From what I can tell, the complaints about women in STEM, are, to a large extent, based on a flawed definition of the “S” and “T ” in STEM (too narrow), flawed arithmetic (ignorance of the see-saw principle), and ignorance about psychology (the well-known “people/things” asymmetry). These complaints seem to be fuelled by anecdotes and surveys of sexism in engineering and the “hard” sciences. However, there are anecdotes and surveys of sexism in the health sciences, the law, the arts (#MeToo) and the humanities (Searle’s girls) too.
It strikes me as bizarre to suggest sexism is holding women down dramatically in some buildings of the contemporary university and not holding them down at all in adjacent buildings where they achieve emphatic majorities in terms of completing PhDs. The same HR policies regarding sexism, discrimination, harassment and so on apply everywhere on campus and in broader society. Numerous academics of global renown have been defenestrated for sexist acts (harassing and having affairs with female graduate students in the case of the philosopher, John Searle) and utterances (saying females are more likely to cry than men and are a distraction in a lab in the case of Tim Hunt, a 2001 Nobel laureate).
So, from the above we can conclude that sexism is not a particularly convincing explanation for the relative lack of women in STEM narrowly defined at university. I don’t doubt sexism explains some cases of women bailing out of engineering. I don’t doubt sexism explains some cases of women bailing out of medicine and law either. Everybody will run into a bad boss or a toxic colleague at work sooner or later. However, far more plausible explanations for the relatively low numbers of women in STEM narrowly conceived are the female preference for working with people rather than things and the see-saw principle, the simple fact that, given overall parity, it is statistically impossible for women to be an emphatic majority in one broad field without being an emphatic minority in another.
SAN FRANCISCO — When Google conducted a study recently to determine whether the company was underpaying women and members of minority groups, it found that more men than women were receiving less money for doing similar work.
There are no villains in this story. Nobody can or should be blamed for his or her honest preferences, and if women collectively believe that most men are unattractive, what grounds does anyone, male or female, have to argue with them? We may pity the large majority of men who are regarded as unattractive and who have few or no romantic experiences while a small percentage of attractive men have many. Just as much, consider that we live in a monogamous culture, and so the 20 percent of men who are regarded as attractive can only be in committed relationships with at most 20 percent of women. We may just as well pity the rest of the women, who are destined to be in committed relationships, if they pursue a relationship at all, with someone who they regard as unattractive. The only villain in this story is nature, which has molded our preferences so that this tragic mismatch of attraction and availability occurs.
“The 32-year-old patient told the nurse he was transgender when he arrived at the emergency room and his electronic medical record listed him as male. He hadn’t had a period in several years and had been taking testosterone, a hormone that has masculinizing effects and can decrease ovulation and menstruation. But he quit taking the hormone and blood pressure medication after he lost insurance.”