Thursday, February 20, 2014

Why I Cannot Bury My Head in the Sand

There is a story told, of two young fish swimming along.  An older fish swims by, and asks them "How's the water?"  The one young fish looks at the other, and asks "What's water?"

In the Harvard Business Review article "Women Rising: The Unseen Barriers" (Registration required, paywall may exist), the authors explain that "Most women are unaware of having personally been victims of gender discrimination and deny it even when it is objectively true and they see that women in general experience it."

In my short class this spring, we discussed seven forms of power.  Over the discussions, I asked my classmates to tell me where women stand on examples of those seven forms of power.  Rather than answer the question, they spent two days arguing that a problem does not exist, because they could point to specific women who had achieved power.

Image courtesy of blakeimeson covered by Creative Commons license.

Ignoring it works for them, because they are not affected by the problem.  I do not have that luxury.  One cannot solve a problem one does not acknowledge.

I answered my own questions:

  1. Expert power – 2012 doctorate degrees awarded[i]:
Total: 27,390 (54%) men        23,562 (46% ) women
Life Sciences   5,331 men       6,698 women
Physical sciences 6,393 men   2,551 women
Social sciences 3,488 men       4,861 women
Engineering 6,527 men           1,883 women
Education 1,501 men  3,297 women
Humanities      2,654 men       2,847 women
Other   1,496 men       1,425 women
  1. Reward power
Fortune 500 CEOs – 23 women (4.6%)
Fortune 1000 CEOs - 46 women (4.6%)[ii]

Graphic visible here:
  1. Coercive power - Women make up less than 25% of most US reserve forces, less than 20% of active duty personnel, and the percentage decreases for Flag/general officers.
Graphic visible here:
  1. Legitimate power
As of July 14, 2013, 19 women were presidents or prime ministers.[v]  Women hold 99 seats (18.5%) in the U.S. Congress.[vi]
  1. Referent power - This is subjective.
  2. Informational power – Computer Scientist statistics:
Women earned 34% of Computer Science degrees in 1984.  It had fallen to 25% in 2004.[vii]
  1. Personal power – This is subjective.

[i] National Science Foundation Science and Engineering Doctorates
[iv], particularly:
[vi] Women in the U.S. Congress 2014.