Stop talking, start codingPosted: April 18, 2010 | Author: hilary | Filed under: blog | 65 Comments »
I read Out of the Loop in Silicon Valley in the NYTimes today, which explores how and why women are under-repesented in tech startups. From the number of retweets I saw and the clicks through bit.ly links (12,579 at the time of this posting), it’s been getting a lot of attention.
There are some very strong, compelling themes in this article. Computer science and engineering to have an “image problem”; the way we teach math to elementary school students is horrible and turns way too many away.
I don’t want to nitpick the article, but there are a few statements that reinforce the very damaging stereotypes that the article sets out to dispel.
“When women take on the challenges of an engineering or computer science education in college, some studies suggest that they struggle against a distinct set of personal, psycho-social issues… Even women who soldier though [sic] demanding computer science and engineering programs in college…”
I’ve been both a computer science student and a computer science professor. I have not seen any evidence that the average undergraduate computer science education is harder than physics, math, chemistry, biology, or many other ‘hard’ disciplines with a much stronger gender balance. Implying that women are unwilling to meet the intellectual challenges of the discipline is bullshit.
“Girls have certain family goals they want to accomplish,” she says. “Working 60 hours a week is difficult because it requires a life sacrifice.”
The men that I know and work with also have wonderful personal lives. Working 60 hour weeks is a sacrifice for them, too.
Please read the whole article. Let me know what you think when you see the material in context.
I’m going to make the assumption that we all believe that having more women in technology is a Good Thingtm.
Many groups have popped up that support women in technology, like Girls in Tech, She’s Geeky, and many others (enumerated in Digiphile’s thoughtful post Why Including women matters for the future of technology and society). More often than not, these groups are the canned food drives of the women in technology movement. They make you feel better, they might do a little good, but they offer no fundamental change to the system that created the problem in the first place.
The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing does this well. GHC invites women to come to one place, be together, and do science together.
We don’t need affirmative action for women in tech. We need to create experiences that nurture women and men so that more people are inspired to can create beautiful, technical things together.