Writing in today's San Francisco Chronicle, columnist Joan Ryan expresses frustration that only one of the 16 new Senate committee chairs is a woman. Her solution is that more women should "get angry" and then get involved in politics. Ryan also includes the statement:
The one female committee chair would represent a 100 percent increase over the number of female committee chairs in the Senate now (which is zero).That is not correct. An increase from one to two would be a 100 percent increase, and a decrease from one to zero would be a 100 percent decrease. But it is mathematically impossible to express an increase from zero as a percentage. Perhaps instead of encouraging women to simply "get angry", Ryan should encourage more women to study mathematics.
UPDATE: I sent this link to the eminent Joanne Jacobs, who during her time at the San Jose Mercury News was the best local opinion columnist in the Bay Area. I asked her if editors shouldn't be checking math in addition to style and grammar. Her response: "Editors can't check math. They don't know any." She also didn't think much of the following paragraph of Ryan's:
But our government can never be truly representative of the female half of the population as long as nearly all of the decision-makers have never been working mothers, choosing between decent child care and decent housing, never whacked their heads on a glass ceiling, never sat in a bathroom staring at a positive pregnancy test.Jacobs wrote:
I thought her paragraph about what men can't understand is sexist, and confuses being poor with being female: Plenty of couples have worried about the cost of child care and housing (or the cost of mom quitting her job and housing); plenty of men are invited into the bathroom to stare at the positive pregnancy test. And lots of people blame bias for their failure to win promotion. But few people with money and connections, like Dianne Feinstein or Nancy Pelosi, have had to deal with these problems.How true.