I recently updated my answer to the question Do all countries have the same gender imbalance in science? with additional information.

Basically, my answer contains the following position :

  • It is a misconception that women are underrepresented in science or STEM fields fields in general, as this applies to only some fields (with especifically computer science & engineering standing out)
  • Yes, this is a roughly consistent for different countries, although countries with greater gender equality - ironically - have a greater gender gap
  • This could be at least partially explained by gender stereotyping or the high "geek factor" of those fields, but biological sex differences may play a role at least as significant

I believe each of the three components of my answer are equally important, due to the numerous common misconceptions there are about gender inequality in STEM as a consequence of the current political climate. For the same reason, I deemed it necessary to back up this position by a lot of data, with graphs & sources. In fact, my update consisted mostly of adding additional data, graphs & sources as a response to a comment on that answer, which - rightfully so - pointed out that I insufficiently backed up that gender differences are roughly consistent for different countries.

After updating my answer, I stumbled on the question Why are women even less represented in engineering than in other STEM? and realized that all of the three components of the aforementioned answer apply here as well to the same degree. So I re-posted my answer to this question, with minor modifications.

Around the same time, I found the question Could it be beneficial for me to not disclose my gender/ethnicity in an REU application?. Here, I posted an answer that basically contains the following position :

  • We know that women that faculty members generally prefer female applicants over male applicants
  • We also know that African-Americans & Hispanics are typically favored over European-Americans & Asian-Americans in college admissions
  • There are numerous campaigns worldwide to increase the number of women or "minorities" in STEM, including the creation of jobs where only women are allowed to apply
  • Therefore, as a white male, I would be inclined to not mention race or gender on my applications for tenure track job applications, especially with respect to positions in a STEM field. For the same reason, I would be inclined to mention my gender as a woman or my race if I were black or Hispanic.

This too, of course, was backed up by sources (although less extensively).

Then I found the question Should I disclose gender, race, disabilities etc. in tenure track job applications?, where again the exact same components apply. So here, too, I re-posted my previous answer with minor modifications.


I learnt that my answer to Why are women even less represented in engineering than in other STEM? was deleted by a moderator (Strongbad), with a comment not to post duplicate answers, and that I should "tailor [my] answer to the specifics of each question".

So I decided to remove the least relevant details of my answer and re-post the remaining part of my answer as a new answer, referencing my answer to Do all countries have the same gender imbalance in science? for the details that were left out. This answer was also deleted, by the same moderator. No comment this time.

Then I received PM from an anonymous moderator about Could it be beneficial for me to not disclose my gender/ethnicity in an REU application?. They told me that normally they would "just delete the duplicate answer", but that they would not delete my answer in this case because it "presents a unique view that is not presented in the other answers and in general goes against the majority view of the community". Also, they wanted to make it clear "moderation of these answers is not related to the views expressed in them, but rather the generic information".

I responded to this message by explaining that in both cases I believe the exact same answer to be equally applicable to both questions, and that leaving out just a part of the answer (at least IMO) significantly reduces the quality of the the answer for both questions in both cases.

I also asked how I could answer Why are women even less represented in engineering than in other STEM? without my answer getting deleted? I received no response so far.


I find it hard to believe that the deletion of my answer to Why are women even less represented in engineering than in other STEM? isn't abuse of the rules of this community with respect to duplicate content in an attempt to censor an unpopular opinion, especially considering a different decision was made by a moderator in a very similar context in the very same community. But let's just assume it isn't and the reason two different answers to that question are deleted has nothing whatsoever to do with the actual views expressed in them.

Can anyone explain to me why it's OK for Could it be beneficial for me to not disclose my gender/ethnicity in an REU application? and Should I disclose gender, race, disabilities etc. in tenure track job applications? to have roughly the same answer, but not for Do all countries have the same gender imbalance in science? and Why are women even less represented in engineering than in other STEM?? Is it just a matter of different moderators making different choices or is there a difference between both cases that I'm just not seeing?

And if it is really just a matter of different opinions from different moderators, doesn't this mean the community rules need some revision towards greater objectivity? How is it acceptable that the personal opinion of one moderator determines whether a detailed answer backed up by ample sources ends up getting deleted? How is that fair to the members of this community?

Also, is there a way I can answer Why are women even less represented in engineering than in other STEM? using relevant information from my answer to Do all countries have the same gender imbalance in science? without my answer getting deleted?

Would I need to find different data, different graphs & different sources to pretty much demonstrate the same argument? Would I need to rephrase every paragraph to pretty much make the same argument? And if either of these would be acceptable, why not just allow the answer as it was? Why all the hassle to rephrase the form of an answer when the content itself is fine?

Or if it's really just a matter of including content not relevant enough to the question, which content must be removed to make the answer acceptable and on which grounds? How is not each of the three components of my answer sufficiently relevant to the question?

Since I'm not confident I'll receive a response to my PM, I suppose this is question is a suitable alternative approach for getting an answer to (at least some of) those questions.

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    There is a lot in here, it might be better if you could split it into individual questions.
    – StrongBad
    Aug 1, 2018 at 14:18
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    @StrongBad : Basically, I have three main questions : (1) What exactly is it that I do wrong? (2) What makes the deleted answer different in nature from the one that didn't get deleted? (3) How can I post an answer to the question that does not get deleted? --- I don't see how splitting this question is helpful to anyone or how I would need to split it up. Aug 1, 2018 at 14:44
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    That is a helpful summary. Let me update my answer. I still think each of those could be separate questions, but now at least I think I can give you answers.
    – StrongBad
    Aug 1, 2018 at 14:46

2 Answers 2


tl;dr: Since your answer was duplicate text and a lot of it didn't directly address the question that was asked, it gives the impression of someone who hears a few key words ("gender" "STEM" "underrepresented") and posts a whole screed without taking the time to give a thoughtful answer to the question that was actually asked.

On Academia SE, answers should directly address the question as asked. When you post an answer that includes lots of stuff that isn't specifically targeted to the question, it is likely to get deleted.

In the case of (for example) your answer to Why are women even less represented in engineering than in other STEM?, the question begins with the following statement

women are approx. half of the students in biology, chemistry and maths (check e.g. here ) but barely 20% in engineering.

as the premise of the question, then it goes on to ask a question about the reasons for this. Specifically, it asks for studies that give possible reasons for the different gender ratios in engineering vs. other STEM fields.

Then the bulk of your answer is devoted to text and images that reiterate the premise of the question, rather than answering the actual question.

Thing stated as a given in the question:

  • women have high representation in some STEM fields and low representation in other STEM fields.

Your answer:

  • women have high representation in some STEM fields and low representation in other STEM fields. Already assumed as a "given" in the question.
  • women have high representation in some non-STEM fields too. Not relevant to a question that is specifically about STEM fields.
  • two paragraphs at the end that address the "why" question - this is the only portion of the answer that seems to answer the question as asked.

(Although I haven't looked at the studies you cited and whether they were specifically about motivation for pursuing other STEM fields vs. engineering.) Also, it seems you didn't read the part of the question where the OP wrote

It is often stated that women tend to choose careers where they feel more useful towards society but that is difficult to reconcile with the fact that the share of women in Chemistry is 50% but only 35% in Chemical Engineering

as a part of your answer was "women are driven by a biological urge to help people" without addressing the difficulty the OP stated with this particular reason.

Your second answer contained much less irrelevant content, but about half of it was again reiterating the premise of the question.

An answer that directly answers the specific question, "(Cite studies to explain) why women have lower representation in engineering than other STEM fields", without extra content that doesn't answer this question, would not be deleted.

  • Yes, the claim that women have high representation in some STEM fields and low representation in other STEM fields was assumed as a given in the question. However, this is a wrong assumption. Are you saying wrong assumptions in a question should not be corrected? Also, I never made the point that women have high representation in some non-STEM fields, only that they have high representation in some STEM fields... precisely to correct the false assumption in the question. Aug 1, 2018 at 14:37
  • (continued) With respect to the difference between the share of women in Chemistry is 50% and the share of women in Chemical Engineering, women being more driven by a biological urge to help people definitely seems insufficient as an explanation, but the other two explanations still hold here. Would the second version of my answer be acceptable if I elaborated on this particular issue? Aug 1, 2018 at 14:40
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    @JohnSlegers How was it a wrong assumption that was corrected? The question stated pretty much exactly the same that you did, namely that the representation of women is lower in engineering than in other STEM fields. Aug 1, 2018 at 18:07
  • @TobiasKildetoft : The question starts with the statement "we know that women in much of the developed countries are less represented in STEM studies". Applied to STEM as a whole, this statement is wrong. It is only in some STEM fields (like computer science & engineering) that women are underrepresented. In fields like biosciences & social sciences (both scientific fields and thus part of STEM), women are actually overrepresented. This is an important nuance that is almost always overlooked, yet it is critical to understanding the cause of the gender distribution in STEM. Aug 1, 2018 at 19:52
  • @JohnSlegers Actually, if you take STEM as a whole, I have yet to see any data that does not agree with that statement. Just because some subfields have it the other way around does not contradict it being like this for the entire field when seen as a single entity. Aug 1, 2018 at 20:04
  • @TobiasKildetoft : But STEM isn't a single entity. It consists of multiple distinct fields, with representation of women ranging from underrepresented to overrepresented. To ignore the overrepresentation of women in bioschiences & social sciences is deceptive. And it is often left out on purpose to push political agendas that seek to institutional discrimination of men in favor of women in all STEM fields in all sorts of way. Aug 1, 2018 at 22:09
  • @JohnSlegers Nothing is a single entity, but it can be beneficial to simplify things by considering it that way. Since the question at hand was about differences within STEM, it is natural to start by comparing STEM itself to other things. Also, I am not sure why you think people are not aware that women are not underrepresented in biology, since that seems well-known to me (and as far as I am aware, social sciences are generally not considered part of STEM). Aug 2, 2018 at 8:31
  • @TobiasKildetoft : Social sciences are not a part of STEM? According to whom? Some federal agencies, such as the American National Science Foundation (NSF), use a broader definition of STEM that includes psychology and the social sciences (e.g., political science, economics) as well as the so-called core sciences and engineering (e.g., physics, chemistry, mathematics). Others, like the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) use a narrower definition that generally excludes social sciences and focuses on mathematics, chemistry, physics, computer and information sciences, and engineering. Aug 2, 2018 at 8:48
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    @TobiasKildetoft : (continued) Considering the term STEM literally stands for “the academic and professional disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics,” I'm not sure how excluding certain sciences (like social sciences) are a reasonable definition, but I see your point. Either way, the key problem with representation in STEM is the subversive claim that women are underrepresented in STEM due to some sort of social injustice and that this injustice needs to be corrected by discriminating men. Aug 2, 2018 at 8:49
  • @TobiasKildetoft : (continued) Yet, the fact that women are overrepresented in biosciences and social sciences is counterindicative for this alleged social injustice and suggests that different preferences among men and women are a more likely cause for the underrepresentation of women in fields like computer science & engineering, probably at least partially due to biological differences between men and women. This totally goes against the mainstream narrative, which is why it is critical to mention when addressing gender distribution in STEM, regardless of how you define STEM. Aug 2, 2018 at 8:49

What exactly is it that I do wrong?

Your behavior was generally fine in that you did not violate the golden be nice rule. What you did wrong was post identical answers to different questions. Our community does not like duplicate answers that are not tailored to the question. It makes users feel like the answerer is trying to make a point. This is especially true for controversial views on soft questions. Also, when we see *duplicate/revised versions of deleted answers with down votes, we get a little worried that users are trying to game the voting system. I am not saying you were, but it is something we think about. Overall, your behavior (posting duplicate answers and a new answer instead of an edit) is/was no big deal and I just wanted to steer you towards more acceptable behavior.

(2) What makes the deleted answer different in nature from the one that didn't get deleted?

Flags. User raised flags make all the difference. Moderators tend to only find issues when they are flagged or brought up in meta/chat. We don't generally go looking for issues. The answer I deleted was flagged by a user as being identical to another answer. The ones that didn't get deleted had not been flagged and I (and likely the other moderators) did not know about them. Now that we know about it, it is probably worth looking into more, but hopefully this meta question will help you see a way forward so that we don't need to step in.

(3) How can I post an answer to the question that does not get deleted?

If two questions have identical answers, then they should be considered duplicates and closed as such. If there is a difference, or even a perceived difference, then the question should get left open. In that case, the best answer would point out the differences and perceived differences and explain how they do not affect the answer. Then provide a link to your previous answer and a brief summary of the key points of that answer. This is essentially the same way we answer all questions for which the answer is available online. In other words, don't just provide a link, but summarize the content that is being linked and explain why that general content is relevant to the question.

For completeness, I also want to address a couple of your comments about moderation.

  • I sent the moderator message. The message was signed "moderation team" because I didn't change the default signature. The system used to default to signing the individual moderators name and I generally do not think about it. Sorry for any confusion.

  • When I deleted your revised answer, I sent you a moderator message instead of a comment. I wanted to be clear about what was going on, but did not feel that discussing the contentious nature of the answer in public was the best course of action.

  • I didn't respond to your follow up message, because I haven't had a chance yet. The gist of my message would have been, please ask in meta. While you found the right path on your own, steering some users to meta (and the right question), can be difficult and it takes time to write an appropriate mod message.

  • The content of the answer did not affect my moderation decisions. I looked at the two answers and thought that they were duplicates and that the newer one was not tailored to the question. That said, I looked at the answers because they were flagged. The flags quite possibly were raised because of the content.

  • Thank you for your lengthy answer. I'm not entirely sure, though, how this applies to the answer that got deleted. Concretely, how would I need to modify it for the question to be acceptable? Are there any portions at all that are allowed to remain? Also, what is the reason for forcing people to click a link if they want information that is 100% relevant to the question just because that information also happens to be posted elsewhere in the same community? What purpose does that serve other than annoying people with unnecessary clicks?! Aug 1, 2018 at 15:22
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    @JohnSlegers If you believe the same answer is appropriate for both questions, then I would replace the entire answer with a link to your original answer and a brief summary of that answer. Then I would preface that with an explanation as to why the questions are in fact the same despite on the surface seeming different.
    – StrongBad
    Aug 1, 2018 at 15:27
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    @JohnSlegers I don't understand the nuances of your argument well enough to see how they answer either question, which makes suggesting how to improve it hard. It seems like a well researched answer to an as of now unasked question.
    – StrongBad
    Aug 1, 2018 at 15:32
  • As I tried to explain in the "context" part of my question above, my argument was (1) that women are NOT underrepresented in STEM in general (a common misconception), (2) that this a global trend (also commonly misunderstood) and (3) that biology is one of several possible causes (politically incorrect but scientifically valid). I used this explanation to answer the question "Is this a global trend?" and "Why do these gender differences exist?". While the questions are different, IMO the same argument is equally valid for both. Aug 1, 2018 at 15:41
  • (continued) Anyway, if you are the same person who sent me the PM, why did you say "Normally, I would just delete the duplicate answer, but in this case ... "? I read this as "I would have deleted your answer but decided not to do this because...". This I found very confusing, hence my assumption that you were refering to a different answer... which was indeed not removed but for which the same arguments for / against removal could be made! Aug 1, 2018 at 15:41
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    @JohnSlegers sorry for the confusion. Normally, I would leave a comment, delete the answer, and be done with it. In this case, I deleted the answer, and sent a mod message because I wanted to be clear (which apparently I failed at) that I was not deleting the answer because of the content.
    – StrongBad
    Aug 1, 2018 at 15:47
  • OK, that makes sense now. Thanks for the clarification. Anyway, it's still not really clear to me which modifications I need to make to my answer to make it acceptable. Is there any part as all I can leave of should everything be removed to be replaced by a link of the other question? And what content would my answer need other than the link to the other question? And what's the point of all this additional work? IMO, it only prevents people from reading a perfectly valid answer to a perfectly valid question :-s Aug 1, 2018 at 15:52

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