hope for “education” in Amerika. High school is already a write-off, and higher education of value, like physics, is held together by our Aliens. The prognosis is so dismal that I truly worry for the future of my Social Security benefits.

Jim said...
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HaloJonesFan said...

Jim: As "altoids" pointed out, if you've been working for 40 years then you started working in the mid-sixties. That was the height of the Cold War. It wasn't hard to get a job in the defense industry then, because OH CHRIST THE RUSSIAN HORDES ARE GONNA COME IN OVER THE POLE! BOMBER GAP! MISSILE GAP! SPACE RACE! GOTTA BUILD TEN BILLION NUKES NOW, NOW NOW NOW!

You cannot underestimate the effect of nuclear paranoia on US military and foreign-policy decisions between 1952 and 1989. I wouldn't look at that period as being indicative of the ease of getting jobs in a technical field with no certification or formal education.

HaloJonesFan said...

Oh, and as for the essay: Despite three generations of equality and independence and "a woman's place is not necessarily in the home", the service industry is still set up to assume that households have an adult at home for the entire day. "We'll be there somewhere between 9 AM and 3 PM." "Can you come in around lunchtime?" "Our hours are 10 AM until 4:30 PM, except on Fridays when we close at 1 PM."

J. Peden said...

"Innate differences between men and women were rejected as a cause."

As an evolutionalist, I reject evolution due to my own evolution of thought, which is essentially inheritable. Or at least I hope my blank slate is inheritable, so that it can be correctly programmed by others with blank slates.

Who would have ever been fool enough to think that men and women are different. They just look different, that's all, and only appear to compose the parts of a fit.

The X and Y chromosomes? Mere constructions of false consciousness. Or else the blank slates were just not gotten to early enough.

Eli Blake said...

Altoids:

Uh, I teach at a college, and we have no grad students, and no paper graders.

Also, Jim:

There were drugs during the 1960's. Benign compared to meth, for example, but they were around. And as for no affirmative action, one reason is that in the 1960's there were still colleges that had no minorities.

Bruce Hayden said...

David

The reason that all things the same, a company might prefer someone who can better speak and understand English is that engineers don't work in a vacuum. They have to deal with each other, with people like me (patent attorneys), and, ultimately, when they rise high enough up, sometimes even with customers.

Written communications only go so far. Indeed, as a patent attorney, one of the things that we do is screen for patentable inventions, and in big companies, that is a formalized process, requiring first a written description, and then a verbal defense. And I have seen perfectly good patentable inventions not get patented because the inventors could not convince the English speaking engineers on the patent committees of the worth of their inventions. If the engineers had been native English speakers, I suspect that this would not have happened nearly as often. But we would give each invention 20 minutes, and if they couldn't convince us in that length of time, too bad.

I will also admit though that a non-native English speaker will probably do better in an engineering position than, for example, a sales position (at least when trying to sell to English speakers).

I just know from my personal experiences that at any given level, the non-native English speakers were better than their native English speaking counterparts. Better educated. Better at producing that FPGA code. And that indicates to me a bias in favor of the native English speakers.

Bruce Hayden said...

I don't know why evolution might have pushed one sex in one direction and the other in another direction. But male and female brains do differ both structurally and operationally. Not a lot, but experts have been able for quite awhile now to recognize the difference between a female skull and a smaller male skull. It has only gotten more so, as MRIs, etc. are used to see how people's brains work. On average, somewhat different parts of the brain are used by the two sexes to accomplish the same tasks. One example - female brain halves communicate better, or at least more actively, than do male brain halves (on average). They are also better cross-connected.

Revenant said...

It's quite clear from reading it that not only will a woman never find a man who would act like that

I don't know about that. The quoted description sounds an awful lot like James Lileks to me.

Zeldazot said...

The usual waste of computer capacity continues at Althouse. All you supposed highly trained engineers and physicists putting forth case studies (your individual experience) as though they reflected an exact truth. You of anyone should know that truth comes from data and its statistical analysis.

BTW, Bruce, your comments about Freescale are not only irrelevant, but are also incorrect.

Revenant said...

Why would fluency in spoken English be more important in someone who is writing FPGA code in a business than in someone who is teaching classes--about a verbal an activity as you can find?

Because many universities, and most (if not all) of the top ones, care a lot more about research than about teaching. Universities will put up with a professor that undergrads have trouble understanding, provided that that professor keeps publishing and pulling in research dollars. There is also the fact that professors are largely self-governing in their everyday activities.

In engineering, on the other hand, teamwork and constant communication are critical -- engineering teams that lack good internal communication create bad products. This is why companies that outsource generally outsource entire projects, rather than mixing people whose English is marginal in with native Americans.

(PS -- who's that zeldazot moron who just posted?)

Meade said...

SippicanCottage: an inspired and inspiring comment. Superb.

J. Peden said...

"The usual waste of computer capacity continues at Althouse.... You [not Ann] of anyone should know that truth comes from data and its statistical analysis." zeldazot

OK, start there, with the data. Then we'll talk about the meaning of words. Then we'll talk about statistical analysis.

J. Peden said...

"(PS -- who's that zeldazot moron who just posted?)" revenant

Asked, and answered.

Zach said...

You of anyone should know that truth comes from data and its statistical analysis.

Statistical analysis is more useful to test an existing theory than it is when you're flailing around. The issue of women in science is still very much at the flailing around stage.

I think when public policy folk look at issues like this, they already have a theory in mind -- the usual disparate impact theory, where different groups have different levels of participation due to official policies, which could theoretically be reversed to restore parity. But that theory seems so at odds with my personal experience that I'm extremely skeptical. I don't think you could convince me of that without actually implementing policies and getting partial success.

Zach said...

Zach, why would men tend to have this biography more than women do?

My own half-baked theory is that there is a certain type of personality that sees science as an extremely desirable career, and that biographies like this tend to produce guys with that personality. Maybe girls with this biography don't develop the same kinds of personality as guys do. I've never really noticed any patterns with the girls in science that I know.

Heck, I don't know, maybe the determining factor is how much you enjoy hanging around with hardcore nerds and geeking out.

SippicanCottage said...
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altoids1306 said...

All you supposed highly trained engineers and physicists putting forth case studies (your individual experience) as though they reflected an exact truth.

An insult! From an anomymous internet pundit! Oooh, that really hurts.

Did anyone say our "case studies" reflected "exact truth"? ( All together now...strawman!)

You of anyone should know that truth comes from data and its statistical analysis.

That's what a lot of "scientists" like to think. Truth (well, as close as it gets to truth in science) comes from a solid theoretical understanding, a rigorous methodology, which creates good data, which creates meaningful results. Having just "data" isn't enough. Drug tests have to be double-blind, etc. It's too bad many fields that like to carry the word "science" in their title don't understand this.