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Under the “Ask a Female Engineer” heading, I wish they would include a link to https://communequation.wordpress.com/2017/07/05/im-not-a-wom... for an alternate viewpoint, in order to reduce the echo chamber effect.

On the one question currently in that section, they have a diversity of viewpoints from the panel. There's no evident echo chamber effect.

Anyhow, it would be rejecting the argument of the blog post to link to it there, and the blog post itself is a bit of an increase incoherent mess (the author proudly identifies as female, adopting one label, and seems to equally proudly adopt the tech worker label, yet rejects the woman in tech label with the argument that rejecting all labels is essential to inclusivity. This is both incoherent on a surface level, and deeply problematic in that labels are the interface the human mind uses to deal with the world; rejecting all labels is rejecting all ability to model and interact with the world.

I didn't read her article that way. I read it as "Creating a new box to push people into defeats the purpose of opening up the boxes of 'Women' and 'Tech Workers'". She's alright with the labels of "Woman" and "Tech Worker" because they're (relatively) open groups. There's a wide range of people who fit into them. On the other hand, when people are talking about "Women in Tech", there's an image, and expectations surrounding that.

Embracing her identity as a woman gives her a place to build her character from. Being a "Woman in Tech", the way she's using the term, pigeonholes her into acting or looking a certain way, for fear of the dissonance it might create for someone else.

Sure, but overdoing it and confusing labels and abstractions with the things they represent can also keep a human from being more aware of the world and their deeds in it. I gladly reject the label "women in tech", but mostly because I actually do reject the label "tech" (and all stemming from that) to begin with, that's an umbrella so huge as to be meaningless. It's like "business", yeah I know what it is, just like I know what "technology" means, for any sensible use of these words, there's a million occurances where it's just padding at best, a cloak at worst, precisely a tool to not accurately model the real world, but a platonic simplified one that is easier to navigate than the infinitely fuzzy mess reality is.

> Sure, but overdoing it and confusing labels and abstractions with the things they represent can also keep a human from being more aware of the world and their deeds in it.

Sure, abstractions are not the underlying reality, the map is not the territory, and the Tao that can be told is not the true Tao. That doesn't mean that it is necessary to “reject all labels” as a fundamental requirement for inclusiveness, or even that rejecting all labels is useful or even possible given the way human minds work. It certainly means we need to understand that all labels obscure as well as explain, and understand where each is useful and where each is counterproductive.

But that's not what the blog post in question is arguing, or if it is intended to be it is not argued well.

When someone says "reject labels", I basically hear "don't think primarily in terms of them". I didn't take it as "don't ever speak it", but more "don't put it front, middle and last, 24/7". I can imagine it can be annoying/exhausting, part of feeling welcome is the understanding that it's perfectly normal for one to be there, I think.

> When someone says "reject labels", I basically hear "don't think primarily in terms of them".

I've yet to see a reason to believe that complex thought or communication is practical among humans, other than through manipulation of labels for abstractions over the underlying subject matter, so that doesn't change my objection to the argument one bit. You can recognize the limitations of the models underlying labels and be careful in choosing models (and thereby, relevant labels) that you have reason to believe are useful for the specific purpose and recognize that you're still subject to imperfect results in the best case, but labels are, ultimately, universally essential.

And that certainly doesn't mean you can't reject the utility of particular labels and their underlying model, either in general or for particular uses, but that doesn't get you to “reject all labels” much less that you must do so as a prerequisite for inclusiveness.

Labels, and words in general, while making it possible to communicate concepts to other people, also inherently make gross generalizations of those concepts, which confuses communication. Labels are therefore also used to “label” people, which is considered a bad thing. Therefore, some people really don't like labels.


I know women who feel the same way as the writer you cite. They want to just do their thing without being singled out as different, and don't feel the same need for solidarity that the "women in tech" women do.

That's a valid viewpoint. But I don't see the "echo chamber effect" you're talking about. I think most people seeking out the "Ask a Female Engineer" series are aware of other viewpoints that exist.

The main thing I wish they would do under that heading is link to the category, not just one of the blog posts. https://blog.ycombinator.com/category/ask-a-female-engineer/

This is YC's site, which presents their view, which can be as partisan as they want it to be. There's no need for balance. Your opposing view is fine but they don't have to, and shouldn't, promote it if it's not what they believe.

> can be as partisan as they want it to be

Sure, but it would still be cool if it wasn't.

Did anyone suggest they can't "be as partisan as they want it to be"?

This is teddyh's comment, he can say what he wishes.

And teddyh is making a suggestion. Hence "I wish". You are being unnecessarily rude.

That was an interesting read, thanks for sharing :D

I find myself somewhere in between the two viewpoints - I think there are a lot of factors that lead women in the United States to pursue careers outside of STEM, and factors that cause women in STEM to leave their tech careers later in life. I don't think it's a coincidence that many of the women in STEM that I know (including myself) are first or second-generation immigrants.

At the same time, I'm skeptical of attempts to increase the number of women in STEM fields, especially those sponsored by major tech companies or venture capitalists. They seem like thinly-veiled attempts to increase the pool of potential workers and decrease wages - the same way that these tech companies lobby to increase the number of H1B visas. I think the best way to work towards ending discrimination towards women in the industry, and also discrimination towards immigrants (without decreasing wages) is organizing tech workers collectively.

It would be nice if there was an "Ask a Male Engineer" blog section also to get a more diverse viewpoint. It would be interesting to see the differences or similarities in opinions, perspectives and experiences of both genders. Or maybe just an "Ask an Engineer" blog where both genders' views are provided.

Just out of curiosity, do you follow any engineering blogs right now? What percentage of those blogs were written by a male engineer (since you're interested in their viewpoint)?

Do you feel like it's difficult to find the opinions of Male Engineers online?

The viewpoints of male engineers are not particularly interesting, because they are the majority. The viewpoints of minority groups are interesting, but, the very categorization of “Ask a Female Engineer” excludes all women who feel like the article I linked to (and apparently there are more than a few of them). Furthermore, the category “Ask a Female Engineer” does not even acknowledge the existence of this viewpoint – it misleads the reader, who is probably from a majority group, into thinking that this is how all of the minority group members feel. Which is why I thought it might be useful for a reader to know about the existence of this alternate viewpoint, by the inclusion of a simple link, explaining why the very categorization of “Female Engineers” is problematic for some, even those who otherwise would belong to it.

I don't know if you're being sarcastic or not, but I think we all know that "ask an engineer" means "ask a male engineer" 99% of the time.

Edit: I was just guessing at the ratio of male to female engineers, so maybe I overestimated the imbalance, but I think the point stands.

I mean, it looks like 21% of all engineering degrees went to women, which is the easiest way to guesstimate the job data (and is generally how they guess the percentage of women in the workplace, along with questionaires). I get that you're being pedantic, before you start to explain yourself, but still.

EDIT: Maybe tax forms, but I'm not sure the legality of that... but I think it's still the census.

No, it doesn't. It means "ask an engineer", and every engineer should know that due to lack of specificity the term does not exclude female engineers. Would you also imply that "ask a doctor" means "ask a male doctor"? What about "ask a nurse" or "ask a teacher"?

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