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> It is no less sexist to form a women's only club, but nobody sees fit to criticize it.

It is not -ist if a disadvantaged group does something to counteract its disadvantage without considering the privileged group. If women are disadvantaged, it is reasonable to do something to fix their disadvantage without having to interject "but what about men!?"

So, for example, Ubuntu/Debian/Arch Women groups are not sexist and we don't need an Ubuntu/Debian/Arch Men group because... well, because that's just what normal Ubuntu/Debian/Arch is, mostly men.

The situation for men and women in tech is not symmetrical, so the approaches to handle the problems need not be symmetrical either.




The Black Panther Party are often regarded as a -ist group, and their goal was to counteract an disadvantage in society. The methods used however had a lot to be criticized, and I would hope that society could learn by such movement and see what approaches work and which didn't. Segregation in the name of diversity has historically a bad reputation, so I would consider criticism regarding "women only" groups to carry enough history to be worth addressing.


>If women are disadvantaged

Except they're not. In fact, in tech, they're advantaged. Female names on resumes get more callback than male names. This has been studied.

The reason there are fewer of them is because fewer of them are interested.


I'd like a source for that, since my understanding was the opposite.[1]

Quoting from the abstract:

"In a randomized double-blind study (n = 127), science faculty from research-intensive universities rated the application materials of a student—who was randomly assigned either a male or female name—for a laboratory manager position. Faculty participants rated the male applicant as significantly more competent and hireable than the (identical) female applicant. These participants also selected a higher starting salary and offered more career mentoring to the male applicant. ... Mediation analyses indicated that the female student was less likely to be hired because she was viewed as less competent."

[1] http://www.pnas.org/content/109/41/16474.abstract


I would argue that it's a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. It was great and necessary when women really were disadvantaged. But now that they are generally "equal", it's detrimental to them. I.e. It's entirely plausible that society is self-correcting against the unfairly-claimed bias by...being biased. One can "factually" be certain that men are not "favoured", therefore they can treat men exactly as they see it. They take their degrees, their experience, their work at face-value. However, they can not honestly do so with women because they know that there is a claimed bias against them. Therefore all work, degrees, experience, etc, of women is suspect as there is no way to know which items were "embellished" to promote the "equality" of women.


I dunno. I work for a pretty liberal company, that definitely tries to avoid -isms and what not. I've also seen the same ideas from men vs women given far more credibility when presented by a male speaker. I find it somewhat disturbing. That allied with a lot of the scientific evidence of bias (look at the IAT studies, all 12mn of them) leads me to believe that this is still a problem.


I have also seen the same ideas from some men given far more credibility when presented by other men. In fact, it happens all the time. I have seen men ignored even when presenting solid evidence, because a higher-up had made up their mind. This happens. All. The. Time.

I find the IAT somewhat ridiculous. For example, it asked whether I associate black with "sports". Well, I do, but there is nothing "implicit" or "biased" about it. It is my lived experience as a high-school sprinter.

In addition, stereotype accuracy is one of the largest and most replicable effects in all of social psychology. It's not "wrong". What would be wrong is not adjusting for the individual once you get to know them, but AFAIK that same research also shows that most people drop the stereotypes quickly once they actually get to know an individual.

And yes, there are people who don't. In other news, stupid people exist and earth still round.


  But now that they are generally "equal", it's detrimental 
  to them. I.e. It's entirely plausible that society is self-
  correcting against the unfairly-claimed bias by...being 
  biased
To say women and men are generally "equal" right now is failing to recognize ways they continue to struggle and the pervasive ways sexism continues to affect women. There's a lot of unconscious bias in society + strong evidence of it. And I'd find it dubious to claim tech is some exception.

I think "overcorrection" is a valid concern (if people begin devaluing women's opinions thinking they're diversity hires or somehow hired at a lower bar), but I for one haven't observed us being there yet. There's still this yawning divide between being a man vs a woman in both society and in the smaller sphere of tech. There are many things we take for granted as men: e.g people don't assume I, a man, work in marketing despite sitting with other engineers -- these sorts of things negatively affect women who are otherwise fully / more than qualified to do their jobs.

Anecdotally, a number of women in my life who worked in tech have since left the industry citing aggressions of varying levels. This is concerning :(


Over correction does already happen (not sure if you meant you haven't yet observed over correction, or the negative fallout of it). See for example Glowforge's approach: https://glowforge.com/blog/at-glowforge-we-pay-for-diversity...

While I absolutely wish that any person felt welcome in tech regardless of race, gender or other choices like orientation, I'm not convinced this is a good approach. It's an explicit statement that they are desperate for diversity, and as a result it calls in to question the justification for those hires. How much did the candidates diversity factor in vs. their competence?

They claim that non-minorities won't be disadvantaged by them and I believe they are being honest here, but it still sends a very mixed message.


So over the four years since the study quoted was received for consideration for publication, we've totally overcorrected?


I would like to see the studies you're referencing. However, taking what you're saying as truth (a thing I am reluctant to do), I still find it a big leap to claim that the reason that there are fewer women in tech is that fewer women are interested in tech, and I would still be inclined to believe that women in tech are at a disadvantage. Proving lack of interest seems difficult, at best - for instance, is it that women are inherently just not interested, or is it that women are left to feel like being interested is not "womanly" or that they should feel ashamed for being interested? There's a lot of confounding factors, and many of them reveal potential disenfranchisement of women before they even enter the tech world.

Here's why I believe that women are disadvantaged in tech: Women in tech are part of an out-group, just by being in the minority. This necessarily puts them at a disadvantage. We know that women make less than men in most environments. Acquiring a job more easily is one thing - sure, if I assume you're telling the truth, women get more callbacks. But consider the prospects after initial employment. It is not as simple as "women are more employable in the tech industry" - it needs to also be the case that women are making equal pay, given equal opportunity to advance their careers, and are expected to do equal work.

I guess what I mean to say is that it feels like you're doing exactly what we should not do with complex social issues: oversimplifying.


> Women in tech are part of an out-group, just by being in the minority.

A key insight I also saw in a study about gender equality in the teaching profession (done by the Swedish institute for higher education). If you are a male student entering a profession with 80% women, you are naturally going to doubt and question that decision. If you pass that first wave of doubt, you get hit by a second wave as soon the first road bump hits (like a failed exam). Male students (studying to be a teacher) are much more likely to ask: "Should I be doing this?" compared to female students in the same class. Then third wave hits when the person is entering the working profession and has to work in a culture that has integrated gender identity.

The big question should be how we can fix this problem in a general way. Based on Swedish statistics, only about 10% of women and men work in a profession with equal gender distribution, and about similar number for people who work in a profession with a dominated gender of opposite gender. About 80% of the work force, both women and men, work in a profession where their gender is the dominating gender. The trend from the last 30 years has been steadily in the wrong direction, with more gender separation in the work force.


> The trend from the last 30 years has been steadily in the wrong direction, with more gender separation in the work force

Interestingly this has been a trend most strongly observed in the most free, socially egalitarian and rich countries. In other words when men are women are most free to pick a career path they naturally self segregate. In countries that are less free and have more pressure to pick economically efficient career paths (i.e. social/financial risk of career failure is severe) there is a more even spread of genders. So I'm not sure that increased gender separation can be easily characterised as the "wrong" direction...


I am inclined to agree that it's not necessarily "wrong" - but mainly because I don't believe it to be a black and white issue. Self-segregation is beneficial to the individual - they feel like part of the group, and that reduces stress. But it certainly feels like there may be societal factors that force people to make that choice, and those may be negative. Likewise, diversity seems to me like something to be sought out. If I am only surrounded by people who are very much like me, I tend to only see problems from one perspective, or have my own personal biases reinforced.

As with most things, it is not as simple as "this is wrong." There's a lot to consider, and to me, it isn't the self-segregation that we should fight, but rather, it might be the case that we should fight the root cause of the desire to self-segregate.


I think the statement that on average women are less likely to be interested in tech careers is likely reasonable. For example, take veterinary science ... this is a rigorous and demanding area of study previously dominated by men, but now dominated by women. You can Google about this yourself, but here's an article I just found [1].

So why has this happened in the veterinary sciences, but not tech? One answer could be that somehow male computer scientists turn out to be horribly sexist compared to male vets. A more plausible explanation could be that with meaningful swathes of societal gender discrimination against women removed they are perfectly capable of moving into and dominating a technical field when that chimes with some aspect of female nature. In the case of veterinary science that synergy would come from the female predilection towards caring and nurturing. I'm not saying every woman cares about things like that, but on average more do than men. The male predilection towards abstract and systematic thinking could in my opinion go a long way to explain their over-representation in the tech industry. I think those are uncontroversial statements, although sadly after 30 years of sub-standard echo chamber research in the social sciences that may not be a popularly held opinion.

The benefit of this way of looking at things is that it doesn't paint women as somehow deficient and needing of special treatment. Rather than bombarding them with negative messaging it recognises that women are perfectly capable of reaching out and taking what they want from society. A more empowering feminist message, no? And indeed neither does it paint an entire industry as systematically sexist - which sounds to me like the sort of oversimplification you take objection to? But there's big social media capital and real world rewards propagating sexism in tech memes.

> We know that women make less than men in most environments ...

> ... it needs to also be the case that women are making equal pay

I'm not sure it's fair to start these sorts of statements with "We know that..." - the most charitable depiction would be to characterise such statements as debatable. In the UK women under 30 now earn more than similarly aged men, in other words they have reversed the pay gap for that age group [2]. Again this suggests to me that until biological imperatives take hold women are more than capable of competing with men in the workplace. What happens post 30 is down to life choices. As a whole women are more likely to value family life and make life choices based on that, whereas men are more likely to devote their energies to their careers. It's not a zero sum game, there are sacrifices on both sides there. And again, that doesn't hold true for every woman and every man, but to claim entrenched massive systematic discrimination seems to me at best tenuous.

[1] https://www.avma.org/News/JAVMANews/Pages/100215g.aspx

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/money/2015/aug/29/women-in-20s-e...


> perfectly capable of moving into and dominating a technical field when that chimes with some aspect of female nature.

It doesn't have to be female nature. It could just as easily be culturally encouraged nature, or a combination of the two (a culturally encouraged aspect that was originally developed from human nature, in a self reinforcing loop).

> The male predilection towards abstract and systematic thinking could in my opinion go a long way to explain their over-representation in the tech industry. I think those are uncontroversial statements...

They should be uncontroversial. It's obvious there are actual differences between male and female minds, and plenty of studies have shown physiological differences. Unfortunately, bringing science of this nature into a discussion about equality is often immediately vilified. On the other hand, this information can be used for the basis of some fairly horrendous reasoning, so it's easy to see why people are quick to discount it.


Care to expand on what you think that horrendous reasoning could be?


For example:

Since all people aren't created equal, we shouldn't strive for equality, since some people are clearly better than others, so let's embrace that.

Since we aren't all physically or mentally equal, and some people are clearly "better" with respect to some aspect X that we/I/some group I'm part of has classified as important, those people are more worthy than others.

Etc.

There are arguments that can be logically made for a society based on those, but not if you want a society like we enjoy and promote in western civilization (not no imply a specific difference in other cultures, I'm just not qualified to comment on them). I think the world is a better place in many, many ways because we've promoted values of inclusion, equality, happiness and life. I'm happy to discuss alternate societies with different values and how what that might be like as a thought experiment (some of the best science fiction is in thus vein), but I'm not really interested in that when discussing problems our society currently faces. We should be able to agree on those core values I mentioned earlier, and taking time in each discussion to reassert and prove that those are important to everyone involved just detracts from useful conversation.

In other words, it's entirely possible that in some instances negative steroetyping based on race, sex, nationality or any number of other attributes is actually somewhat accurate, but we've decided as culture that the downsides are fairly bad, so for the most part we shouldn't do that. I agree with this.


The point when you transition from "X and Y are different" to "X is better than Y".

It commonly takes the even more pernicious form of going from "X and Y are different on average" to "any given X is better than any given Y". If you're lucky, this last statement at least has a "until proved otherwise" caveat.

Unfortunately, history is rife with this sort of reasoning. People slip into it _really_ easily. It doesn't help that there is a natural tendency to perceive your in-group as better than out-groups, so to the extent that X above ends up feeling like someone's in-group and Y ends up feeling like an out-group, the "X is better than Y" conclusion is very hard to avoid.


>In the case of veterinary science that synergy would come from the female predilection towards caring and nurturing. I'm not saying every woman cares about things like that, but on average more do than men.

I think that's BS. From what I've seen throughout my life, women are much more likely to be cold, uncaring parents than men. Notice how you always hear horror stories about mothers-in-law, but you almost never hear anything bad about fathers-in-law. I think we as a society have somehow gotten the idea that women are nurturing and caring, because we want them to be, but it's entirely wrong for the most part.


Except women frequently are a majority, not a minority. In the US, 60% of college students now are female. They just don't go into technical professions.

From what I've gathered from being around different women and talking to them, I think all this talk about being "disadvantaged" is missing the real root causes. They actually are disadvantaged, but the problem isn't the workforce, fellow college students, etc., nearly as much as it is their own upbringing, and their very own parents.

If you really want to fix the problem with women in tech, you need to take all female children away from their parents and raise them in state-run facilities where they're taught that they actually can do math and play with toys that aren't dolls and pursue careers in these fields. Somehow, I doubt this suggestion will be seriously considered....

In short, our very own culture is to blame here. That's not something that's easy to change, because now you're advocating having the state usurp the power of the parents to parent their children.


> If you really want to fix the problem with women in tech, you need to take all female children away from their parents and raise them in state-run facilities where they're taught that they actually can do math and play with toys that aren't dolls and pursue careers in these fields. Somehow, I doubt this suggestion will be seriously considered....

Been tried throughout history. It almost never works and is as horrific as it sounds humanitarian wise.

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


Yeah, I hope it was obvious that I wasn't seriously advocating that. I'm just pointing out how this stuff is embedded into our society, and it's hard to root out without taking extreme measures (which will likely have even worse unintended effects).

Also, it doesn't help that most of our kids seem to be raised by people who are either uneducated and poor (and thus don't pass on to girls the idea that they can get an education too and be good at math), or by people who are conservative and/or religious (and who actively discourage girls from doing well in math and science because of their traditional sexist values). The people who do have liberal values about this stuff aren't having kids (or not very many), so we just have this almost religious belief that our liberal values will somehow pass to these kids through societal conditioning (which they do to a certain extent thanks to the media and internet).


I've seen more people than I thought possible advocating against democracy, for coups, for segregation, and other crazy things I thought humanity had moved passed. I no longer know what's serious and what isn't anymore.


While I agree with the premise that our culture is (at least partially) to blame, I want to clarify something about my post. When I use the word minority, I do not mean "there are fewer women. Rather, I mean it in the way that the census bureau would mean it: women are underrepresented in our society. There are fewer women in politics, and positions of power, than there are men. Women may outnumber us, but if they are not in positions of influence, where their needs and concerns are being represented, they still qualify as a minority. Minority is not exactly the best word to use, because it conjures that image of a small group standing up to a big group, but it is the common parlance term for the idea of a group that is underrepresented in our society, unfortunately.


Fewer women are interested because they don't want to work, go to school, and socialize in sexist environments. While I'm sure that not all "tech environments" are sexist, enough of them are to convince women not to pursue careers in this field.

That's a disadvantage, especially because tech careers are luxury careers these days.


I spent a lot of my teenage years hunched over a Commodore 64 Programmer's Reference Guide. The "environment" was me and a computer that didn't care about my sex. Certainly nobody encouraged me, least of all my friends and family. Where were the teenage girls who shared my obsession? For that matter, where are the women who hack for fun and ignore the shit the industry is up to?


A notable conversation with my mother: Why don't you call your female friends more? maybe sit & talk on the phone with them like you're supposed to? we're a little worried that you're a girl who just wants to read and play with computers.

This concern didn't last too long & I got plenty of eventual encouragement on the STEM side, but my mom was worried I was abnormal and would never have a happy, successful female life because I was playing with computers instead of people. Women are supposed to socialize and be caring and nurturing.

So where were the girls like you? Hiding from their parents.


> Where were the teenage girls who shared my obsession?

We were around. I spent my teenage years hunched over computers in my garage too (TRS-80 and IBM XT for me). As it happens, I didn't get into the BBS scene -- my parents wouldn't have looked kindly on tying up the phone -- and knowing how girls get treated in chatrooms, it's a good thing for my career that I didn't.


I want you to help me understand something.

Why do you feel the need to rationalize away the fact that getting involved in tech is something that was easier for you because you're a dude? It seems like there's this sense in which people like you believe that by admitting to being privileged will somehow diminish your accomplishments. I've got news for ya: it won't. You seem to feel as though there's a zero sum game, where raising the accessibility of what we've achieved to people who aren't like us will somehow harm you. Again, it won't. Where does this fear come from? Why not love?

I too spent a lot of time learning to code alone with my Macintosh Classic. However, nobody ever told me this was something boys didn't do. I had a bunch of (male) nerd friends who thought it was pretty cool. Rather importantly I didn't have a bunch of ugly, creepy girls slobbering over "that cuyuute nerd boy". When I took a (worthless) programming class in high school, everyone in the room was the same gender as me. When I took CS classes in college, almost everyone in the room was the same gender as me. It was a perfectly normal thing for a dude like me to be into. In the workplace, nobody remarks on my gender. I'm not a "diversity hire". I don't have anything to prove.

But my reaction to realizing this is that I fucking love my career, I love hacking, and I want to share what I love with everyone, to make it as easily available as it was to me. Why would anyone not want this?


In part I'm pointing out a problem with the frequent claim "girls are equally interested until school and work deters them", because they had years beforehand to exhibit the obsession.

In part I don't think we should encourage anyone to write software because it's damn near impossible to do well. The industry's salaries are already luring in entirely too many sloppy blub programmers who don't care about or even understand quality work. I would much prefer to only work with the minority who have always known this is what they have to do and could never have been deterred. Even if the industry were completely inhospitable for some reason, I would still be writing code as a hobby, and I see very little use for anyone who does not.


My issue with this is simply: what kind of profession is this if you have to decide you want to "join up" as a teenager or you're shut out for the rest of your adult life? I was pretty obsessed in my youth, and I didn't have nearly the toolset available to kids today, but we need to move past this teenage hacker stereotype if we want to attract more attention from serious, well-balanced adults on career day.


It's the kind that's nearly impossible to do well, even for the right kind of freak. Software engineering needs a hell of a lot of systematizing and simplification before it's well enough understood that well-balanced adults can begin to accomplish something useful after simply studying it. We're still in the bloodletting-and-leeches phase of the profession.


> Fewer women are interested because they don't want to work, go to school, and socialize in sexist environments

This is preposterous. The field of law was exclusively male not long ago, and is around parity now. Same with medicine. You think the first women in law school and med school were welcomed and supported? Do you think female doctors and lawyers a generation ago encountered less sexism than women in tech today?


The field of technology is undergoing exactly the same growing pains that law and medicine did some time ago.

I think in the next decade or two I think we will see women achieving the same kind of representation in tech that they have in law and medicine. And as this process takes place, haters will hate, pretend there isn't a problem, and spew various kinds of sexist nonsense, just like they did when women were entering the fields of law and medicine. Meanwhile, the rest of us will be doing the actual work to make it happen.

* edit: made it nicer.


> Keep whining though. Maybe you'll be able to prevent the spread of the dreaded females into yet another bastion of male dominance.

I didn't say there was no problem; I said you were wrong about its cause. From that you conclude that I'm a sexist who is actively trying to keep women out of tech?

Jesus man, I know this is a contentious issue, but get a hold on yourself. I've hired and promoted female software engineers. When I left my last job, I spent nine months grooming a woman on my team to take over my job (not because she was a woman, or even because she was clearly the most qualified, but because she was the one who expressed interest in it and busted ass to learn it and took classes to improve in areas she was weak in.) I may be a sexist or I may not be, but you're not in a position to judge based on a comment in a forum you didn't like. Maybe take a breath and remember that there are real people behind these handles, eh?


Nah you're right. I posted in anger, then edited it. Seems like I need to get a sleep(3) in there somewhere.


> The reason there are fewer of them is because fewer of them are interested.

Which is at least somewhat due to societal pressures though.


Could it not also be said that societal pressures push men towards tech and other high stress/paying work?


If you look at any list of "most dangerous jobs", it's invariably a list of male-dominated professions.

Are men going into these roles because they all have a death wish, or is it maybe some sort of cultural push to be "manly" and a "provider"?


At my daughter's high-school, there was a lot of societal pressure for girls to be interested in tech/science. Most of them remained uninterested in math/computers, though quite a few went into life-sciences.




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