Digging to the roots

I think sometimes, we forget what the problem with a diversity imbalance is.

Take the example of students studying psychology. As of 2005, men made up 28% of students starting or continuing a degree; women made up the remaining 72%. On the face of it, this is an inequality issue. Why is it that men aren’t studying psychology? Are we being discriminated against, victims of stereotype threat, perhaps?

But it might simply be naive to assume that it is because of discrimination. Maybe it is an entirely benign reason behind the gender gap. Maybe it’s just a coincidence, maybe it’s just that men are less interested in psychology than women.

In that case, there would actually be no inequality issue – after all, inequality is about providing everyone with equal opportunities, not about forcing everyone to be the same. Suggesting that there is a problem, merely because the diversity of a particular field doesn’t exactly match the diversity of society, needs a dose of our old friend “correlation doesn’t apply causation” – and how many times have we each had to stress that to a religious person?

The reason that we often consider these issues a problem is that a lack of diversity in a particular field is usually indicative of a problem – such as discrimination- that needs to be dealt with it. But it’s important to remember that a lack of diversity isn’t inherently an inequality issue.



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This entry was posted on Thursday, August 30th, 2012 at 12:12 pm and is filed under Religion & Politics, Thoughts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.