Saturday, April 13, 2019

Movie Review: On the Basis of Sex

I have the best life in the world.

I have the best life in the world…

I have the best life in the world, in large part because I was born in the United States as a white male to Christian parents who deeply valued education. (Most importantly because I am Christian, but I’m going to take an economic and financial bent to this article and more or less ignore the Christian part.)

I just finished watching the movie “On the Basis of Sex” and it’s a good movie. I’ve thought about men and women for years. Men and women are different. I’ve thought about this for hundreds of hours, and unfortunately, I can’t be any more specific than “men and women are different”, because every generalization I come up with, I have an anecdotal example to disprove. Importantly, being different does not mean the inability to do something, which is kind of the point of the movie.

In July 2013 when I went to Rwanda for a week I looked at poverty for the first time as something to be solved, not simply as the natural consequence of a person’s birth, as I had looked at poverty in 2009 when I went to Pakistan, or 2007 when I went to Costa Rica. It broke my heart. In the years since I donated to a pastor in South Sudan, and now Give Directly is my main charity. Point being, I've very much realized how fortunate I am to have my life. Privilege is something that accrues slowly and in small pieces. It's generally easier to be white than black. It's generally easier to be a man than a woman. It's generally easier to have two parents rather than one. 100 years ago women couldn't vote in the USA. 160 years ago we had slavery. It can be hard to see your privilege in the moment, but the vast majority of the world can be thankful they are alive today, when there is the least amount of war around the globe on record.

My company has been on a hiring spree lately, and in the next two months as all the new employees start we are about to have double the percent of female workers as the average aerospace company. There is one particular meeting that I lead, where currently it’s four men and one woman, and in two months it will be quite possibly two men and three women. (That’s based on two of the men deciding that they do not need to attend the meeting any more, which is not at all certain, although both have voiced that they would like to hand off their responsibilities. Although they have both expressed that they like this particular meeting, so they might keep coming just because we usually get things done.) I’ve been a part of hiring two of these new women. To me, in aerospace or technology in general, hiring women is a signal that we are an employer that is desired. In other words, the top 5% of employers have their choice of candidates regardless of how low the unemployment rate is. The less prestigious employers don’t have much choice. Having started to interview people, and interviewing two of these women, I can verify that we are attracting great people! Many of the people we don’t hire are going to have good strong careers.

One of the things briefly mentioned in the movie is that perhaps some jobs will be half men and half women. Frankly, I don’t think there are many jobs that will ever achieve that ratio. I think teaching, especially at the elementary school level, and nursing will be dominated by women for a long while, while things like engineering and and law enforcement will be male dominated. That being said, equality in every possible respect is not the point. The goal at the finish line of the Boston Marathon should not be the fastest 20 runners being ten men and ten women. Defining equality as half of each profession being male or female is quite short sighted, and by that I mean that what we define as masculine or feminine today could quite likely change in 100 years. For example, male grooming was not really a thing until somewhat recently while society seems to expect women to shave half of their bodies. I like cooking, and I would be glad in any romantic relationship to do the majority of the cooking.

As I seem to end up dating women that are almost as feminist as me, and a large number of engineers, it should be obvious that mentally women can do the things than men do. Katie Bouman was the instigator behind the first image of a black hole, and she’s not a man. I feel sorry for her because of all the negative feedback she has received for her great interferometry achievement. I look forward to her using that technology to take pictures of exoplanets! I know for a fact that female engineers can have a difficult time, by getting talked over and overruled when a male engineer might say the same thing and be listened to. Having seen that happen, and having a sister who used to be an engineer (but has gone over to the dark side of management and marketing) I try to make sure that the women I work with are heard and have the resources to do their jobs.

With all inequalities, we can't have a scarcity mindset that freedom and justice are limited things. A woman being in senior management at a company doesn't take away a spot from a man, it widens the pool of possible senior managers [from just men to men and women] so that the best can rise to the top. The goal is to have the most appropriate person in each role, not simply a person in each role. Listen, if you aren't capable enough to compete with everyone, maybe you shouldn't be in your position of authority.

Felicity Jones is amazing! Armie Hammer plays just enough of an egalitarian that you might not notice he’s not the typical 1950s New York lawyer. Kathy Bates… always good. It’s a good movie. If you haven’t seen it, it’s at Red Box.

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