Letters: June 2010

Feedback from our readers

7 June 2010

lettersInnovators’ Rights

In “Marketplace of Ideas” [March], I found it discouraging to see so many readers condemn exclusive contracts, such as the one between AT&T and Apple, as harmful to innovation without considering the principle at stake: individual rights. Don’t the owners of those companies have the right to freely contract with others, or are they second-class citizens who exist solely to serve the desires of consumers?

Steve Jobs and other innovators create their products in order to bring their ideas to reality according to their own vision. Consumers who would prefer something different are free to look elsewhere. Advocating the right to dictate with whom and on what terms innovators may contract jettisons the principle of rights and undermines a necessary precondition of innovation: freedom.

Jim Allard
Madison, Wis.

 

Gender Gap Views

The article “Looking at the Gender Gap” [March] seems more likely to hurt feelings and irritate readers than to change people’s way of thinking. For example, a number of my colleagues and I felt this quote from Karen Panetta was simply off-putting and hurtful: “What are electrical and mechanical engineers best known for by the general public? As stiffs with no personality and social life.” It may have been a sincere quote, but it surely did not advance the cause of women in engineering and simply does not ring true.

Ralph W. Wyndrum Jr.
Fair Haven, N.J.

 

I agree with the 38 percent of engineers polled who say, according to the article, the gender gap is not an issue. On the opposite end of the gap spectrum we see no initiatives to make men more interested in careers like nursing or laboratory science. In fact, there is not a single initiative to get men more interested in fields dominated by more than 95 percent of women, such as teaching elementary school. Persuading people to choose a career they otherwise would avoid just leads to more people wasting valuable time pursuing something that will not fulfill them.

Mark Kelcourse
Greensboro, N.C.

 

I feel your panel missed some of the main reasons why it’s a challenge to get girls interested in engineering. It is my understanding that most female high school students prefer the medical and law fields over engineering because of the pay and social status. Although females are underrepresented in engineering, the gap is even greater at the supervisory and management levels. There remains a glass ceiling that few break.

Female students often ask me why they should choose a career that requires additional training, education, and certification—such as becoming a registered professional engineer—when the pay scale is greater in other fields for the same effort. And they’re not even aware of the inflexible work schedule and lack of a family-friendly environment at most companies.

Heather R. Eason
Moncks Corner, S.C.

 

I enjoyed the article and agree that a better campaign for how engineers affect peoples’ lives would likely help more women become interested. I agree that negative stereotyping is pervasive in our culture, but it is not absolutely universal. Some examples of engineers who were also heroes are MacGyver and the Barney Collier character in “Mission: Impossible.” However, Hollywood has stacked up hundreds of shallow characterizations of smart people as social misfits. But most of us in engineering are sufficiently secure that those negative portrayals don’t really affect us.

Robert A. Muir
Tucson

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