#127 Girl Power: STEM Is Just One Option

This new study may have finally uncovered why ladies are under-represented in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) careers.

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The authors begin by showing that even in thee most gender equal societies in the world, females make up only 25% of STEM graduates.

But this under-representation isn’t, as some have suggested over the years, because the girls can’t hack math and science. On the contrary, the ladies actually scored in the same neighborhood as the fellas in STEM-related subjects. But that’s not all the ladies did. They also kicked the boys rear ends big time in areas like reading.

So the ladies can hold their own when it comes to STEM, and they do way more than just hold their own when it comes to non-STEM.

Which means they have plentiful options when it comes to career paths. And lots of them follow their guidance counselors advice to "do what you're best at". Which can be interpreted as "head to the areas where you're the most advanced relative to your peers". So, logically, many of these multi-talented young ladies choose non-STEM career paths.

Makes perfect sense.

One last point. This is yet another example of “common wisdom” being probably wrong. If you’d like to read a few past posts that attack other wrong stories see below…

#123 The Unasked Question: What Do The non-Millionaires Do

#99 Sketchy Claims: What The Heck Is P-Hacking

A Fake News Supplement: Too Many Studies Can’t Be Replicated

#126 Immense Pleasure: It Lives Where We Least Expect It

Alan Watts was a British philosopher that acted as somewhat of a bridge between Eastern and Western philosophies. And a topic he probed that caught my eye was the relationship between skills and pleasure. Here’s a quote of his…

“There is immense pleasure in learning how to do anything skillfully”.

And he seems to have considered us Americans especially dense when it came to this point…

“Whatever you do, you require a skill. And it’s enormously important, especially for American people, to understand that there is absolutely no possibility of having any pleasure in life at all, without skill.”

During my employed years I don’t think I ever thought to relate skills to pleasure. Maybe skills and winning. Or skills and promotions. Or skills and more income.

Or maybe I did tie skills to pleasure in the sense of the pleasure derived from showing off an acquired skill. But if you read that first quote carefully - “there is immense pleasure in learning how to do anything skillfully” - I think he’s talking about more than just finding pleasure in the end result.

Isn’t Watts also suggesting that we can find pleasure in the “learning how” part of the process? After all, that’s where we spend most of our time. Locked in the struggle. Stretching to figure something out. Hitting roadblocks. Restarting. Iterating. Grinding.

Can this “drudgery” be pleasurable?


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I spent a good bit of my career in sales. Managing teams with rapidly growing numbers hanging over our heads. And I recall spending the bulk of my mental time focused on the hassles of budgets and managing and those damn customers. And too little time appreciating the raw pleasure of the skill-building process.

For instance, I loved presenting our story to audiences. I found pleasure watching them nod their heads in agreement as my points hit home. But I too often overlooked another source of pleasure that was right in front of my face. The pleasure I could have experienced during my endless hours of preparation.

Let me give you a current example of what I'm talking about.

I’ve recently started doing public speaking again. And yes, I still find great pleasure in seeing those nodding heads when I get my points across. But this time I'm also way more conscious of mining the pleasure that’s hidden in the "drudgery" of the countless hours I spend preparing.

Finding the perfect image, the perfect font, the perfect phrase to make my point. These small victories, so long as I pay attention to my emotions, offer me constant sips of pleasure. Tiny rewards that keep me moving forward hour after hour. Day after day. Week after week. Turning drudgery into non-drudgery, and maybe even fun.

I’m not much of a philosopher, and I don’t know a whole lot about this Watt’s guy. But I thank him for pointing out that hard work can be a wonderful source of pleasure.