Much has been made this week about Condoleeza Rice and Darla Moore, the first women ever to join the Augusta National Golf Club. At last! Finally the dozen or so women who would otherwise qualify for membership if they were men can rejoice and hope the members at Augusta send an invite their way.
Augusta National is a big deal because it is perennially ranked among the best courses in the world, and plays host every year to one of professional golf’s key events, the Masters Tournament. Martha Burk, a professional scold in her then capacity as the Chairbeing of the National Council of Women’s Organizations made headlines by protesting the club and it’s lack of females among the 300 or so billionaires, Fortune 500 CEO’s, and former Governors that make up the club’s membership. If you are a female and can say these factors apply to you, then you owe Ms. Burk a debt. Ever hungry for a hard news story about the challenges facing the .000000001% of women who might join Augusta, the media ate it up and bullied sponsors from the event.
We won’t know anytime soon, if ever, if Ms. Burk and others’ pressure on the club led to its opening the rolls to these two females, or if a sufficient number of women having attained high achievement in the ranks from where it draws members simply meant the offers were made through a natural progression. We do know however that the club made its determination free from lawsuits, or government intimidation that it offer memberships to females. The same cannot be true for colleges and universities.
Subject to the regulations enacted from the Title 9 amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, colleges are forced to show the federal government that the numbers of young men and women in its athletic programs are “substantially proportionate”. Christina Hoff Summers explains what this means in this excellent piece.
“Over the years, judges, Department of Education officials, and college administrators have interpreted Title IX to mean that women are entitled to “statistical proportionality.” That is to say, if a college’s student body is 60 percent female, then 60 percent of the athletes should be female—even if far fewer women than men are interested in playing sports at that college. But many athletic directors have been unable to attract the same proportion of women as men. To avoid government harassment, loss of funding, and lawsuits, they have simply eliminated men’s teams. Although there are many factors affecting the evolution of men’s and women’s college sports, there is no question that Title 9 has led to men’s participation being calibrated to the level of women’s interest.”
While that is all bad enough, it seems our current administration wants to double down on the failure to implement reasonable workable regulations and apply the failed policies to the classroom that haven’t worked in the locker room. At a conference celebrating the anniversary of Title 9’s passage, “[t]he White House announced new measures Wednesday to help increase the number of women in the science, math and technology fields as part of a celebration for the 40-year anniversary of a law prohibiting discrimination in education based on gender....
New guidelines will also be issued to grant-receiving universities and colleges to help institutions comply with Title IX rules in the science, technology, engineering and math fields.”
Lets consider what this might mean to computer science programs. Men and women make very different choices regarding the study of computer science. Generally women choose not to study it, compared to men. The New York Times reports that "[i]n 2010, just 18.2 percent of undergraduates in the field were women, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.” What’s the average college to do if faced with a Title 9 enforcement regime which applies the same rules to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) classes that it does to athletics? Can we reasonably expect university administrators to reverse worldwide trends in sex preferences regarding academic study, or are they simply likely to cut the most offending programs to satisfy the quota?
The private sector, in golf services, university educations, and all other aspects of human affairs enables nimble and nuanced responses to our needs and wants. When we get government involved in problem solving, the solutions are too often ham fisted and do as much damage as they seek to prevent. If people want more women to participate in STEM programs there are myriad ways to encourage the same without engaging in regulation which would surely make us scientifically poorer for the trouble, and without eliminating another endeavor that men favor disproportionately.