Which Gender Differences Are “Disparities”?

I wrote recently that you can measure any two things, and in all likelihood they will be different. If you have an agenda, you can call this difference a “gap” or a “disparity” and demand remedial actions by government. Whether differences between demographic groups are deemed significant depends on politics, not logic. Thus, to take one of countless examples, no one protests the fact that Asian-Americans earn, on average, significantly more than whites, and no one demands government programs to help whites narrow the “gap.” Why not, if all gaps are the result of discrimination?

At the Washington Examiner, a young woman named Madison Breshears articulates these and similar points beautifully, drawing on her own experience as a ballet dancer, a female-dominated field.

What, if anything, do ballet and tech have in common? The obvious answer is that both fields show highly disproportionate gender distributions.

Less acknowledged but no less relevant is this uncomfortable commonality: Both are industries where it pays to be in the sexual minority. I know, because I was a ballet dancer for 16 years.

In the ballet world, men’s unfair advantage in hiring and casting is as widely understood and as rarely acknowledged as is the rampant anorexia. A less skilled male dancer is more likely to land a role or get a job than a female dancer of comparable skill. Due to the scarcity of men, the hurdles to a professional career are distinctly lower than they are for most women.

Does this have anything to do with discrimination? Of course not:

I was sitting in a ballet studio, warming up before class, when I was unexpectedly prompted to revisit the idea of the “gender gap.” Surrounded by that standard 20:1 female to male ratio, I asked myself, where is the public outrage? If we tend to assume that occupational gender disparities are invariably the result of injustice, then, by all accounts, ballet was suffering from an epidemic of anti-male sexism.

But that obviously isn’t the case, and you don’t need to launch an investigative campaign into casting or hiring practices to know why. Men, on average, simply are not as interested in ballet as women. It isn’t even close, and thus neither are the numbers of men and women in ballet.

I remember distinctly from my youth the tinge of jealousy and injustice I felt watching my less talented male peers win medals, receive scholarships, and land company positions that I never did. I understand [Google employee James] Damore’s point from a deeply personal perspective.

But there is one crucial caveat: While my experience and those of women like me in ballet are an unfortunate but inevitable fact of the industry, Damore and other male Google employees are, in fact, suffering from blatant sex discrimination.

Ballet, after all, can’t be done without male roles. Its canonical repertoire demands opposite-sex partnering choreography. There is no analogous constraint in the tech industry to excuse its discrimination in favor of one sex over the other. There is no inherent reason why women need to work in tech; coding is as colorblind as it is sexually indiscriminate. Yet, Google is employing discrimination against one sex and in favor of the other to combat an assumed problem — latent sexism supposedly causing the enormous gender disparity in tech — for whose existence the evidence is elusive.

That is a rather brilliant piece of analysis by a very young woman. She goes on to address some of our economy’s familiar differences that, somehow, aren’t viewed as “gaps” or “disparities.”

The selective outrage of feminists over disparities like the one in tech is revealing. There is a conspicuous shortage of school programs, campaigns, marches, and hashtags to end the gender gap in, say, teaching, or counseling, which according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics are professions overwhelmingly dominated by women. Nursing is a pretty good gig — it pays well, is flexible, and nurses can find work anywhere. So, where should we look for the anti-male bias that made it so that more than 90 percent of nurses are women?

Meanwhile, you will search in vain for the calls to eliminate the overrepresentation of men in mining, trucking, sewage, and garbage collecting. The reason for all this is that the feminist Left isn’t so much a political movement for equality with a consistent philosophy as much as it is an expression of rage over the fact that men and women tend to make different career decisions.

Men die on the job at a far higher rate than women. Is that a “disparity” that needs to be corrected by forcing more women into dangerous occupations? Why not?

Ms. Breshears concludes:

I salute women who work in fields where they’re outnumbered, but I don’t appreciate or support policies that patronize women at men’s expense for the sake of “diversity” in any occupation, under any circumstances. My female friends in STEM agree, and they aren’t the ones pushing for these ridiculous reparations.

As for the radical feminists, you might ask them, if they feel so strongly about equal representation, why didn’t they themselves pursue a degree in engineering? Expect to hear something like, “well, I did always prefer English, and calculus was such a bore.”

I hope Ms. Breshears is a conservative–she wouldn’t necessarily have to be, to write that column–and look forward to future contributions from her. We can use her on our side. Via InstaPundit.


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