Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
Why is Russia so good at encouraging women into tech? (bbc.co.uk)
147 points by carlmungz 93 days ago | hide | past | web | 322 comments | favorite

I've seen it argued that, paradoxically, the richer and more egalitarian a society is, the more the differences are magnified in the kinds choices individuals of both genders make. So Russia being a poorer nation with less paths to success would lead more women to make career choices based around economics, while in Sweden, a richer welfare state, economic factors may be a lower driver.

> I've seen it argued that, paradoxically, the richer and more egalitarian a society is,

The former-Communist East-European country I lived in as a kid was a lot more egalitarian than most of present-day Western countries and the women were treated pretty much the same as men were when it came to work. I remember as a kid that I regarded my mother going each morning to work and returning in the evening as a very normal thing, and I regarded the few kids' mothers who weren't doing that as being lazy (to this day I still think that a stay-at-home parent is a lazy human being).

State-run kindergartens were also of much help for women back then.

> The former-Communist East-European country I lived in as a kid was a lot more egalitarian than most of present-day Western countries

That really depends on how you measure gender equality and general freedom though.

> to this day I still think that a stay-at-home parent is a lazy human being

You're just being too judgemental though. If a family is wanting for nothing and they agree that one parent should stay at home to spend more time looking after the family, why not?

> That really depends on how you measure gender equality and general freedom though.

Like I said, gender equality was pretty well established. "General freedom" doesn't have that much in common with equality, we can all be equal but not free. I'd say that for further reading on the matter Mona Ozouf's essays on "liberté, égalité, fraternité" is a good starting point (a related article about it in French: http://www.letelegramme.fr/bretagne/mona-ozouf-pas-simple-de...)

> You're just being too judgemental though. If a family is wanting for nothing and they agree that one parent should stay at home to spend more time looking after the family, why not?

I know this point-view might be seen as judgemental, it's just that I see people not contributing back to society with their work-time as not giving it all. It's not a matter of money, I am a little marxist inside me and I do believe that work it's one of the things that define us as a species. I've heard my ~84-year-old peasant grandma' saying that she was very upset that her legs were hurting her because she wanted to continue working.

>I know this point-view might be seen as judgemental,

It is judgmental.

>it's just that I see people not contributing back to society with their work-time as not giving it all

Child-rearing has societal benefits. It's one of the key reasons why children from two parent-households do significantly better on average than children from one. Either they get the benefit of dual income or a full-time parent.

>I've heard my ~84-year-old peasant grandma' saying that she was very upset that her legs were hurting her because she wanted to continue working

I believe that but it's a choice.

> Child-rearing has societal benefits. It's one of the key reasons why children from two parent-households do significantly better on average than children from one. Either they get the benefit of dual income or a full-time parent.

Link to studies on that? And I mean comprehensive studies, not the ones limited to the US.

They won't be able to provide, because it turns out the differences basically evaporate when you control for the financial stability of the households. It's just that one-parent households (especially in the US) tend to be a hell of a lot less financially stable than two-parent households.

Your last paragraph, I feel, is focusing too much on the individual, direct contribution and ignoring the effect a person staying at home can have on their family. By taking care of their auxilliary needs and letting them focus on their core tasks (work, school, etc.), the increase in productivity of the family as a whole can exceed that of a direct individual's contribution. I think of it as a project manager for the family - they don't directly contribute to the development of a project, but they handle the overhead that would otherwise thrash their developers.

Well the idea of a stay at home parent is that child care is work. You can either pay someone or do it yourself, in which case you're doing the job you would have paid someone else to do.

You could not have given a better explanation of why I would never want to live in a marxist society if you tried.

> The former-Communist East-European country I lived in as a kid was a lot more egalitarian than most of present-day Western countries and the women were treated pretty much the same as men were when it came to work.

This. Soviet block was also mostly atheist, which affected this egalitarianism positively as well (and opposite in places like the US). This still largely remains, even with Orthodox Church reemerging and realigning with the government (at least in Russia).

>to this day I still think that a stay-at-home parent is a lazy human being

I'm not sure why it's lazy to avoid work if it doesn't negatively affect your health or well-being. I can't say what the objective meaning of life is (or if one even exists for certain) but I can say with a fair amount of certainty that it isn't to "grow up, work for decades, and die." Nothing gold can stay.

> but I can say with a fair amount of certainty that it isn't to "grow up, work for decades, and die."

I've also said it in a previous comment, but my ~84-or-so peasant grandma' did just that, i.e. she worked all of her life ever since she got married at 17, never took a "vacation" day off. I've heard her saying that she was really upset that her legs were hurting her, because she really wanted to continue working as she had done before. I'm pretty sure that, if given the chance, my gradnma' would choose the same lifestyle as she had. For some of us work is indeed fulfilling.

Have you considered the possibility that she kept herself occupied as a way to avoid uncomfortable dilemmas like the one I posed above? As virtuous as hard work may be, vain work is not. Dealing with difficult questions is the only way to know whether or not the life we lead is as full as it can be. We can certainly close ourselves off to difficult questions and enjoy what we have, but why would we intentionally waste the opportunity to rise above that if we can?

For some, sure, but there is a argument to be made that it's really about time that we decouple work and income. If I didn't have to work to get an income I sure would work with something quite different, more artistic, instead of reinventing the wheel for the fourth time even though I know this code will not be used for anything usefull anyway.

Conversely to that, maybe people who work when they don't need to are just chumps.

Lots of this.

It's not only Russia, either, which I find to be a bizarre point of focus here. I find female colleagues are far more likely to be from India, China, or Taiwan than any western nation.

Yes I can confirm this too. From our brief conversations, most of them didnt enjoy it but do it for the money (like me).

>> It's not only Russia, either, which I find to be a bizarre point of focus here. I find female colleagues are far more likely to be from India, China, or Taiwan than any western nation.

Where are you currently based? In the UK (and this is a BBC article) I don't see many (or any really) female tech workers from the countries you mention but lots from Russia and easter Europe.

Not the parent but I have worked for half a dozen tech companies around the US and they're mostly Indian/Chinese/White.

Thanks, I would have assumed that (and wasn't disputing it). I was just trying to point out to the parent that his experience may not apply everywhere and considering it's a BBC article the UK perspective might be useful to understand why their focus is Russia and not those other nations.

> It's not only Russia, either, which I find to be a bizarre point of focus here

That's still repercussions of calling Russia the whole USSR.

Now most post-Soviet republic are kind of shadowed.

I think it makes sense, if you want to have a good life you will want a good education(my parents always told me if I do not learn then they would send me to take care of sheeps/cows I am from Romania)) so parents and children are aware that education means more money, We have differences here too, from my experience 10 years ago, there were more girls in literature then boys, more boys in computers , and in MAthematics where I was were 75% girls.

Large part of the paradox can likely be explained by the small preferences thats derived from gender identity, and the correlation to the number of opportunities available to the individual.

For example, if a person choose from two similar professions with similar pay but where one is dominated by ones own gender and the other isn't, then I predict that a above 50% will chose the one which employ a majority of ones own gender. However if there is only a few professions that is high paying and a lot of unemployment in other areas, and many people live in poverty, then gender will be less of a factor in the decision.

I think that's reasonable. If there is an equality of opportunity, then choices will magnify existing differences. If you have equal access to A or B, but there is some minor property of A that makes it a little more attractive to a certain demographic, over a large population sample, you should see large scale differences.

Given that populations of humans will naturally self-organize themselves into groups (whether based on race, culture, music choices, geographic birth, language, etc), the expected outcome is almost never going to be perfect representation. I don't think black people are genetically predisposed for basketball, just like latinos are not genetically predisposed for baseball, and yet the respective demographics are over-represented in NBA and MLB respectively.

Not only is it unlikely to be perfect representation, but it can be quite extreme when the choices are done at a later time in life.

For example, the teacher profession is generally female dominated at 80%, but gender segregation becomes even worse when a teacher finish studying and chooses a specialization. Language teachers are above 90% female, while music is 80% male. There is no innate reason why the language of music and the language of text has this difference, but over time it just have been that more women choses languages and more men choosing music when picking a subject to teach. This trend that people has a tendency pick places (especially within a profession) where ones own gender is majority was given as one of the primary theories in a government report on the subject a few years ago here in Sweden.

I see it as the best theory available to explain the data and general trend for gender segregation.

> I've seen it argued that, paradoxically, the richer and more egalitarian a society is, the more the differences are magnified in the kinds choices individuals of both genders make.

There's absolutely nothing paradoxical about this. The more wealthy a society is, the less incentive there is for women to work instead of being the primary full-time caretaker. Women are happier in single-earner households where they don't have to work or can work part-time at their leisure. This usually means they chose the right partner, e.g. a high status male that lets them survive on 1 income (presumably high).

Beware the cognitive dissonance that liberals are so intent on perpetuating that empowering women has anything to do with the workplace. It doesn't.

This is incredibly misogynist and unfortunately par for the course around here.

There's also a pattern where differences in average personality are larger in more gender-egalitarian societies which might be an alternate explanation.


Well, the argument comes from the fact that the most gender equal countries still have very high level of men and women assuming traditional gender roles.


And we are not sure what that is.

I think the more time goes on, the more the idea of gender roles being 100% socially constructed seems untenable. It would make sense in a world where human being are purely rational agents, but we still carry the baggage of evolution and having to survive in nature. It doesn't seem unreasonable to think that some of the specialist selections (including psychological) that have evolved into men and women would persist in modern times.

While it's certainly not unreasonable, the fact that current societies - even very equal ones - show gender roles is hardly good evidence, or makes the social construction theory untenable. All of our societies are also a continuum stretching for millennia, so it's very hard to say what a truly equal society looks like, let alone predict how people would behave in it.

>the fact that current societies - even very equal ones - show gender roles is hardly good evidence, or makes the social construction theory untenable.

Gender roles is what you would expect from a species that developed distinct genders. For example, the simple fact that hormone levels are different between genders, should strongly imply differences in behaviour which should bleed into day to day choices. The fact that one gender specializes with birth, while the other with insemination would strongly imply this difference would in some way segregate genders within a developing culture, and so on.

So I cannot imagine how the "social construction theory" could possibly be correct.

"strongly imply" - exactly. It certainly implies. It certainly seems the more likely explanation. What I'm saying is that there's a big leap from "strong imply not X" to "X not possibly correct".

Can't we use peer-reviewed studies instead of entertainment? I really feel like you're not doing your position justice...

It would help if you had a source, but it could be because richer countries can afford to be inefficient and irrational and divide people into gender roles.

That argument doesn't hold though in many traditionally poor conservative religious countries -- think Pakistan, Bangladesh, or poorer Catholic countries in Latin America.

I think religion/culture plays a bigger role. Russia was largely atheist and mostly remains so.

Yea. It might even be happening in the us. I still can't believe this slate article that says Millenials want more traditional gender roles.


It is possible you see better representation of both genders in a society where people choose their career based on potential ROI. Fewer societies allow its people to truly choose their career based on interest or passion alone, which might be where you see larger differences in gender representation.

However, that brings up the politically incorrect argument that men are more interested in Tech than women, which seems hard to justify as well.

>It is possible you see better representation of both genders in a society where people choose their career based on potential ROI.

The world would be a drastically different place if people were rational.

That's too simplistic.

While individual people need not be rational, a better theory is that society as a whole is largely rational when taking into account disruptions due to causal factors (people, groups, situations). These causal factors need not be rational, and the extent to which society allows these causal factors to influence it determines how far it deviates from rational behaviour.

I'd rather see it cited in a peer-reviewed study.

As a Russian who got university education in Russia and worked in both Russia and Canada, I can confirm that the reasons are both cultural and economic. First, for the big part Soviet Russia did not have a sizeable percentage of stay-at-home mothers: women were _expected_ to work, childcare was absolutely free, tight living conditions made multi-generational families, when retired grand-parents took care of children, a norm. It is also true that once young women chose to work they tried to maximize the earnings while not going to high-paying jobs traditionary considered male (think police or oil rig jobs in Siberia). It used to be law and business degrees, but now it means STEM.

Not actually been - so clearly you have more experience -

but from observations of Russians I've seen I'd also say that:

a) Intelligence is strongly valued in general, with women being no exception. There is no native faux-ironic 'im a math geek nurrrg so i have to be awkward because noone understands me' or 'look at the nerd what a dork' culture..

b) Russian women aren't afraid of being strong willed, and this is also valued

c) Russian women seem to have a stronger notion of 'womanhood' and 'sisterhood' - similarly 'adulthood' and 'solidarity' are more generally valued - so hiding behind or supporting immaturity and selfishly infighting is less dominant/accepted

d) The general cultural philosophy seems more (despite bad eggs as anywhere) a focus on personal excellence and service to community/society/nation, rather than a desire for personal gratification according to abstract self-selected individual preferences

e) People call out BS when they see it, and this is considered a good thing, rather than 'being rude' or 'disrespecting everyones right to their own opinion'

So while perhaps sexist jokes and activities are allowed in some areas, in other areas actually acting on them - or letting them get to you or not calling them out in others - is dishonourable, a personal 'cultural liability' (e.g. cause for being ostracised), and to be avoided.

Of course there are exceptions everywhere, and this is observation and generalization - not an absolute statement of fact, also put with a bit of an ideal spin to underscore the argument..

I definitely would think the socialist economic system did a huge and perhaps bigger part to normalize women in the workplace and in these industries, but some of these cultural factors I think were pre existing and also help facilitate the pattern..

Some of these used to be more prevalent in US society as one example, but have been devalued over time.. So, if correct, perhaps the 'right mix' is support for women in these industries, but also a culture which values intellegence, integrity, community, and excellence rather than personal achievement for selfish reasons irrespective of the means..

> but some of these cultural factors I think were pre existing and also help facilitate the pattern..

I would agree with this. Here is a Soviet cartoon based on a Russian folk fairy tale about smart and mighty wife rescuing her husband from king's prison:


Here is another version of this fairy tale:


> women were _expected_ to work,

I also grew up in Eastern Europe in the '80s, and this is what most of present-day Westerners don't get. And women were not supposed to hold only "women-related" jobs, for example my aunt was an industrial-crane operator.

Socialist countries (whether in theory or in practice) tend to put more of an emphasis on equal rights.

Too bad you were downvoted, because it is actually true. People here probably confuse the good civil rights (which socialist countries in Eastern Europe did not have) with the equality of rights. USSR constitutions actually had an article of every citizen being guaranteed the right to work.


We've already asked you to please stop posting ideological provocations, and we ban accounts that won't.


100 days, guess you have a better memory that me...!

The "free child care" aspect I would think definitely helps. I have co-workers that are either lucky enough to have parents around to help or end up paying $2k/mo for pre-school for their very young kids. The kids had to be put on a waitlist before they were even born. I'm in the US, in Los Angeles.

Wouldn't your history play a factor in this? Esp the losses of men from WW1 and WW2?

More like equal poverty for both men and women.

It would, but it was always a thing, even between the wars and long after WW2.

Maybe because like men all over the world, Russian women aren't specially "encouraged" to go into tech? Maybe nobody has to tell them or tell anyone to 'like science'. People just do.

The same argument goes for women in science. Albert Einstein was told he wouldn't amount to much. Doesn't mean he 'got discouraged' and quit physics. That's not why we do science - for public appreciation - we do it because we love it no matter what anyone else says. This is the point that the girls in tech people miss I think.

Instead of buying your daughters lego sets with women wearing fancy lab coats and looking into telescopes, buy them gyroscopes, or electronics kits, or lego's own DIY robot? None of the toys mentioned above feature gender and actually give a sense of what science is about.

I'm open to hear your thoughts, especially from women.

Yes, because each one of us is an island, and we're not influenced by society at all as it is.

I have a two year old and I can tell you fighting against pinky-princess girl culture is a battle. As a parent, it's you vs basically the rest of society that sends a million little cues about what girls are supposed to do. I had this conversation with my daughter the other morning:

Daughter: I want to be a boy when I grow up. Me: Why is that? Daughter: So I can be an astronaut!

Of course, I explained that girls can be astronauts too. And I've never done anything to set her expectations differently. But they just absorb this stuff from the ether of our culture. At her age, she's picked up on the idea that only boys are astronauts, and girls are ballerinas and princesses and shit.


They (i.e., Disney and Viacom) do have princesses-types doing actiony stuff thinking it's the same thing. And encouraging women to lean in.

They don't typically write those females to think like a someone in engineering, exploration, or security, though. Boys watch Batman be Batman, train hard, think ahead, get beat up, but still be heroic. Girls watch, what, the girl from Brave do action hero things and fight with her mom. Or the princesses from Frozen use amazing powers to resolve what end up being relationship issues.

Honestly, though, I suspect it's difficult to get writers for kids' shows that can think like, say, a theoretical physicist. Writers tend to get art or English degrees.

I guess the question is where are boys getting the idea to become engineers?

I suspect it's not television or other media, but rather personal role models in their life.

Unfortunately with society as it is now, having a role model who isn't your gender (and also isn't your relative), mentor you is largely untennable.

>that sends a million little cues about what girls are supposed to do.

Why do you assume this is cause rather than effect? I find it hard to imagine we set out to define gender roles, rather than those roles evolving over a long time due to a billion factors.

Because researchers have been looking for those factors for a long time but haven't found anything significant. Yes, if you give people a pull-up test men will do better on average but there's a shortage of strong examples of more complex skills where there's a significant innate difference. This is especially true for professional skills where there are multiple paths to success relying on many different mental abilities, decreasing the odds that any single innate difference could be make or break.

Porque no los dos? It's possible that "traditional" gender roles evolved, but are still reinforced by behavior even when they are outdated.

The economics of our society have changed both in what efforts are expected from whom, and in what options are granted to whom. That changes some of the billion factors weighing on our constructed social order, but there are still those who benefit from retarding the process.

No. That is the not real problem here.

The problem is a certain things have a very high barrier to entry. Getting into such things requires over the natural amounts of persistence and other myriad life skills for which you need a certain level of biological independence(like not having kids for example).

These barrier to entries vary with each profession. They are higher for the cool jobs, like the CS ones. Most of these career type jobs where continued work is required. Taking long breaks, asking for lesser working hours(While having colleagues at office who would be pushing 15-18 hour workdays) and other such things makes you a bad worker even if you were to somehow work hard and gain initial access. Net result is people feel they are better off doing things where their contributions have some meaning than having to compete with 16 hr shift workers against whom you are set up to lose by default.

This is the whole difficulty with the diversity problem. There is a inherent assumption that things be made easier to accomodate minorities of all kids. Whereas doing well in any profession requires the exact opposite. Harder the things, the better you get by doing them. But that also means, people who are not tough enough for the job get filtered out every iteration along the way.

You just come down to the point that you can't make people do, what they are not ready to put over the necessary efforts to make happen.

> They are higher for the cool jobs, like the CS ones.

Well, for the cool CS jobs, yeah, which is maybe 1% of the total. The rest aren't cool—they're brain-meltingly boring, often frustrating, health-destroyingly sedentary, and often (not always) fairly low-status, despite the pay[0]. The way-above-median pay's just about all a CS career's got going for it, for most.

[0] Compare especially the status boost granted by entering either of two full-on professions which, strikingly, kept improving gender balance through the 80s and beyond despite a long history of being dominated by men: law and medicine. Meanwhile, CS/programming started out better, then got worse around the mid 80s, as measured by graduates in relevant majors.

But those 1% are all that matter in this context, because they are the only ones doing outreach and are thus the only ones being perceived by outsiders. Nobody (outside the industry) knows what the other programmers do or what their work conditions are, because they don't actively tell anybody.

Partly that's because those 1% have to do outreach to get enough workers willing to endure those conditions, and partly it's because those are entire companies filled with passionate people (because everyone who doesn't love the job quickly quits) and they want to share their passion.

Maybe it's like that in, say, game development, but I've never seen these absurd hours in my career. A certain willingness to learn and do more than the standard curriculum is valued, yes, and there's crunch mode and harder-working startup jobs, but I haven't seen this hazing and exploitation from any of my employers.

>>I haven't seen this hazing and exploitation from any of my employers.

Most employers won't. But yet some people pour in a lot of time to make themselves better. That is precisely the whole point.

Its exactly a bit like school. Schools won't force you to put any hours. But people putting in late nighters and burning the midnight oil end up scoring high marks and getting better grades.

How do you suggest we help low scoring students? By telling the better student to study less?

My top advice would be to look for their comparative advantage. For some that's an ability to work very hard at something they're not obviously talented at or attracted to. OTOH I knew someone who fit just that description who still failed to make the move from technician to programmer, after a lot of personal time studying.

How many fields require 18 hour workdays outside of IB? Even then, that's just shit working conditions regardless

> Yes, because each one of us is an island, and we're not influenced by society at all as it is.

You know what else we are influenced by? Biological traits, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_dimorphism

Did you think about what if she would have a happier life as a ballerina than an astronaut?

There is also the fact that those who truly want something will go get it despite the headwinds.

Unfortunately, most people do not truly want one profession to the exclusion of all hardship and discouragement.

Rather peoples inclinations are varied and weak, so a society that discourages women from entering science will find more than half of women who had a weak inclination to science will simply choose the next-equal profession they were inclined to.

Honest question, where do you think your daughter learned this expectation from? Medias/advertising, other childs' parents...?

How would one go about preventing this from happenning without segregating the child?

You prevent it from putting an item on your agenda to tell your daughter about cool women with different awesome careers.

You the parent have to go out of your way to make a list of women astronauts, scientists, stateswomen, authors, captains, professors-- everything-- so your daughter grows up in a world women can do anything.

This. I think encouraging women is discouraging in itself. It includes an assumption of power and superiority, and opens them up to doubts and criticism about their technical merits. The best would be not discouraging anybody at all, then those naturally inclined towards the field will be attracted by themselves.

A thing that all of us can do is to get rid of their prejudices for real. We like calling things mysogny and racism and attack, but what they profoundly are is hereditary prejudice which only heals through self-education.

Edit: prejudices are not limited to white males, but we all have them (obviously me too, thus having to do this edit).

I went to a new city and wanted to see what entrepreneurs were up to. Too bad, because the only networking events were female only. What a waste. "Encouraging" women actually leads to them having fewer opportunities.

> Maybe because like men all over the world, Russian women aren't specially "encouraged" to go into tech?

I don't know how true this is now, but there's plenty of Soviet propaganda aimed at women telling them how they're an important part of the workforce too. They were certainly specially encouraged to go into "technology" of the time (or industry, as it was more commonly known in Soviet times).


Witness for example how much more of a celebration international women's day is in the ex-Soviet countries than elsewhere.

Do you have any data on this? I'd be willing to bet women are nowhere near as interested in a pure science career in Russia as they are in IT. I think it has to do with psycho-evolutionary factors -- men have much more incentives to take risks, women much more so to play it safe.

There are a lot of female young (and not-so-young too!) scientists in Russia today.

The pay is not great and a lot of hoops to jump, but the hours are usually flexible. Maybe some women don't feel pressure to be breadwinners, so they can choose a career in science, but men feel that they have to make more money than science ever promises in Russia.

Maybe it's just because most men don't want to do feminine jobs and most women don't want to do masculine jobs. We're all social human beings at the end of the day, and we want to be cool, attractive individuals, and most of us care about others' eyes on us.


That is not what I was saying, far from it.

My evidence is anecdotal, but think about it -- Russia recently decriminalized domestic violence, not exactly the hallmark of gender equality, that's surely not the reason why more females are interested in IT in Russia.

I was not suggesting that females are inferior to men, just that males and females will make vastly different life choices because of psycho-evolution.

It's a scientific fact that while male and female median IQ is the same, men have much more variability (more men at the extremes).

Just think about your reproductive strategy(not necessarily in the modern monogamous society)-- you have bilions upon billions of sperm replenished every day while females produce one egg per month. A smarter/fitter man can produce much more offsprings than a smarter/fitter female. That has got to produce some profound differences in the way men and women behave.

Anecdotal evidence means shit, of course there is biological difference between men and women. The point is you making arbitrary claims using it without evidence is stupid.

Centuries ago there were no women scientists, now there are, so does that mean the people like you in the transitory period claiming "Women can never be scientists due to psycho-evolution (whatever bullshit that is)" are right.

Without scientific evidence, your psycho-evolutionary boundary on what is achievable by men or women is just convenient excuse for sexism because it changes and is arbitary.

That's a straw man, I never said either sex should or shouldn't be a scientist or whatever they choose to be.

What I AM saying is maybe, just maybe there's no conspiracy against women and that women and men make different life an career choices which can simply be explained by bullshit psycho-evolution.

I don't see the parent comment saying anything about either race, or inferiority. Just proclivity to want to do something. Maybe chill out a bit on the accusatory kneejerk reaction, this is meant to be a forum for civil discussion.

>Maybe chill out a bit on the accusatory kneejerk reaction, this is meant to be a forum for civil discussion.

Without fail, during any discussion about tech and gender on these boards, "nice guys" come out of the woodwork as staunch advocates of equality in the workplace, their message couched in accusatory and bullying language.

I'll bet they're closer to being part of the problem with the industry, rather than the solution.


[if I could edit, I would] I later realised you were referring to laughingman2 as being the niceguy. Yeah, totally agree.

This is not just humans, virtually every species has obvious gender roles and proclivities. Where humans differ, is our faculty for reason and (to some degree) overcoming our intuition.

In my opinion, it's obvious that women being under represented in STEM is caused significantly by both evolutionary /and/ cultural factors.

If they're anything like my country, Poland, and we were pretty similar before (together in Warsaw pact) there basically doesn't have to be any "encouraging women".

Your gender doesn't matter that much. Both men and women usually pursue most of the majors. And in physics and maths you usually substantial amounts of women.

In IT, being pretty fresh in this part of the world, men are majority but still not overwhelming.

Anecdata: from primary school to the end of my university I've only had male maths teachers for a year and a half.

I don't have an immediate source for this but I have an impression that post-Soviet societies are a lot more equal than Western ones.

I can confirm it (born in USSR, grew up in Eastern Europe). It's an interesting phenomenon which I believe can be explained by the fact that the movement for gender equality was started by marxist-bolsheviks in 1900-1920s, almost 50 years before it started in Western countries. Arguably, it was more successful and led to less controversy in society than what I can now see in Western countries. One of the key differences was that gender equality was initiated and led by the Soviet government (i.e. it was top-down) according to Karl Marx's ideology. While, in the West it was initiated and led by civil activists -- i.e. it was bottom-up.

The article totally misses the point. It just picks a single area and wonders why in this particular area women and men are more equal in Russia than in the West. By asking such a narrow question you will never get the right answer. The right answer is that in Russia there is more gender equality in general and therefore in every particular area too.

For instance, from a women-in-business study it follows that the proportion of female-ocuppied senior management positions in Russia is 47% while in the US it's 23% and in UK it's 19%.


A quote from it:

"Eastern Europe continues to top the rankings (see figure 3), with Russia in the lead as the only country in which every business has a woman on its senior leadership team. In Poland, the proportion of senior roles held by women has improved by six percent to 40%. The region owes some of its strong performance to the legacy of communist principles which have placed women as equals for generations."

Of course, such a conclusion goes against the main-stream narrative of communism being all about abuse and human rights violations while the West being the undisputed champion of human rights. So the BBC article just have to provide the following paragraph:

"While Russia is doing something right, it's still not there yet in terms of gender parity."

What is this about? Nothing. Whatever the subject is BBC must retain some reservations about Russia however unsubstantiated they are.

They had female fighter pilots in world war 2 and the first female astronauts. That was long before anybody in the west could even think of that possibility. Not sure if it's a Russian thing or communism. East Germany also had more female engineers and scientists.

Yep. They just expected women to be able to do the same thing as men. There weren't these half-hearted attempts to "boost diversity" that just never, ever feel genuine. There are Russian greats across the board both male and female -- even pre-soviet. But yes, female astronauts, engineers. Go back a couple centuries, and you had Catherine the Great -- one of the greatest and longest tenured Russian monarchs, a woman. The faith of the Russian people -- the Orthodox Faith -- venerates a woman as the "greatest Saint" and the "Queen of Heaven". It's just always been a part of the mindset. So women are everywhere and it just isn't treated as anything out of the ordinary, or as hitting some diversity figure. It needs to be natural.

There's a wikipedia page with with female astronauts(google list of female astronauts).

Out of the 60 that actually flew to space, only 2 are from the USSR/Russia, and both of them were elected to the soviet/people's representatives, so I'd say female astronauts in the USSR was nothing but a publicity stunt.

Random statistics alert. Of those 60 women in space: 2 flew on Chinese spacecraft, 10 flew only on Russian spacecraft, 42 flew only on American spacecraft, and 6 flew on both American and Russian spacecraft (including the one woman currently in space).

Actually it's four as far as I could see but your point is valid.

> They had female fighter pilots in world war 2 and the first female astronauts.

Not just fighter pilots, but bombers/CAS as well: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_Witches

They also employed female snipers, who were very effective in that role. For example, Lyudmila Pavlichenko is one of the most successful and decorated snipers in military history: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyudmila_Pavlichenko

JFYI, first female pilot was from Turkey.

my guess: a cultural and social value placed on STEM subjects. My personal theory is that young women in the West are less likely to get into tech because they are seen as stuffy, the domain of greybeards and model train enthusiasts. Don't forget that people generally pick up their core interest in subjects at a young age where social value and coolness are some of the most important personal objectives (early teen years).

I think the advent of the startup as being culturally associated with youth and creativity (i.e. that they're cool) is helping to rectify this image, but the startup industry has only recently gotten into mainstream culture.

[edit: as tptacek notes, this is not an issue that extends to all of STEM, so I've updated my comment to reflect this. I've left in the highlight on Russia placing cultural value on STEM subjects because I think it's relevant, and that saying Russian culture places value in programming but ignoring the value of Maths, Science and other logical pursuits like Chess would be giving a partial and inaccurate picture. Also, I'm not Russian myself so this is purely an outside-looking-in perspective.]

Exactly. Programmers are seen as a low status. Many of us did it despite that because we really liked it. Or perhaps we were so socially clueless that we didn't noticed it. Women in general are better at getting those social clues. Anyway, it turned out OK for us. But it would be better if we had more women colleagues.

I don't want to repeat this comment but worry that I'll have to:


There is major disparity in tech, but it is not a problem common to all STEM fields.

ah, thanks for re-posting that - when I started writing there were no other comments. I wasn't aware that this was solely a tech problem - I'll update my original comment to reflect this.

I wonder how science or maths is viewed differently to technology in this regard - perhaps because those fields are much smaller in terms of people, and super-specialised, so are already appealing to a very small, highly passionate, self-selected group anyway? I can't help but think that part of the problem is the fact that tech wants to recruit a much broader range of people (to make the required numbers of people in industry, which is ever-growing) and thus the requirement to appeal to a more "average" person tends towards displaying the biases of the average person at the age of interest (ie. primarily teenage)?

The kind of work you do in STEM field is not the same across them.

Mathematics is so thematically similar to CS that it used to house the CS departments. Please don't waste your time trying to conjure an argument about how CS somehow requires a different kind of brain than mathematics.

I am not talking about different kind of brains. I am talking that maybe day to day work is quite different. I have no idea, what does mathematician's day look like, but I guess they don't have scope creep, arbitrary deadlines, bug reports from users and crunch times.

In theory, CS is a cousin of mathematics, but in practice? Mathematics has almost nothing to do with the ordinary day-to-day code slinging and Agile bullshittery that software engineering has devolved into.

> less keen to get into tech because they are seen as stuffy, the domain of greybeards and model train enthusiasts

I find this kind of justification a pretty sexist view against women that they'd pick their entire career path on such frivolous details.

I think that 18 year olds in general (there are obviously exceptions) don't necessarily have a good idea of what they want to do. Looking to cultural norms, and asking "Can I see myself doing that" is probably not uncommon in the filtering process of selecting a major.

This seems like a decent survey of the topic (major selection by incoming students), with some references to a few studies at the end.


'In contrast with the evidence that first-year students are most likely making uninformed choices when determining a major, the common four-year curriculum path colleges and universities use assumes that students enter college prepared to make a decision regarding major and, ultimately, career path. Unfortunately, the reality is that students are most likely not developmentally prepared to do so.'

There's nothing unique to women here.

>I find this kind of justification a pretty sexist view against women that they'd pick their entire career path on such frivolous details.

Young adults graduate from college programs that have low chance of getting them ready for a job that could reasonably cover their tuition debt. Some of those kids will choose colleges where the tuition is far higher than a reasonably equivalent program at a state school. People are not rational agents.

And it's not a gender thing either. There are plenty of men who will expand enormous amount of time, money, and energy to attempt to get into jobs or careers where they have a low probability of recouping their investment. This is pretty much the case for anybody who tries to make a living playing professional sports, or tries to make a living from acting, for example.

if you'd read the whole paragraph, you'd see I'm talking about teenagers, and adopting interests. I think anyone familiar with how teenagers generally behave would agree that they are very concerned with social stance and "coolness". To be clear I don't think adult women make decisions in this way.

the reason there are many women in tech is simple: IT jobs pay ridiculously good compared to non-IT jobs and barrier of entry has been lowered enough for even non-techy women to realize they can train for few weeks and get a solid paying job as junior QA. and when they are smart and went for math/technical education - being software developer is a no brainer, it pays easily 10-100 times better than average job in any other sector.

same thing is happening in ukraine: https://s.dou.ua/files/lenta/salary-report-dec-2016/fem-titl...

full survey: https://dou.ua/lenta/articles/salary-report-dec-2016/?from=s...

compare to previous surveys: https://jobs.dou.ua/salaries/demography/dec2016/

I think there's a high correlation between the relative salary for a techie compared to other jobs in the same country and the amount of women you see. The US pays a lot better than The Netherlands and has a much higher percentage of female programmers. In countries like India or Russia a developer earns even more compared to other traditionally well paying careers.

Maybe a smart girl is so smart she's not going to get underpaid for her skills?

Eastern European here: in 2003 when I joined a computer science university I had ~15% female colleagues; as the net salaries for programmers have reached ~70% of the western european levels(while average salaries are nowhere near that level), I see about 40% of the interns being females. So, this might not be politically correct, but yeah, I think women pursue safe, well-trodden paths while men are much more likely to be single-minded risk takers.

because there are fewer stereotypes. Maybe well be a leftover from communism as well, when individualism was strongly discouraged and the only way you could stand out is by doing your job well. Individualism I mean in all aspects of current society - choice and variety of this. I suspect there is a similar trend in China as well.

>because there are fewer stereotypes. Maybe well be a leftover from communism as well

It think this is the main reason. Stereotypes are great for capitalism. I can speak only for germany, but in the 90es i felt, there was a movement to reduce this gender stereotypes stuff, but this got completly reverted in the last 15 years or so. Nowadays there exists a Kinder Surprise Girls Edition with pink flowers on the packaging and special potato chips flavors for men and women (WTF). I also recognise the effects frim this in my personal environment, with young parents going full into this stereotype things. The boy has to play football from day one he can walk. The younger daughter can not wear clothes from is older brother because they are not pink and she is put into ballett school ignoring that she obviously prefers football too. It's a real shame!

> The younger daughter can not wear clothes from is older brother because they are not pink

From the industry point of view, hand-me-down is a bug that has since been fixed, at least 50% of it. Business cannot uphold ideas when they are at odds with profit (single companies can, as long as they are not public, but business as a whole can't).

> Maybe well be a leftover from communism

That may very well play a role. Here in former East Germany women were expected to work despite being parents which resulted in some side effects like widely available daycare / kindergartens.

If that was the case, then I would expect the exact opposite forces to work. My ex used to study mechanical engineering at one of the top universities of poland and the older professors who must have tenured during communism would frequently either openly ask "what is a girl doing in this class" or one straight up said to her that he doesn't believe women can be engineers. She complained to university only to be told that the professor was joking and nothing happened.

Communism might have been promoting individualism, but certainly engineering professions were men-only affairs.

The phrase used in China was that women hold up half the sky, and the expectation was that males and females participated equally in the economy.

While there has been some regression on this coinciding with more exposure to Western culture, I still notice that there is a much higher proportion of women in Chinese tech companies than in Western ones, although not a 50-50 split.

Good for them. Hopefully after we reduce the gender tech gap, we can focus on fixing the far below-replacement-level fertility in Europe, North America, and Russia. Personally I find it to be more pressing, but it gets barely any press...

Why? It's not like we are in risk of running out of humans on the planet.

IQ is highly heritable[1], and if smart people are having zero or one children, that should be of concern to everyone.

It's possible that nutrition + butts in school seats created the Flynn effect, where the population's IQ rose. The next century might see the reverse.

[1] Per gwern: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13729085

But the majority of the world that is overpopulated does not have the standards of nutrition and schooling of the west. If those are the reason behind the Flynn effect, then when those countries become more developed, their intelligence should come up to parity. I you don't acknowledge this, then it sounds like you believe those in the west are genetically superior to those elsewhere.

Are you saying people in Europe, north America, and Russia are smarter than people in the rest of the world?

They are if you are willing to accept IQ scores as a proxy, the Wikipedia article for »IQ and the Wealth of Nations« [1] has a world map of average IQ scores. This whole topic is of course highly controversial because in some sense it is right around the corner of racism. There is substantial debate about the accuracy of the data, the magnitude of the effect, nature vs nurture, appropriateness of measuring IQ, biases in the methodology, the direction of the causal relation and so on.

But if you stay away from the details behind the effect and just look at the measured data, you see an unequal distribution of average IQ scores across the globe. The effect may not be as large as the referenced book claims, but the difference has been confirmed by critical responses albeit with reduced magnitude. It is pretty hard if not impossible the get an unbiased picture of this topic, so I will leave it at this and ask you to dive into the rabbit hole yourself, I don't want to accidentally spread false claims because I am certainly no expert on this.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IQ_and_the_Wealth_of_Nations

How does they say this?

Smarter people get fewer children. IQ is inheritable. This only says we get more and more dumber people around the world in general. Maybe parts of the world with more births get the m faster than the rest, but still everyone gets them.

The OP said they are concerned with birth rates in those countries and they replied to the question why with a post about IQ.

I think this stems from the idea that smart people are having less children in those countries, not that those countries have smarter people. Who do you think is more likely to have 7 kids, an engineer or an unemployed person in rural Alabama?

No, he is saying that they have worse "nutrition" and less "butts in school", which increased the population's IQ in the past century. So if they predominate (and developed countries diminish) the general IQ might go down too.

Isnt malnutrition a pretty huge problem in Russia?

Compared to developing countries in Asia/Africa?

I don't think so.

Smarter, better educated, the result is the same.

Across East Asia birth rates are also well below replacement levels. A lot of the world's population growth is coming from rapid increases in Africa.

I mean the fact that you went and registered a throwaway to head down the path you're intending to gives away what you are really thinking.

Well if you try a different path - if low birth rates occur when societies are highly developed, what happens when this effect reaches Africa?

It slows as it has been doing for quite some time.

Being from Europe myself, I suppose I'm biased to wanting to preserve Europeans, and am not satisfied with merely preserving humanity as a whole.

Then why the concern with America and Russia too?

Why not? Aren't they worth preserving?

A better question would be why no concern for China and Japan. In case of China, it's because they consider themselves overpopulated. In case of Japan, I simply neglected to include them on the list - it was not meant to be comprehensive, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sovereign_states_and_d... for that.

Because America and Russia are part of western civilisation?

Russia is western now?

You think it isn't?

Last time I've checked the map, most of the Russia was in Asia.

In terms of geography, yes. In terms of population, culture, and history - no. Out of 144 million, 110 live in European Russia and they're predominantly Caucasian (roughly 115 million are ethnic Russian). If you were to draw the border on European continent Russia would end up being the biggest European country, both in terms of population and geography.

They are European nation, but over the centuries they expanded their territory to the East http://i.imgur.com/k0DzmyK.jpg

Russia is a European country that expanded East. The majority population is Slavic, and descents culturally from Greek/Byzantine influence

Because Russia is Europe?

Is it really part of the European community? And what about America how does that fit in?

Because people also care about their particular culture not dying, a worry to which whether the planet has enough of other peoples is irrelevant.

The sad part is that all cultures with industrial-level populations could easily sustain many generations of sub-replacement reproduction rates without any risk of disappearing, if it wasn't for outside breeding pressure. It would be a shame if we ruined our planet only due to an unconstrained outbreeding race. Should we maybe accept borders (like the ones Japan naturally enjoys) for environmental reasons, to make it easier for cultures to abstain from participating in that destructive race?

And another thing: would shrinkage really be that bad, in the long term? In any case it could never be very difficult to ramp up reproduction again when needed: all future generations, no matter how low the reproduction rate of the ones before, will be descendants of a direct line of ancestors who all did reproduce, against the odds. An environment that makes it easier to resist the reproduction drive could only make that drive stronger in the next generations, due to selection.

That could explain one of the three.


(There are a number of different good answers to that, I'd imagine. I just don't know what they are.)

Russia has a very low birth rate for native Russians. Here in the US, having kids and working in engineering is difficult. My wife took 5 years off and it has definitely affected her pay and advancement. Low pay and little vacation maybe have something to do with it too.

Both the wife and I are engineers. Our daughter shows no interest in tech. She does like to mix stuff, so maybe Chem E. Though I'm not going to prod her. STEM just does not pay over the long term.

>STEM just does not pay over the long term.

Whaa? What's your definition of pay? Anyway, IMO no prodding needed - expose the child to a wide variety of things, and then help them find and nurture their passion.

$100k - $200k long term (ages 30 - 67). STEM has initial high pay, but tops out by middle age. Late middle age, or 55+, and you are a target for elimination.

My coworkers daughter and her husband are both accountants. In their mid 30's they are doing much better than any STEM majors. They will both be firm partners by 40. +200k salaries for two people over 27 years (not that they'd work to 67 anyway).

I know of a mechanical engineer who went into finance. Not a quant, or even in NY. Just a manager for VISA. Her bonus is larger than my salary, and so is her salary.

STEM, well really TE, need to bank that initial high salary for, often forced, early retirement. SM majors, you are just fucked.

I don't mean to be rude when I say this but you are very out of touch with reality and what's a good income.

$100k - $200k a year puts you, individually, over, at the very minimum, the 75th percentile income for American household.

Also, your friends aren't even close to typical accountant salary, median pay $68,150 per year - https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/accountants-a...

Compare that to the typical software salary, median pay $102,280 per year - https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/...

> for American household

I think OP is talking relative to other skilled vocations, i.e what a potential STEM student might do instead.

If you have the opportunity to choose STEM, you are already at a certain level of opportunity.

> median pay $68,150 per year

How do you compare medians? What if there are more young software developers than young accountants?

Most accountants will never make partner. You are taking two exceptions and comparing them to the whole population. You should be comparing them to people who become CTOs.

Besides that most people will never even make half of your lower end salary during their whole career.

Well I suppose STEM is now a path to the middle class. Everything else is working poor. STEM used to be upper middle class. A dude driving a forklift was middle class.

My advice (not that anyone asked) for STEM graduates:

1) Immediately max 401k contribution. Hopefully you'll get a employer match, but none is common these days. Should have no problem getting $1M by age 55, though more is better.

2) 15 year mortgage on a house. So buying a house in your 30's you'll own it by late 40's

3) Don't have kids until 30's. Tech pays well (initially), but require along hours. Be prepared to do nothing but work in your 20's

4) $80k educational savings for each kid. As they will need that by your late 40's or early 50's. That should minimally pay for 4 year degree at State U, and kept them from being saddled with debt upon graduation.

Remember 55 is elderly. So by early 50's you want no mortgage, no education funding requirements, home ownership, and at least $1M in retirement savings. So when you are targeted for elimination, at least you can join the working poor; i.e. $30k/year household income (401k interest only) and no medical benefits.

Ideally you'd have $2M in savings. That will get you to $60k/year so you can afford health insurance and cruise it out till medicare at 63.

If you have any sort of medical needs at that age, with no health insurance, you are truly fucked, as heart/brain surgery is $300k minimum. Though I believe their are laws to prevent debt collection from retirement savings.

I see a major problem in your life plan here: women (assuming you're preaching to a male audience).

Doing nothing but working in your 20s, after going to college in an all-male environment (as that's what STEM classes are), and planning to not have kids until your 30s means you're going to have a really hard time meeting any desirable women. If you don't get really lucky and somehow make time for socializing in college (between all the hours required by your CS/engineering classes) and meet a wife there that doesn't result in break-up divorce before your 30s, then you're kinda screwed. It's much harder to meet singles after college IME, and if you're "doing nothing but work in your 20s", that's going to put a real damper on your dating life during that time you're looking for a partner to have those kids in your 30s.

I think this whole plan is fraught with huge risk and problems, and shows exactly why, here in America, most people having kids seem to be "working poor" or in other fields than STEM, where they have better career longevity and stability though not as much initial salary (and maybe not as much total salary over the career even), and a lot more free time after work.

I think better advice is: you have a choice: STEM or family/kids. Pick one. You can't have both unless you're really lucky, much like professional athletes. Another alternative might be moving out of the US to Europe, where the far better social systems and working conditions make it much easier to have a family.

What exactly is your definition of "middle class" and "upper middle class?"

"Should have no problem getting $1M by age 55" is totally not just "middle class." by my definition its "rich as fuck." and I'm saying that as someone who grew up poor and is now "rich as fuck." We can save ~70% of our take home salary and have enough spending cash to, literary, do whatever the fuck we want without ever worrying about the cost.

> Everything else is working poor.

"Yeah, you're poor if you aren't a millionaire by your 50s" is so silly I would believe it to be satire in a different context.

>15 year mortgage on a house.

I could have gotten a 15 year mortgage, strongly considered it, but I went with 30 because the interest rate was absurdly low so I believe I'd make better return investing that money rather than putting it towards my house. It's a risk/tradeoff I was willing to take. Everyone's situation is different.

If you absolutely require a 30 year mortgage on your home to make payments and don't have a good down payment or savings, you probably can't really afford it though.

>Don't have kids until 30's

There's both pros and cons to having kids younger vs older. It's an individual choice if and when to have children.

> Tech pays well (initially), but require along hours. Be prepared to do nothing but work in your 20's

That's silly, it certainly doesn't have to require long hours. I don't work long hours and I certainly didn't in my 20s either. In my 20s I worked less with more flexible hours than most of my peers.

>$80k educational savings for each kid

Oh, God, no!! Paying my own way through school is what made me make good choices. If my parents gave me $80K towards school I would have never taken it seriously nor understood the value of $80k.

>Remember 55 is elderly.

No, its not.

Again, all this stuff about being fired at 55, it's a Silicon Valley startup culture nonsense.

>home ownership

Is certainly not for everyone!!

> What exactly is your definition of "middle class" and "upper middle class?"

Upper middle class is retirement and educational savings, and not living paycheck to paycheck.

I believe it's 70% of households could not come up with $1k within 2 weeks. 90% could not miss a paycheck without skipping bills. Middle class these days is living pay-check to paycheck. That used to be working poor. The working poor will rely on housing/food/medical aid.

The 30 year mortgage is fine as long as the investment difference can be liquidated to pay it off at 15 years (or in early 50s.

I paid $100/credit-HR at KU 23 years ago. That did not require debt. I worked a few hrs/week and was able to handle the full engineering course-load. It's now $10k/semester (that includes room). Can't be done debt free with any major, much less STEM course load. Hence my $80k minimum for education. Guy in the cube next to me graduated in 71 and paid full tuition (including room) by only working summers. He is the oldest here at 67. They are running him out; I'm the old man soon. The next oldest is me at 45. Every one else is 20's or just barely 30.

$1M assets is not rich these days; not by far.

I work at old school, boring fortune 50 company. Plenty of people walked out at 55. That won't happen if you are good; I mean GOOD. Eat, sleep, breath circuit design. That's me. Can I keep it for 10 or 20 years; we'll see. About 10% of STEM majors are still in STEM by mid career (40s). 50% are out by 5 years, or never even enter it upon graduation.

>Upper middle class is retirement and educational savings, and not living paycheck to paycheck.

For the love of God! Give me a break! If you can't somehow manage to do that while making over $100k you are living way way way above your means, period. You can live over your means at any income level and adding more income doesn't solve that problem.

Sure, maybe if I owned two Beemers, a Cadillac, a boat, and a second home I'd be unable to do that.

>I believe it's 70% of households could not come up with $1k within 2 weeks. 90% could not miss a paycheck without skipping bills.

That says more about spending habits than is does income.

>as long as the investment difference can be liquidated to pay it off at 15 years (or in early 50s.

Your can never know your investment returns.

>Can't be done debt free with any major, much less STEM course load.

So what? I went into debt for an education and it wasn't a bad thing. Its my opinion that downright giving your kids money is a bad thing. I made my choices accordingly. I would be a total loser nowadays if my parents gave me money, for my education or otherwise. Its also in my opinion that parents obsessing over saving money for college is a big cause of rising tuition.

This very true.

Women or Men, most people I know who go into non-STEM fields sooner or later have to negotiate with the fact there is nothing special going to happen in their lives forever.

Here in India some people even believe its rather better to be a plumber or an electrician than do non-STEM degrees. Former helps you develop some skills. Compared to getting a degree in commerce and finding your whole education could be replaced by spread sheet macros.

> Here in India some people even believe its rather better to be a plumber or an electrician than do non-STEM degrees

That's the advice I would give most people in the United States as well. Plumbers and electricians can make bank, and it is something almost anyone can be trained to do well. Far better than trying to go to college, and either dropping out after a few semesters, or graduating with a useless degree - either way amassing many thousands of dollars of debt.

The median wage in the US is $39k for full time workers. You are speaking about people at the top or people who lucked out.

> Russia has a very low birth rate for native Russians

That was true 20 years ago but no longer true today. Russia is in a period of relative baby boom and fertility rate is now higher than in most European countries (except France, Sweden and Ireland I believe). It's already quite difficult to put kids in school!

Of course the effect is bound to peter out in a coming decade.

Does this count for native Russians and Europeans?

Europe for the most part has a negative native birth rate, the positive birth rates come from immigrants.

With all the huge number of immigrants there are, they're still at around 20% of population in most countries and thus unable to seriously "move the needle" on fertility rate.

> That was true 20 years ago but no longer true today.

It is still true for _native_ Russians, not Russian-based immigrants from neighbouring states.

No it is not. You're hugely overrepresenting "immigrants from neighbouring states" contributions in a country with 145 mln citizens, of which 83% are "native Russians"

Why did your wife take 5 years off "because kids"?

Trade off of salary vs day care costs. Two kids spaced 2 years. We hired a nanny for 5 months until the youngest was old enough for pre-school.

Provocative idea: maybe modern Russia is just bad at getting men into tech, so that a relative large part of the existing STEM inertia left over from Soviet days falls on women? Not saying that it is true, but from my outside perspective, it could be part of the puzzle.

Also, the Soviet era contained a lot of progressives in terms of gender roles. That is easy to forget with today's stereotypes of male-exclusive buddy networks on all levels of economic success and high-heeled golddiggers. (again: outside perspective! I don't know the facts on the ground, just talking about perception)

That's a good question! Has anyone ever met a male Russian programmer? I don't think I've ever heard of one! /s

That's where the word "relative" comes in!

Being from that part of the world, I think there are two factors - first, a lot of previous generation females are in engineering/stem - back in soviet times there were a ton of engineering positions and therefore a lot of women went on to fill them. Today this lead to a lot of engineer-mothers who encourage their daughters to be same.

Second, and I think more important, is that engineering jobs pay - and especially so today. Given the issues with economy there, being an engineer (not just software) yoru'e almost guaranteed to find a job, either at home or remote/abroad.

Maybe 70 years of praising progress and science had some lasting cultural effect.

If you think that USSR "praised progress and science" for 70 years, I have some grim news for you...

I'd be really interested to see some thorough research into the possible factors behind this.

I've personally zero experience with Russian culture beyond what makes it to the media.

From a Western perspective, we've a society that promotes and idolizes women based on their looks and sex appeal. Young girls look up to and subscribe to the snapchats of people like the Kardashians and other transient entities with a very low social value-add but a very large capitalist value add (product promotion, sales, etc.).

The visibility into successful women outside of these looks or "personality" orientated industries is about on par with the modern man. Successful female scientists and successful male scientists receive roughly the same media or social coverage. Successful female business people and successful male business people receive roughly the same, etc etc. (all anecdotally based / personal experience / intuition).

There's also a (social?) pushback against successful non-media women bringing themselves to the spotlight (such as Sandberg) for being seen as pushing themselves into the spotlight for being successful despite being a woman.

Like others have suggested, it could also have to do with the lack of routes to prosperity offered in Russia vs the West. As a whole, women in the West are have far greater access to self-actualization than men in the West, which also spreads the same women across many more routes while condensing men into a more fixed set.

Again, all non-academic and anecdotal but intuitively I feel that, like many other social issues in Western society, the heavy capitalist nature of our society is likely the root of any "issue" we perceive here.

I can't speak for all of Russia, but most Russian women I've encountered seem to have an even stronger desire to look good than many Western women.

>From a Western perspective, we've a society that promotes and idolizes women based on their looks and sex appeal.

Maybe, but it's interesting that at least in America (which is relevant since you specifically cite the Kardashians), women don't actually put much effort into looking good. Obesity in America is among the highest in the world (Mexico is a little higher). On average, you'll have a much easier time meeting attractive women in Russia, east Asia, or anywhere in Europe (except probably the UK). People just aren't as fat in other countries.

So while American society might "idolize" women based on looks/sex appeal, I don't see that actually translating to regular women trying to look good, or succeeding at it at any rate. People here like to look at pretty people on TV and in the movies, sure, but that doesn't translate to them trying to make themselves look good. They'd rather drive everywhere in their big SUV and drink sodas and eat junk food.

They didn't have a culture that depicted everyone in tech as terrible smelling, overweight or scrawny, socially inept losers.

Because the basic premise of the article is wrong. Nowhere where I worked the ratio of women in tech positions has exceeded 10%. In many ways people here are way more sexist.

At my former job my superior told me that he had a job application from a woman and said to me basically "women can't be programmers, their brains are just wired differently" and asked me if I met any women programmers. I said the gender doesn't matter, and yes, we had one woman programmer at a job before that one, and she was pretty good (but yeah, just one). Anyway, he actually hired her, so I'd like to think I changed his mind.

And that is IMO the way it should be done: standing up and saying the obvious with enough power that it actually get heard.

This article massively exaggerates the positive attitude Russians have towards women in tech. My Russian mother keeps telling me time to time that there must be something wrong with me that I have this genuine interest in tech things being a girl, because "all this physics and computers is not a girl's business"...

As some commentators already mentioned, Soviet Union tried to make no distinction between male and female professions. But nowadays social roles of men and women are strongly polarized and Stem mostly considered as not women's business.

It's fascinating that she would think "there's no problem at all", but this is a quite common opinion in Russia.

However, if other Russian tech women from Skolkovo state dramatically different things, who's bullshiting: Anna, BBC or both?


Skolkovo is a Potemkin village, all real work is being done elsewhere.

> According to Unesco, 29% of women worldwide are in science research, compared with 41% in Russia. In the UK, about 4% of inventors are women, whereas the figure is 15% in Russia.

These numbers seem ludicrously high regardless of gender. I'd be surprised to hear that 29% - almost 3 of 10 - men were scientists. Is what they're actually saying that 29% of scientists are women worldwide, but in russia it's 41%? That would make more sense.

It's just a typo for 29% of science researchers are women.

"Only 14 percent of Russian women confirmed they were using birth control pills." (https://rbth.com/society/2013/03/28/russian_women_prefer_abo...)

Maybe not taking artificial hormones keeps women interested in science and tech?

In reality Russia neither encourages nor discourages to go women into tech. But there's a long tradition way back from the Soviet years, when women flew in Space, worked as ministers, etc.

Russian women also have fewer prejudices against male scientists.

isn't this because there were very few males left after WWII (because they all died) to enter the workforce, so women had to step up to fill in the gaps?

I think I remember reading that there were so few males left that the soviets literally bussed males around the country to impregnate women so they could rebuild their population.

Is it? I had one female engineer at my previous job, and one female engineer at my current job. Out of a medium-sized team.

Some other less-technical positions held by women, still much less than 50%.

same thing in China as well - Chinese ladies and men are both serious in their studies. I think it has to do with the national psyche developed during the harsh years of Communism where either inherited wealth or proving academic mettle meant getting a comfortable lifestyle.

In Soviet Union, it is no secret how much the scientists, mathematicians as well as intelligent people (e.g. chess players) were revered on national level.

It's because Russia isn't a particularly nice place to live. From the article:

> Most of the girls we talked to from other countries had a slightly playful approach to Stem, whereas in Russia, even the very youngest were extremely focused on the fact that their future employment opportunities were more likely to be rooted in Stem subjects.

They do tech because it provides a way of getting a good life. In the West, where conditions are less harsh, women don't feel the need to go into tech to get a good life.

Similar considerations explain why female university students are more likely to do STEM subjects in Iran than in Sweden.

This, incidentally, blows out of the water the argument made by some feminists that women don't do STEM because of conditioning in nasty patriarchal societies.

Without engaging in any of the rest of your comment, I'm going to call out again the attempt to shift goalposts from tech to STEM in general. Tech people want to believe that the gender disparity in their field is shared among all the STEM fields, but, of course, it is not: women are far better represented in other STEM fields. Computer science, physics, and engineering have similarly acute gender disparity. The rest of the STEM fields --- including mathematics --- have closer to 50/50, and some STEM fields, like molecular biology, have better than 50% representation of women.

> The rest of the STEM fields --- including mathematics --- have closer to 50/50

Citation needed for this. From a quick look from a paper: https://arxiv.org/pdf/1606.06196.pdf it seems like this statement is true at the undergraduate major level, but certainly not true at the doctoral level.

This is particularly relevant as unlike engineering/tech, where a Bachelor's (or less) suffices for the majority of work, the same is certainly not true in mathematics.

As an illustration of this, note that for many people graduate school in mathematics is spent trying to come up to speed with the current research efforts of the community, unlike engineering where one is (generally) expected to be a "producer" once one hits graduate school.

Anecdotal from female friends who have started down the path to PHD in stem fields, you basically have to forgo having children until you are in your 30's.

The current path of ~10 years of schooling through women's 'best' biological time to have a child is, I imagine, a reason for some of the discrepancy between male and female post undergrad.

It's not even that niche though is it? A lot of the women I work with have started having kids in their mid-30s. In the US, I think overall people are marrying later and having kids later, IIRC.

You can, but then you would have complications. My friends in their later 30s are having more trouble conceiving and bringing children to term.

On the other hand, my friends who had children in their early-20s had no issues.

"Tech people want to believe that the gender disparity in their field is shared among all the STEM fields"

It's convenient for both women's studies departments and tech recruiters to pretend other fields don't exist. It is taboo to talk about it, to the point that I haven't come across any serious piece of writing that dared to seriously contemplate the question of "what are the girls choosing to do instead?", but I don't think it has much to do with psychoanalytic undercurrents.

> what are the girls choosing to do instead?


Interesting. Seems like the biggest ones are Nursing (83.4%) and Teaching (81.1%; kindergarten teachers in particular are 97.7% women!).

I'm aware that there are statistics. Nobody interprets them. (also the link doesn't even include medicine (edit: it does i just missed it D:))

> the link doesn't even include medicine

It does mention nurses, nurse practitioners, and technicians.

Wow. I knew there was a disparity; I didn't think it was this stark.

There are no female "Agricultural engineers"?

I find that hard to believe.

I don't think you mean that >50% is better, but your general point is right. Other STEM fields are not as male dominated. Even physics is not as bad as CS. I had several women TAs in physics, but none in CS/programming.

Others are far worse than IT, like mechanical engineering.

CS, EE, MechE, Physics.

When you say "others" it's helpful to convey the distribution. Overwhelmingly, STEM has better gender parity than CS. And MechE might be the only STEM field worse than CS.

Not sure what you are talking about.

In India. Mechanical engineering sees least enrollment from women. Many times there no girls in the Mech eng class at all. Or worse, 1 or 2 who go and tell other girls not to take up Mech ever.

The issue isn't discrimination at all. You regularly have to do physically demanding work. Welding, Metal cutting work with a myriad other stuff. Of course you may argue Women do physically demanding work all the time. But the point is such women come from a background of poverty which demands such a lifestyle.

If you come from anywhere a above lower-middle class lifestyle the overall lifestyle of your family never prepares you for this.

I don't care how many lego sets you buy for your girl. Nothing prepares for you for a certain things.

so would you say those fields that have >50% women would need to work on their gender diversity to include more men?

Since molecular biology has something like a 54/46 distribution and tech has something like a 19/81 distribution I'd probably tell anyone who told me I should focus on the injustices of molecular biology to shove it up their ass.

54/46 is considered gender equal ratio in Sweden as its within the 40%/40% line.

However the argument that we should put our focus based on how high the gender unequal distribution is is an fascinating argument since here in Sweden we have a perfect record of every employed person profession (as part of the tax record). We can list every professions and their gender distribution, and naturally very few of the stem professions are at top or even in the top 20. Worst two professions (of each gender) had midwife and floor tile worker at both >99.4% of each representative gender.

The data for female dominated professions was midwife and dentist at 99.6% and above, with pediatric at 98%. For male dominated profession at 99%-98% it is tile worker, mechanic, thin plate worker, carpenter, concrete worker, electrician, and last plumber. With 90% of people working in a profession with less than 40% women or 40% men, IT with a distribution of 81%/19% is quite average and unremarkable on the list. molecular biology, being in that small 10%, is much more remarkable because it actually has a gender equal distribution.

In case this needs to be spelled out for you, and I apologize if it doesn't, but the subtext of there being a unique gender disparity in tech not shared by thematically similar STEM fields, let alone STEM in general, is that the causal agent is misogyny.

If you have any facts to back up that strong assertion, I am sure people are interested. Otherwise, a blanket accusal of 'misogyny' is asinine and nonproductive.

I wasn't the one who downvoted you but I'm sure you're aware that the other side of the argument (that claim it's not misogyny) also cites Occam's razor.

Therefore, for either side to claim that the "simplest explanation is misogyny" or "simplest explanation is preferences" is seen as unconvincing to the opponent.

My personal rule is that anyone who deigns to use latin in their arguments also has to use all English words in their dictionary form, and not their colloquial expression.

As per that, your use of misogyny to mean something apart from ingrained dislike or contempt for women is wrong.

You're using misogyny as if its a synonym for any expression of differing attitudes to men and women, regardless of if the outcome is good or bad, and if the participants feel happy or poorly about the situation.

That colloquial usage is utterly disqualified if you want to turn this into a formal argument.

I'm aware that you are a celebrity here and I'm a nobody.

And I agree with you in a lot of things, including that we should make workplaces more inclusive.

But being right does not entitle you to be rude, passive agressive, using various tricks to silence everyone.

Think about this: if someone else behaved like you are doing now (edit: in this whole thread) - and wasn't a celebrity or otherwise safe - they might very well have to face unpleasant consequences (edit: was something like might very well have to find a new job).

There's nothing passive about my take on this problem. And nobody's being "silenced", at least not by me.

Until you mentioned the posters 'celebrity' status, I hadn't even read their username.

Usernames, and personalities, are very de-emphasized on HN.

I'm also uncertain what issue you have with their behaviour?

Where can I find that breakdown of the data?

I'm very interested in looking at the raw numbers.

Thank you.


Labour market - The Swedish Occupational Register

In English no less.

Great resource.

Thank you!

A taste: (unfortunately I can't link to the actual report)

Gender pay-gap in IT related fields is <5% (for the same occupation and education) vs 10 to 20% for the general private sector.

People who care about a 19/81 split in one field in college when college as a whole is a 66/33 split should... well you already offered a suggestion at what they should do.

Or we could stop acting as if the metric at the end is what we need to equalize, look at it only as an indicator, and then find issues to fix. If 19/81 is caused by some actual sort of discrimination, we can fix which ever issues we identify. Just as we can with the 66/33 split.

> to shove it up their ass.

C'mon man. You're better than that.

Giving you an upvote (yep, parent was downvoted for some reason) and say agree:

I too have seen tptacek communicate a lot better than today.


This rebuttal is so tired that it's actually (search for it in Dan and Scott's comments) banned from the site, but I think that's a mistake, because it is in fact a huge problem that there is a 91/9 split in nursing. A bigger problem than tech's disparity. The status-shifting we've done with "nursing" has resulted in scarce and expensive medical doctors being (almost always pointlessly) our first line of health care in the US. We should rename "nurse practitioners" to "associate physicians", discarding the gender-inflected term "nurse".

Yes, and that's recognized as a huge problem in that field. Were we in a nursing-focussed discussion forum, there's probably be a lot of talk about it.

It is a direct result of patriarchal social attitudes combined with the fact that nursing is perceived as a subordinate role to medicine, and therefore beneath men.

So it's actually a manifestation of the same broad social problem as the disparity in tech, rather than the mirror image.

As far as I can tell, hospitals recognize it's a problem and are doing what they can in terms of recruitment.

It's not even just hospitals

The American Association of Men in Nursing: http://www.aamn.org/

The Campaign for Nursing’s Future: https://www.discovernursing.com/men-in-nursing

Minority Nurse: http://minoritynurse.com/

Oregon Center for Nursing: http://oregoncenterfornursing.org/nursing-posters/

And why do you think it came to this point?

Hint - it has to do with getting in the medical school.

> so would you say those fields that have >50%

Notice what was written. It was not >50%. It was better than 50%

It's either greater or lesser than 50%. If so if not greater, then you are saying lesser than can be "better"?

It's a distance from optimal, making it worse no matter which direction it is.

But then "so would you say those fields that have >50%.." is a valid question by that measure.

What is better than 50 % ?

The original comment was:

> and some STEM fields, like molecular biology, have better than 50% representation of women.

not ">50%"

not "more than 50%"

not "higher than 50%"

but "better than 50%"

Of all the variations, only the last one has a moral value attached to it.

Where are you going to expend your energy? The whole world is full of misogency, do you spend your time trying to fix that, or worry about the compartively small number of times men face unfairness?

Flip this same argument around, and you get accused of derailing/silencing: http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Misdirected_feminism

Hmmmmm, that's a really good point. I suppose I agree that in general an argument that there is worse shit in the world is probably a bad reason to ignore other problems. In this case however it'd be difficult to do anything about biases against men without exacerbating sexism further.

If you can think of a way of making things fairer for men, without making things worse for women at the same time I'm all for it.

> In this case however it'd be difficult to do anything about biases against men without exacerbating sexism

How so? It's not even established that an unequal gender ratio is "sexism" at all.

Do you have a citation re:mathematics? As a person in mathematical physics, I would be /very/ surprised to hear that math is a more gender balanced field than physics.

I do somewhere; I'll track it down and relay the numbers. But also I'll say that this matches my own personal experience: go to an academic cryptography conference sometime and note how many more women you see than in a generic CS conference. There are more women mathematicians than computer scientists and physicists.

I haven't attended any crypto conferences but, I do work a bit with high school STEM programs and I can tell you.. higher ratio of male to female, BUT, those female students are far more interested in the math / crypto fields than the males (which leads me to believe they will stick to it career wise vs the male students. So it's not too surprising your observations.

In Spain it is about 50-60%: http://www.rsme.es/comis/mujmat/estadisticas/facultades.htm

Note that the problem it is specific only to some degrees, in general women are advancing in most western countries: http://politikon.es/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/4.png

I hesitate to hold up mathematics as a good example. There are an encouraging number of female majors but further down the pipeline the numbers get much worse. For tenured faculty positions the latest number [1] I've seen is 14%.

[1] http://www.ams.org/profession/data/annual-survey/

>better than 50%

This wording reminds me of that which Obama also used with respect to gender in STEM & education:

>In fact, more women as a whole now graduate from college than men. This is a great accomplishment

-Barack Obama

Source: http://www.newsweek.com/president-obama-reflects-impact-titl...

That's a valid criticism. As you say I was conflating one thing with another (wider) thing that it's part of.

If women are represented in the rest of STEM but not the T - doesn't that challenge the narrative of "social conditioning" being the root cause?

What I mean is, there isn't anyone out there telling women that physics is cool whereas programming is not. My bet is that anyone encouraging their little girl to be a physicists would be equally enthused about electrical engineering.. but I could be wrong.

I think when people decide what a good career would be, they're going off what little knowledge they have. And programmers aren't displayed on TV as big earners - but rather scrawny stinky anti-social dorks. And sadly there's a source of truth to this..

Software just isn't cool. It's actually pretty un-cool. I don't know how to change that.

> doesn't that challenge the narrative of "social conditioning" being the root cause?

> Software just isn't cool. It's actually pretty un-cool. I don't know how to change that.

I don't see how you find this to be a conflict. If software is presented as "uncool", is that not social conditioning?

> Software just isn't cool. It's actually pretty un-cool. I don't know how to change that.

I'm currently as an exchange student in China, and every time I tell someone that I'm studying CS, they are like "Oh my god, that's so cool!".

Somehow I'm still completely surprised when I hear that reaction. I have no idea what causes this perception, I need to remember to ask next time.

The gender distribution in my classes is still 90%+ male, though. Somehow the different image of the field does not translate into more female students.


Balance isn't the goal. Equal opportunity is the goal.

If the imbalance is due to a lack of interest in a field by one gender or another that's perhaps regrettable but not a moral issue. If the imbalance is due to obstacles or prejudices faced by one gender over another then would you agree that is a moral issue that is more important for society to rectify?

The problem is the inane assumption, which is now taken as a fact (without rigorous substantiation) that any male heavy gender ratio is a result of bias by white men (not even necessarily the majority, mind you, we simply ignore fields where women are over represented).

Not to mention the conflation of equality of opportunity with equality of achievement.

In our society it has become a taboo to even consider that stratification by gender and/or race of achievement could possibly be related to group wide differences in behavior or ability. This is, ironically, causing immense bias in modern culture; but it seems bias is OK when its the en vogue kind.

Did you read the article? If it were just an assumption and no effort had been put into investigating the reasons for it and if/how those reasons can be addressed you would be right. From the article:

"A new study from Microsoft sheds some light...gender stereotypes, few female role models, peer pressure and a lack of encouragement from parents and teachers largely to blame."

So no assumptions are being made, this has been researched. This discussion is even about some of that research and it turns out girls are being discouraged by factors that are completely addressable.

> we simply ignore fields where women are over represented

Nobody's ignoring anything. My wife is a registered nurse here in the UK and encouraging men to get into nursing is definitely a thing. It turns out that men who do go into nursing have a significantly higher chance of promotion, which you'd hope would encourage them to and is it's own issue. But please, go off on a 'whataboutist' tangent as though the legitimate answer to every uncomfortable problem in the world is 'whatabout' some other problem.

Would it be plausible that young girls are encouraged to see happiness, and personally fulfilling careers, whilst young boys are encouraged to seek money or a specific career choice?

If this were the case, then the participation of women currently entering the workplace would represent the baseline distribution of inclination, whereas men represent a modified distribution caused by hostile attitudes (e.g. men are classically discouraged from becoming nurses, or teachers to young children).

There's often a view that whatever condition men have is the correct one, and ought to be emulated in the female population. For somethings maybe this is true (yes, suffrage is pretty good), but for things like work-life balance and professional-inclinations, I am not so sure.


Why are we talking about prejudice from hostile white men in the industry? Who brought up that topic? Are you aware of studies on that? Do you have any links to them? It seems like a complete digression from the article and the thread to this point, but if you really want to discuss it I'm game. What opinion on that do you feel like arbitrarily ascribing to me?

> do you seriously mean to suggest

I didn't suggest any such thing. Where are you getting this stuff? I presented what I think is a perfectly good test as to whether unequal gender representation is an issue and an example of one example of under-representation of men I'm aware of. What is it with making up opinions for me?


I said 'faced by one gender over another', because one gender faces them more than the other. No mention of white men oppressing anybody (despite all the press Uber has been getting recently ;)

But fair enough. I am not all-knowing. As you're so keen to change the subject I am happy to oblige, what gender imbalances in which men are outnumbered by women are due to prejudice and are being ignored?


Programs for women in trades:


Programs/orgs for men in nursing:


Tech is not unique, but for some of us in the industry it seems logical to focus our attention here.

> mind you, we simply ignore fields where women are over represented).

No, we don't. This point has been asked, and answered, so often (even on HN) that it probably falls under this bit of the guidelines:


> Please avoid introducing classic flamewar topics unless you have something genuinely new to say about them.

EDIT there are dozens of these:

4 years ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5598659#5599061

3 years ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7538789#7539557

5 years ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3452516#3454185

The same trite point - "what about women in nursing? Are they oppressing men" ignores the fact that nursing is generally a low status job and that men in nursing get paid more and promoted faster than women, which is not what happens to women in tech.


You're missing the point that in all those other threads someone asks this tired question, and then other people give multiple answers linking to all the programmes to get women into mining or construction or men into teaching or nursing - the question has been asked and answered, and the only reason it keeps being asked is because people keep asking the same question without bothering to do any searches at all for answers.

> notice how you immediately presume that men are choosing not to go into nursing because of a lack of interest

I haven't said that. Please don't put words in my mouth.

Since you've done this it's obvious you're not interested in a good faith discussion.

These threads follow a predictable pattern.

Every single time people say "What about women in contruction?" or "what about men in teaching?", and every single time they do it in the same "AHA!" way.

But, if they'd bothered to plug it into any fucking search engine they'd have seen that considerable effort is spent in these other trades to change the gender balance.

Search for yourself. Google "gender inequality u.s." and you won't see a single mention of a female dominated industry on the front page.

Respectfully, why are you framing this as a question? You don't need anyone's permission to observe that prejudice is an important moral issue --- and the only people who would answer "no" to your question don't sincerely acknowledge moral imperatives in the first place.

That's a perfectly fair question. I asked in order to try and find common ground, and in case the poster has some other reason for caring particularly about imbalance instead of opportunity, or in case the poster doesn't think that the imbalance is due to differences in opportunity as described in the original article. However I could have phrased it more clearly.

Considering you haven't proven any deliberate imbalance.

Equal opportunity exists. You're asking for equal outcomes.

This article is literally about research that has identified inequalities in opportunity. Is expecting you to even know what we're talking about really too much to ask?

But off you go and take a look. I'll sure you'll find something in the research you don't even seem aware exists, linked above, to complain about. At least we'll have something to discuss instead of just slinging mud around.

Also, please, point out anywhere in my posts where I asked for equality of outcome? Which of my posts are you even talking about?

Its clear that certain people here want equal results probably because equal opportunity is much harder to track or destroys certain agendas.

>This, incidentally, blows out of the water the argument made by some feminists that women don't do STEM because of conditioning in nasty patriarchal societies.

No, it absolutely does not.

You suggest "overall society might affect individual choices" and then from that premise reach the conclusion "overall society definitely does not affect individual choices."

>[Women get into] tech [in Russia] because it provides a way of getting a good life. In the West, where conditions are less harsh, women don't feel the need to go into tech to get a good life.

Consider hypothetical societal differences [that may be patriarchal] that may make "a good life" to a Russian woman a totally different thing than "a good life" to an American women. Consider, even if definitions were identical, societal differences [that may be patriarchal] that may make make pursuing a good life much harder (or even downright impossible, see Saudi Arabia) in one country vs another.

I could go on.

For one example, after Title IX of the Higher Education Act was passed in 1972 female enrollment in medical school went from around 10% to over 20% in just 2 years. It's now around 50%.

> They do tech because it provides a way of getting a good life. In the West, where conditions are less harsh, women don't feel the need to go into tech to get a good life.

But does it now? All of 'the West' isn't Silicon Valley.

I live in 'the west', Western Europe to be exact, and while I probably make more than a plumber or a shoe salesperson, I'd say someone with a medicine, law or business degree tends to make a lot more than I do, under easier conditions, and in those fields, you're not considered old at 40, and you're not on call in the weekends. IN terms of 'a good life', tech isn't the best return on investing 5 or 6 years of your life in a degree.

It's probably not a coincidence that these are the degrees women like to pursue. For a job that requires a college degree, 'tech' isn't that rewarding in terms of money or 'the good life'. It's rewarding in terms of getting to work in tech. You really need to want to work in tech to do it. This may be stupid prejudice of mine, but I get the impression guys tend to think more in terms of what they want, and girls tend to think more in terms of what would be smart of practical.

Now I can imagine that for someone in India or Romania, a degree and skills in tech means you could work for customers in the west or even move there, and make a lot more money than you would otherwise, while a business or law degree and skills don't transfer as well across borders, so the same dynamic of choosing what you want versus what would be the smart choice leads to a different decision.

Hard to say that people in medicine, law, or business have easier conditions than you do.

What do you do, that's in worse conditions than those fields?

Indeed. Medicine and law require far more schooling / apprenticeship before the rewards start to overcome the difficulties (such as debt), often far more than even 5-6 years. All 3 can easily require being on-call at inconvenient times, and definitely require well above 40 hours a week.

Yeah, but are you looking at this from the Silicon Valley point of view, where a computer programmer can expect a 6 figure income straight out of college? Because that's far from the norm in the parts of 'the West' where I live.

Is that true, though? Does Silicon Valley really pay 6 figures for entry-level? I guess with cost of living they probably have little choice.

The cost of living in the SF area is about comparable to that in major cities in western Europe. You can't easily make a 1:1 comparison, some things are way more expensive on one side of the Atlantic, and some on the other.

I'm not claiming the job is "easier". Making a website isn't exactly brain surgery. I'm saying the reward is higher in terms of your income and status in society.

> This, incidentally, blows out of the water the argument made by some feminists that women don't do STEM because of conditioning in nasty patriarchal societies.

No it doesn't

At most it suggests that in more desperate circumstances women will be motivated to climb that hill and struggle through it

It doesn't mean there isn't a problem

Just an anecdote but my female cousin from China wanted to be a vet, but economic pressure forced her to pursue CS in Canada instead.

> This, incidentally, blows out of the water the argument made by some feminists that women don't do STEM because of conditioning in nasty patriarchal societies.

It does no such thing, because there is no universally agreed upon metric by which we can rank the degree of any given form of "conditioning in nasty patriarchal socities." It could simply be the case that, in this regard / with your example, this is a dimension in which the West is more patriarchal than Iran.

I think Russia never was a classic patriarchal society. At the family level matriarchs always played as important and prominent role as patriarchs. Yes, in the past the official power institutions were almost completely male dominated. However there were notable exceptions such as semi-mythical princess Olga, emperatresses Anna I, Elisabeth, and Catherine II. Also Peter I came to power as the result of power-struggle with regent-princess Sophia Alekseyevna. Actually when the party of Peter I won, the actual power was grabbed by his mother Natalia Naryshkina whose nickname was she-bear. Peter became the true ruler of Russia only after her death. There were other notable historic women in Russian history such as princess Sophia Palaiologina. All in all throughout Russian history there were many much-revered and/or influential women. Also some folk fairy tales feature mighty female warriors. In particular there is a story about a knight Stavr Godinovich who was arrested by the king Vladimir and was rescued by his wife Vasislisa Mikulishna by winning in several contests ranging from wrestling to chess-playing. I believe gender biases for ages were weaker in Russia than in Western Europe let alone Middle East and you name it.

> This, incidentally, blows out of the water the argument made by some feminists that women don't do STEM because of conditioning in nasty patriarchal societies.

I don't understand your logic here. Isn't the more natural conclusion that the desire to get a good life is stronger than the conditioning?

> It's because Russia isn't a particularly nice place to live. From the article:

What does that have to do with anything? In what country do you get an engineering degree, heck a degree of any sort with a goal to be broke? Obviously, there is a financial motivation, but you can find the same motivation in the United States and women tend to avoid going down this path here.

Russian women, in general, are more into this type of thing than the American counterparts. You are trying to downplay this and make it seem like they are doing it out of desperation. They are not, thank you very much.

It's pretty ignorant and shortsighted, the educational system in Russia always favored math, engineering, and science sans gender bias.

>Obviously, there is a financial motivation, but you can find the same motivation in the United States and women tend to avoid going down this path here.

In societies with weaker social safety nets, the motivation to go into a field with high earning potential but that you have no inherent interest in is greater. Someone from the U.S. will be less motivated by financial security than someone from Russia.

It's simply a remnant from the soviet union where women were expected to work and contribute the same way that men did

I wonder how many men are also choosing tech for the money.

I know I did, I wanted to study sociology but that doesnt pay the bills.

Just because representation is better in one patrialchal society doesn't really say anything. There may for instance be competing factors, for instance financial (as you have literally just suggested).

This doesn't really give any evidence for or against the argument that women avoid stem because of conditioning.

Indeed. It's an apples-to-oranges comparison. I'd be curious to know about other factors that are related to life choices and opportunities, such as:

... what's the social safety network like? Is there welfare? Are there government programs that will help with housing / food / healthcare for a single mom (working or not)? This absolutely influences things.

... what's the legal marital environment like? Are the laws regarding divorce more or less favorable to women in one place vs the other (property, child support, alimony, allowance of 'no-fault' divorces, burden of proof, etc)? This will also influence choices.

In both of these tangents, actual risk and perceived risk in various life choices is different based on the answer to those questions.

>This, incidentally, blows out of the water the argument made by some feminists that women don't do STEM because of conditioning in nasty patriarchal societies.

Yep, that one anecdotal line from an article totally destroys the idea of any sort of patriarchy or sexism happening in the US.

Sheesh, this is the top comment? Give me a break.

The fact that this is the top comment is very related to the actual issue.

I came from mech eng, and the cluelessness and defensiveness techies display when their field's hostility towards women is discussed is incredibly messed up.

> I came from mech eng, and the cluelessness and defensiveness techies display when their field's hostility towards women is discussed is incredibly messed up.

If you were an innocent bystander and being tarred with an overly broad brush by people with an agenda, I would imagine that you'd be annoyed and defensive too. What's actually messed up is that attempting to argue your own innocence is furthermore taken as conclusive proof that you are guilty, as alluded to in the above quote and elsewhere in this topic.

Frankly, I fall under an underrepresented category that these identity politics advocates are purportedly trying to help (more than one actually) and even _I_ don't wish to be in any way associated or represented by them because they're just that absurd and alienating to ordinary people.

I've done mechanical and chemical engineering, I've worked in software. Software guys are particularly oblivious and particularly defensive in my experience.

Neal Stephenson in Snow Crash put it really well:

> It was, of course, nothing more than sexism,the especially virulent type espoused bymale techies who sincerely believe that they are too smart to be sexists.

Maybe because there is no hostility towards women? Have you seen a bunch of programmers who were not happy about prospect of getting some girls among coworkers?

Yep there's no hostility at all towards women in any tech field, ever. It's all just a made up problem by feminists trying to spread cultural marxism

I have never witnessed any. I'd even say that girls were treated with more respect. Maybe it has something to do with me living in exUSSR country. But for some reason there are mostly males talking about this problem, and for some reason they cannot except the possibility of women making the choice by themselves — there must always be some evil male forcing them and succeeding.

Yes. Even on HN there are those comments.

It's hard to find them because they were, correctly, flagged and Algolia search doesn't return dead comments, but they do exist.

The comment mentions two other countries.

No, it would if it were hypothetically true.

Also, you purposely expanded the scope from "women don't do STEM because.." to "any sort of patriarchy or sexism happening in the US" in order to construct a straw-man.

This makes no sense, would men not also want to escape this hard life? Why would the ratios be different to elsewhere? It could be life is even worse for women but you don't say that.

The usual 'Not enough woman in STEM' argument is made by trivial and narcissistic Westerners.

The reason why women in Iran, Russia, Romania etc choose STEM and woman in Sweden and the US don't is because it is deadly serious which profession they choose. The same seriousness in not in evidence in the West. In the US, people (often from rich families) are spending tens of thousands to study trivial subjects. Americans are infantilised to such a degree that they unable to recognise their infantilisation.

The same impetus is seen in all the tech people from India. Do you think they are all really interested in Richard Stallman? No, they just need to eat.

If this were true - if needing a good job for a good life predicted going into STEM among women - you'd expect poor women in western countries to flock to STEM training as well. Do they?

Not if there are enough "more feminine" success models floating around in the public consciousness. Why aim for a Sheldon Cooper career if you can dream of becoming Rachel Green or Carrie Bradshaw?

And those are not even pure fantasy: an economy that is far down the service economy road towards what would be better characterized as an ad economy offers quite a few career options far from male-dominated fields that are both "serious" enough to be considered a possible path to success (vs the make-ends-meet-until-marriage spirit of traditional female occupations, think nurse instead of doctor) and still sufficiently down-to-earth to not be considered starlet territory (like the traditional girly pipedream careers of acting, modeling, singing). Why aim for engineer if you can dream of VP for social media outreach? In an economy that is closer to industrial than to service/ad, evading male-dominated fields comes at a much bigger price in career options.

Poor in a western country isn't equivalent to poor in an eastern europe or south asian country. You might expect higher rates, but not on par with what you see from Russia and the like.

Do they flock to ANY kind of education?

Quite often towards lower-level nursing and other medical tech fields. For instance, you can have a decent paying, stable, career as a CNA, with the potential to progress towards being an RN, with just an associate's degree from a local community college. A significant fraction of the young women I graduated from high school with have gone that route.

Are you telling me the countries that could care less about spamming elegant PR pieces every other day about women in technology, have more women engineers?

Can we brainwash them with a Chinese version of Kardashians or something?

Please don't do this here. These threads are problematic enough without it.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14164831 and marked it off-topic.

> Are you telling me the countries that could care less about spamming elegant PR pieces every other day about women in technology, have more women engineers?

Wouldn't that be natural though? If there was no issue of lack of diversity, there would not be a need for PR pieces on the subject, right? So the fact that PR pieces about women in technology exist may very well be a good indicator that there is a lack of women in tech.

In 1988, 64 percent of Engineers were women in USSR

Offtopic: I dated a girl who programmed ICBM guidance blocks from Russia :)

I'm so proud of this fact :)


We detached this flagged subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14165026.

If you make a poor argument with emotionally loaded words (e.g. "primitive"), and then phrase it such that downvoting is a vindication of your argument, you are not contributing to the discussion. You're just lazy.

The burden's on you to show it's a poor argument. I can just as easily state that it's a great argument.

Also, I think it's clear that OP expects down-votes for "going against the gender narrative", rather than the incidental swipes at America; That said, it is baiting to provoke in this style, rather than stick to the point.

>> BUT statistically, far fewer women than men enjoy STEM. Women are less interested in STEM.

This point has already been debunked in this thread, with links to data.

Can you link to that post, to clarify that?

Though the post I responded to didn't mention that - it just said "this is a poor argument" without reference to bad statistical claims or the other posts.

Also, what is the standard for "debunked"? links/data by themselves don't mean anything without validity, and what you and I consider valid may differ.

So absurd that even in a community like this, one is not allowed to suggest inconvenient answers to certain questions.

I'd agree sensitive topic require thoughtful posts, but the epedemic of "I'll down-vote because I'm emotionally offended by the conclusion" rather than discussion on topics is a shame.


Probably the same way they're so good at getting 9 year olds into the Olympics.

That's China, not Russia and while its almost indisputable that age falsification happened nobody was that young, more like 14. I think one even confessed to being underage a few years later.

Its worth noting the age limit for gymnastics was only raised to 16 in 2000 and many previous Olympic gymnasts competed while 14, including Nadia Comăneci who earned a perfect score (which was until then considered unobtainable, the scoreboards weren't equipped to even handle that score) at 14. Of course, at the time, the Chinese athletes were competing against other athletes that followed the age rules which, arguably, gave them an unfair advantage.

That's all irrelevant though because the whole subject is totally off topic.

It's the wrong question.

Which is ironic, since the inability to ask to right question (about the US) is indicative of the problem (here). The question tech here should be asking is: If our "party" is so great (and being the self-absorbed Kool Aid drinkers that we are, we're 100% certain it is), how come so few outside our immediate circle wants to come to our party? Maybe it's not them? Maybe it's us? Could it be us? No!!! Never!!! It can't be us.

THAT is what should be the mindset of trying to understand to problem. It's not. Funny tho'. Tech is willing to solve all the rest of the world's problems. But it's unwilling - and unable? - to solve its own.

Yeah I know. Let the down votes begin. Please feel free, cause that only proves my point.

What are you even on about???

    1. We don't understand what our problem is.
    2. Nothing we try seems to really work.
    3. So we compare ourselves to places that don't have the problem.
    4. We hope the differences shed some light on the things we are doing wrong so we can change.
Why exactly do you think they take other countries as case studies?

Did I type too fast for you? :)

Let me break it down. Nice and simple...The answer isn't in Russia or any other country for that matter. The answer is in the mirror. IF you're willing and able to look into it.

The key to problem solving is...wait for it...to identify the right problem. But before that, it's admitting you have a problem. So how exactly does looking at Russia help? (Hint: it doesn't.) And now, look at that, we're back at the mirror, or should me.

p.s. Thanks for the DV. As already mentioned, it only makes my case stronger.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | DMCA | Apply to YC | Contact