If you write a book about something that is little known, you have to be prepared for questions. Some will be silly and trivial, some will be deeper: but there will be questions. I wrote about Iran. Immediately I learned that many Americans know little about that country and its culture. Many of the questions I have been asked have been about the women of Iran. They seem so different from the women of America, so different and so very hard to comprehend.
The U.S. faces an increasing shortage in the STEM workforce: employment in STEM occupations is expected to grow 17 percent by 2018, while the number of college graduates in STEM fields continues to decline. In 2009, just 18 percent of bachelor’s degrees awarded were in STEM fields, down from 24 percent two decades ago. Even more alarming: the gender and racial gap within the STEM workforce continues to widen. While women comprise 49% of the college-educated workforce, only 14% of engineers are women and just 27% are working in computer science and math positions. Similar disparities exist for Hispanic and African American workers, who account for only six percent of STEM workers. Recently it has come to light that the number of girls that are majoring in Computer Science has drastically dropped in the past 15 years.
One of the many benefits I enjoy from writing this column is that I get to stir stuff up from up here on my, shall we say, “perch.”From here, I get to rant and rave, sprinkle dashes of the uncomfortable into conventional wisdom and comfort zones, take folks dangerously close to the edge, leave them suspended Wile E. Coyote-like midair, then lasso them in before they plunge over the cliff into the “diversity dangers” that may lurk below. From here, I also get to do some vigorous backpedaling, or source attribution when I need to pass the buck if things get a tad too hot or have the potential to backfire on me.
Religion has long institutionalized the subservience of women. Today’s woman fights for tangible equity as a way of claiming equality, but will never fully succeed until the root of the problem, religion, either alters its interpretation, or is no longer considered a reputable source of societal authority. Because religion structures the family, hence society, the elimination of sexism must proceed concurrently with the eradication of archaic attitudes within the churches, and servile innuendoes within the home.