Right now, you’d think that there was no occupation in the world that doens’t have something to do with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), or, at least, in the business management of such professions. Students everywhere are pressured to STEM-it, particularly young women, for whom a career in STEM is regarded as both as a wise investment for the future, and a revolutionary act. Women in STEM are golden, we’re told, and the fact that women tend to avoid the STEM professions is seen as a disgrace and a paradox.
But is it true?
First, it isn’t clear that STEM careers are really so plentiful or so rewarding. There is some rather good evidence that, as a nation, we are actually producing more STEM graduates than our economy can absorb. The reason that our high tech firms import so many scientists and engineers from abroad may not reflect the lack of native, American talent, but rather that foreign workers (even highly educated ones) are, actually, cheaper, and can be gotten rid of much more easily when the time comes for layoffs.
Second, we have seen more and more evidence that the nearly hysterical push to STEM has benefited a small group of private educational companies and not-so-disinterested non-profits, often to the determent of their students. Most recently, the New York Times reported that one such educational non-profit, Mined Minds, came to depressed coal mining regions of West Virginia and offered educational programs that would turn former miners or other unemployed workers into high-powered, high-paid coders. Afterwards, the students found themselves without the promised careers, and without the skills they’d worked so hard to gain.
The point is that the great push toward STEM degrees for everyone, regardless of what individuals may want or find rewarding, looks increasingly like a dreadful mistake. At best, it seems to represent a serious misunderstanding of reality on the part of career counselors everywhere, and, at worse, an active con.
So, if you’re a student or a young person, and you really want a STEM career, then great! Do it.
But if it isn’t, if you want to do something in the humanities or the art or cooking or the service industries or whatever, and someone tells you that your career choice is “unrealistic,” or sneers and says “How are you going to make a living doing that?”
Tell them something quick and simple, and full of pithy truth.
Like “Fuck You.”
And then go find what you really want to do, and what really gives you pleasure, and discover a way to make money from it.
May be way easier than you think.