The work men (and women) do

The following is a brief excerpt from the 1998 book
Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge by Edward O. Wilson.
(The emphasis, however, is added by the author of this blog.)
According to his biography in that book, at the time of its writing
Dr. Wilson was Pellegrino University Research Professor at Harvard University,
where he had received both of its college-wide teaching awards.
He is also a 1999 recipient of the Crafoord Prize from the Royal Swedish Academy of Science.

[page 60]
Over the years I have been presumptuous enough
to counsel new Ph.D.’s in biology as follows:
If you choose an academic career you will need
forty hours a week
to perform teaching and administrative duties,
another twenty hours on top of that
to conduct respectable research,
and still another twenty hours
to accomplish really important research.
This formula is not boot-camp rhetoric.
More than half the Ph.D.’s in science are stillborn,
dropping out of original research after at most one or two publications.

Back to comments by the author of this blog.

In contrast, consider the view expressed by Catherine Hill,
Director of Research at the American Association of University Women,
in the following Washington Post article.
Again, the emphasis is added.

More women than men got PhDs last year
By Daniel de Vise
Washington Post, 2010-09-13


Women earned nearly six in 10 graduate degrees in 2008-09 ...

But women who aspired to become college professors,
a common path for those with doctorates,
were hindered by the particular demands of faculty life.
Studies have found that
the tenure clock often collides with the biological clock:
The busiest years of the academic career
are the years that well-educated women tend to have children.

“Many women feel they have to choose between
having a career in academics and having a family,”
said Catherine Hill, director of research
at the American Association of University Women.
“Of course, they shouldn’t have to.”


Again, back to comments by the author of this blog.

Yes, that’s fairly standard rhetoric (and demands) coming from the feminists,
demanding an end to the “hostile workplace” that faces
women trying to compete with men in the labor market.
But let’s try to examine the economic impact
of some of the demands feminists have made
to achieve what they call “gender equality.”

For starters, they have suggested that in many situations,
one of which was just pointed out by the AAUW Director of Research,
that the extended hours which men have routinely given to their jobs
are not really necessary.
Well, then, why did men work those long hours?
If you believe Dr. Wilson,
they were necessary to accomplish the extensive range of tasks
which were expected of those pursuing academic careers.
If you take Dr. Wilson at his work,
socially-useful work was performed in the eighty hours per week he stated as
the requirement for “an academic career.”

Suppose women succeed in changing the academic norms,
so that only forty hours a week are required of all faculty, male and female.
And one may presume that they will demand, as part of “gender equality”,
that women receive the same compensation for their forty-hour weeks
as men used to receive for their eighty-hour weeks.
The net effect will be that women’s productivity
as measured in useful output per unit of compensation
will be only half that of the former level of productivity.
As to the work not done, how will that be made up?
If it is just not done,
presumably that is a loss to the larger society
(that work was socially useful, wasn’t it?).
If it must be done, then additional staff will have to be added to do it,
imposing additional costs on the university.

Now let’s consider another feminist demand, for child care.
The university will have to pay for the child care of their female faculty,
an all-day expense for pre-school children
and a partial-day expense for children old enough to go to school
but young enough to need supervision until their mother can pick them up.
Another expense for the university.

What the feminists are demanding, and the tactics they are using to achieve those demands,
remind me of the demands made and tactics used by labor unions in the period after World War II.
They too wanted more favorable working conditions,
more compensation, shorter hours, extended vacations,
and a range of expensive fringe benefits.
They used strikes to force management to give them those benefits.
Management could get away with raising their labor costs to satisfy the unions,
because they could just pass on those costs to their customers,
as at the time there was no effective competition,
no alternative purveyors of those products to consumers.
Of course, as the 1960s and later wore on,
foreign competitors developed the skills and obtained the capital
necessary to compete with the American companies,
while at the same time the American political and economic system
was pushing for “free-trade” agreements and globalization
which opened American markets to that foreign competition,
while American labor costs were so high that
foreigners had little demand for anything made in America.
Thus trade deficits
and the loss of jobs and the erosion of technical skills and competence
to foreign competition.
I think this is an extremely serious problem.
And it resulted from a failure to realize that the American economic system
was not a closed system,
but rather one open to foreign competition.

What does this have to do with the feminist push to reshape university working conditions?
The feminists are going down the same road as the unions,
pushing to make American universities less productive
and thus less competitive (in the global research competition) than their foreign competitors.
If it costs American universities a significantly larger cost to develop useful new ideas than foreign universities (think those in China especially) to develop those ideas, it is not hard to see where most of those useful new ideas will be developed, and put into practice by their enterprising and productive workforce.

American women can make all the arguments they want to about “justice” and abstract “rights.”
They can win all those arguments with their men.
But they can’t win the economic competition with countries less concerned about those issues.

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