One of the recurring frustrations faced by MHRAs is the pat response that ‘you can’t make generalisations about men and women’. This makes debate all but impossible. If you try to explain the reasons why few women wish to become engineers, you’ll be told that there are surely some AMAZING female engineers, and all they need is some role models and incentives (e.g. the £22,750 sponsorships available only to female to Brunel engineering postgraduate students) and in time there will be as many female engineers as male engineers. It’s never considered relevant that only a minority of female engineering graduates become engineers – they tend to prefer more cushy, better-paid lines of work, nearer home – and of the women who do go into engineering as a career, the vast majority who have children will quit the profession. Meanwhile the life chances of men who’d have made long careers in engineering – perhaps thereby supporting partners and children – have been dashed.
The government has earmarked £30 million to encourage (i.e. bribe with taxpayers’ money) more women into engineering. I recently read a government report on suicide, published in January 2014 – Preventing suicide in England: One year on. First annual report on the cross-government outcomes strategy to save lives. It relates the statistics about male suicide, and describes six research projects in which £1.5 million are being invested. Not one of the six projects was specifically concerned with the male suicide rate, now 3.5 times higher than the female suicide rate. The government is investing 20 times more money in persuading women to become engineers, than it’s spending on researching suicide.
The £30 million ‘investment’ will result in more female engineers and fewer male engineers. The male unemployment rate has long been higher than the female unemployment rate, and unemployment is known to be a major driver of suicide among men (but not women). So the government is spending £30 million on an initiative to push women into lines of work they don’t want to enter, at the same time driving up male unemployment and therefore male suicide.
Suicide is the #1 cause of death of men below the age of 50, and the suicide rate is particularly high among young men.
I’ve digressed again. AVfM has just published an excellent piece by Karen Straughan (GirlWritesWhat) on the topic of gender generalisations. As always, Karen nails the subject. Enjoy.