News & Politics

White Men Feel Discrimination in STEM Too, Study Finds

(Sipa via AP Images)

A new study published by the Pew Research Center found that James Damore isn’t the only white man in STEM who feels he’s been discriminated against.

In a study of 2,344 STEM workers, 19 percent of men expressed that they felt they had “experienced gender discrimination at work.” Seven percent of men also indicated that they feel their gender has “made it harder to succeed.”

Racial discrimination against white people also appears to be an issue in some workplaces, as 13 percent of white workers in STEM indicated that they have experienced discrimination at work due to their race or ethnicity.

Of course, this isn’t to suggest that white men are being systematically discriminated against. Indeed, the opposite appears to be the case. Women and racial minorities still reported discrimination at significantly higher rates than did white men.

More than 60 percent of black STEM workers surveyed felt they’d been discriminated against, nearly five times more than white workers did. And exactly half of women — 50 percent — indicated that they’ve faced gender discrimination on the job.

There are two takeaways from this. First, women and racial minorities are having a tough time in STEM — not surprising, as women and minorities consistently report trouble with discrimination in other workplaces.

Second, the results indicate that under certain circumstances, white people and men might be getting the short end of the stick. Now, this isn’t to say that so-called “reverse racism” or “reverse sexism” exists on a societal level. That’s outside of the scope of this piece, and judgements on that would vary depending on how you define racism or sexism.

It does suggest, however, that discrimination against white men in STEM may indeed exist parallel to hostility against women. Since discrimination operates differently with respect to men and women — both could be at play in the same workplace. This doesn’t have to be an either/or game.

Recent lawsuits against Google illustrate just that. In September 2017, three women filed a class-action lawsuit against Google, accusing the company of paying female employees less than men and denying them opportunities to be promoted.

“Google has discriminated and continues to discriminate against its female employees by systematically paying them lower compensation than Google pays to male employees,” the lawsuit claimed.

Equal pay for equal work isn’t happening at Google, female employees argued.

Meanwhile, former Google software engineers James Damore and David Gudeman alleged in a January 2018 class-action lawsuit that the company discriminates against workers “due to their male gender,” “Caucasian race,” and “perceived conservative political views.”

According to the lawsuit, Google goes to extreme lengths in their use of affirmative action hiring, much to the “detriment of Caucasian and male employees.” The lawsuit also contends that Google fostered a discriminatory environment that resulted in Damore and Gudeman being “ostracized, belittled, and punished” for their political views.

Not surprisingly, Google has denied both claims. But might they be true? Conservatives and liberals often foreclose upon the possibility that discrimination has multiple valences, that it can work in different directions. But I see no reason why both can’t be true.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen