“In Engineering, Merit matters more than Gender or Race”

To get it out up front, I’m not going to link to anyone’s rant. But the rant, and its arguments are somewhat well known. I think it’s important to take some of the arguments head on.

Let’s look at the classic referenced in the title,

In Engineering, Merit matters more than Gender or Race

What about outside of engineering?

The argument seems to make the implication that the statement ‘merit matters more than gender or race’ only applies, or most applies, in engineering. Which in turn, seems like a subtle attack on non-engineering fields.

I believe everyone thinks merit matters more than gender or race – although many feminists will take that to mean the exact opposite of what misogynists mean.

It’s pretty offensive to just assume that unless you are in engineering, you’re in a field rife with gender and racial privilege – and not the good ole’ boy white male kind we’re used to. In other words, that engineering is still white and male dominated, and that it is alone in believing ‘merit matters more than gender or race’ seems to imply that other fields are less white and male dominated is due to gender or race mattering more than merit.

In other words, engineering is sacrosanct, and we must keep it that way, lest we turn into the humanities where black women excel only due to their gender and race, rather than their merit.

If Merit matters more, why are gender and race predictive?

Right now, the field is very empirically white and male. That’s the context in which the statement “In Engineering, Merit matters more than Gender or Race” is said. If that’s true, why can you walk into Google and find mostly white men?

There are two conclusions you can draw – the first is that you’ve arrived at a contradiction and that if it’s true that in engineering, merit matters more than gender or race, then we have a problem that we can make certain assumptions about the distribution of race and gender that appear to imply it does matter.

The second, and this is the conclusion drawn from our precious little alt-right snowflakes, is that white men are just better at engineering in general and that they are there based on their merit

A different, more productive world

Let’s say that it’s true – in engineering, merit matter more than gender or race. And let’s also say that since we find mostly white men in engineering, we need to fix that, what does that mean?

It means that until we see 50/50 parity of men and women in engineering, we’re almost certainly keeping some brilliant engineers out and escalating some bad engineers in. If there are 100 engineering jobs, and we let our implicit bias mean we only hire men, then we miss out on the 50 best women for the job and instead take the 50 next best men.

This same argument works across racial boundaries too.

There’s no reason to assume that gender or race is predictive of ability, which means engineering talent – a priori – is probably diffusely distributed amongst the population. To find yourself in a shop that doesn’t reflect that more general distribution means that somewhere along the way, someone was chosen due to their race (white) and gender (male) rather than their merit.

And whats worse, someone with a lot of engineering talent was shut out.

This is Bad for America

We’re in a productivity slump. We have a resurgent and hostile Russia, a growing and ambivalent China, and a widening wealth gap in our own country which leads to lower growth, lower hapiness, and lower productivity.

We absolutely cannot afford to keep our best engineering talent out of the bull pen because we don’t want to offend the old guard and give them any inclination that perhaps they got where they were today because of their race or gender.

It’s not about quotas or political correctness, it’s about standing the fuck aside and making room for the better engineers that have been on the outside this whole time. Because we can’t afford to employ lesser engineers anymore.

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