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We built voice modulation to mask gender in technical interviews (interviewing.io)
331 points by HaseebQ on June 29, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 351 comments



I would really have liked to see them check whether the gender-blinding actually worked. Even if someone's voice is modulated, they may have gendered behavior patterns that could influence someone's performance ratings. I wouldn't be surprised if I could guess the gender of a voice-modulated person pretty accurately from other cues.

To combat this, they could have asked the interviewer during the performance assessment whether they thought the applicant was definitely male/probably male/unsure/probably female/definitely female. Then you could use voice modulation as an instrument for perceived gender and get a better estimate of the true effect of perceived gender when controlling for actual gender.

Hope they do something like that for the next round of experiments!


Aline from interviewing.io here. Great idea!


You all should record the audio from the original modulated interviews, then play them in both male and female versions to sample sets of separate observer groups that rank the performance of the person being interviewed.

That way, you would be isolating the thing you are testing to just the voice, and you would be able to establish controls and a baseline for the exact same interview.

The way your test is described right now, there are still way too many factors that could explain the results. Your controls are far too loose.


You're absolutely right re controls. Re your suggestion, totally agree, and please stay tuned :)


I have read a lot of the comments here and your article and I find this fascinating. On controls and such: on reddit someone pointed out that more prosocial people may be more likely to sign up but I believe you controlled for this using random assignment so I think you are good there.

The biggest thing, and I believe it has already been mentioned, is trying not to bias the raters. The best way fmpov being to pre-record interviews and play them to several different people.

The above would prevent testing for attrition but I think one variable at the time is the way to go. You could test attrition later by having ratings go a certain way and then seeing how subjects respond when they know that they interviewer knows their gender vs when they dont etc.

If you have any interest in trying to get this published academically, and I want to make sure you understand I am a very lowly research assistant, I could talk to some of the professors at my university to see if there is any interest.


On a similar note, I'm wondering what will happen when somebody is perceived as gender non-conforming.

Will a woman using a modulated voice to sound male come off as a woman disguising her voice, or will she come off as an effeminate gay man? There's a lot of stigma to being perceived as the latter.


> Will a woman using a modulated voice to sound male come off as a woman disguising her voice, or will she come off as an effeminate gay man?

The sample sounded more like an Englishman to me, not effeminate per se. I've noticed a lot of Americans feel western european accents like Danish/French/English to be 'gay-ish' if they haven't heard them before. Not sure what is going on there.


Please make sure that the question is after they have already answered the other fields, and only one per interviewer. Priming is a major problem in this kind of testing, and if you are asking people to find fault in the perceived gender of a person, they then have a high chance the reverse a previous decision.


I'm not sure if voice modulation is the answer or not, but very cool to see you working on this problem and trying things out. It's a difficult space and most are springing for short-sighted bandage solutions. Best of luck, and keep sharing your findings!


This is a good point. There are often differences in how people of different genders (and nationalities, interest groups, classes, educational levels, etc) express themselves regardless of the format, and modulating their voice doesn't really hide that.

For example, I've run quite a few forums before, and I'm pretty confident I (and quite a lot of other forum admins/moderators) could reliably judge someone's gender through their manner of writing and the (non gender related) info in their profiles.

So if you wanted to really remove possible gender 'bias' from the occasion, you'd have to go much, much further. You'd have to give people a way to communicate which reduces their responses to preset answers, that's entirely conducted through text on a screen and make sure all personal information is filtered out as well.

There's always going to be a trade off here. On the one hand, I'm sure the system used in the Luigi's Mansion Dark Moon Scarescraper would completely eliminate any potential gender bias, but that's only because it limits chat to 'over here', 'good job', 'thank you very much', 'help' and 'hey'. On the other hand, an interview in person would give you a lot of information about how well they could do the job (and let you test it), but then you've got psychological biases to deal with.

It's a tough one really.


Of course completely dehumanizing the interviewer & interviewee expressly prevents any degree of culture fit selection, which could be bad for all parties.


Not just culture fit. I hire for a high-end (boutique) software consulting firm. We specialize in scale problems and engineering practice at a level few other firms can claim.

Communication is an absolute, 100% must for senior roles. If you can't competently and thoroughly talk about a technical issue, to non-technical people, and do it with a smile and while making eye contact, we're not going to hire you.

So in a sense, we're filtering out neuro-atypical people for senior roles. But they fit well in engineering roles.

Dehumanizing the interview process will literally make it impossible for us to gauge this skill.


And that's a good point too.

As much as culture fit has a really bad reputation in some places (because people seem to associate the term with 'only hires rich white kids with Harvard degrees'),you need a certain amount of it for a business to really stay cohesive and for the employees to want to work together.

I've seen companies where the hiring staff haven't bothered to think whether anyone would actually work well in that specific company and its environment, and the general result has been a heavily divided workforce with very limited communication.


Preventing culture fit is actually a feature, not a bug. Culture fit is a synonym for unconscious bias, and most people don't realize it.


This would be a fantastic additional thing to monitor for. It was my first thought after hearing the voice modulation clips-- even in a manly voice, someone saying, "Oh I totally sound like a dude" sounded quite feminine since most guys wouldn't say "totally."

Two things I noticed from the clip on the FastCompany article-- it's modulated, but I can hear A.) Vocal Fry B.) Statements that sound like they're ending with a question (the voice goes up at the end.). These are both more common speaking patterns with women. The question thing in particular is common with people who are not as confident.


dude, what decade are you from? I'm totally stoked about this totally tubular voice modulation. It's like totally wicked dude! Totally!


What if you just used a third party, like a translator? Someone listens to the voice and recaps it in his own words.


What evidence do you have that some speaking patterns are more common with women? Can you link to some data?

Edit: Lots of opinions here. Still no data.


Just to be clear, men do vocal fry and uptalk(ending sentences with upward inflection/making it sound like a question) too. Just less often. And not all women use uptalk and vocal fry.

Uptalk is more common in women: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/12/23/overturning-the-myt...

Vocal fry is more common in women: "An examination of creaky voice occurring in natural conversations among relatively young educated American and Japanese speakers revealed that female speakers of American English residing in California employed creaky voice much more frequently than comparable American male and Japanese female speakers." http://americanspeech.dukejournals.org/content/85/3/315.abst...

(Edit: I'd like to find better resources on this if available. These seem to be small studies.)


Vocal fry is more commonly noticed and criticized in women but I haven't gotten the impression that there's definitive evidence that women do it more than men since most of the studies have been pretty small or localized.

Mark Liberman has been covering this for years over at Language Log and there appears to be a great deal of ongoing debate within the academic community:

http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/index.php?s=%22vocal+fr...

http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=20155 discusses male usage and briefly mentions the study from your second link.

http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=13020 has some graphs of what exactly this means sound-wise and http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=3626 discusses the history.


Thanks for this. I was having trouble finding anything discussing vocal fry in depth without having to pay. I see numerous articles on women doing it more, but so far they all seem to point to the same small studies.


How can a gendered speech "fashion" (which is what it seems like to me) be criticized? I think it's hot (as a guy)... probably because it's so sex-typed


It's usually mentioned in a negative context as something young women recently started doing and should stop.

http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=3626 covers the claims that this is some new trend, many of which are couched in language which implies that kids these days are doing something wrong or degenerate.

http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=12774 discusses media coverage a couple of years ago claiming that women's careers (or vocal cords) would be damaged by using vocal fry.

This American Life did an entire episode (http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/545/i...http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=17489 has discussion) about the volume and vehemence of the complaints they receive about female cast members' use of vocal fry:

> Listeners have always complained about young women reporting on our show. They used to complain about reporters using the word like and about upspeak, which is when you put a question mark at the end of a sentence and talk like this. But we don't get many emails like that anymore. People who don't like listening to young women on the radio have moved on to vocal fry.

> What's striking in the dozens of emails about vocal fry that we've gotten here at our radio show is how vehement people are. These are some of the angriest emails we ever get. They call these women's voices unbearable, excruciating, annoyingly adolescent, beyond annoying, difficult to pay attention, so severe as to cause discomfort, can't stand the pain, distractingly disgusting, could not get over how annoyed I was, I am so appalled, detracts from the credibility of the journalist, degrades the value of the reportage, it's a choice, very unprofessional.

The part which underscores that there's a strong gender-based component to criticism is that Ira Glass, the male host of This American Life, is basically the king of vocal fry (along with other long-time radio personalities like Carl Kassel or Walter Cronkite) but nobody complains about his usage and on the rare occasions when any mention is made, it's not expressed in the same kind of negative language:

http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=17496


Well, now that I know about it and the name of it, I won't be able to un-hear it... which will probably make it "annoying," when previously it was just "young-womanish", sigh. ;)

I'm assuming that all of the complainers knew the name of it and of its existence to begin with. I wonder if there's a negative preferential reaction there.

Like many things, this is a taste, and the same taste can seem delicious to one person and disgusting to another. I know someone who can't stand chocolate...


That second study aside, which I cannot access the data to see how well the conclusion is supported, no other study that I have seen says that vocal fry is more common in women.

In men we generally don't even notice it. It's just the way men talk. Here are some videos of actors all with loads of vocal fry, but, except when presented as a list of "men with vocal fry," no one would ever think to pick up on it and mention it: http://the-toast.net/2015/07/22/examples-of-male-vocal-fry/


The NYT blog post starts out discussing regional dialects, then presents a study of 23 Southern Californians aged 18-22...

The only study the post links to is paywalled and the link to a conference paper is dead.

Your second link is also paywalled.


I've found most studies to be paywalled in general aside from the free abstract. Not really sure what to do about that.


Scihub, though I can't find a functioning mirror right now.


You could quote the relevant part of the study, or, not link to paywalls.

[It's not your fault, just the current reality.]


Unfortunately, quoting the relevant parts of a study (namely, methods and results) for the purpose of disseminating evidence is a weak fair use case at best.

That's why generally in a work you'll see "reproduced with permission" underneath figures and tables taken from other works.

The case for fair use is stronger if the work is criticism of the source material. It's a huge gray area, and some journals pursue claims relentlessly.


You're absolutely right, and I have no idea why you're being downvoted.


My best guess is that something I type triggers someone's preconceptions about a topic and then they reflexively seek solace in the down triangle.

Edit: Or, perhaps, they are rate-limited by HN and can only use the triangles?


I did not downvote your above comments, but I can see why others might. Your argument, while perhaps not intended to, parallels a standard trolling technique of asking for evidence and then dismissing any information presented. You complain about one study not being broad enough, about others for being behind a paywall, and still others for being on twitter. Ultimately, the standard you ask for ("this pattern has only been observed with women", and, "this pattern has only been seen with men") is unreasonably restrictive, as if a pattern that was only 99% reliable in separating men from women would not be sufficient. It makes it appear (again, this may not be true, it's just the appearance) that you're not making a good-faith effort to evaluate information fairly, but are instead holding firm to a preconception and requiring extraordinary proof before being willing to reconsider. Your snarky "triggers ... preconceptions" response does not help this perception (and, FWIW, I did downvote this comment, because your "guess" is of negative value -- it only serves to upset your supporters and anger your detractors.)

EDIT: also FWIW, I would love to see good data about potential differences in vocal patterns in males and females, if for no other reason than that I could use it in my D&D campaign.


You seem to be confirming my guess (perceiving a "standard trolling technique" === "preconception"), but I am not looking for supporters or detractors, only justification for the original claim:

>These are both more common speaking patterns with women.

It is incorrect to ask for "only observed" data in this instance, but I also was clear to state that it was only an example of data that could be presented.

>parallels a standard trolling technique of asking for evidence and then dismissing any information presented.

If the response is not actual evidence, it should be dismissed. There is no guarantee that a response to a request for evidence is actually valid. That requires investigating the claimed evidence. In this case I investigated and found it severely lacking, as I noted above. Another user has linked to some further analysis of one of the claimed pieces of evidence (the 23-person Southern California study) that shows an apparent basic arithmetic error in the presentation of results. The NTY blog dead links that study and other places that have it require one to pay to see it.

>about one study not being broad enough

Yes, the study was 12 women and 11 men, aged 18-22, living in the same geographic location. There were severe differences in the experimental conditions between the groups being studied (women all interviewed by women; most, but not all, men interviewed by men). Everything I have read also indicates that this study found that both the men and women in the study often exhibited the pattern that was being watched for.

>and still others for being on twitter.

The problem is not about being on Twitter, but that the accounts being studied were neither 1) confirmed to be human, nor 2) confirmed to be the gender the experimenters assumed (and to which they compared their predictions/guesses! [in-built confirmation bias?]).

>that you're not making a good-faith effort to evaluate information fairly, but are instead holding firm to a preconception and requiring extraordinary proof before being willing to reconsider.

I can't evaluate what I can't see and I don't see how I have been unfair to anything that has been presented here. I don't think I am asking for extraordinary proof. I'm only asking for evidence of the particular claim:

>These are both more common speaking patterns with women.

So, something like: randomly sampled recordings from public places with counts of the occurrence of the pattern and the gender of the person who spoke it.


>> "(perceiving a "standard trolling technique" === "preconception")"

You claimed preconception about the topic. Perceiving trolling is a preconception about your rhetorical technique. Don't overlook that important nuance.

>> [SNIP -- attempts to justify]

I don't care whether you are or aren't justified in rejecting the data (I have no dog in this fight.) I'm simply noting that you seem to give off the impression that you're not genuinely interested, or open to being persuaded. This is more than just whether or not you accept the studies; it's in the phraseology you choose. Just as an example, you found the time to be snarky about downvotes, but not to express gratitude toward any of the people who have tried to provide you with data (even if the data is insufficient.)

> "I don't think I am asking for extraordinary proof."

The line I quoted ("this pattern has only been observed with women") was an unreasonable, extraordinary standard of proof. In a vacuum I would have ignored it. But in combination with the snark and dismissiveness, the sum total does fit a pattern that is common to people trolling on all sorts of topics.

Again: I don't have a dog in this fight. I'm just trying to help you understand what about your behavior might be causing people to perceive you as worthy of downvotes. I'm trying to give you insight as to how, if you are interested in genuine dialog, you can make that clear to others. Because your posts thus far create a very different perception than that.


I claimed preconception about a topic. I do not know which; I only assume that a downmodder had something in mind. I suppose it's possible they are completely random downmods from wandering bots.

> I'm simply noting that you seem to give off the impression that you're not genuinely interested, or open to being persuaded.

You're not the first person to conflate me writing and giving attention to something as being "not genuinely interested". I honestly do not understand this perception, particularly when I am discussing details of things brought up deeper into a conversation. Why would I waste my time on such trivialities?

>The line I quoted ("this pattern has only been observed with women") was an unreasonable, extraordinary standard of proof.

You'll note that line is not in this particular thread. It is however related and I agree that it was poor.

>I'm just trying to help you understand what about your behavior might be causing people to perceive you as worthy of downvotes. I'm trying to give you insight as to how, if you are interested in genuine dialog, you can make that clear to others. Because your posts thus far create a very different perception than that.

Thank you for writing out your perceptions, even though you only downvoted one of my posts. I don't think the perceptions you describe as others perhaps having accurately characterize me, though. I am not attempting to create a particular perception; I'm only trying to have an on-topic discussion: an absolute claim was made that seemed to lack observed evidence -- and despite many posts discussing it now, no real evidence has been shown.


> "... conflate me writing and giving attention to something as being "not genuinely interested". I honestly do not understand"

There is a classic trolling technique, which I have heard called a "snow job" but probably has other names, wherein someone tries to basically overwhelm a topic of discussion with minutia in order to get people to waste their time while not actually making any progress in the discussion.

Relatedly, a common technique among people who are dogmatic about a position is to build an impenetrable wall (built out of unreasonable standards of proof, and nitpicking criticism) and then spend a lot of time arguing about how their wall hasn't been penetrated. In essence it becomes a way of inflating the ego -- "we argued for hours and the other guy never even put a dent in my position! That's because I'm so smart!"

Again, not saying this is what you're actually doing, just noting that it's easy to get that perception from reading along.

> "I don't think the perceptions you describe as others perhaps having accurately characterize me, though."

Perhaps they don't. But the first comment I made in this subthread has a score of +10 right now (an unusually high score for a meta-comment of this sort, particularly this deeply nested), which indicates that quite a few people share the perception.

> "I am not attempting to create a particular perception; I'm only trying to have an on-topic discussion"

Whenever you speak or write, you create a perception. Whether intentional or unintentional, it affects your ability to have an on-topic discussion. My hope is that you'll be able to take what I've written here and learn how to reshape that perception, in order to more effectively communicate your interest in an on-topic discussion.

One final thought: the comment "no real evidence", likewise, contributes to the perception. What has been shown might be weak evidence, but it's not nothing. In a Bayesian sense, if you started with a neutral perception ("I do not know if there is a significant difference") what has been presented would be suggestive that a difference might exist, but not strong enough to show that a difference definitely exists. The proper response would be "this seems like an area where better data could be gathered" rather than "no real evidence has been shown".


I don't know about cues in spoken English, but you can find relevant articles about written text from this page:

https://civic.mit.edu/blog/natematias/best-practices-for-eth...

Read under "Inferring Gender from Content".


I did. That section is primarily discussing analysing the pronouns used to find a gender of the target, or exploit word based genders in those languages (French in one instance) that support it.

Other examples were a selective study on Twitter, where the experimenters don't even know the true gender, or even humanity, of the user. The author of the section seems to disclaim the entire idea, somewhat (as it probably should be).

I was looking for something that could hold up to the claim that individuals of the same gender do, in fact, have common speech patterns. For example, "this pattern has only been observed with women", and, "this pattern has only been seen with men".


not quite patterns, but preferences :)

https://blog.xkcd.com/2010/05/03/color-survey-results/


In the clips the modulated female ended up sounding like an effeminate man, which raises a whole other set of questions about bias.


There should have been a control experiment where a person's likeability, intelligence and "hirability" are assessed when both women and men say the same things with and without modulation to make sure it is really neutral.


I think it would be amazing if they could combine this voice-modulation technology with a facial motion capture technology (like in Avatar) to display artificial/shifting faces as well as voices. You could effectively create a computer screen-based version of the "scramble suit" used in A Scanner Darkly! http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0405296/mediaviewer/rm1872861440

I think a combined face+voice system would be even more useful in interviews (since a significant amount of human communication is expressed through facial cues). It would also add another dimension to your proposed voice-modulation gender-blinding experiment.


Wouldn't that just increase the problem that the person you are responding to brought up? If you capture their facial movements, it might be even easier to tell if they are a man or a woman, despite any scrambling you do.


Yes. If the goal is gender blindness, a more effective strategy is to block all video and voice communication. Even chat could be a giveaway. Go off of nothing but code against a test suite.


That sounds like a recipe for disaster. Coding skills that can be measured in this way are a small part of what it means to be a good employee.

I feel like this is kinda like choosing who to draft in the NBA solely on free throw percentage.


Quite possibly! That's the extra dimension added to the experiment. :)

It would be even more fascinating if you could cluster facial expressions or motions as "more female" or "more male". And for bonus points, work out a way to "filter" or "smooth" the facial signal to reduce/remove these giveaway hints (or insert false hints).


IIRC studies have indicated that (be it for genetic or cultural reasons), women tend to be more facially expressive than men.


In the example clips, to me, her vocal fry was a gender tell, even after modulation.


Vocal fry isn't gender specific.

Ira Glass (This American Life) has vocal fry and they discuss the gender bias here: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/545/i...


What if Ira Glass isn't a Kinsey Zero? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinsey_scale


I actually don't think you should put the question on the interview feedback form. That invites bias into the question. "Oh, this candidate did well, must be a man." In fact, having interviewers consciously guess at the gender may even skew their perception of the interview performance post-hoc.

I would, however, be interested in a separate experiment to gauge the effectiveness of the voice modulation.


Ask after the normal survey is complete and submitted.


Only works once per interviewer.


You can't prevent people from asking themselves if a modulated voice is a man or woman. If they are inclined to ask that question, then they are going to ask it no matter what you do.


Correct. What you can do, however, is prevent their answer to that question from being better than a coin flip. This is why we should run a separate experiment to gauge the effectiveness of the voice modulation.


To provide a specific example, some women have severe vocal fry / creaky voice. Its a socially transmitted thing like valley girl speak from decades ago.

I can only imagine how weird that sounds autotuned in a deep bass artificial voice. Imagine the movie line "I'm Batman" with vocal fry.

(edited to note, I see three people simultaneously cited vocal fry as an obvious experimental error and one tried to derail with the standard citation needed technique, so its probably a pretty serious issue)


Men speak with vocal fry all the time.

Listen to these interviews. All the well-known actors in them are speaking with tons of vocal fry -- much more than "Valley Girl" women ever would.

Except we never even notice it in men, except when it's presented in a "list of examples of male vocal fry."

http://the-toast.net/2015/07/22/examples-of-male-vocal-fry/


While not scientific, I heard a pre-recorded interview done with interview.io's gender masking where both sounded like men (in reality one was a man and one was a woman). I got the genders wrong when prompted to guess, so it was pretty damn convincing from my POV.


"Like, Totally!"


If you're tracking the interviewer gender guess, that's a legal liability to the interviewer. I'd refuse to answer, or always put "unsure" even if I was 100% sure of the gender.


Translation: "Hope they keep doing this experiment until it matches my expectations!"


:3


I honestly feel like this sort of thing is a waste of time.

Let's pretend someone invents the perfect "gender bias-free" system: no names, no faces, voices are flawlessly transcribed on-the-fly so you can't pick up on speech patterns. What if it works perfectly and you still end up hiring more men than women? I think exercises like this may end up giving people answers they don't want to hear.

So, stop wasting time with stuff like this. If you're bothered by the fact that there's more men in your company than women just hire more women until you get your desired ratio. You've already made your minds up ("there's too many men here, clearly we're biased against women during the hiring process") and I doubt anything will make you think differently, so just go ahead and fix the imbalance.


There is evidence to the contrary, where they have run this experiment in the real world. This is for Orchestras.

As late as 1970, the top five orchestras in the U.S. had fewer than 5% women. It wasn’t until 1980 that any of these top orchestras had 10% female musicians. But by 1997, they were up to 25% and today some of them are well into the 30s.

In the 1970s and 1980s, orchestras began using blind auditions. Candidates are situated on a stage behind a screen to play for a jury that cannot see them. In some orchestras, blind auditions are used just for the preliminary selection while others use it all the way to the end, until a hiring decision is made.

Even when the screen is only used for the preliminary round, it has a powerful impact; researchers have determined that this step alone makes it 50% more likely that a woman will advance to the finals. And, indeed, the screen has also been demonstrated to be the source of a surge in the number of women being offered positions.

So there is another field like CS where this approach actually helped a significant amount.

http://curt-rice.com/2013/10/01/what-the-worlds-best-orchest...


The supply of women with related degrees from uni is too low. If only 20% of the candidates qualified on paper are women, then a perfectly blind hiring process would result in 20% women. Expecting something else implies some fundamental misunderstanding of math.


But something is driving women out of CS programs (unless you buy the argument that women just aren't interested in programming).

Steps that make the profession as a whole less biased against women, might also help to encourage more women to major in CS.


Why do you find that 'argument' hard to buy? I find it trivially true from observation and all empirical data I can find (if you remove the absolute)


Because without data, it's a circular argument.

"Women aren't interested in programming, so none of them go into programming professionally.

Why don't women go into programming professionally? Because they aren't interested."

Separate out whether women are interested from whether women are being forced out for other reasons (harassment, gender imbalance in the field, etc).


They can't be forced out if they didn't start in the first place (because of lack of interest). When I was at University, there were way more guys studying engineering and CS. Were they forced out before they started?


There is literally nothing circular about that. You're just saying the same thing twice.


Yes, there is. Allow me to rephrase it using Boolean logic to elucidate:

IF women aren't interested in programming, THEN none of them go into programming professionally.

IF women don't go into programming professionally, THEN they aren't interested."

I have 2 better questions to ask:

1) If fewer women than "the ideal" are interested in STEM, then why is that?

2) Why do we think a perfect 50/50 ratio across all fields is "the ideal," when "nature" might not deem it so? (note: this is NOT an "argument to nature")


Why are there less male elementary school teachers? Are they being forced out due to gender prejudice or are they not interested?


> Are they being forced out due to gender prejudice or are they not interested?

Positive (for males) gender prejudice in a wide array of higher-status, better-compensated jobs drawing men disproportionately elsewhere. Which is kind of a mix of both of your options.


On the other hand, saying a gender imbalance in the field is causing a gensee imbalance in the field....

Come on.


> Why do you find that 'argument' hard to buy?

I find it insufficient to answer the question of whether sexism is the problem. Computer programming used to have a lot more women -- why did that change? If it was changing interest, what is the source of the gender imbalance in the change in interest? Certainly, the perception that there was gender bias in the field arose while the rate at which women were participating was dropping from its high -- was gender bias in the field part of the cause of disinterest?


Oh, that's fairly easy to answer: the field changed to be more like other engineering fields, and lo-and-behold, the percentage of women in the field gradually approached what it had always been in engineering.

The graph[1] that is usually shown is highly misleading, because it compares CS with "physical sciences", and law, but does not include engineering. If you add engineering, it all makes a bit more sense[2].

Also, you seem to be approaching this from the angle of "can we prove that it isn't sexism" (which is the common approach). It seems that the correct approach is for those who claim that it is sexism to make the case, which after looking at the evidence I think they absolutely have not. (I used to think it was, but that was because I bought the narrative without looking at the evidence).

And the narrative is strong. For example, the link to the percentage of women decreasing with the discipline becoming more engineering like is known. However, the explanation then shifts to "the men in CS got together and decided to make the discipline more engineering-like expressly in order to keep the women out". Seriously??

[1] https://media.npr.org/assets/img/2014/10/21/womencoding_wide...

[2] https://media.licdn.com/mpr/mpr/p/7/005/06b/02d/33fe648.jpg


> the field changed to be more like other engineering fields

How so? I feel exactly opposite is true. I'm successful developer with over 10 years of commercial exp with masters degree from technical university and in wildest dreams I wouldn't call myself engineer without laughing even though I have it written among other things on my diploma. I feel more like artist, craftsman or repirman.


>Computer programming used to have a lot more women

I have yet to see a valid study showing this. Instead, I've seen numerous studies that have not mentioned that a 'computer programmer' included employees whose job consisted of transferring punch cards and tapes. Obviously these jobs are no longer required.

The only statistics that show even a tiny bit of proof for your argument come from Soviet based nations that did have a higher percent of women in actual programming positions


That's backwards. We got rid of the gender bias.

Very long ago, computer programming was seen as being like typing and/or secretarial work. It was seen as being unmanly. Compare with nursing and kindergarten teaching.

A woman might get assigned to invent COBOL instead of being in charge of an aircraft carrier.

Well, we got rid of the sexism. Happy now? Hmmm, guess not.


Your comment amused me a bit, so I wanted to write something in response. I work in metal fabrication, our workshop specialises in structural steel, so we are part of the general construction industry. We call ourselves 'boilermakers', though I've never worked on a boiler.

Anyway, in the 17 years I've been doing this on and off, I have met precisely 1 female boilermaker. And nobody cares.

What I don't follow is why is gender imbalance in other industries seen as a problem but we never see any serious attempt to get more women in to the construction industry.

Why does anyone care there are differences in numbers of men and women in various industries? Things change over time, fashions change. I think approaching these issues from the "we must correct this imbalance" is incorrect reasoning.

And, lastly, if we do manage to level the playing field, what will gender identity become?

A quote form the film Trainspotting: One thousand years from now, there will be no guys and no girls, just wankers.

I'm willing to posit that strong gender roll identity is crucial for a healthy and resilient culture.


There aren't a lot of females in waste management either (i.e., garbage men). I've heard it can be a pretty well-paying job too. No one says that we need more women waste management workers, truck drivers, or coal miners.


I think it's mostly because if half of 'boiler makers' would start doing something else not many would care, but if half of the programmers would go work in nail saloons instead we'd be in much trouble.

Software is eating the world, there's so much work to do, and a thought that anyone that could be a programmer isn't for some silly reason, is very unpleasent.


Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper, and App Camp for Girls refute your bs.


Grace Hopper might have rather been in charge of an aircraft carrier. Ada Lovelace might also have wanted to do other things.

Opportunities were limited for women. Don't assume that computing was the first choice career for those women.


> Grace Hopper might have rather been in charge of an aircraft carrier. [...] Opportunities were limited for women.

Even had the Navy not had gender-restricted roles, the only reason Dr. Hopper got an exemption from physical requirements she did not meet was her strong background in math and physics that qualified her to fill the need for the computation project.

Gender bias aside, she would never have gotten to command an aircraft carrier.


If most are like mine was, they are awful.

High stakes testing, unrealistic workloads, research professors who don't grok humans and incredibly cliquey ethnic divisions exaggerated by lots of foreign students.


It's hard to break through a crowd where any feature is a near monopoly... when _all_ your colleagues are men then it's hard for a woman to feel completely comfortable and like they belong. Some will, many won't -- you can't definitively negate feeling of being an 'other.'


At Harvey Mudd College 54% of CS graduates were women. https://www.hmc.edu/about-hmc/2016/05/17/class-2016-mileston...


20% is (coincidentally) the percentage of CS degrees awarded to women. They get only 10% of entry-level software jobs.

We don't get to blame supply until those numbers match.


I have some hiring power, and I went to uni as well, and both in a liberal state (NY). We see hundreds of applications. I can tell you that ~30% percent of my colleagues at uni were female. Exactly 0% of our applicants are female. I have no idea where these women are, but were not turning them down!


It sounds like you might have a problem at the sourcing stage. How do you get leads on candidates?


Ads on urinal cakes.


If you actually read the article, it seems to indicate that the problem is that women do not handle "attrition events" (such as a job rejection) very well. In fact, they handle it many times worse than men do, apparently.

This alone might account for the difference in percentages there, assuming there's some hidden "adversity event" that caused the attrition.

Perhaps (speculating here), men handle rejection from jobs better because they handle rejection from the opposite sex better (due to years of honed experience) :O

It sounds sexist to say "grow a pair," but perhaps we need to teach women more confidence somehow.


Actually it may have something to do with biological differences in social stress response on top of conditioning.

I personally find this fascinating--a biological basis carries with it a possibility of pharmacological treatment for those wanting it, and perhaps the design and validation of nonpharmacological approaches for those who don't or third parties seeking to reduce bias.

IIRC, there are a couple experiments in rat models along the lines of: put a male or a female rat in the same cage as an aggressive, territorial rat. The male rats are back to normal within hours-days. The female rats take days-weeks. IIRC some sort of neuronal transcription factor or something is thought involved.

Can track down a review if anyone's interested.


What if, and this is just based on a study on the teacher profession, men do not handle "attrition events" well either if they are going for a job that is female dominated.

When a person decide to take up a job that is not typical for their gender and goes against ones gender identity, that decision might not bring the same confidence that someone taking a job where 80% of the people around are of the same gender as the person. That lower confidence get then translated into higher drop rates.


I'd be interested in seeing this study.

That is nowhere near what I encountered in my large engineering school. CS101 was probably 33% women, but after a month, we were down to about 15%. By the 4th year, maybe 10% at best.

From what I can see based on many of the millenials I now interview, there is a huge difference in degrees based on school, much more than before. It seems like many low tier schools are pumping out degrees in any field as long as they've paid the inflated tuition. I don't consider a CS degree that didn't require a few semesters of calculus, algorithms, learning C and assembly to be valid. But it appears this is now common for these 'CS lite' degrees.


Yes, you're absolutely right. But that's also a terrible excuse: "Oh, the problem is before the candidates reach me, so there's no need for me to do anything to fix the problem myself." Everyone at all stages -- from folks who bully nerds in primary school, to toymakers who promote scientific fields as 'for boys', to college admissions offices, to CS professors, to CS classmates, to hiring processes -- can work together to remove bias everywhere. Just because you think the problem is someone else's fault doesn't mean you can't help solve it.


There is nothing you can do that isn't blatant sexism if you want your ratio of female employees to be higher than the candidate pool ratio.


This is demonstrably not true. Suppose I have a pool of 100 candidates, 20% of whom are female. Suppose further that 10% of the pool (8 men, 2 women) meets my "bar", and are therefore people that I want to have in my company. But finally suppose that I only have budget for 2 people, not 10.

By your logic, I should hire 2 men, because dividing that candidate pool in half leaves the women at "less than half of a person". Equivalently, I should leave it up to a coin flip, which has an expected value of E(two men).

But why? Since we have already established that the candidates are in all other respects equal, why shouldn't I choose the candidates that I think will do my company the most good: bring in the most diverse perspectives, life experiences, and skill sets?

Of course it is a simplified example. And maybe you think that expressing an interest in diversity in this fashion is "reverse sexism". But I think it is a clear win for my company, a clear win for women everywhere, and I don't care if it isn't a clear win for men -- we win often enough anyway.


> Since we have already established that the candidates are in all other respects equal

No we haven't. We've established that the candidates are all people you want to hire. That doesn't mean you have no preference between them. It would be really weird if ten candidates all seemed equally competent.

And if you can rank them, ~2% of the time there'll be two women at the top, ~36% of the time there'll be a man and a woman, and the rest of the time there'll be two men.


I agree, mostly. I do not condone lowering the bar for just one gender. But maybe it's possible to target some advertising for your opening to get a larger number of female applicants? If you're applicant pool is skewed towards male, perhaps there's something about how you advertise that biases it?


Because this is a thing I feel strongly about, I'd just like to say: As long as you have more qualified candidates than you have seats to fill, you don't have to lower the bar to increase diversity.


That's not what the people of this article found though:

> men were getting advanced to the next round 1.4 times more often than women. Interviewee technical score wasn’t faring that well either — men on the platform had an average technical score of 3 out of 4, as compared to a 2.5 out of 4 for women.


You're not the first person to think about this.


I'm pretty sure most of the points made in this thread have been made before. That doesn't mean everyone here has heard them.


It's a nice correlation, but are you sure there aren't important confounding variables?

Primarily: the youngest person auditioning for a top orchestra in 1970 was a teenager in the late 50's, when the female role model was the stay-at-home mother. A person first auditioning ten years later was a teenager in the late '60s, when the female role model was going through a revolution.


The original research accounted for the effect of the audition year. http://www.nber.org/papers/w5903.pdf


I'm always surprised by the strong underlying assumption that removing interviewer/managerial bias will result in a gender ratio of 50%. There's research to suggest that this assumption is flawed: [0]

Moreover, the idea that anatomy and physiology don't condition preferences or behaviors flies in the face of everything we know about human biology and (embodied) cognition. Let's recognize gender/feminist theory for what they are: a sociological theories, not scientific ones.

Equality, in the sense of gender or racial equality, does not mean we're all the same de naturae. It means we should be treated the same de jure.

[0] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/38061313_Men_and_Th...


20% of CS degrees are awarded to women, but they get only 10% of entry-level software jobs.

Please stop blaming the pipeline for the difference. Interested, qualified women are being pushed away from the field by bias and attrition, and that's a problem we should be trying to solve.


I'm sure there are problems with many hiring process and work environments that result in fewer women in those positions, However, where do the other 50% of CS degree-holding women end up if not in entry-level software jobs? If they have a greater tendency to go to graduate school or to take jobs that make use of their degree but don't fit the cookie-cutter definition of a software job, that's not a bad outcome.

My impression is there are a lot of programming jobs where having a terrible work/life balance is expected. I'm a man and I would avoid such jobs. Perhaps women, including those who earn CS degrees, are statistically more likely than men to feel the way I do about work/life balance. The result would be fewer women working in the field without the environment being sexist or discriminatory.


I agree. Work/life balance is absolutely part of the problem - just like maternity leave and other work environment factors. All of this leads to attrition and a chilling effect on sourcing. But we should still be solving for bias at the interviewing stage.


"pushed away" is so negative.

How about "pulled away"? Maybe it isn't politically correct to desire being a stay-at-home mom, but it happens rather often. Sometimes this is an unexpected turn of events, with changing life priorities. Sometimes it is the goal right from the start.

I met a woman in college who literally said she was getting her MRS degree. That is, she went to college to meet a suitable husband and become a "Mrs.", as in "Mrs. Doe". It happens. This is real.

It's not a problem to be solved unless you have a negative attitude toward homemakers. People choose their own path in life. This might not meet your standard, but your standard might not maximize life satisfaction for everybody.


> I met a woman in college who literally said she was getting her MRS degree.

Was she taking computer science?

If we're going to talk anecdotes here, every computer science major I've ever met has done it either for the sunny career prospects or because they were genuinely interested in the subject matter - and usually both. I do not buy your premise that students are graduating from computer science in order to not have a career in it.


I can't go back and ask that woman, but my wife nearly did the same and was in fact in computer science.

My wife: was capable in computer science, got through 3 years of a degree before kids interfered, was mildly interested in career prospects but very relieved to realize that I could fully support her, was mildly interested in the subject matter

Had my wife taken another year to become pregnant, she'd have graduated. That would put her in your statistic as a woman who graduated but didn't end up in the field. As it is, she's in the "women who drop out of computer science" group, usually assumed to have been pushed out somehow.

Actually graduating and having a career was kind of a "Plan B" thing, although my wife wasn't quite as deliberate as that other woman.

I met another woman who dropped the career about a year after graduating in computer science from a near-top school. She went on leave to have a baby, then simply stayed home. She didn't need the money, so why be away from the adorable little baby?

These women don't have the values that you evidently have. They aren't being pushed out. They are being pulled away by things that they value more. They don't have to comply with your value system.


You're the one introducing a 50% number, I haven't seen anyone make that assertion.

There are structural problems that make the available talent pool unequal per-capita anyway (women being socially pressured out of software engineering, resulting in a lack of role models, etc. I'm sure there are plenty of other factors).

Part of changing the dynamic will take decades because _currently_ a smaller percentage of all women in the world are software engineers vs men. No one wants to hire incompetent women engineers just to fulfill a quota and all the people I've talked to about this seem to recognize and understand it. Mostly what seems to piss people off (and rightly so) is when people try to claim there isn't any bias, there isn't any problem, and everything is just fine as-is.

If all else were equal, what total percentage of women would want to be software engineers and would be good at it? I have no idea, but it does seem clear that we are far away from that number. As long as we can all agree that the structural problems should be addressed then I think we also understand that it isn't going to be 50/50 overnight and it might never be 50/50. But 90/10 is clearly unbalanced in a way that is not correlated with women's aptitude or ability to write software.

I think we should be a welcoming community and make reasonable efforts to make anyone who wants to join it feel comfortable. I don't understand the constant desire to rules-lawyer or dismiss such a simple and straightforward idea: don't be an asshole, be considerate of others, encourage those who are interested to learn.

In the end I have to think it is partially driven by fear and self-doubt, like maybe if we let black people or more women into the club it will all be over. Global demand for software engineering talent outstrips the supply and software is eating the world. My talents have never been in higher demand. My life is not diminished by nursing mother facilities, unisex bathrooms, coding events in black neighborhoods, attempts to reduce bias in interviews, et al.


> You're the one introducing a 50% number, I haven't seen anyone make that assertion.

"Gender gap" is a fancy way of saying "not 50%". More to the point, assumptions are often unstated, as I'm sure you know.

I agree with you insofar as the mechanisms you point out are likely contributers to this so-called gap. Rather, I'm highlighting that -- unpopular though this notion may be in certain circles -- part of this effect is likely to be driven by bottom-up biological factors.

How big is this part? I haven't got a clue.

I'm copying my "tl;dr" from the above comment because it applies here as well: if we're going to have an honest debate, we have to entertain the notion that at least part of the gender gap is the result of "nature", rather than "nurture".


In practice, companies that are attempting to address the "gender gap" seriously are well aware of what the labor market looks like. Realistic goals are set to attempt to have the company's workers mirror the market - and not just in the broad "software engineer" category, but for skill levels within the org. "Bottom-up biological factors" aren't germane to the process.

Addressing disparity in the pipeline is a separate issue.


> "Gender gap" is a fancy way of saying "not 50%".

No. Gender gap is underrepresentation relative to the qualified labor market. Right now the gender ratio in entry-level software engineering jobs does not represent the segment that would be interested in and qualified for them (CS grads).

The 10% difference between grads and junior developers is on us to fix.


You keep bringing this point up in the comments and you've been answered but I'm curious about something.

You say elsewhere that while 20 percent (the actual number is around 18) of CS grads are women, only 10 percent of junior devs are in fact female. Others have mentioned that maybe the women went on to graduate school or are working some CS related job that doesn't fit the definition of "junior dev".

The latter points seem reasonable to me but you keep bringing it up though so here's my question, where do you think 50 percent of female grads are ending up? The unemployment line? That would seem like a very large number of people, such a large number that it would have been recorded somewhere. Do you have any actual statistical data beyond the raw numbers you keep bringing up?


Unemployment rates are double for women (vs. men) in computer/mathematical occupations as of last month, so "the unemployment line" is not a completely wild guess. [1]

But that's not the point. A supply of women with both the qualifications and the interest exists. We ought to be seeing a representative sample of that supply, and we should do what we can to avert bias within our organizations.

[1] http://www.bls.gov/web/empsit/cpseea30.htm


Statistics for "Computer and mathematical occupations" covers such a wide variety of occupations as to be meaningless in the context of your own claims about "junior dev" positions. But for the sake of argument..

According to your source, the unemployment rate for women in Computer and mathematical occupations in May was 2.6 vs 1.8 percent for men. That's actually a 31 percent higher amount. Still high but not 50 as you claimed in your previous post. It also says the rate for May of 2015 was exactly the same for both genders at 1.5 percent. This issue has gotten a lot of press in the last 12 months so it is very unlikely that suddenly the numbers are disparate as a result of discrimination after they were the same a year ago.

And in other sectors on your chart like in Management, professional, and related occupations, the unemployment figures are the opposite. Women unemployment went from higher to lower than the men's rate. I mean, in Architecture and engineering occupations, the unemployment rate of men is literally 100 percent higher than women at 2.2 vs 1.1 percent. It just looks like natural statistical gyrations of numbers and not conclusive or even particularly indicative of anything.

And the point is, if you are saying that huge numbers of women are graduating with these degrees and then being shut out of the job market, you can't just stop there, you have to back that up. Even ignoring the fact that just because someone has a degree doesn't mean they're qualified, quoting the percent of females in entry level dev jobs doesn't say anything about where the other women went or what they are doing. I'm pointing out that if they're out there looking for these jobs then the unemployment statistics should reflect that and via your source, they don't. Other posters have suggested graduate school and other jobs not described as entry level dev and so far that explanation seems more plausible. Ask yourself, what are CS graduates qualified to do besides be junior devs and you may be surprised with how many answers there are.

I think where your confusion lies is in order for there to be discrimination, there has to actually be discrimination. Point out the discrimination, who's doing it, which companies, what policy allows this, and we can all rally and do something about it. But just throwing out cherry picked employment numbers and claiming bias is somehow self evident which is what your argument implies isn't good enough. It actually comes across as a kind of weird p-hacking[0]. Even worse is when you introduce a credibility problem by conflating different employment sectors and inflating your numbers like you have here.

[0]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data_dredging


I was a Psych major, but ended up doing computer work. Did I contribute to a 10% discrepancy between Psych majors and Psych-related jobs?

What if some percent of those women simply went into a slightly different career?


Why are you answering nature vs nurture with (I paraphrase) "100% nature and anyone who says otherwise is an irrational charlatan"? This debate is cliched at this point.

From the study you linked to:

"As suggested by previous literature and the present study, interests stabilize at an early age. Given the essential role of family and other environmental influences in the socialization process of children and their interest development, it may be important for parents, educators, and counselors to be involved early on, when interests seem more malleable."

i.e. the study accepts the theory that environment, family and in general socialization, contribute to a child's interests. This is the exact opposite of what you claim in your comment

"It is important to note that group differences do not speak for every individual within a group,and it is not the purpose of the present study to reify the stereo-types that men and women are interested in their “traditional”areas."

The study is talking about d < 1 effect sizes. That means that there is a still a significant part of the group that is more interested in a subject than a significant part of the other group. Think of two mostly overlapping normal curves.

"it is beyond the scope of the present study to provide a detailed exploration of the environmental, social, and biological factors that have contributed to the development of these sex differences"

The study makes no claim as to the cause of these sex differences. They only point out that there is a difference and suggest "environmental, social, and biological factors" as the cause. Again, the opposite of what you claim.


>100% nature and anyone who says otherwise is an irrational charlatan

What a strange comment (you don't paraphrase; you caricature)! I'm not saying any of this! Where did you get the impression that I was?

I agree with all your points, btw. The existence of these differences doesn't enlighten us as to their causes, proximal or distal.

Rather, we have much evidence showing that anatomy and physiology influence cognition. Does this explain the gender gap completely? That's unlikely, but it's equally unlikely that the gender gap would disappear if only the "mean old white men stopped being jerks".

tl;dr: if we're going to have an honest debate, we have to entertain the notion that at least part of the gender gap is the result of "nature".


I'm sorry I caricatured your position.

I think we agree that the assumption that "removing interviewer/managerial bias will result in a gender ratio of 50%" is false. The variability of sex differences in vocational interests probably accounts for more of the gap than bias in the hiring process, i.e. "mean old white men". I can also accept that physiology influences cognition, although where we disagree is how much of a factor that is in the gender gap, or how relevant it is to any sort of policy decision.

Removing bias in the hiring process wont solve the gender gap entirely, but it will help it.

Telling girls that they can do and be whatever they want wont solve the gender gap entirely, but it will help it.

Changing the masculine and sexist culture in STEM wont completely solve the issue either.

There is basically nothing that can remove the hypothetical physiological factors contributing to gender disparity in STEM fields. So why are we even talking about it? It derails the conversation. There are things that can be done, and we should do them. Until we reach the limit of what is possible according to your hypothetical physiological explanation, why bother even bringing it up?


For some companies who believe an equal workplace should be 50% of each gender then you're right, but that doesn't make the system pointless. The idea of a "gender bias-free" hiring process isn't necessarily to make workplaces more equal or to promote diversity. The point is simply to remove a bias - to eliminate something that pushes you to hire someone who isn't the best candidate. Having a bias drives you to make an irrational decision. If a hiring manager has a strong bias in favour of believing "men are better coders" then you could miss out on some great hires. Removing that bias can only make your process better.


But implicit in that "gender bias-free" hiring is the assumption that current hiring is gender biased to the point of needing technical solutions that simply remove the human element.

If you have a manager who thinks women can't code, and you institute a blind hiring process, you're just going to put that newly-hired woman under a manager who thinks women can't code? What then?

It really feels like the end solution to this is going to be "(white) men are not allowed to be hiring managers because they can't be trusted to follow our agenda"


> you're just going to put that newly-hired woman under a manager who thinks women can't code

Yes. The problem is that the manager thinks women can't code, and the best way to solve that is to prove him wrong.


But let's say our "gender-bias free" method leads a manager to hire 7 men and 3 women. This leads the manager to draw the conclusion that "My next hire is more likely to be a male than a female". The manager wants to acquire a good candidate pool as quickly as possible, so now he changes his mental search heuristic to favor male applicants, if he can discern their gender.

Haven't we just reinforced his bias further, now cemented by hard fact (and faulty reasoning)?

edit: missed a word


if even you can tell that this is faulty reasoning then surely your hypothetical manager can as well


I am with you 100%. We keep trying to invent ways to skew the hiring towards women. Let's just stop trying to candy-coat it. You want gender ratios, so just hire based on gender ratios and deal with the fallout.

This narrative that women are somehow grossly discriminated against in tech doesn't hold water anywhere I see. Every tech company is desperate to hire more women engineers to increase their diversity quotient. The trouble is that most applicants, by a 95%-to-5% margin, are men. It only makes sense that 95% of the hires are men. If we want more women engineering talent in the office, we simply need more women applicants. Focusing on the interview stage is the wrong part of the pipeline to start at.


> You want gender ratios, so just hire based on gender ratios and deal with the fallout.

That would be illegal, at least in the US.


It also ought not be done, for its moral consequences are quite grave. While it's not an argument made above, I suspect the moral consequences of "candy-coat[ing] ... gender ratios" are equally grave, and the just solution is not to force a "fair" outcome but to instead work towards attaining a fair process. Adding artificial biases towards women does not solve a sexism problem -- at least not directly.


So I realize this is delayed to your post and likely to be buried, but this brought such a fascinating thought that I couldn't not mention it.

I'm going to assert something first; you may chose to disagree, but my statement requires this lemma: We are (as a society/science/etc) absolutely _shit_ at most things psychology. Next to "food science" it's the field I give some of the least credence to findings in unless they are so massively replicated and built in an unrealistically airtight way. The very nature of these fields, the number of convoluting variables and our inability to even observe outcomes accurately makes the process of study extremely difficult, and "p-hacking" (as another comment elsewhere referenced in a very appropriate noun choice) becomes very feasible and less detectable. (As a "data-engineer/scientist/whatever we're called these days" I see this effect daily; it's a common topic in my office that often the desire from management is not to find a result, but for us to find the result that says what they want, and that's in often FAR more measurable and empirical spaces)

From this, my core question; if it is illegal to hire based on gender ratios, what about the process of adjusting your hiring practice, adjusting which findings you chose to perscribe to, such that you achieve the end ratio you desire?

To illustrate this I'll give an absurd example to demonstrate "feasibility": Let's say I'm actively racist and don't want to hire white people. I start by putting my hiring centers around inner city low cost residences; I preferentially hire lower income candidates "as a social program", and I hire with a bias based on referrals of existing candidates. I argue that my motive is achieved through a layer of "legal" "massage-able" legitimate decisions.

So the questions I'd leave with:

First, when do these stop being "reasonable choices" in isolation and start becoming a discriminatory strategy

Second, and regardless of my above, can you see why I might find the cut and dry statement of "hiring based on a desired gender ratios is illegal" VERY hypocritical in the current environment of EXTREMELY STRONG DESIRE to hire based on gender ratio, even if it's a "rectification"? (To this topic, I'm also curious tangentially in how affirmative action fit into this framework in the past, I understand the purpose and don't want to turn this into an argument of it's merits, but it seems like a prime example where the courts pulled off making discrimination legal, so the black and white statement of "IS ILLEGAL" seems like it's been dealt with in the past)

Finally, do you see the parallels I'm trying to draw, or can you find a flaw in the correlation?


> What if it works perfectly and you still end up hiring more men than women? I think exercises like this may end up giving people answers they don't want to hear.

In fact, that will happen — still hiring more men than women — for lots of systemic reasons, but at least you'll have eliminated one vector of bias. Seems better to end up imbalanced in a more impartial way.


I'm no expert, but isn't "let's just hire only women for a while to balance out the numbers" going to violate a whole bunch of employment regulations?


Yeah, but who cares?

I'm not making a normative statement here, I'm simply stating the fact that no one will come after you if you do this. Companies and colleges say all the time that they're looking for a specific ratio of races and genders and nothing happens to them.


I think you are talking about affirmative action, not so much a specific guide to hiring process. The law states that x ratio of specific minorities have to be hired/enrolled per year as a catch up mechanism that is largely outdated in 2016.

As far as University enrollment, women have led the numbers for years so that isn't really at the heart of it. More so the subjects they choose as a major/minor being the issue.

Marketing STEM majors to minorities and women has been a priority for a short amount of time, so we will see how it pans out in the next decade.


And that also means that at some point (ideally in the very near future), we're just going to have to be OK with the idea that not all women want to be STEM majors. This necessarily and explicitly means that the ratio will never be 50/50.

We're all ok with the idea that men don't really want to be early childhood educators (Pre-k through grade 2). It's a big deal when a guy applies for those jobs, according to teachers I know. Then, of course, come the endless jokes about the pedophile trying to get a job with kids, how he is going to need a female escort when dealing with the kids, etc.



I would very much like to see an example of a major company publishing its desired specific ratios of races and genders.


Not a ratio per say, but there was this[0] recent controversy

[0]http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/03/bbc-criticised-by...


> colleges say all the time that they're looking for a specific ratio of races and genders and nothing happens to them.

This was specifically found unconstitutional in Bakke (1979)[1] and had very real consequences for UC Davis. While I don't know about the internals of any state university admission programs, I find it highly unlikely any state schools would publicly acknowledge that they seek specific racial quotas as that puts them in immediate and grave legal jeopardy.

[1] https://www.oyez.org/cases/1979/76-811


> Companies and colleges say all the time that they're looking for a specific ratio of races and genders and nothing happens to them.

That's because that's not illegal.

Hiring only X (gender/race/etc.) to achieve the ratio you want, OTOH, is among the many means to realize such targets that are illegal.


No. If you're a white male, that's bad. Anything else is diversity.

They'll come up with some bullshit like "since women aren't the majority of hiring managers, this doesn't count as discrimination" or something. Like they have with racism (where black people in America literally can't be racist).


Of course, the corollary to what you're saying is: "If you're a white male and you get hired, that's on merit, everyone else is hired for diversity reasons."


I'll just point out that white males are very well represented in Tech.


Affirmative action is not only legal, it's required in academia if a university wants federal funding. I'm not sure if minority genderbased- affirmative action is required, but minority race is definitely a requirement.


> Affirmative action is not only legal, it's required in academia if a university wants federal funding.

Yes, but what many people stereotype "affirmative action" as being, or at least including -- notably, including the upthread suggestion characterized as "let's just hire only women for a while to balance out the numbers" -- is not only not required even in that context, it is quite illegal (and would be equally illegal if, say, "blacks" replaced "women" in the description.)


If that's what you do, then yes. If you choose instead to only advertise your positions at women-focused conferences and programs, the legality changes. You haven't prevented men from applying and being accepted, you've instead changed the audience of your advertising, which will change who applies.


The thing that particularly strikes me is that as far as I understand, any specialized group will have disproportionate representation of non specialized groups from the general population. Sufficiently small samples from a larger group will not represent the larger group unless the samples are deliberately chosen for a given property. However, let's be honest: your company is not hiring the absolute, top 0.1% best programmers and totally doesn't need to (and you don't know how to find that SS tier programmer anyway), so deliberately biasing a small group towards gender/race/whatever balanced representation isn't going to hurt your competitiveness. But if the goal is to solve misogyny or other problems within a particular microculture, it's not clear to me that proportional representation will actually change that microculture instead of just ending up with weird shit like #leanin.


> What if it works perfectly and you still end up hiring more men than women?

It's possible, but also the converse is possible. Shall we find out?


> What if it works perfectly and you still end up hiring more men than women?

I think the idea is that the company can then say: but we used a gender-mask, so you can't blame us. A form of plausible deniability.


That's exactly what happened in this particular case! (Perhaps not an answer they didn't want to hear, but certainly a different answer than was expected.) And it seems like it led to an interesting new theory worth exploring, and if that pans out, potentially a great area for improvement.


If we assume it is important to hire great programmers, then I would want such a system to signal to everybody who don't fit the standard nerd type that they won't waste their time if they apply.


So you think egalitarianism is a bad idea because your hunch is that existing prejudices are totally justified, and should not be challenged -- it's a waste of time!


I think the point is that you can't assume that in some ideal world where everyone is working harmoniously and fairly, that the ratio will definitely become 50/50.

Why don't we have similar outrage over the fact that most teachers and nurses are women? Why is STEM and IT in particular receiving all this attention? There are already more women than men attending college, the consequences of that alone will push the needle beyond where it would "normally" be (whatever that is, an incalculable value currently)


We know exactly why this is a problem right now. The labor market has been hot for a few years and the top 5% of software devs living in high cost of living cities are doing well, relative to other degrees.

Any field that appears lucrative and is not represented by 50% woman becomes a target for 3rd wave feminists to pull the gender card. It's quite obvious to anyone paying attention - there is not a peep from this group when it's pointed out that there are all sorts of professions with variations in gender ratios.

Not a word is mentioned when it's stated that the most dangerous and often least desirable jobs are nearly 100% men. No issue when the vast majority of job losses in 2008 were in industries typically worked by men. And when woman have the upper hand in professions, especially those funded publicly (teachers, bureaucrats, administers, etc.), it's not something to be discussed. It looks like women under 30 now actually make more than men in the exact same jobs.

If and when the CS field is finally gutted enough by continuing offshoring, H1b body shops, and the next bubble collapse, and wages get pulled back down towards the median, it will be interesting to watch all concern for this 'issue' evaporate as the movement sets its sights on the next hot industry that doesn't have a woman majority. See the legal profession for a good example.


I wonder if you actually read the article. The author concludes that masking the gender of the voice has no effect on performance.


Hi Aline! Great read, as always.

I had a couple of thoughts while reading:

1) One of the things you mentioned was that men whose voices were modulated to sound like women tended to score better than women whose voices were modulated to sound like men. Do you think that's because the men actually performed better than women, or do you think it's possible that interviewers have a lower set of expectations for female interviewees? Or some other reason?

My hypothesis at this point is that, all other things being equal, it seems like if an interviewer expects you to do poorly because of an unconscious bias against women, and you actually do perfectly average, the interviewer might rate you higher simply because you surprised him. Does that make sense?

2) How did your partners (Mattermark, Yelp, etc) react to your findings? Will this change how they hire in the future or how they use interviewing.io?

3) Given enough time and resources, do you think it's really possible to eliminate gender bias in interviews (through techniques like this, or otherwise), or do you think the best we can do is minimize it?

4) Piggybacking off #3, do you do follow-ups with the companies after you've placed people? I'd be interested to see whether women who did well in the interview actually do well at the companies long-term -- perhaps those biases extend beyond the interviewing process, as well!

Keep up the good work! :)


> "1) One of the things you mentioned was that men whose voices were modulated to sound like women tended to score better than women whose voices were modulated to sound like men. Do you think that's because the men actually performed better than women, or do you think it's possible that interviewers have a lower set of expectations for female interviewees? Or some other reason? My hypothesis at this point is that, all other things being equal, it seems like if an interviewer expects you to do poorly because of an unconscious bias against women, and you actually do perfectly average, the interviewer might rate you higher simply because you surprised him. Does that make sense?"

I was actually expecting this even before reading the results. I believe this is because most companies try to have gender balance which tend to result in females being hired with lesser "score" than males, simply because of disparity between in pool male and female candidates available (even if you consider they perform equally well).

Also I would say this is a bias towards females not against.


I'd be more interested in quantifying productivity and seeing if there's a systematic discrepancy between productivity and gender. Either the market is accurately pricing talent or there's a delta to be exploited.

I think if a paper was released tomorrow that said "female programmers 30% undervalued as observed by double blind coding challenge" head hunters would fix that problem overnight.


This was studied among lawyers. Female lawyers were significantly less productive.

https://www.upf.edu/rs/_pdf/jornadesGenere/GenderGaps_Ferrer...


While interesting, that's a very particular definition of "productive" - male lawyers billed more hours. That doesn't necessarily correspond to more actual work done.


Depends what you mean by "productive" - if the law firm makes more money off of male lawyers, that would mean they are more "productive"


Directly, perhaps. What if the women were doing non-billable work that enabled their colleagues to bill more combined total hours than they would have had she done billable work instead?


Are you referring to something, or just asking "what if"?


I'm challenging the parent's assumption that an individual's billable hours are an accurate representation of that person's contribution to a firm's top line, let alone bottom line.


Accurately and consistently measuring performance of professionals has been all but impossible for the better part of the last century.

I don't know why we keep trying. This is what peer reviews are for.


If I were to start a company today, I'd definitely be tempted to only hire women, and pay my entire workforce 80 cents on the dollar, instead of 70 cents on the dollar.

I couldn't be sued for pay discrimination if ALL of my underpaid engineers are women, since there is no benchmark for a lawsuit to compare the discrimination too!

I jest, but it really does surprise me that more companies aren't trying to aggressively poach underpaid women from other companies.


If I were to start a company today, I'd definitely be tempted to only hire women, and pay my entire workforce 80 cents on the dollar, instead of 70 cents on the dollar.

Except that correcting for experience, the pay gap shrinks to about 94 cents on the dollar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=it0EYBBl5LI

I'm with John Green here: Much of the strong negative feeling around the gender pay gap comes from women as a whole feeling "squeezed" because they still do an out-sized amount of the unpaid work in our society. This also contributes to the absolute numbers pay gap, because women need to ask for more flexibility to be able to accomplish that unpaid work.

I wish discussions around that issue were more nuanced and fact based. The answer is more complicated than the simplistic notion that one gender is being crappy to the other, in either direction.


What is the outsized unpaid work? Any studies and do the studies account for different cohorts by age range?


We already know there is a disparity in the amount of housekeeping between men and women, even in couples where both men and women are working.


Housekeeping tends to be something only the woman cares about, though. Do I deserve sympathy for all the unpaid work I put in managing our fantasy football team?


I don't think that's true in the general case, maybe in your experience. Someone needs to cook, clean, do laundry, do dishes, take care of babies, etc, and this tends to fall more heavily on women (don't have studies offhand, but this has been researched).

Not to mention that taking care of babies, in some senses, has to be done by women, as men can't breastfeed. (I'm of course only talking about breastfeeding, but it is a significant amount of work that only a woman can do, unless you prefer to feed your baby from bottles, but this has been proven to be less healthy and therefore less preferred for the baby).


I would be willing to bet that men do more of the DIY and fixing things type stuff in most couples.


I keep on encountering social situations where men are relaxing/socializing and women are running around preparing food. I'm not so sure the gender roles automatically come with an equitable distribution of work, now that technology has eliminated much of the need for the heavier forms of manual labor.

Also, in terms of fixing things, that's supposed to be something you do once, and it stays fixed. Much of traditional "women's work" is recurring.


This is deceptive because it's an opinion piece on Youtube.

The BLS study that controlled for occupation, industry, part-time vs. full-time, education levels, and other factors found that there is still a gender pay wage gap of 94 cents to the dollar [1].

It's not-fact-based to keep touting the 77% number, but it's just as much not-fact-based to claim there isn't a gender wage gap because women feel "squeezed".

[1] https://www.shrm.org/Advocacy/Issues/CivilRights/Documents/G...


This is deceptive because it's an opinion piece on Youtube.

The BLS study that controlled for occupation, industry, part-time vs. full-time, education levels, and other factors found that there is still a gender pay wage gap of 94 cents to the dollar [1].

It's not-fact-based to keep touting the 77% number, but it's just as much not-fact-based to claim there isn't a gender wage gap because women feel "squeezed".

Wow. Congrats on an incredible spin job! I'm saying there is a gender disparity, and that this is apparent in the sentiments of women! (Feeling "squeezed") Yet somehow you are spinning it as if I'm saying the opposite! I also assert that there is still a gender pay wage gap of 94 cents to the dollar -- right there in black and white in my gp comment. Are you somehow suggesting you are disagreeing with me by restating it in your comment?

It's not-fact-based to keep touting the 77% number, but it's just as much not-fact-based to claim there isn't a gender wage gap because women feel "squeezed".

Please re-read my comment. I am asserting that a) 70% or 80% is not factual. b) The factual number is more like 94%. c) The issue extends beyond that 94% number, involving the actual demands on women's time through societal expectations around essential but unpaid work done by women -- Women are effectively working more for less renumeration, but the issue is more nuanced than just one number can relate.


But he brought that up in the video with the "unexplained pay gap" that still remains when you control for known discrepancy causing variables.

I don't think people are being deceptive arguing for the non-existence of a gender pay gap since controlling for reasonable variables wiped away 80% of the discrepancy. There's no strong explanation for the remaining 20% so it's really just an argument over whether or not the speaker believes that remaining pay gap is the result of hiring or wage discrimination.


I don't think people are being deceptive arguing for the non-existence of a gender pay gap since controlling for reasonable variables wiped away 80% of the discrepancy.

I would say that the numbers very strongly show there is a 6% pay gap. If we assume the job market is efficient, then either there is some bias against women or women slightly under-perform men or women are worse at negotiating salaries or they are receiving some renumeration in the form of greater flexibility.

There's no strong explanation for the remaining 20%

Yet. I don't find it intellectually satisfying to say something doesn't exist just because we don't have a theory that covers it well. The disparity is smaller, but it does exist. I also observe how hectic the schedules of professional women with children appear to be. I'm not sure we completely understand what's going on there, but I don't think the sentiments of women around this issue are entirely disconnected from objective reality. From what I can see, women are "squeezed" in terms of the resource of time.


I know that's what is being passed around (by Hillary Clinton for instance), that there is this huge bias against woman and that they earn 70% of what men do.

But it doesn't work like that, woman doing the same job with the same experience as men have a pay gap difference as low as 1.6%.

So, good luck finding someone willing to work for 20% less than what the industry is paying.


It's because we all know the 70c number is a lie when you actually compare experience, education, job role, and more stuff like that. I mean, don't try to bring it up with an SJW, but we all know the flaws of the study. the 70/77c number only compares all men to all women -- this includes part-time workers, moms who work easier jobs for more time flexibility (with accompanying pay decrease/stagnation), etc. Given the societal norm of women staying at home with kids, and being the ones to sacrifice for family life, this shouldn't be surprising.

If we want to fix that number, we need to give Dads more leeway, more flexibility, and importantly, no gruff, about taking care of their families. This will likely result in a net productivity drop of men as a whole across all industries. But it'll probably fix the perceived pay gap.

If women were universally paid 20-30% less than men for the exact same job, and possess exactly the same qualifications, quality of work, time put in, education, experience, etc., there would literally be swaths of companies only hiring women. It's a no-brainer decision. The fact that we don't see these companies is proof that the gap is a myth.


I think that the problem with your theory is that it relies on the idea that success on a coding challenge translates directly to value as an employee.

I have managed many developers...... some of the ones that are the best coders are NOT the most productive nor the most valuable employees. There are a lot of skills that are needed besides ability to code.


Are you sure that a single data point like this would overthrow the "Intuition" of recruiters? If I understand [1] correct, thats fairly unlikely.

[1] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1754-9434.2008....


Gender blinding in orchestral auditions (which usually involves screening the performers from sight and thus is pretty-much foolproof) has been shown to improve the percentage of women who are hired.

See, for example, 'Orchestrating Impartiality: The Impact of "Blind" Auditions on Female Musicians', Claudia Goldin, Cecilia Rouse: http://www.nber.org/papers/w5903


That's interesting, I would have thought being able to see actual finger movements to analyze mechanics is a part of the evaluation process. Could be totally off base though I suppose.


Good mechanics are a given at that level of performance. If you can play like Yo-Yo Ma with bad mechanics, more power to you, an orchestra is not going to care.


If anything, I would imagine it's like the old story about drafting athletes. Given two equally successful point guards, you draft the one with crappy technique because he has more room to grow.

If you're hiring for some mid-level orchestra, bad mechanics on a sufficiently-skilled player might be enticing. And as you say, bad mechanics among top performers are basically nonexistent.


That'd be interesting, but once you reach an orchestra you're generally beyond technical training. Players are expected to know how to play; individual training is rare and focuses on style aspects more than technical things.


True enough; I had that in mind when I said mid-level, but even at that point I imagine individual training is largely over.

Perhaps a better example would be a teacher identifying the most promising school/college-age musicians?


Why would they care how you play as long as you sound better than everyone else? You're auditioning to make music for them, not to be their student.


Why not just use text? There are many speech characteristics of gender that will never be found and masked by modulation.

Simple placements of words, parts of speech referring to the self, and other things are all much better clues to gender then voice frequency and pitch. For example, when speaking to some people who I know who are either naturally very high or low pitch, or are trans-gendered, there is a lot more information that can be contextually extracted from the content of their speech.

Really, just do text-based interviews. It will allow people to revise what they are thinking and really allow them to mask their gender.


Because your actual interview will not be text-based and if their goal is to simulate an actual interview scenario where you will be speaking out loud an expected to form coherent thoughts to questions on the fly this comes closer to doing so than text based.


And why shouldn't the actual interview be text-based? Yes, that would be a drastic change, and it would render on-site interviews pointless. But then again, it would eliminate a lot more biases, e.g.based on accent and disabilities.


Many jobs will use mostly written communication, then it doesn't matter much how you perform verbally, and a text-based interview would probably work well, or even better.

If you're expected to cooperate closely and communicate verbally with colleagues, you would want to know how the candidate handles that before hiring them.


You're basically putting up a straw-man and attacking it at this point. I never claimed the actual interviews should be verbal but the fact is they are and they are preparing you for what actual interviews are like not what ideal interviews are like.


Lol, if we switch the tech industry to text-only interviews, get ready for the full-day programming problems to come back.

You get so much from speech cues, filler words, etc. To try to completely eliminate that and still make rational hiring decisions is a fool's errand.


I'd rather be interviewed with a problem then based on how I speak.


Text doesn't solve the problems you described. I believe there could be non-content-related clues present in voice-chat that are absent in text-chat, but all of your examples were content-based clues.


Put a Gender-O-Meter on it. Use some NLP to determine the perceived gender and show the users.

Maybe highlight words that contribute to the score.


Someone off-topic but: Laws forbidding sexual and racial discrimination in hiring are a waste for everyone's time involved.

Do I really want to work alongside someone that "isn't racist" or sexist just because the law forbids it? No of course not. I'd rather work next to people that aren't racist and sexists regardless of if the law forbids it. I want to work at companies where people actually want me. How difficult is that to understand? =(

Most people want less racism/sexism. But this is not the way to do it. I'm in favor of removing this law and letting discriminators be upfront about it. So that I can knowingly avoid them without wasting hours and potentially years of my life.


I think you need to look at the history behind those laws before you can make that claim. More to the point, the penalty for discrimination makes it less likely that a company will keep someone who is prejudiced in a position where they hire people, as they're out big bucks if they get hit up with a law suit.

You are correct that this may not do anything to change a racist culture, which is why many minorities leave certain companies after being hired, but if no one affected by a toxic culture ever gets hired, there's a very small chance that it will change on its own. And there's also the case you left out where the company itself isn't that toxic, but they left a racist in charge of the hiring and didn't realize it. This helps correct for that as well by discouraging having that kind of person in charge of hiring.


You are clearly completely incorrect... Like so obviously incorrect I'm almost shocked to see such a comment here on HN.

Making discrimination illegal sends a social signal that the behavior is bad and shouldn't be tolerated. It emboldens those who are slightly anti-discrimination (but part of the majority group) to speak out against it instead of following the herd. The few cases where actual discrimination cases are prosecuted serve to warn others that there are negative consequences to bad behavior. Over time this change in attitude transfers to younger generations that see it as normal. That leads to fewer and fewer racist/biased people in positions of power.

Often institutionalized racism and sexism are enforced by a small group of busybodies... Take Cory Booker's family story where the Real Estate agent tried to enforce a "white only" town but once they bought the house (by using a white stand-in couple) all the neighbors were totally fine with a black family moving in. It took only one bad actor to effectively segregate an entire town. I have a suspicion (but no proof) that this is generally the case - a vocal minority wants to enforce the status quo but the majority would be fine with change.

We can't stop some people from discriminating, but we can declare that we as a society think that is bad behavior and that declaration alone has positive consequences.


I disagree.

I don't think by making it illegal very much is done to actually combat the way people feel. Look at Trump's success. If anything the social justice type movements over the past few decades have only increased Trump's success.

So for questionable gain, you are forcing people to waste everyone's interview time, and -- god forbid if they are hired by racist/sexist people -- waste potentially months and years of their life.

yes you can prosecute after the fact. But You will never get those years back. It would be much more preferable to have taken another job in the first place.


> You are clearly completely incorrect... Like so obviously incorrect I'm almost shocked to see such a comment here on HN.

Your first line is terrible. Remove it and your comment would be a valuable contribution to the discussion.

> Making discrimination illegal sends a social signal that the behavior is bad and shouldn't be tolerated.

Does it? It only signals that the government doesn't like said behavior.


I had a demo from Aline on this last week after seeing it on Twitter and reaching out. It was a really interesting experience - it masks the voice pitch but leaves the person's characteristic of speaking (is there a word for that?) intact.

You can also access the recordings after-the-fact to hear how you did. I think this is valuable for candidates who want to improve their interviewing skills.

FWIW, I heard it both ways - my voice as female and her voice as male. The pitch shifting was very convincing both ways.


> person's characteristic of speaking (is there a word for that?)

I think you're talking about prosody: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prosody_(linguistics)


>"Contrary to what we expected (and probably contrary to what you expected as well!), masking gender had no effect on interview performance."

I've seen quite a few studies pointing out this "confidence gap" now. They have shown women to be less confident, and it shows in their actions and speaking patterns. I still hear these speaking patterns even in the voice modulated versions-- statements sounding like questions with the upward inflection at the end. Vocal fry. Lots of "uhm, well, erm" flustered speak. So it doesn't surprise me that even with a modulated voice these women still sound unsure of themselves and thus they still didn't interview as well.

As women there are some actions we can take. It's good to be aware of these speaking patterns and try to break them--but ultimately there are so many of these patterns that show that the only real solution is to try to internalize confidence. It's easier said than done. And we can't ignore the fact that there are reasons outside of ourselves for why women are not as confident as men. It's not just an internal issue. While we can take some actions for ourselves, we should still be looking at the external reasons that caused the issue in the first place. Why are large amounts of women less confident compared to men? Let's tackle those issues, too.

When women try to be confident, it can get frowned upon. A man being assertive is a leader, a woman is bossy. Women are quicker to hit walls for just how confident they're allowed to be before they get the "bossy/bitchy" label thrown at them. The below article makes good counterpoints for the confidence-gap, and provides sources to some studies regarding women and confidence. And I've seen women call each other bitchy/bossy, too. This is something that society as a whole needs to work on.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/23/female...


> "less confident"

This is not a gendered issue. Men who act less confident are at least as disadvantaged.

> "confidence / frowned upon"

Also not primarily a gendered issue. Men who are not perceived as having the status to be confident get pounced on as hard or harder. This appears to have a lot to do with physical size. Tall men are "leaders", small men have a "napoleon complex". etc.

Considering women are statistically shorter than men, I wonder if sex-discrimination is fully explained by height-discrimination. Or maybe even over-explained.

See also:

http://www.jonathanrauch.com/jrauch_articles/2004/08/short_g...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Height_discrimination


Women in general have less confidence than men. (Study: http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/psp-pspp0000078.pd...) That is a gender-specific gap in confidence.

That doesn't mean that there are no men with less-than-average confidence out there. Nor does it mean that there are no men who have a hard time because of said lack of confidence.


> Women in general have less confidence than men.

Women are also generally slower than men (I was once faster than the fastest woman on earth, and I am not a particularly fast man). Not winning 100m races against men is not a sign of gender discrimination, it is a sign that men are faster.

So if men are better at being confident, and being confident is important, then that's just that. Women can try to learn to be more confident, but discrimination it ain't.


That's exactly what my post said. It says women can work on internalizing confidence, but we should also try to figure out why large amounts of women have less confidence compared to men, and work on that too.

Discrimination comes into play when women are frowned upon for being confident. For example when asking for a raise. A man can be seen as a go-getter. But for women, that assertiveness can be seen as bitching or whining. One of the studies from the article covers this. Here is directly linked: https://www.cfa.harvard.edu/cfawis/bowles.pdf


Should "we" also try to figure out why large amounts of women have less speed compared to men, and work on that, too?


Sorry, I went back and edited my comment but you had already posted.

The reason we need to figure out the confidence gender gap issue is because it leads to less opportunities for women. Anyone who is less confident is going to have less opportunities. But for various reasons, women tend to have a lot less confidence than men. Yes, that's something that is partially internal to each person. But the fact that large groups of women tend to be less confident than large groups of men means there are external factors for this too.

And it's hard to say, "Okay ladies, well just be more confident then" because when we do become confident, it's frowned upon. That's one of those external issues. No matter how much confidence I could build up within myself, if other people only view it as "bossy", that's an external factor.


It is just as hard, or harder, for men who are not confident to just say 'well, be more confident', so again, not a gendered issue.


But women are more frowned upon for being confident than men.

Again, see this study regarding women vs men asking for raises: https://www.cfa.harvard.edu/cfawis/bowles.pdf


Hmm...study seems a bit flawed.

For example they ask college students to imagine they are bank HR managers and whether they would hire a candidate that asked for more money. From that they conclude that a bias exists in the real world. However, all they have shown is that college students expect such a bias to exist in the real world.


You're not actually answering his question.


Do you think there is a possibility that men are in general better than women at writing software?

It seems politically incorrect to even ask such a question.


That's why the President spoke last week about how we should be raising boys to have less confidence.


I'm not sure what you're referring to.

Women can have more confidence without men having less confidence. It's not a finite resource.


"When women try to be confident, it can get frowned upon. A man being assertive is a leader, a woman is bossy. Women are quicker to hit walls for just how confident they're allowed to be before they get the "bossy/bitchy" label thrown at them."

Confidence has nothing to being 'aggressive' or 'bitchy' or even necessarily 'assertive'.

Confidence usually means a lack of fear or anxiety when dealing with tough situations, or the lack of enough hubris to stand up to the anxiety in such scenarios.


Let's say someone is confident enough to ask for a raise-- that can be seen as assertive. A man can be seen as a go-getter. But for women, that assertiveness can be seen as bitching or whining.

One of the studies from the article covers this. Here is directly linked: https://www.cfa.harvard.edu/cfawis/bowles.pdf


I simply don't agree.

I don't doubt there is a 'double standard' when it comes to how men and women are perceived in different scenarios, but 'confidence' is not going to be perceived as 'being bitchy'.

So - yes - when a woman gets vocally assertive, commanding, dominant and dismissive - she can bee seen as a 'bitch' whereas a guy might be perceived as simply 'alpha'. However I would add that many guys who act like this are also considered 'jerks' or 'a-holes' - to be frank.

But - when a woman asks for a raise - which possibly a sign of confidence - this is not going to be perceived by anyone as 'bitchy'.

A woman who, when asked to explain her algorithm, does it with delight, assurance and poise - is not going to be seen as 'bitchy'.

The issue of 'power signals' and 'alpha dominance' etc. I think is a whole separate issue from regular, day to day 'confidence' for most people.

95% of guys in the workforce are not aggressive the the point of being douche-bags or considered 'hard alphas' wherein their female counterparts might run the risk of being seen as 'bitches'.

Many men who act in an overtly dominant manner actually lack confidence. If they were comfortable in their status they wouldn't need to burn any political capital by risking being a douche.

If women are disproportionately likely to be 'less confident' than this may have a lot to do with why they are perceived such a way in leadership positions.

FYI, the women that are by far the most 'confident' in business are those that have played team sports. They are used to winning, to losing, to coming together, the ups the downs - they are not 'thrown' by the small things and not afraid. They tend to be more comfortable in their own skins, and when they assume positions of responsibility they act what most of us would describe as 'more normally'.

I think the issue of day to day 'confidence' and 'potentially being perceived as a bitch' are completely different things.

I know way too many very confident women in business who wouldn't remotely be considered bitches by anyone.


> it’s not about systemic bias against women or women being bad at computers or whatever. Rather, it’s about women being bad at dusting themselves off after failing, which, despite everything, is probably a lot easier to fix.

This conclusion (imo) should have been bolded. I disagree that getting women to "dust themselves off" is an easier fix than if there were inherent bias against women in interviewing.

My theory is that this is tied to (In the US) men being more tolerant of taking risks, which leads to being more tolerant of failure, which leads to being able to more easily "dust oneself off."

I'd imagine if you looked at women in this study who played competitive sports, they would be less likely to leave the platform.

Risk-aversion might also contribute to women being less likely to ask for a promotion, raise, or negotiate salary.

I disagree that "dusting yourself off" as being an easy fix similarly for why I think "pick yourself up by your bootstraps" is not an effective way to elevate people out of poverty. There are more cultural biases to overcome than a simple behavior change.


> My theory is that this is tied to (In the US) men being more tolerant of taking risks, which leads to being more tolerant of failure, which leads to being able to more easily "dust oneself off."

There are some pretty obvious evolutionary psychology reasons for men to take more risks. Whether evolutionary psychology is just a bunch of just-so stories or not, that's another discussion.


There are plenty of enculturation reasons too. Doesn't need to have an evolutionary or biological basis.


I don't know if this is true, but intuitively it seems that something is more likely to be ingrained in a culture if there is already a biological basis for the behavior.


I still strongly question that. For instance, it could be that our double-standard expectations of women create more cognitive dissonance - which might impact confidence or give women a sense that whichever choice they make will be judged as "wrong". Or perhaps girls are less likely to be given the benefit of the doubt when they make mistakes in childhood - teaching them to be less resilient or risk-taking - without there being any biological reason to judge them more harshly.


Failing is also how you succeed. You learn all the ways to fail, then try to avoid that. You can't fail unless you try. You won't be willing to try if you are terrified of failure.

The key thing is stop treating failure like some sort of personal fault (or to stop teaching kids or women to internalize it as a fault). It's why stuff like telling kids you're proud of how hard they worked is generally better than telling them how smart they are. Reward the work, the risk taking, even the failing. It's how you get stronger.


I want applicant-side voice modulation to mask my insecurity and non-native language skills.


Both maturity and strong communication are important for any professional position.


Both maturity and strong communication are important for any professional position.

So, shall you start firing executives at VC firms, or shall I?


Peter Thiel ... ubernostrum is coming for you


I want them to mask my weak technical skills.


I hear 10,000 hours of deliberate practice does wonders.


> Contrary to what we expected (and probably contrary to what you expected as well!), masking gender had no effect on interview performance

The main issue with gender and hiring is unconscious bias on the interviewer's end, which voice modulation does make sense as a tool to avoid bias. Per the grading criteria, they are judging on skill, problem solving, and communication. I'm not sure how voice modulation would affect the interviewee in those three criteria, which makes the results of the experiment not surprising.


The interviewer is the one grading the interviewee.


Right, which highlights another problem: interview.io's interviewers are presumably trained to be more objective and stringent on the criteria. This may introduce a selection bias.

Untrained interviewers, like the ones at startups randomly pulled into interviews and also hiring for culture fit, may have a bias that is more conscious.


>interview.io's interviewers are presumably trained to be more objective and stringent on the criteria.

The common thought is that bias is an unconscious and unavoidable thing, hence the voice masking. If that's truly the case, all the training in the world doesn't help.


The result does not surprise me at all. I realize this was not the kind of study that would pass rigorous review. I am surprised the author thinks this is a surprising result. The kind of people who do technical interviews have been taught since childhood that the system is biased against women and that they need to look out for this bias. If anything I would think the occasional super tech woman would be enough of a surprise that the average interviewer would have an unconscious bias in favor of her


Honestly the modulated voice sounds like a gay man, or a transgender, or someone who is physically male but is trying hard to speak like a female. It's probably not the pitch itself but the manner of speaking.


"...it appeared that men who were modulated to sound like women did a bit better than unmodulated men and that women who were modulated to sound like men did a bit worse than unmodulated women..."

The author admits it's not statistically significant, but nonetheless it somewhat makes sense, if you take human nature into account.

If there's any bias in the technology field, it's probably that males are assumed "smarter", but women are still liked and desired.

So, if a female is not answering questions as sharply, but is masked as a male, the bias is to deduct extra points. If a male is answering Q's while masked as a female, the interviewer is pleased and awards extra points.

Just my theory, but it seems to fit. Again, though... a very small sampling.


So I don't think that hiding factors that (we think might) influence biased people is the right way to address bias.

Let's say a woman uses this voice modulator in an interview and gets a job that she wouldn't have otherwise. Now she's going to work in the same shitty, sexist environment that would have denied her the job had they known she was a woman. What problem have we actually solved here?

I think that the problem isn't so much that women can't get jobs in tech as that they don't want to work in an industry that is (correctly or not) perceived as being a sexist sausagefest.

We have to change attitudes and culture to address bias, not simply put on blindfolds.


Can you pick your own filter?

Would go for Laurie Anderson's Voice of Authority anytime. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YajQNIAY78k&feature=youtu.be...

Used to great extent here: The Cultural Ambassador - Live https://open.spotify.com/track/3uM0L8r6lJGaU54v9RjwJK


I didn't realize it had a name. How wonderful.


Note to self: Write screen play about Equilibrium-esque future were everybody wears burkas with built-in voice decoders.


It would be great if the author posted the raw numbers, so we could check the statistical analysis for ourselves. I'm concerned by the low number of females in the sample - was it high enough for the study to have significant statistical power?


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