I was subject to another corporate social justice ad on YouTube, this time from Boeing.
I had a lot of respect for Boeing. There is a large Boeing presence in Huntsville and I know quite a few Boeing engineers.
But this ad… Jesus.
First of all, as a society, we need to decide what the statue of limitations is on historical oppression.
These women, who are Boeing engineers – literal fucking rocket scientists – are reading a rejection letter from 1919. That’s 5 days short of 99 years ago. My grandfather wasn’t born yet in 1919.
Phrenology was considered a cutting edge field of science in 1919.
If “a woman received a rejection letter from an engineering department in 1919” is why a young woman chose not to major in engineering in the fall of 2018, that young woman is not mentally cut out for anything.
Then they cut to the statistic that only 13% of engineering majors are women. Not this bullshit again. There are a wide variety of fields of engineering, how about a breakdown?
Oh look, aerospace is 14.2% women, above the average. Environmental engineering is half women. Biomedical is 40% women. I guess the fraction of women in engineering really depends on the discipline. If we leave engineering and look at STEM in general, half of chemistry majors are women and more than half of biology majors are women.
Like the quote goes “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
For instance, in engineering I hear frequently “40 Percent Of Female Engineers Are Leaving The Field.” Oh, no. They are being discriminated out of their field. How awful. But wait… it turns out that 43% of women leave work all together when they have kids. In addition, the implication of the “women leaving engineering” is that it is bad. I have known a lot of women in engineering who have gone to law school to become patent lawyers or have gone to medical school or dental school. I have known women with degrees in engineering who have gone to business incubators for the tech industry. Is leaving engineering to become a lawyer or a doctor or an entrepreneur a bad thing?
But I digress…
Lastly the ad ends with #WomenMakeUsBetter.
Not to say that woman don’t make anybody better, but is it really a matter of gender?
I have known very good women engineers and very bad women engineers. for that matter, I have known very good male engineers and very bad male engineers. I don’t think gender has anything to do with the quality of an engineer.
I sucked as a student. I failed thermodynamics more times than I passed it. It took me three tries at the class to finally figure out how to do the calculus to calculate fugacity. I flunked tests. Put me in a lab and I fly.
So I went into a career that doesn’t require me to calculate fugacity. I am an expert failure analyst and a fantastic process engineer. I can figure out why anything broke and how to implement the changes to fix it. I can get the maximum efficiency and cost savings out of a manufacturing process.
I knew engineers, both men and women, who could ace every class and then had no practical competency in the field.
How about #QualityMakesUsBetter.
In the end, the thing that bothers me about these social justice in engineering ads is this:
When as student finished a Ph.D. ad the institution I went to, they did an exit interview tour. They met with various deans and administrators to discuss what they liked and didn’t like about the grad program, what they wanted to do for a career, etc. You were expected to be a representative of the best and brightest that the school matriculated.
One of the deans I had to meet with was the “Dean of Diversity and Inclusion.” My exit interview with her lasted about 10 seconds. I sat down and introduced myself. Her response was “another white male in engineering” and that was it.
Eleven years of hard work, research, publication and I’m just “another white male in engineering.” Great.
I have two kids, a son and a daughter. I don’t know much about my daughter, she’s two weeks old. Right now her personality is alternating between eating an sleeping.
He knows everything about every construction vehicle ever made. We pass a construction site and he’s naming them all. We drive by Marshall Space Flight Center and he can name the different rockets that can be seen from the highway.
He’ll yell out in toddlerese the Rusty Rivets catchphrase “combine it and design it,” then assemble something epic out of his Legos. I have a fleet of Lego flying cars and fire trucks in my living room.
We have a 19 gallon tote of Brio. Other kids play with “trains.” He has “track and rolling stock.”
And he’s three-and-a-half.
If my daughter grows up with a love of mechanical devices and wants to be an engineer, of course I will help her any way I can.
Why terrifies me is that my will end up facing dower faced career counselors and diversity deans who will say in passive-aggressive shitty tones that he is going to be just “another white male in engineering” like that is some sort of bad thing.
Dear Boeing, I have a three year old boy, who can tell an “Apollo rocket” from an “Atlas rocker” from the “Space Shuttle.” Is it too much to ask that you inspire him too?