Firstly, I’m not a fan of the sections of James Damore’s article about “Personality Differences” or “Men’s higher drive for status”. Secondly, I have no doubt that Mary-Ann is kicking butt in her career and will reach ever higher levels of success. I applaud her for it and wish her the best, and I strongly believe that we need more women, minorities, and immigrants in engineering-related fields.
But to the point: I really wanted to support Mary-Ann’s rebuttal before reading it and was pretty psyched going into it. But I have to admit it was difficult to continue reading her argument after Point 0 immediately struck me as utterly ridiculous and completely unsupported by logic nor research, as if it were written as a stream-of-consciousness and then immediately posted online with no further thought. Mary-Ann is arguing that she is “biologically designed to be an engineer” (she’s taking the “nature” side of the classical and controversial “nature vs nurture” argument). Firstly, she tries to prove it with a single, anecdotal piece of “evidence”, which is laughable in its own right. But secondly, and more ridiculous is the fact that if anything, her anecdotal piece of “evidence” could be argued to support the exact opposite conclusion. The fact that she grew up in an environment where she was nurtured from a young age by many people of strong educational background who imparted their education and values upon her over many years in fact appears to point out that she was “nurtured” into the person she is today. Yes, those people “happened” to be her family in this case, but couldn’t they have just as easily been people who were unrelated to her (such as teachers, family friends, etc) yet imparted the same knowledge, values, and encouragement?
Even if it were true that nurture trumps nature (and it’s very difficult to prove either way), this belief is toxic to society because if everyone believed that you are either born with smarts or you’re not, then it would be pointless for anyone to try, because they would know that they could never attain the level of success of a person born with smarts. I love MIT graduate and education revolutionary Sal Khan’s article entitled “Why I’ll never tell my son he’s smart” and I believe that this idea is much healthier for society than reading ‘I’m born with smarts and other people aren’t’.