Over the past decade the National Science Foundation has funneled $135 million into a “gender bias” program called Advance. Its stated purpose: to advance women in science. In practice it does little to help women, but its potential to inflict lasting damage on fields that drive the American economy–engineering, physics and computer technology–is enormous. …
The Gender Equity project sponsors workshops aimed at transforming American laboratory culture. According to Valian, the compulsive work habits, single-minded dedication and “intense desire for achievement” that typify elite scientists not only marginalize women but also compromise good science. She says, “If we continue to emphasize and reward always being on the job, we will never find out whether leading a balanced life leads to equally good or better scientific work.“
In science, the simplest way to properly explain a phenomenon is usually seen as the best. The Gender Equity project’s premise of transforming laboratory culture seems to ignore Occam’s razor.
Laboratory culture has (presumably) developed more or less organically, but the Gender Equity project is seeking to artificially alter the way an entire field conducts itself.
Isn’t it most likely that laboratory culture is the accumulated product of generations of best practices, of tinkering, of scientists working in ways that produce the best results?
Related: Cal Newport writes about the “grandmaster in the corner office”, where he reveals that great skill requires years of devoted, deliberate practice.