Stop talking, start coding

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.


  • http://metamorphblog.com Matt Mireles

    Amen sister. Fucking hot.

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  • http://girldeveloper.com Sara

    Amen, sister sledge.

  • mohammad umar

    hi Hilary Mason

  • http://contrapunctus.net/ Chris League

    Glad to read your perspective. I was disturbed as I skimmed the NYT article too. What a hack job (not the good kind). There’s more insight in just 8 pixels of Geek Feminism (or other women-in-tech blogs).

  • A. Fischer

    This is definitely how I tend to think. My wife (physics) is similar. However, there is a strong and I think rather silly movement to “fix” this problem in the absolute worst way.

  • anomalous

    Some might say guys are just better at math. Are they wrong?

  • Geoff

    I had a similar reaction to the article. That said, the article fails to consider the possibility that women are making a highly rational decision to avoid computer science.

    Phil Greenspun’s article, while very glib, does phrase it well: ” Why then, does anyone think that science is a sufficiently good career that people should debate who is privileged enough to work at it?” Granted, Greenspun is talking about science researchers in general, not undergraduate CS majors (or startup founders), but I still think that the risk to reward ratio favors the professions (law, medicine, MBA programs) over grad degrees in CS, even when you factor in industry demand or startups.

    A considerably less colorful RAND report backs this up with very compelling data, concluding that “he slow growth of U.S.-born technical workers “will change when the earnings and attractiveness of S&E (science and engineering) careers improve.”

    There’s a side-bar summary of this article at http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/2009-07-08-science-engineer-jobs_N.htm

    The full link is at

    http://www.rand.org/pubs/issue_papers/IP241/

    I’m not saying that CS is a bad major (for undergrads, I think it’s great), or that grad degrees in engineering are necessarily a bad idea (though in terms of time, dropout rates, and salary, they appear to be a harder path with fewer rewards than the professions). And lastly, society has a huge interest in ensuring that half our population (and more than half of our college population) is engaged in these crucial fields.

    That said, I’d be interested in hearing from Hillary or folks on this board, because I read so many articles about how important it is to get group X into engineering (americans, minorities, women, etc…), but these articles always, without fail, gloss over what appears to be pretty solid data that engineering and science, at least at the grad level, aren’t competitive with the other options available to highly educated people. And there’s a chance that women are actually avoiding these fields for a very good reason. Think of it this way – a young woman is considering becoming an oncologist or a computer scientist. She’s really on the fence here. How would you advise her? I think there are fine arguments to be made for CS, but this is the discussion we need to have.

  • http://usingimho.wordpress.com Andrea Dallera

    Couldn’t agree more. I ran some statistic about the topic, here http://usingimho.wordpress.com/2010/04/06/men-and-women-on-rubygems/
    Less femminism, more hacking. The time is ripe, women really have no excuses anymore.

  • http://www.pixelbath.com/ Michael Hoskins

    I think a person’s career choice is heavily influenced by their environment, skill set, and interest. You (for example) probably decided at a relatively young age the type of field you were interested in, and other pursuits tended to follow that goal. Even if you didn’t know early on, your experiences throughout life shaped your career path and interests.

    Jeri Ellisworth is a good example of this. She grew up around fixing and modifying cars, and was in motorsports at 17 and selling racing cars. She developed the portable Commodore-64-on-a-chip, and is the first person (that I know of) to try chip manufacturing at home (she has a scanning electron microscope in her freakin’ basement).

    My girls are constantly exposed to technology, and frequently are interested in the whats and hows of things I’m working on. Like I’ve seen other fathers do, I could easily tell them to go do something girlier than my Man Stuff (engines, soldering, whatever), but why deny them the chance to learn about how something works when they genuinely want to know?

    You want girls to grow up curious about the world and interested in more than the superficial? The solution seems easy enough; don’t feed them superficial crap while they grow up, answer all of their endless questions, and teach them that there are wondrous, complicated things in all facets of life.

    Must end this before I write a novel.

  • chris

    I’m an IT manager and I love women coders, they work harder and rarely do I have to deal with the massive ego of male coders who all think their way is the best way.

  • http://blog.printf.net/ Chris

    > Some might say guys are just better at math. Are they wrong?

    Yeah, they’re wrong. See Terri Oda’s How does biology explain the low numbers of women in computer science? Hint: it doesn’t. presentation,

  • http://borasky-research.net M. Edward (Ed) Borasky

    Hilary, I’ve read all the articles on this issue over the years. I was at Chirp. I’m writing my own blog post about the subject. But I’ll give you a preview. You write

    “The men that I know and work with also have wonderful personal lives. Working 60 hour weeks is a sacrifice for them, too.”

    If men or women are working 60 hour weeks while other equally competent technical people are pounding the pavement looking for work, you are telling me that management in technical enterprises is fundamentally and irrevocably broken.

    You know what the solution to this is? Rewrite the labor laws so the distinction between exempt and non-exempt is erased. Establish mandatory time-and-a-half for overtime payment for *all* workers.

  • http://www.ezebis.com Pemo Theodore

    Read an interesting post yesterday that shone a light on a few errors in NYT article Crimson Hexagon by Danyelle Desjardins http://www.crimsonhexagon.com/news/index.php?op=view&id=41 . Also would like to say that it is not only women who are coders that face challenges in online business. I got a scholarship to study at University to teach Maths when I graduated from high school. I didnt take that route but have been involved as an female entrepreneur in online business in Europe for last 5 years. I was told by one so called Women’s Angel Company in Birmingham that they would hardly ever see women bring technology companies to fund, mainly baby clothes & fashion stores??????? WTF So much harder in UK & Ireland & Europe for women entrepreneurs.

  • anomalous

    Um. The presentation does say boys are better than girls at math.

  • http://blog.printf.net/ Chris

    > Um. The presentation does say boys are better than girls at math.

    .. but not in a way that could come close to possibly explaining the discrepancy we see in tech startups, which is what we’re talking about.

  • http://dagnyprieto.com Dagny Prieto

    The “out of the loop” problem has multiple root causes, some of which are outlined in the article. But the single biggest problem, and one of the easiest to fix, is access to capital. Give women with good ideas access to capital. This is not something even worth debating — no matter what you believe about the system, or stereotypes, or root causes — if you give women with good ideas access to capital, you’ll already be solving a big problem, even if at first it’s only for a tiny minority of entrepreneurial women.

    Giving women, who make up more than 40% of entrepreneurs, access to more than 8% of the capital is not affirmative action. It’s just fair apportion of resources.

    So, yes, start coding, keep debating the causes, but in the meantime, get more women into positions of power at VC firms, and more importantly, write more checks for chicks.

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  • Waynette Tubbs

    Hilary, This debate is not a new one. I believe it has been spurred today by the rising interest in statisticians and coders as the newest sexy career. The thing that is most interesting to me about the NYT article is the line you quote:

    “Girls have certain family goals they want to accomplish,” she says. “Working 60 hours a week is difficult because it requires a life sacrifice.”

    All careers and life paths require a sacrifice. I chose journalism. It’s not easier than math or statistics. Trust me, getting my graduate degree in journalism, one of the soft sciences, was a life sacrifice. And, in order to succeed in any career and climb the corporate ladder, you must put in your time. That includes 60-hour work weeks and doing work that is not in your job description.

    So, there comes a time in your life when each person must make the decision because you can have everything, but not all at the same time. I had my children and then my career. For me, that will probably mean that I won’t rise as high as other women in my profession, but I was able to spend more time with my kids when they were little.

    Great post!
    Waynette (@WaynetteTubbs)

  • anomalous

    Yes it could explain a lot of things. Engineering is not picking cotton or laying bricks where marginal productivity doesn’t translate into massively different outcomes. It’s like being a gladiator where a small edge means victory, and a small deficit means death. One percent better means massively different outcomes.

    The New York Times (original article) may have their axe to grind. I’m not sure what it is. One day it’s “let’s outsource tech jobs”, next day it’s “let’s indenture more Indian java programmers”, next day it’s ‘we need to do something about dumping millions of startup funding to women”. Whatever. Us non-privileged, non-elite, non-ivy league types got real stuff to worry about.

  • http://sarastreeter.com Sara Streeter

    I attended BarCamp Boston this weekend and got there early in the morning (finally). While I was whiling away some time before the start of sessions, I noticed a woman looking a bit lost so I went over and introduced myself. While we were talking, a guy near us looked at us and some other women standing around and counted us – with a visible finger-bob – concluding out loud “See, there are some here.” Really?

    Whatever, I didn’t even think about it until reading your article Hilary. Point being that I had a great weekend and that didn’t influence my experience of BarCamp.

    Anyways, I’m digging your blog’s sweet wordpress theme. Very white-spacey and flowy clean. :-)

  • http://codeanthem.com/blog Amber Shah

    I think there is a real image problem by girls considering Comp Sci as a major/career, and also by the industry. However, I have a real problem with the “solution” of just cheerleading girls into it. That will just result in girls who don’t have a real passion to follow it, and then most likely struggle at some point down the road. The key is that girls who have an interest should feel free to pursue it, not to blindly push girls into it, even if they have an aptitude for math.

    By the way, I disagree with your point about women and families. I think that it is possible for a father to be a “good” father (by society and familial norms) and work 60 hours, but not a mother. As a mother, I do not feel that I can be a good mother to my son and work more than full time, bottom line.

  • http://slash7.com Amy

    I love it – the “canned food drive” bit especially.

    What people never consider is that women enter other scientific fields at increasing rates, while computer science is going down.

    Women are choosing against it. Because, let’s face it, computer science is, for the most part, not a real science. And the best movie representation of our field, the one that everyone secretly knows is true, is Office Space.

    Even for many very smart people, the jobs, coworkers, managers, enjoyment of the work and rewards are not worth it. Most programmers are treated like glorified typists.

  • http://www.pixelbath.com/ Michael Hoskins

    @Amber Shah: That is a good example of the automatic gender-role sorting we’re accustomed to performing that I touched on in my previous comment.

    I’m curious; why is it more acceptable for a father to be less accessible and available than the mother? As a father, I do not feel I’d be contributing much to the raising of my children when working 60-hour weeks.

    More to the topic, I agree that no child (male or female) should be forced down any career path, whether it’s science, law, or even ballet. Natural aptitudes and interest should be encouraged regardless of gender, and I think making it a “girls need to do ___” just encourages more gender stereotyping.

  • http://www.thejuliagroup.com/blog/ AnnMaria

    Twenty-seven years ago, when I was nine months pregnant, I took my first SAS programming class (I had Fortran, Cobol and Basic before that but have mostly used SAS for the past couple of decades).

    I worked over 60 hours a week when my three children were little because their father died and that is what it took. The world is full of women who work 60 hours a week or more, many at two part-time minimum wage jobs. I’ll bet a whole chunk of them would be willing to work 60 hours at a programmer’s salary.

    Despite the fact that I am a statistician and run a business, none of my three older daughters have elected a career in anything like computer science. As others have noted, in part it is just because they had other interests. One daughter is a journalist and , as Waynette says, it takes HUGE hours for far less pay than engineering.

    A part of the answer may well be the abysmal way in which math is taught. Yesterday, my youngest daughter, aged 12, was aiming lasers at a prism and collecting data to calculate the index of refraction by marking on a white board (Mom having vetoed the suggestion of marking on the wall since we are painting next week anyway.) and measuring from the prism to the markings, weighing the sugar she put and calculating the density of each solution.

    She did this as part of her science project and not initially willingly as it involved getting off the couch and turning off the TV.

    After seeing the poor education the older girls received (and from private schools in a yuppie neighborhood) we started getting a LOT more involved in the youngest child’s education.

    Maybe the educational system doesn’t explain the gender gap but it does illustrate a lot about why we don’t have enough engineers, mathematicians, programmers and scientists of either gender.

    And yes, what the previous poster said about programmers being treated as glorified typists in some places probably doesn’t help, although I suspect the turnover in those places is quite high.

  • http://www.ChangeAgentDes.com Desmond Pieri

    My concern is that there seems to be a very quick jump from “women being underrepresented in tech start ups” to the reason of “less women studying engineering or computer science.” To run a tech start up, one does not have to be an engineer or computer science major. In fact, most men I know who run such companies are not engineers.

    So I believe that there is a bigger issue / question: Why are there not more women CEOs of tech start ups, irregardless of their college major? Why do the people who fund such companies (mostly men; check out the bio page of a dozen VC firms to prove it’s mostly men), who do these men not invest in women to run startups?

    That’s the question I’d like to see answered. I’ve asked it many times of VCs and yet to have it answered.

  • Danny Bubb

    Hilary,

    Thanks for the insightful post on a controversial issue. As an academic in a physics department, I occasionally bump into old guard feminists who believe that we should hire female faculty whatever the cost. The problem is that women are in greater demand at smaller schools and as a result we will generally get priced out of the market. A woman with the same CV as me can command double the start up $$ and a significantly higher starting salary. This has the perverse effect of making it difficult to attract women.

    As with any other anecdotal evidence the following should be taken with a grain of salt, but it represents my experience in working with undergraduate women in my lab. I find that they don’t want special “encouragement” or extra attention – they just want to be treated like everyone else. This is, of course, a special self-selecting group and represents more than just a willingness to major in a STEM field. However, if the people who want to apply Title IX to the sciences have their way, they may alienate the female students that are genuinely interested in the hopes of attracting those with lukewarm interest. We all know that those who are drawn to technically and theoretically demanding fields approach them as a labor of love and this must come from within. It cannot be transmitted. The best that you can do is to remove obstacles to its expression, but the game cannot be “rigged.”

    As far as I’m concerned, the dearth of women in certain STEM fields comes from a systemic sickness in our culture and an obsession with finding a lucrative career. I would rather try to address this sickness than to stick a band-aid over one wound that results from it.

    Sorry for the long post – you really got me going.

    Danny

  • Danny Bubb

    Sorry for the second post – but why is there not the same concern about the dearth of men in nursing or any other women-dominated field? Surely men have invaluable perspective to offer here? Is it of equal value to that which women can supply to STEM fields. I know I’m preaching to the choir a bit, but this one always bugs me.

  • http://www.tonywright.com Tony Wright

    Regarding: “The men that I know and work with also have wonderful personal lives. Working 60 hour weeks is a sacrifice for them, too.”

    “Workaholics are mostly men. (There are some women, just not as many as men.) One study counted that over 80% of the people who work 50+ hour weeks are men.”
    from: http://www.psy.fsu.edu/~baumeistertice/goodaboutmen.htm

    I tried a bit of Googling to find the study he refers to with no luck.

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  • http://gotgenes.com/ Chris Lasher

    “The men that I know and work with also have wonderful personal lives. Working 60 hour weeks is a sacrifice for them, too.”

    Do the spouses of these men also work 60 hours a week, though?

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  • http://brainwane.net Sumana Harihareswara

    Danny: your “why is there not the same concern” seems disingenuous. Ms. Mason is a “computer science professor, data scientist, and web geek” as it says right at the top of the page. That’s why we’re talking about science, technology, and engineering. Elsewhere on the web, nurses, teachers, and other members of female-majority professions (at least, female-majority in the US) are talking about their concerns. And indeed I have seen members of those professions talking about the value of gender diversity in their fields and how to improve it.

    If that “always bugs you,” then go find some nurses and ask them what they think of the problem and how you can help. Otherwise it seems like you’re just derailing this conversation with “well, every other problem in the world isn’t fixed yet so why are we talking about this one?”

  • http://brainwane.net Sumana Harihareswara

    Since discussing the article or your fine blog post would be a species of talking instead of making, I’ll limit my response to:

    * I got here via Terri Oda’s link

    * Thanks to Chris League for the kind words about GeekFeminism.org

    * In a world that over and over discourages, blocks, fails to nurture, or ignores girls’ and women’s interest in STEM (as engineers or as leaders and entrepreneurs), I think there’s a place both for social women-in-tech spaces (like Systers) and for more action-oriented projects.

  • http://ubuntulinuxtipstricks.blogspot.com Mackenzie

    In a world where all couples did an equal share of the housework, where taking care of the kids was a 50/50 responsibility, and where single-dads were as common as single-mums, that 60 hour work week thing wouldn’t be a women’s issue.

    That world does not exist. The Second Shift is real.

  • http://ubuntulinuxtipstricks.blogspot.com Mackenzie

    Geoff:
    When deciding between CS and other fields, it’s probably much easier to pick one of the sciences that’s already got more women than CS does (because CS really lags behind, say, biochemical engineering or systems engineering, at least at my school), just because you know you won’t be a freak.

    I know women who intentionally go to every tech meetup in their field that they can reach. Why? Because being the only woman in the room kinda sucks. If you’re already used to it though and can stand it, voluntarily being the only woman in the room over and over means that when a new woman shows up, she won’t have to be!

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  • Geoff

    Mackenzie:

    Thanks for your reply. You are addressing the question about why more women aren’t choosing computer science. However, there still hasn’t been any real discussion about whether this career is any good. It’s tempting to look at the big successes – the startup founders who made it, or the professors with nobel prizes. But you don’t see the highway littered with crushed dreams. As someone who was phi beta kappa, double in english and math, with 800/800 GRE scores in math and high percentiles in the others, I think I could have done anything. I got an MS in Engineering, but was bounced from the PhD program. I’m not alone, I’d say this was the case for the majority of my fellow students.

    At elite law schools 99% of the students finish, and the few who don’t tend to leave on their own accord. Ditto for elite business schools. While it’s not 99% in Med school, the failure rate is vastly, vastly lower. Science and engineering discard people pretty callously, in my opinion.

    I read an article today – Women now earn over 50% of grad degrees. The only reason it’s only 50% is inertia. The trends are clear – women are really on the rise. They earn the majority of med degrees now, and are pulling even in law. In engineering, not so much. But what’s the more stable, lucrative, and rewarding path?

    In my opinion, women are starting to outperform men, and are showing better judgement. Don’t get caught up in the sample bias. I think that we need to seriously consider the possibility that men outnumber women in engineering because women with the ability to become engineers have decided that nursing, medicine, and law are better paths (btw, nurses make $$$, my sister is a nurse and she definitely outearns me, and it’s a great profession – in fact, many states may soon allow nurses with MS degrees to practice independently).

    Phil Greenspun put it more bluntly, but he makes a strong point:

    “What’s my idea for changing the incentives? I don’t have any. I’m not one of the people who complains that there aren’t enough women working as professors, janitors, or whatever. For whatever reason we’ve decided that science in America should be done by low-paid immigrants. They seem to be doing a good job. They are cheap. They are mostly guys, like other immigrant populations. If smart American women choose to go to medical, business, and law school instead of doing science, and have fabulous careers, I certainly am not going to discourage them…”

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  • http://ubuntulinuxtipstricks.blogspot.com Mackenzie

    Geoff:
    That decision doesn’t have to be at the start. It can be anywhere along the “leaky pipeline.” It’s pretty normal to change majors these days. So what about “why do people change majors away from CS to Systems Engineering?” In the case of one of my friends it was because she was the only girl in the room and the other students spent entire classes staring at her.

  • http://borasky-research.net/2010/04/20/chirp-a-developers-perspective-part-2/ M. Edward (Ed) Borasky

    The more I think about this, I wonder why, assuming the quest for funding is a “competition” for scarce capital, we don’t have some kind of “blind audition” process, like there is for symphony orchestra players.

    That would sort for the things I think matter – ideas, market validation, software engineering discipline and project management / scoping skills.

  • http://hypatia.ca Leigh Honeywell

    I had mixed feelings about the NYT post… It felt very unicorny.

    While this post initially got my hackles up, after re-reading it a couple of times I think we’re actually on the same page. I think it’s vitally important that these groups exist, but they must be effective. I don’t know if you highlighted the groups you did as a commentary on their effectiveness or not, but I think it’s also important to remember that what seems ineffective to you might be a vital support structure to someone else. And that perfect is the enemy of done in activism as well as in hacking. We’ve also had some conversations over at geekfeminism about the whole women in tech vs. women near tech thing, and that can be super alienating when looking at some of these groups.

    It’s catchy, but I think your post title is a false dichotomy – sometimes, the talking is the coding, like when we’re working with hundreds of grade 8 girls on mad libs in Python, game design with Scratch, or the basics of circuits and microcontrollers – all in one day :) And sometimes it’s talking to young women who might not have heard about GSoC and encouraging them to apply… I’m pretty sure at least one woman I talked to who wouldn’t otherwise have heard about it is getting in this year. Yay!

    If we can accept the simple premise (which an amazing number of folks, even in this thread, seem unable to!) that women are just as capable of doing awesomely at computer science as men, we have our work cut out for us. From the trickle of input at the high school level to the leaky pipeline through academia to the second shift and beyond, there’s a lot to reflect on, and a level of critical analysis is needed that I see more in communities like WisCon (feminist science fiction fandom) than within a lot of women-in-tech communities. Maybe it’s a fear of the F-word (feminism). Maybe it’s a lack of theoretical Women and Gender Studies background, with the accompanying ignorance of the ways our issues in CS echo the past experiences of women in fields which were once male-dominated and are now more equitable, like law or medicine. I don’t have any good answers there, but it’s a conversation that I’m definitely happy to have.

    It can get in the way of coding, for sure. But so can hockey, or dinner parties, or other bits of life in general. And it’s ok to just be a role model and not an advocate – we need both, and not everyone can fill both roles. Trying to do both when you don’t have the cycles is a fantastic way to burn bright and burn out quick… I know because I’ve been there.

    Anyway… this got super ranty. I hope it added something to the discussion, which I think is an important one.

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  • Elham

    I do agree with what you wrote. The emphasis is now only on increasing the numbers of girls in CS which I think has less importance than attracting Women and Men that are passionate about this field.

  • Danese Cooper

    I was with you right up until you lauded GraceHopperCon as “what we need”. ZOMG that is one boring, horrible conference! We must do better than that, IMHO.

  • Amy

    Geoff:
    When deciding between CS and other fields, it’s probably much easier to pick one of the sciences that’s already got more women than CS does (because CS really lags behind, say, biochemical engineering or systems engineering, at least at my school), just because you know you won’t be a freak.

    I know women who intentionally go to every tech meetup in their field that they can reach. Why? Because being the only woman in the room kinda sucks. If you’re already used to it though and can stand it, voluntarily being the only woman in the room over and over means that when a new woman shows up, she won’t have to be!

  • http://jetlib.com/news/ JetLib News

    Hilary Mason on women in Computer Science.

    Awesome!

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  • Jenny

    I think a big part of the problem is women don’t get exposed to technology an much a men.

    I’m at university right now doing a IT degree and I know I would have never even thought of doing and IT if I did not study IPT(Information Processing Technology) at high school. I didn’t know anything at all about programming before that subject.

  • Bob the Builder

    I think it has to do with different interests and that is fine. Women are interested in some things, men in others. I think the problem, is that people have a problem with gender dipar disparities, it comes and is a result of affirmative action it ingrained this feeling that we need to make up for mistakes in the past, and that minorities are a bad thing, etc. Instead, just hire who does the best job for the smallest price, who cares if there male, female, purple, black, orange, white, blue, or silver.

  • Alex

    This explains things pretty well:
    http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=1883#comic

    As the father of a little girl, I’m doing my best to pass on my nerdiness & tech savvy, but she still seems to prefer stuffed animals and tea party sets over Arduino boards…

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  • Sue

    Years ago the class ratios were about 35% and many women did not find C.S. to be difficult. It was just like any other field. But in the workforce they were pushed out by discrimination…and now we are seeing ridiculous statements like it is the ‘hard’ sciences. Sorry, men will do anything to push women out of an area and then say it is too hard for them. :)

    I mean really, when did we start to differentiate between science and hard science?

  • Sue

    Don’t know where the smiley face came from.

  • http://www.glennsnead.wordpress.com Glenn Snead

    That matches with my own experience. My sister-in-law has a science background and initially worked in the field doing environmental sampling and testing. Today she works a desk job at the EPA. Tara, a woman I work with, is always running a jeep rebuild project, rock crawler, etc. and she does serach and rescue on the side. But she isn’t a mechanic, she’s a federal employee working in IT.
    I don’t claim to know why these two women choose desk jobs vs active, physical, scientific, or creative careers. Yet there they are.

  • Charles Merriam

    Finally, a well written post on the subject! Thank you.

    My wife and I are both in Silicon Valley, both trained as engineers, and have a continuing debate over women and minorities in the set of fields. I have always believed the “discrimination is bad” line of argument is too simplistic and inaccurate, and that a more complete understanding works better. The most common is the prejudice of small sample size, ala http://xkcd.com/385/, which I think we all use in reasoning. For example, I know I have a prejudice against people named Jeff (2 of 3 I knew well stole my previous girlfriends), against female MIT engineering graduates (3 of 3 I know well are mediocre), and for female MIT engineering dropouts (2 of 3 I know are Ubertechs). I also know these prejudices are subject to change with experience.

    Just getting together to code adjusts or reinforces the web of prejudice that makes up our thinking.

  • rachelle

    i’ve just been reading up on you ever since i saw that whole thing where you used script to autoreply to emails(which is wicked btw), and i’m just really impressed girl. i wanna be that smart hot chick that works with computers and programming too :)

  • Sue

    Well Glenn, for the two women you know who took desk jobs, I know four women who want to get into I.T. but are overlooked for the positions even though they are very good at what they do.

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  • Janeds

    Charles: That’s true, most women programmers I know find guys don’t have the mind for technical work. So perhaps the women are biased also from experience.

  • Robert

    Computer Engineer, Male, have a son & daughter. I am so absolutely sick of the feminist victim mentality oozing across our society. I have worked with & for women, & promoted some in my field. A woman (singular) who chooses the field has to work as hard as a man.

    This gender war feminist bullshit talking about women (plural) as some kind of entity is garbage. I will not put up with or pander to this nonsense at all. I will only promote (& put up with) a woman (singular) who has the personal drive (genderless concept) to apply herself.

    If someone starts this affirmative action crap around me, they are marked for the big delete. Whining & herd victim mentality has done great harm to our society. In a field dominated by logic & rational thinking, the underrepresentation by weak minded individuals should come as no surprise.

    Do not try to change the nature of our field to try to attract or appease “women”. The individual “woman” with the right stuff are already working in the field.

  • Robert

    Hilary, I absolutely loved your ”

    canned food drives of the women in technology movement
    ” statement. Myself, I have:

    - hired women
    - promoted women
    - worked with women
    - worked for womenI am male, 52, Computer Engineer. 30+ years ago there were about 15% girls in engineering. Today, around the same figure. There are movements to promote a 50:50 split which I find them morally wrong & technically incorrect. The field is open to all, we do not need “social engineering types” interfering with reality. I have a son & a daughter. I support both of my children’s choices & dissuade them from involvement with ideologies (Religious, Feminism, Political). It is high time to set boundaries with strangers telling anyone how to live & think. Thanks for the post.