Apparently, yesterday was #WomenInStem day, a day to promote the position of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).
Unfortunately, every day is #CityAMVirtueSignalling day, and this otherwise laudable business paper duly marked the occasion with an article that, rather than distilling the so-called enlightened values of our age, did more to display its ugly prejudices.
To be fair not all the article was bad by any means: it made some concrete suggestions on how to promote STEM careers to women, and there is nothing wrong in that. Firstly, you can make an argument that any major industrial sector has a social responsibility to make sure it is promoting equality of opportunity, particularly so when it is currently drawn from a relatively narrow demographic. Secondly, STEM has significant skills shortages, so it makes a good deal of sense to try to cast its net as widely as possible out of sheer self-interest. (That said, a never discussed issue with rebranding a subject in order to appeal to the currently under represented is that you must be careful not to alienate those who currently choose it. It would be nice to think that such gender sensitivity cuts both ways, and the needs of men are given equal weight to those of women. Of course they rarely if ever are.)
However, there is difference in-between reasonable enquiry into STEM’s overwhelming male domination and the sector being judged guilty until proven innocent, and here the article falls down very revealingly:
“Mercifully, London’s tech scene is not as masculine as Silicon Valley’s, though it could always do more to be more welcoming. Instead, London’s ‘women problem’ relates largely to skills.”
“In the 21st century, it (hopefully) goes without saying that women have the skills – indeed, women are now 35 per cent more likely to go to university than men, yet in one of our most exciting industries, they remain woefully under-represented.”
So, the knee-jerk assumption is the fact that the IT industry in Silicon Valley and London is masculine dominated is bad, but the fact that university is now thoroughly female-dominated is presented in a neutral or positive light.
It would go beyond the pale to argue that perhaps STEM-based industries are so exciting and innovative because their signal features are the predominantly masculine qualities of fanaticism, intellectual enquiry and risk-taking. Perhaps that is the case, then again, perhaps it is not, and these sectors would be doing even better with a more feminised culture. The point is that in the narrow world of our liberal elite, these questions are never even asked.
Since the liberal elite is also the policy-making elite, these prejudices matters hugely. For instance, it has been established for some time that white working class boys, more than any other demographic, are now the most disadvantaged in society, but they’ll be no CityA.M. articles or trendy hashtag for them.
#WhiteWorkingClassBoysInStem? Sorry, my loves, but that doesn’t signal my virtue.