An ordinary carpenter, James Marshall, was examining the channel below a mill as part of his working routine one day. All of a sudden, some golden flecks in the channel bed caught his attention. Little did he know, this discover would lead to the adventurous journey of California Gold Rush in 1849.
Hundred years later in California, two college drop-outs, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, incorporated the very first Apple Computer after numerous sleepless nights. Even though they invented the computer in a dark garage, they stepped on their bright future to a worldwide Tech Boom.
The Gold Rush and the Tech Boom have strong similarities not merely in their locations or their huge impact on our society, but they also face similar issues of gender imbalance in workplace and romance.
Women are rarely seen in doing either mining or coding. During the Gold Rush period, nearly 95% of the California population was male, let alone how few women would be able to work in mining. This unusual gender problem also exists in tech companies where “brogrammers”, male programmers, dominate the industry. A tech company once published their hire slogan as “want to bro down and crush some code? “, which completely segregated female from being potential programmers. Under the “brogrammer” culture, female engineers represent a tiny minority in many companies, with even fewer women in the upper echelons of leadership. At several companies, women represent zero percent of a company’s executive team. I wonder how would such companies successfully market their products to female users.
But why would this gender imbalance happen in workplace? According to Kingsley R. Browne, a pioneer in evolutionary psychology, men and women have evolved to possess different temperaments. Throughout evolutionary history, wealth and social status were more important to a man’s reproductive success because women preferred to mate with such men who were able to provide a better living condition for their offsprings. In contrast, for a woman, taking care of her children was the most essential task. As a result, women today, who inherited their genes from their female ancestors, are far less risk-taking because engaging in risks decreases a woman’s ability to protect her children. Women also tend to be less status-seeking because social status does not closely correlate with a woman’s reproductive success. However, many jobs in both mining and tech industries require their occupants to work longer hours without regard to consequences for family and children, or even work in dangerous and unpleasant environment. Thus, women are not purposely excluded by such jobs. Instead, a women is innately in disadvantage of getting those jobs without making sacrifices of the welfare of her families and children.
Indeed, according to the McKinsey survey of roughly 30,000 tech employees, more women than men with children say they don’t want the top job because they don’t feel they can balance their work and family commitments. Many women tech workers in their 30s drop out because they want to have babies, and it is hard to show up every day while taking care of babies. This situation sounds just like Virginia from the novel Virtual Love—a talented women in her 30s struggling between starting a promising career in world-renown Google and settling down to form a family.
Besides workplace, gender imbalance also caused interesting relationship phenomena and stories in the Gold Rush and the Tech Boom.
During the gold rush period, the scarcity of women made divorce and remarriage easier for ladies. For example, in Hitchcock’s family letters,Hitchcock described her friend’s divorce and remarriage as a very common and ordinary situation: “…a very pretty woman, who got a divorce from one husband, to marry Col.” As a result of this marriage trend, women in California soon learned their value. Many single women posted such advertisement in newspapers: “A HUSBAND WANTED BY A LADY WHO can wash, cook, scour, sew, milk, spin, weave, hoe, (can’t plow), cut wood, make fires, feed the pigs, raise chickens, rock the cradle…Her age is none of your business…and a great deal more gold, for there must be $ 20,000 settled on her…” Even though these women did not even post any photos, there still were tons of men who were willing to marry those single ladies. This bizarre situation can be explained from the perspective of evolutionary psychology. Most men benefit from monogamy, the marriage of one man to one woman, because it guarantees that every man can find a wife to have his offspring. Even if the woman in the newspaper post might not be the most desirable and beautiful woman, a man was still better off marring her instead of no one.
Compares to the Gold Rush, gender imbalance creates a whole different story of romance in the tech industry. People mostly do not hear about the stories of women marring millionaire tech men due to the imbalanced gender ratio. Instead, people mostly hear complaints that women have about dating the “typical” tech men. Such men usually spend a lot of time on their careers and don’t have time to devote to relationships. Sometimes when they have a deadline, they can work up to 90 hours a week. In another word, they would live at work if they could. In addition to that, most “typical” tech men can not understand women’s emotions because they have the “type S” brain—the brain of someone who is better at systemizing than empathizing. Such tech men are extremely smart and logical and think, “I can apply that to a relationship and be rational and logical and that will work.” However, they don’t realize that women are often emotional.
From the Gold Rush and the Tech Boom, we see the impact of gender imbalance in both workplace and romance. Even though lots of situations and phenomena can be explained by the science of evolutionary psychology, I still think people should strive for a more gender balanced and equal society in all fields.