Islamic school’s gender segregation is unlawful, court of appeal rules | The Guardian

Sound, although same rationale could be applied to single sex schools:

Schools in Britain will no longer be able to substantially segregate boys and girls, after the court of appeal ruled that a co-educational faith school in Birminghamhad caused unlawful discrimination by separating the two sexes.

The court overturned a ruling by the high court last year involving Al-Hijrah school, a voluntary-aided mixed-sex state school that had been strongly criticised by Ofsted school inspectors for failing to uphold British values.

On appeal, Ofsted argued that the school had breached the 2010 Equalities Act by strictly segregating pupils from the age of nine, teaching them in different classrooms and making them use separate corridors and play areas. The segregation policy was also applied to clubs and school trips.

About 25 other mixed schools in England have similar rules and they now face having to overhaul their policies in the wake of the ruling by Sir Terence Etherton, the master of rolls, Lady Justice Gloster and Lord Justice Beatson.

Ofsted said it would now look closely at the other schools with similar policies, which includes several Orthodox Jewish and Christian faith schools.

“Ofsted’s job is to make sure that all schools properly prepare children for life in modern Britain,” said Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s chief inspector, after the ruling was announced. “Educational institutions should never treat pupils less favourably because of their sex, or for any other reason.

“This case involves issues of real public interest and has significant implications for gender equality, Ofsted, government, and the wider education sector. We will be considering the ruling carefully to understand how this will affect future inspections.”

Rebecca Hilsenrath, the chief executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “We welcome today’s confirmation by the court of appeal that it is unlawful for a mixed school to segregate girls and boys completely. Socialisation is a core part of a good quality education, just as much as formal learning and, without it, we’re harming children’s life chances right from the start.”

The appeal court judges said segregation had been tacitly approved by the Department for Education and Ofsted in the past, so the schools involved should be treated sympathetically and given time to adjust their policies.

“The relevant central government authorities should not pivot in the way they have gone about this without recognising the real difficulties those affected will face as a consequence,” the judges said in their ruling.

The ruling applies only to co-educational schools. Single-sex schools are given a specific exemption from discrimination claims related to admissions under the Equalities Act, although it is unclear if the provisions would extend to arguments that both sexes suffer from the absence of the other.

In ruling that Al-Hijrah had unlawfully discriminated against its pupils, the court stated: “An individual girl pupil cannot socialise and intermix with a boy pupil because, and only because, of her sex; and an individual boy pupil cannot socialise and intermix with a girl pupil because, and only because, of his sex. Each is, therefore, treated less favourably than would be the case if their sex was different.”

Source: Islamic school’s gender segregation is unlawful, court of appeal rules | Education | The Guardian

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Ryerson study highlights severe lack of visible minorities on corporate boards

Important study.

The approach of the Employment Equity Act to require federal public sector and regulated companies to publicly report on designated group representation has shown the benefits of transparency and regular reporting:

Visible minorities make up more than half of Toronto’s population, but only 3.3 per cent of corporate boards and 9.2 per cent of the private sector’s senior management, a new study finds.

While the percentage of women on large corporate boards has steadily grown, from 14.8 per cent in 2012 to 23.6 per cent in 2017, the representation of visible minorities in leadership has stalled, inching up from 2.8 per cent to 3.3 per cent over the five years, said the study by Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute, released Wednesday.

“Diversity is more than gender,” said Wendy Cukier, the institute’s founder and professor at the Ted Rogers School of Management, at a forum on advancing diversity and inclusion in Canadian Business. “If you look at the minority representation on boards, it is not a pretty picture.”

The six-year study, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, analyzed data on senior leaders from the largest organizations in Greater Montreal and the GTA in six sectors — elected, public, private, volunteer, education and agencies/boards/commissions.

Although the representation of women has improved, the gains are primarily made by white women, said Cukier.

“While equally represented in the workforce, white women outnumber racialized women 16 to 1 on corporate senior management teams,” noted Cukier.

In Toronto, 24 per cent of companies have more than 30 per cent women on their boards while 28 per cent have none. By contrast, only 3 per cent of firms have 20 per cent visible minorities on their boards and 90 per cent have none.

In Montreal, where minorities make up more than 20 per cent of the population, almost 10 per cent of corporate boards actually had more than 40 per cent women, while 25 per cent had none. Only 3 of 60 of the largest companies there had any racial minorities on their boards.

“We have a problem,” said Cukier, adding that the research findings underline the significance of moving forward two government bills currently before the Parliament and Queen’s Park — that aim at tracking racial diversity data in organizations.

Navdeep Bains, federal minister of innovation, science and economic development, said Bill C-25, which is now before the Senate, requires publicly traded corporation to report on diversity data and policies.

“Diversity is not just the right thing to do. It has a strong economic case,” Bains told the Toronto forum attended by business leaders, diversity and industry experts. “Canadian competitiveness and strength and resourcefulness come from our people and diversity.”

Michael Coteau, Ontario’s children and youth services minister and minister responsible for anti-racism, said Bill 114 will extend reporting requirements on race, gender and other demographic characteristics to provincially-funded agencies.

“Eliminating systemic racism and advancing racial equity is integral to our plan to create jobs, grow our economy and help people in their everyday life,” said Coteau, who was also on the panel. “We believe that data is the foundation of an effective strategy to advance inclusion.

Tiffany Gooch, a public affairs consultant in Toronto, said she was not surprised by the little progress made by visible minorities as the hope was that changes would trickle down from gender diversity to other aspects of diversity representation.

“You need a critical mass for any conversation to take on,” said Gooch, who believes both proposed government bills can help build a good foundation for meaningful conversations about organizational diversity.

Andi Shi, executive director of the Chinese Professionals Association of Canada, was disappointed by the poor minority representation in leadership roles despite Canada’s celebrated pride in multiculturalism.

“There is still the unconscious assumption that racial minorities are not good enough, and the fear that we are not going to perform as good as a white person,” said Shi. “We need quotas to force organizations to make changes.”

Overall in 2017, women are faring well in taking senior leadership positions in all sectors in Toronto compared to private companies, representing 42 per cent in agencies, boards and commissions, 40.1 per cent in education, 42.5 per cent in the volunteer sector, 44.4 per cent in the public sector, and 41.5 per cent among elected officials.

However, visible minority representation is still dismal in 2017 in all areas, accounting for just 17.2 per cent in agencies/boards/commission, 23.1 per cent in education, 12.3 per cent in the volunteer sector, 9 per cent in the public sector, and 29.8 per cent among elected officials.

Source: Ryerson study highlights severe lack of visible minorities on corporate boards | Toronto Star

People of color — especially women — aren’t being promoted in tech as fast as they should be – Recode

The latest diversity study:

While women and people of color are employed at tech companies in larger numbers than they used to be, their upward mobility at those companies has stagnated.

A study by the Ascend Foundation, an organization for Asian professionals in North America, examined tech professionals over a period of eight years using government data, and found that white men were consistently promoted at a higher rate relative to their non-white, non-male peers.

From 2007 to 2015, white men consistently composed a higher share of executive roles than professional roles at tech companies, the study found. It’s the reverse for Asians, Hispanics and blacks, especially if they’re women.

The study looked at Equal Employment Opportunity Commission data from 2007-2015 for manufacturing and information companies with more than 100 employees based in San Francisco and San Jose areas. This is used as a proxy for major tech hardware and software companies, which tend to be based there.

More than 1,000 Bay Area tech companies were included in this review, providing a wider lens than the data released by individual tech companies.

Some key findings:

  • Though Asian men and women were more common in entry-level professional jobs, white men and women were twice as likely as Asians to become executives.
  • Asian women were the least likely among any cohort to become executives.
  • Black and Hispanic professionals are much less likely than their white peers to become executives.
  • The number of black executives had increased by 43 percent in the time period examined. At the same time, there has been a decline in the number of black managers and black female professionals (which could spell trouble for the future executive pipeline).
  • Hispanics remained only 3.5 percent of all executives but declined from 5.2 percent to 4.8 percent of all professionals (also not promising for future promotions).
  • White women are now more likely to be executives than professionals, but they are still underrepresented generally — an issue with recruiting rather than promotion.

Source: People of color — especially women — aren’t being promoted in tech as fast as they should be – Recode

Why Canada’s political pipeline leaves little room for anyone but white men

Good study by Erin Tolley (disclosure: know Erin from our time together at CIC/IRCC and we remain in contact):

For women, the toughest hurdle is at the nomination level, the first checkpoint into the political realm.

Racialized minorities come up against barriers further along, beginning at the candidate selection stage.

That’s according to Erin Tolley, who teaches political science at the University of Toronto.

Tolley is among the first to map the race and gender of more than 800 people vying for a political party’s nomination ahead of the 2015 vote in 136 of the country’s most diverse ridings, where racialized minorities make up at least 15 per cent of the population, half of which are in Ontario. (Her tally uses Statistics Canada’s definition of “visible minority” and therefore does not include Indigenous nomination contestants or candidates.)

Wannabe politicians must first successfully compete for their choice party’s nomination in order to become the candidate in an election.

Though Tolley’s project is still in the works, early findings suggest political parties aren’t doing enough to diversify the pool of candidates.

“The dynamics for women and racialized minorities are different,” she said. “That’s important for parties to know because they therefore need to have different strategies if they want to attract and want to run women or racialized minority candidates.”

Women make up 52 per cent of the population, but only accounted for 33 per cent of nomination contestants across those 136 ridings. The proportion of female election candidates ticked up slightly, to 36 per cent, and 31 per cent of elected MPs in those districts were women.

That suggests women are less likely to throw their hat in the ring, but once they do, they fare well.

“Maybe women don’t want to run, they don’t want to be called ‘Barbies,’ for example,” Tolley said, citing veteran MP Gerry Ritz’s now-deleted and apologized-for recent tweet that referred to Environment Minister Catherine McKenna as “climate Barbie.”

Tolley put the onus on political parties.

“Political parties don’t do sufficient work to identify women candidates and encourage them to run,” she said. “Frankly, not enough fingers are pointed at political parties. We don’t need to change the electoral system to get women into politics. All parties need to do is nominate more women. It’s actually pretty simple.”

Racialized minorities don’t experience the same obstacle.

According to the data, minorities declare their candidacy in proportions that match their presence in the population. However, by the time Canadians go to the polls the share of MPs of colour is far below that.

“They want to be nomination contestants, but then the party is less likely to select them, and voters are even less likely to select them,” Tolley said.

Across the 136 ridings, racialized minorities comprised 38 per cent of the population and 37 per cent of nomination contestants. That dwindled to 33 per cent of election candidates, and to 29 per cent of MPs — an eight-point gap between the number of hopeful nominees and those who won a seat on the Hill.

A contributing factor is one Tolley has previously explored — that minority candidates tend to compete against each other in battleground districts.

That’s because racialized minorities are more likely to run, and win, in more diverse ridings, Tolley said. For instance, three candidates of colour may vie for their party’s nomination in an ethnically-rich district, and split the ballot.

“So, you have this big pool of people who are interested, but they’re competing against each other, essentially cancelling each other out — and that’s happening at each level,” she explained.

As for white men, their political possibilities widen.

Thirty-nine per cent of nomination contestants in those diverse ridings were white men, and they comprised 40 per cent of candidates on the ticket. Nearly half, 48.5 per cent, of those who won a seat were white males.

Source: Why Canada’s political pipeline leaves little room for anyone but white men | Toronto Star

Canada is a leader in public sector gender equality, says new report

Stay tuned for my upcoming analysis of current and historical EX diversity (women, visible minorities and Indigenous peoples):

Canada is a global leader when it comes to gender equality in the public sector’s senior levels, according to a recent report by Global Government Forum, a research group focused on issues facing civil servants.

At 46.4 per cent, Canada has the highest proportion of female senior civil servants of any G20 country, according to the report. Australia and South Africa trail close behind at 43.3 and 41.1 per cent, respectively.

“This kind of progress produces big rewards in terms of better decision-making, bigger talent pools and, ultimately, stronger public service delivery for the public,” Kevin Sorkin, Global Government Forum’s managing director said in a written statement.

“But there is more work to do: we hope that publishing this data will help senior officials both to make the case for change, and to identify the best ways to make progress.”

The index records the proportion of women employed in the top five grades of the senior civil service in each of the G20 countries. This group comprises of roughly the top one per cent of public officials, defined as non-elected senior executives across federal or national governments, or the executive ranks of the core civil service in central government.

In the report, Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick describes Canada as an early adopter of equal rights and anti-discrimination policies, arguing that the country is now experiencing a third wave of gender equality.

“First there were the real pioneers – the first women in jobs or at various tables – then the second wave was probably in the ‘90s, when you saw more and more women in positions of responsibility and the numbers started to move up quite a bit.

“So now we’re in the third wave, which is more about workplace culture: how meetings are conducted; avoiding ‘mansplaining’ and ‘manterruption’; tackling unconscious bias – that more subtle and nuanced stuff.”

Alongside the data on senior civil servants, the report includes figures about the proportion of women among the G20 member nations’ cabinet ministers, national parliamentarians, and directors on the boards of publicly-quoted private companies. A separate section tracks the proportion of women among the most senior civil service leaders of EU countries.

The research was supported by international business services firm EY, formerly known as Ernst & Young.

The top five G20 countries in the 2016-17 Index are:

  • Canada (46.4 per cent)
  • Australia (43.3 per cent)
  • South Africa (41.1 per cent)
  • U.K. (40.1 per cent)
  • Brazil (37.8 per cent)

Wernick said in a statement to the Citizen that “there has been some real leadership on increasing representation of women in positions across the full spectrum of public service jobs, starting with getting more women to the table and then into positions of responsibility.

“We are now tackling some tough issues with respect to inclusive workplaces, and the dialogue has shifted beyond representation and binary definitions of gender, to diversity as an asset that helps us better serve Canadians and creating a workplace where all employees feel engaged and respected,” Wernick said.

Source: Canada is a leader in public sector gender equality, says new report | Ottawa Citizen

Report link: Canada tops gender equality ranking – but Australia gaining fast. More…

In Silicon Valley, data trumps opinion — even with gender parity – Recode

Jewelle Bickford, Ellen Kullman and Sandra Beach Lin of Paradigm for Parity make the diversity case:

In Silicon Valley — and in corporate America generally — data trumps opinion, making gender diversity a no-brainer. As the controversy at Google illustrates, turning diversity goals into positive business realities is hard — but it isn’t as hard as one would think, even in Silicon Valley. As with any initiative that improves the bottom line, paying lip service to diversity isn’t enough. You need a plan.

Despite the fact that the tech industry remains overwhelmingly male, Silicon Valley is actually uniquely suited to transform rhetoric into results. For instance, Silicon Valley companies understand that happy employees deliver better business results — and are willing to make the necessary investments. These companies have free food prepared by nutritionists and famous chefs, wellness centers offering employee massages, and even employee housing. Why not add free child care to the nearly endless menu of benefits? When women have support from employers in the form of affordable child care, they are more likely to stay in the workforce and progress to senior leadership roles.

Additionally, engineering is actually a field that is particularly well-suited for women. Engineers often function independently and they are able to do their jobs successfully in or out of the office. The flexibility that engineers get is exactly the type of flexibility that allows women to rise up and reach the highest levels of corporate America — and reach them more frequently.

When we started the Paradigm for Paritycoalition in 2016, we recognized the need for undeniable, measurable results and for clear, implementable steps to get there. While many organizations support gender equality and call for enhanced diversity in the workplace, the Paradigm for Parity coalition is unique in that it outlines a specific set of concurrent actions a company can take to achieve gender parity across all levels of corporate leadership by 2030, including measuring targets and maintaining accountability by providing regular progress reports. Today, we represent 56 member companies with approximately five million employees in every corner of the U.S. and around the world.

Quantitative evidence shows us why diversity is imperative: You can’t have economic growth unless everyone is included. We must work with clearly defined quantitative targets, like those outlined by the Paradigm for Parity coalition, to make diversity in business a statistical reality. In more ways than one, Silicon Valley has succeeded in making the world a better place, and we are confident it can succeed in making it a more equal one too.

Source: In Silicon Valley, data trumps opinion — even with gender parity – Recode

To the James Damores of the world: Focus on your own flaws: Marie Henein

Great column by Henein on the Google/Damore controversy. Witty and pointed:

As debate rages about whether it was fair to fire Google employee James Damore for the now-infamous Google manifesto that explored women’s so-called limitations, I can’t help but think, why can’t everyone just leave my gender alone? Once again, we are being filleted, dissected, and discussed as though we barely exist. Yet another round of public debate began about how our under-representation in various fields and in leadership roles has nothing to do with hundreds of years of inequality but rather is attributable to insurmountable biological limitations. Writers in article after article actually went out of their way to justify Mr. Damore’s view of women. Was this seriously still happening?

A recent column explained that our biological differences, among other things, makes female lawyers better negotiators but worse litigators. Just as I was about to switch jobs, the author kindly pointed out that I was an outlier. I didn’t know whether to be flattered that I am some sort of unicorn, concerned that I am considered more male in my disposition (a comment I have been the recipient of since elementary school) or disappointed that I now had to break it to countless talented female litigators that they should probably give it up and limit themselves to negotiation or more gentle, womanly professions. I look forward to more enlightenment on what our biology allows us to do. Given that technology, science, leadership roles, or any jobs requiring assertiveness are clearly out, we better hurry up as scores of young girls are being grossly misled into thinking they can actually do what they wish.

Mr. Damore, in the course of his unscientific stream of consciousness, unequivocally makes the following point: “The distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership.” (Note: the italics are mine; the asinine quote is his.) He then goes on to mansplain – which was nice given the female biological aversion to ideas – that it is highly unlikely we are going to resolve the problem ourselves. He points out that females do not succeed because they are more inclined toward feelings and aesthetics rather than ideas. Women in general, he argues, have a stronger interest in people rather than things; our extroversion is expressed as gregariousness instead of assertiveness; we are agreeable, neurotic, and have a low stress tolerance. I get it. We feel more and think less. We are an emotional, under-thinking, overstressed gender. But it’s not all bad news: we have a hell of a lot of empathy and mushy feelings.

Golly gee, if only I could overcome my natural biological disposition toward feelings rather than ideas, maybe I could understand Mr. Damore’s point. Or just maybe his biological disposition skews toward feelings rather than well-articulated, grounded, scientific ideas. Who knows? Maybe I can find a man to explain it all to me.

Look, if you want to debate the pros and cons of diversity policies, knock yourself out. If you want to dispute a company that extends certain benefits or opportunities differentially, go right ahead. There are ways to meaningfully challenge an employer’s policies. But a manifesto explaining to a substantial portion of your colleagues that they are underperforming because they were made that way – that has very little to do with meaningful discussion.

Let me be clear, you can say whatever you wish. I am a staunch believer in freedom of speech and the expression of opinions, even offensive ones. Fragility of mind when faced with opposing thought and shouting people down does not in any way advance our pressing democratic goals. And there is no crime in being stupid, but if you are an employee you are fireable. Mr. Damore should have thought of that, but perhaps his biological male assertiveness got in the way.

So I have a proposal for the James Damores of the world: why don’t you focus on your own biological inadequacies, and stop thinking about ours. After all, you know them best. He and his compatriots can feel free to write as many manifestos explaining male deficiencies, of which my feeling, female self – with aggressive male undertones – is convinced there are many. This exercise would consume both time and thousands of pages, but please, please leave my gender alone. We do not need you to explain what you perceive to be our limitations, thank you very much. We do not need to be told that we will fail and not lead because we are “more compassionate” or our brains are wired differently. We’ve got this. Focus on yourself. If only Mr. Damore had spent 8 of his 10 pages setting out the flaws in his personality, he probably would still have a job. The only inferiority that Mr. Damore definitively demonstrated is his own.

Finally, a word of advice: Girls, do not bother to read the manifesto. It isn’t worth your time. Read about Marie Curie instead who said: “We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained.”

She was a scientist, by the way. Mr. Damore didn’t mention her.

Source: To the James Damores of the world: Focus on your own flaws – The Globe and Mail

How Tech Companies Lose Women During the Hiring Process – The New York Times

Some good suggestions on how to walk the talk on diversity in the recruitment process:

When my company is approached to help diversify some of America’s most gender-unbalanced tech teams, here’s how it usually goes in the introductory meeting: A well-meaning executive boasts that his company has been financially supporting a number of nonprofit coding organizations that aim to train female engineers. He tells us he’ll have a booth at the Grace Hopper conference, the largest annual gathering of women in tech. He complains about how hard it is to “move the needle” on diversity numbers, especially when a staff is in the thousands.

But what the executives don’t give as much thought to are some of the simplest determinants of how successful a company will be in hiring diverse candidates. Will women have any input in the hiring process? Will the interview panels be diverse? Will current female employees be available to speak to candidates about their experiences? Many times, the answer to each of these questions is no, and the resistance to make simple changes in these areas is striking.

My colleagues and I often see companies work to make themselves appealing to candidates by emphasizing perks like Ping-Pong tables, retreats and policies that let employees bring their dogs to work. Those things can be appealing to candidates of any gender. But one size doesn’t fit all: We have to tell these companies to talk just as proudly about their parental-leave policies, child-care programs and breast-pumping rooms. At the very least, they need to communicate that their workplaces have cultures where women are valued. They need to show they’re not places where attitudes like that of the now-infamous Google engineer who wrote a memo questioning women’s fitness for tech jobs dominate.

At first, the executives balk at my suggestions and even wonder if explicitly talking about the place of women is sexist. But I remind them that when it comes to gender, they have to play catch-up, after long histories of eroding trust by grilling women about how they’ll be able to do the job with children at home and years of negative stories in the press with tales of how women are mistreated at tech companies. Candidates rightfully want assurances about whether the companies have improved — or whether they even care. Treating everyone the same won’t accomplish that.

Silicon Valley companies are in love with themselves and don’t understand why the love isn’t always returned by the few women to whom they extend employment offers. That’s why they’re so proud of so-called boomerangs — candidates who have left a company for reasons that may or may not be related to how it treats women and, after advancing their careers elsewhere, return. Executives hope these employees will add to their diversity numbers and provide evidence that the company has evolved. But even potential boomerangs are looking for hiring-process hints that they’ll be able to thrive. They want to know, what policies have changed for us? Is the environment more inclusive? Can I have a family without compromising my career? When tech firms in Silicon Valley and beyond decide to proactively answer those questions as part of their regular processes, they have a chance to successfully recruit and hire more women.

I’m often asked which companies are getting diversity and inclusion right in Silicon Valley and across the country. Most aren’t. But some are seeing small successes. Last year, we worked with a company that set a goal that women would make up 50 percent of the engineers on one of its teams. They did it by holding a webinar led by female employees, with 100 female candidates who asked questions about how the organization was changing to become more inclusive to women. They asked recruiters to follow up with the candidates to offer fuller responses and address other concerns. The company realized it needed to take extra time to convince women that it truly valued them.

It worked. The women hired through that effort are all still at the company. Now we’re working with it to bring in even more female engineers. When the next round of candidates show up for interviews, this is one place in tech that will have a story about an inclusive culture that it’s proud to tell.

We’ve studied gender and STEM for 25 years. The science doesn’t support the Google memo. – Recode

Of all the commentary written about Google’s firing of James Damore, this long read and assessment of the science and evidence appears to me the most comprehensive and convincing one given the range of studies cited.

Most of the op-ed type commentaries – Jon Kay’s The Google Manifesto contained truths that we can’t say, Debra Soh’s No, the Google manifesto isn’t sexist or anti-diversity. It’s science, David Brooks’ somewhat hysterical Sundar Pichai Should Resign as Google’s C.E.O. – tend to be overly simplistic and selective in their presentation of the issues involved.

I am also less than convinced by free speech arguments, perhaps reflecting my time in government where it was clear that any public comment should not undermine, or appear to undermine, the government. While the rules may not be so ironclad in other organizations, employees in all organizations need to be mindful of the impact of their public commentary on the overall reputation, image and policies of their employer.

For the account of the Google board deliberations, see How CEO Sundar Pichai made the decision to fire James Damore was just as hard as Google’s all-hands meeting today will be which highlights the superficialiity of Brook’s piece in particular:

James Damore, 28, questioned the company’s diversity policies and claimed that scientific data backed up his assertions. Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote that Damore’s 3,300-word manifesto crossed the line by “advancing harmful gender stereotypes” in the workplace. Pichai noted that “To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK.”

Damore argued that many men in the company agreed with his sentiments. That’s not surprising, since the idea that women just can’t hack it in math and science has been around for a very long time. It has been argued that women’s lack of a “math gene,” their brain structures, and their inherent psychological traits put most of them out of the game.

Some critics sided with Damore. For example, columnist Ross Douthat of The New York Times found his scientific arguments intriguing.

But are they? What are the real facts? We have been researching issues of gender and STEM (science, technology engineering and math) for more than 25 years. We can say flatly that there is no evidence that women’s biology makes them incapable of performing at the highest levels in any STEM fields.

Many reputable scientific authorities have weighed in on this question, including a major paper in the journal Science debunking the idea that the brains of males and females are so different that they should be educated in single-sex classrooms. The paper was written by eight prominent neuroscientists, headed by professor Diane Halpern of Claremont McKenna College, past president of the American Psychological Association. They argue that “There is no well-designed research showing that single-sex education improves students’ academic performance, but there is evidence that sex segregation increases gender stereotyping and legitimizes institutional sexism.”

They add, “Neuroscientists have found few sex differences in children’s brains beyond the larger volume of boys’ brains and the earlier completion of girls’ brain growth, neither of which is known to relate to learning.”

Several major books have debunked the idea of important brain differences between the sexes. Lise Eliot, associate professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the Chicago Medical School, did an exhaustive review of the scientific literature on human brains from birth to adolescence. She concluded, in her book, “Pink Brain, Blue Brain,” that there is “surprisingly little solid evidence of sex differences in children’s brains.”

Rebecca Jordan-Young, a sociomedical scientist and professor at Barnard College, also rejects the notion that there are pink and blue brains, and that the differing organization of female and male brains is the key to behavior. In her book “Brain Storm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences,” she says that this narrative misunderstands the complexities of biology and the dynamic nature of brain development.

And happily, the widely held belief that boys are naturally better than girls at math and science is unraveling among serious scientists. Evidence is mounting that girls are every bit as competent as boys in these areas. Psychology professor Janet Hyde of the University of Wisconsin–Madison has strong U. S. data showing no meaningful differences in math performance among more than seven million boys and girls in grades 2 through 12.

Also, several large-scale international testing programs find girls closing the gender gap in math, and in some cases outscoring the boys. Clearly, this huge improvement over a fairly short time period argues against biological explanations.

Much of the data that Damore provides in his memo is suspect, outdated or has other problems.

In his July memo, titled, “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber: How bias clouds our thinking about diversity and inclusion,” Damore wrote that women on average have more “openness directed towards feelings and aesthetics rather than ideas.” And he stated that women are more inclined to have an interest in “people rather than things, relative to men.”

Damore cites the work of Simon Baron-Cohen, who argues in his widely reviewed book “The Essential Difference” that boys are biologically programmed to focus on objects, predisposing them to math and understanding systems, while girls are programmed to focus on people and feelings. The British psychologist claims that the male brain is the “systematizing brain” while the female brain is the “empathizing” brain.

This idea was based on a study of day-old babies, which found that the boys looked at mobiles longer and the girls looked at faces longer. Male brains, Baron-Cohen says, are ideally suited for leadership and power. They are hardwired for mastery of hunting and tracking, trading, achieving and maintaining power, gaining expertise, tolerating solitude, using aggression and taking on leadership roles.

The female brain, on he other hand, is specialized for making friends, mothering, gossip and “reading” a partner. Girls and women are so focused on others, he says, that they have little interest in figuring out how the world works.

But Baron-Cohen’s study had major problems. It was an “outlier” study. No one else has replicated these findings, including Baron-Cohen himself. It is so flawed as to be almost meaningless. Why?

The experiment lacked crucial controls against experimenter bias, and was badly designed. Female and male infants were propped up in a parent’s lap and shown, side by side, an active person or an inanimate object. Since newborns can’t hold their heads up independently, their visual preferences could well have been determined by the way their parents held them.

Source: We’ve studied gender and STEM for 25 years. The science doesn’t support the Google memo. – Recode

How biased are hiring decisions? Wente

Wente does raise a valid question whether blind cvs will necessarily improve representation of women given that there may be some conscious biases in favour of more women  to redress current imbalances (see my earlier Ottawa pilots ‘name-blind’ recruitment to reduce ‘unconscious bias’ in hiring).

One of her better columns as does not present studies that only favour her main argument – a positive bias in favour of women – but also those studies that demonstrate the impact of implicit biases.

That being said, the current federal public service pilot will provide some useful data for the public service in this regard with respect to all four employment equity groups:

Australia did this too. Twenty-one hundred civil servants were asked to assess hypothetical candidates for senior jobs. Half the résumés had identifying information, and half did not. But the results were a shock. Blind hiring made things worse. It turns out that when recruiters had identifying information, they actively discriminated in favour of women and minorities – just as they’d done all along.

“Participants were 2.9 per cent more likely to shortlist female candidates and 3.2 per cent less likely to shortlist male applicants when they were identifiable,” the researchers said. “Minority males were 5.8 per cent more likely to be shortlisted and minority females were 8.6 per cent more likely to be shortlisted. … The positive discrimination was strongest for Indigenous female candidates who were 22.2 per cent more likely to be shortlisted.”

“We anticipated this would have a positive impact on diversity,” Michael Hiscox, the Harvard academic who oversaw the project, said sheepishly. “We found the opposite.” He recommended that the experiment be put on hold.

Privately, plenty of people in government and academia will tell you that hiring bias now favours women, especially in male-dominated fields. In France, researchers found, female applicants for teaching jobs in math and physics at all levels are now preferred over men. (Conversely, men have a slight edge in traditionally feminine fields such as literature.) What’s going on? The researchers concluded that the examiners are probably trying to counteract gender stereotypes.

In another famous (and hotly controversial) study, psychologists Stephen Ceci and Wendy Williams submitted hundreds of résumés from hypothetical candidates applying for tenure-track positions in STEM fields. They foundthat the women were favoured by a ratio of 2 to 1.

No one would argue that gender discrimination does not exist. But maybe it isn’t the monster problem some folks think it is. And maybe twisting ourselves into pretzels to erase imaginary biases in hiring is a poor idea.

Source: How biased are hiring decisions? – The Globe and Mail