Sunday, February 23

Editorial: UCLA can’t fan flames of fire begun by DeVos investigation against women in STEM

Women working in STEM can take advantage of inclusionary learning spaces to further their prospects in male-dominated fields.

But insecure men just can’t fathom being excluded.

The U.S. Department of Education has launched more than two dozen investigations into female-only STEM academic programs offered at UCLA and UC Berkeley, as well as other colleges across the nation.

Investigations began over concerns of female-only programs, scholarships and summer camps violating Title IX’s goal to eliminate sex discrimination in higher education.

Stop Abusive and Violent Environments, a Maryland-based nonprofit which has previously worked against domestic violence protections and has worked with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, labeled UCLA as discriminatory due to their women-only STEM programs. By their assessment, these programs are only allowed under Title IX if the “overall effect” of scholarships and opportunities are equally split between the two genders.

Of course, when women come closer to breaking the glass, those on the other side of the ceiling have a temper tantrum.

Despite these concerns and investigations, the University of California has a responsibility to the women in STEM on its campuses. Women deserve a safe place to work in their field, and the UC should not be bullied into giving up its tailored programs for underrepresented women, both at the university level and in professional environments.

And if these groups truly want to look at the overall effects, they might start with some statistics.

According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, women received over half of bachelor’s degrees awarded in the biological sciences in 2015, while only receiving 18% in the computer sciences, 39% in physical sciences and 20% in engineering. Minority women were awarded just 12.6% of bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering in 2016.

Needless to say, the scales have a long way to go before men in STEM feel unsteady.

Regardless, these programs don’t just cater to tipping those scales – more than anything, they provide women a safe place to land in fields continually dominated by male professionals.

And it would be naive to ignore the correlation between discrimination and the ensuing lack of women within these fields. A 2013 study found 41% of women working in STEM fields reported experiencing gender discrimination, while only 4% of men responded the same.

UCLA is no stranger to these patterns of discrimination. Whether it be pregnancy discrimination, forcing women out of jobs after age and gender discrimination complaints, or regularly ignoring harassment – the university has done it all.

So perhaps this is its chance to finally fight for women in the world of academia.

Yes, the number of STEM degrees awarded to women has steadily increased over the past decades. And, yes, it’s unfortunate that a boy can’t go to a girls-only science summer camp. What’s more unfortunate? Lopsided numbers of women in STEM that reflect a long and continuing history of gender discrimination in higher education and beyond.

For a university that celebrates so many firsts for women, moving backward is antithetical. And if standing up to these investigations is the only way to preserve women’s access to male-dominated spaces in higher education, so be it.

Men are denied access to female-only learning spaces and their first instincts are to burn the entire place down. And for some reason, DeVos is striking the match.

This is why women can’t have nice things.

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  • Spasmolytic

    Insecure men????

  • Mark Soyer

    I’m really getting tired of the double standards when it comes to gender. A program that excluded women, even casually, would never be permitted. The university would face a massive protest and possibly a lawsuit. But a program that excludes men is somehow not only accepted, but celebrated as progress for women.

    Ladies, if you want equality, you get equality. You can’t ban discrimination when it suits you, and then discriminate when it suits you.

    Terrible as she might be, this is probably the one good thing that DeVos has done for education during her term.

  • Robert J. Nevárez