Trump's Bill on Women in STEM Doesn’t Make Him a Feminist
“False facts are highly injurious to the progress of science, for they often endure long; but false views, if supported by some evidence, do little harm, for everyone takes a salutary pleasure in proving their falseness; and when this is done, one path towards error is closed and the road to truth is often at the same time opened.”
--Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex, 1871.
U.S. President Donald Trump has time and time again established himself as the face of anti-science and anti-fact America. Pop science celebrities such as Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson have publicly condemned Trump’s slew of “alternative facts,” as coined by Kellyanne Conway, and they have been backed by the majority of the scientific community in doing so. Not only is Trump anti-science, but anti-woman, as he has shown time and time again. So why on February 28th did Trump sign a bill promoting women in STEM fields?
It certainly wasn’t to help women or STEM.
I don’t know if there’s anything less scientific than the concept of “alternative facts.” A friend pointed out that it isn’t that different from a nihilist-liberal-erudite conception of the impossibility of objective truth. I don’t necessarily disagree with this idea, and neither would the majority of the scientific community. However, this is not what Trump is saying. The phrase “alternative facts” isn’t just idiotic, it’s oxymoronic. What he and his administration are arguing is for the promotion of their singular view of reality. They don’t allow for anything to permeate through their egomaniacal, white-supremacist, patriarchal, fascist bubble in the fear that someone can disprove their delusions.
On February 28, 2017, Trump signed the INSPIRE Women Act and the Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act that alleged to promote women in STEM and entrepreneurial fields. However, Trump’s attempt to promote women in STEM is both an insult to the STEM field and to women. In his statement, Donald Trump used a five-year-old statistic that one in four women who major in STEM do not end up working in the STEM field. The statistic in actuality is more drastic, closer to one in seven women who major in STEM go into professional STEM fields. Not only is Trump’s statistic wrong, but he lessens the gravity of the situation by using an older and inaccurate study.
Second, Trump does not care about STEM. He has shown this numerous times. He recently announced his plans to cut 1.2 billion from the NIH, gutting important medical research. He has proposed enormous cuts to the EPA and his Chief of Staff, Steve Bannon, has come out and said the department’s heads were picked for their desire to dismantle the agency. EPA pick Scott Pruitt, who recently announced his belief that carbon dioxide is not a major contributor to climate change, is an anthropogenic climate change denier and has made clear his desire to shrink the agency. Trump has proposed a 24% cut to the EPA, resulting in a decrease in jobs from 15,000 to 12,000. Trump indeed signed a bill promising women jobs in STEM and then plans to cut 3,000 jobs in that sector. Trump also has plans to get rid of the Clean Water Act in the coming months. The reasoning? To allow for more fracking and drilling for oil that will perpetuate the effects of climate change. Not only does this not economically make sense as more oil will drive oil prices down, but Trump’s promise to increase jobs in coal is completely failing. The 2016 U.S Energy and Employment Report showed solar to be the largest energy employer in the United States, employing more than gas, oil and coal combined. Renewable energy is becoming cheaper and more accessible day by day, but it seems that Trump’s alternative facts are preventing him from realizing the importance of this shift.
Another issue with Trump’s initiative is hidden in the photo of the signing. Surrounding him are majority white women. While there is still a gender disparity, more white women than women of color are entering STEM fields. The 2017 Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering (WMPD) report showed that while women have matched men in degree attainment, they are not equally employed in STEM jobs. However, Black, Latino and American Indian or Alaskan Native are underrepresented throughout STEM fields. In 2015, the report showed that unemployment in STEM was at 2.8 percent among white women in STEM but 6.0 percent for underrepresented, minority women. These statistics are important to take into account in addition to broader statistics about women in STEM fields. To create a well-represented scientific community, the government needs to create initiatives for underrepresented minorities to enter STEM fields which Trump has shown no movement towards.
So, great, “Mr. President.” Thanks for making it easier for women to get a job in STEM when there won’t be anymore STEM jobs, let alone a planet. Thanks for promoting women in STEM fields while you ignore facts they have worked tirelessly to prove. Thanks for this useless gesture of solidarity. And thank you, lastly, for leading us into an era of an unparalleled dearth of scientific progress and literacy. Science isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity to maintain progress and improve our nation.
The views reflected in this piece do not reflect the views of other Arbitror contributors or of Arbitror itself.
Photo: “female-scientist,” Originally by GrrlScientist with a (CC BY 2.0) license. Use of this photo does not indicate an endorsement from its creator.