Where Women Choose to Work

An opinion piece in the New York Times by Ellen Pollack  attempted to explain why women shy away from “Tech” jobs in engineering and computer science.   She references high school girls not choosing computer science classes to illustrate how early women tend to reject technology as a profession.  Pollack proffers the idea that the perception by women of the tech world leaves them with the impression that they will not fit in and therefore reject the notion of employment in tech companies.  She does make a good point highlighting how the media portrays tech workers.   The stereotype of a poorly socialized headphone wearing male nerd, addicted to video games hovering alone over a computer is often the depiction of a tech worker.  She even goes as far as focusing on how these male dominated workers decorate their cubicles and offices with posters and memorabilia that mainly appeal to geek interests.   Her conclusion and recommendations are based on the assumption that if the perception of the tech environment changes more girls would take computer science courses and more women would be motivated to seek tech jobs.

Frankly I believe she is missing a key element in how males and females differ in career choices.   Is the notion of fitting in more of a female than male concern?   Why do men tend to avoid careers in social work, nursing, and K-12 education?  Why do women show little interest in seeking decent paying jobs in  the trades?   Certainly cultural stereotypes are a factor but as gender equality has gained more traction in our society, the gender stereotypes in employment still remain.   I will risk being attacked by feminists and posit that there are biological and evolutionary dimension in play in setting differing  priorities for men and women as they define their career paths.  Females do tend to value fitting in and group harmony more than males.  Males do gravitate towards tangible objects and manifest tunnel vision more than females.  Men are empathetic but express their concern for others differently than women.  Women seem to be more willing to nurture before problem solving while men are more willing to bypass nurturing to seek fixes for people’s needs.  .Again, as in most gender related issues there are many exceptions and tendencies are on a continuum.  However, in our zeal for gender equality in employment we need to be reminded that some gender preferences are here to stay and not modifiable by simply combating stereotypes.