Tech It Girl Elizabeth Holmes has been charged with “massive fraud.” Who ever could’ve seen that coming?
I’ll leave it to the STEM types among the Nine Readers to sort out just how jaw-droppingly implausible Holmes’s claims actually were (although I must say that even I, a tech illiterate who has to pull off a sock to count past ten, briefly skimmed a summary of Theranos and thought “but blood doesn’t work like that!”). I just want to comment briefly on the total insanity of anyone, anywhere, giving the girl in that picture one thin dime.
We’re just starting to scratch the surface of the looming social catastrophe that is chix-in-STEM. First, and most important, we mix up “could” and “should.” Lots of women are good at math, chemistry, biology, etc. There are more women than men enrolled in med school, for example, and I have no doubt they’ll perform as well as the men. Problem is, med school is brutal, and residency is worse. Four years of college, plus four more of med school, plus three to seven years of residency (at 120 hours per week) is…carry the one… divide by the cosine… approximately 11-16 years of delayed family formation. I’ve been around a lot of these gals, and their Match.com profiles, if they were honest, would all look something like this:
Hi! I’m 32 years old and haven’t been on a date in 10 years. I make $300K a year, but I’m half a mil in debt. I own a house that I’m never in, because I work 100 hours a week to make the nut on that half mil of med school debt. My hobbies include sleeping, napping, and wolfing down greasy carb-laden takeout. The men I’m around all day are either sociopathic alpha males or trembly dorks, and both of them work as much as I do. Oh, and I really want a baby. Like, NOW.
What a catch, right? And it gets worse, as these women are all told that the reason they can’t find true love is because “men are intimidated by strong, intelligent women.” Which, as doctors, they of all people should know is bullshit — evolutionary biology being what it is, women date across and up. A plumber isn’t intimidated by your MD; he just knows he’s wasting his time hitting on you. Given a sure thing with a plumber versus a one-in-a-thousand shot with a brain surgeon, your female MD goes with the brain surgeon, every single time. Biomechanics is god.
So you’ve got a lot of very unhappy women out there, who a) feel as though they’re letting the Sisterhood down if they drop out of med school, and b) can’t drop out of med school anyway, as they’ve already committed half a decade and half a zillion dollars getting in. And these are doctors, who still have to have a foot (or a few toes, at least) in the social world, due to daily interactions with patients. The further up the nerd food chain you go, the less regular contact with the hu-mans.
STEM-capable women who actually go into STEM, in other words, are STEMing themselves right out of the gene pool, and making themselves miserable in the process.
And then there are the guys. The neckbearded permavirgin STEM guy is a stereotype, but stereotypes exist because they’re true. You can tell how screwed up the STEM sociosexual market is by taking a quick gander at the girls who get their dander up. Don’t say I didn’t warn you:
I’m not making fun of these ladies’ looks (ok, ok, I’m not just making fun of these ladies’ looks). I’m all for people finding love, but even if I were single, if Zoe up there offered me a beej, I’d pass. Not,I hasten to add, because I was some kind of mack daddy with dozens of spinning plates back in my single days, but because I was a normal guy in a normal job and every single female coworker I had looked better. Guys are likelier to score an empty netter — again, biomechanics — but it’s contextual; as a normal guy in a normal job, I figured I at least had a decent shot with someone a lot better. It’s only under conditions of direst scarcity that Quinn, Watson, et al are teh hotness.
Which brings us back to Elizabeth Holmes. She looks like a creepy autist to me — if you kill Steve Jobs, eat his heart, and wear his black turtleneck, you’ll gain his powers! — but let’s stipulate she’s a 6…. to normal guys. In her context, she’s a knockout. How did anyone, reading that prospectus and gazing into those eyes, give this woman a dime? They were thinking with the wrong head. It’s as simple as that…. and it was a $700 million mistake.
And we’re going all-out to get more women in STEM. Think about that for a second. There are plenty of women who can do the work… up to a point. What happens when they can’t? Men in the same situation just live with it. Maybe you topped out with C++ or whatever, and hey, that’s fine, there’s a decent middle class life to be made there. But for men, coding chops is all we’ve got; our place on the nerd food chain depends solely on what we can do with a keyboard. Women, though, have a whole other road to success, and that’s how you get a nearly billion dollar fraud like Theranos.
So what happens when the girls in the STEM pipeline right now top out? Where do they top out? If they’re just doing Math Club in high school to score a killer extracurricular on their Vassar apps, ok, fine. But what if they choose to major in it? Weed-out courses only work if you can’t cheat. Was Holmes really a biology ace at Stanford? Or did she get some help from thirsty male classmates, professors, administrators? We’ll never know, and it doesn’t matter now…. for her. But for the new generation of STEM ladies coming up? I don’t think it’s going to end well.