There have been countless threads over the years where a man gets the credit for something a team has worked on and there is practically never any comments about this. For once a woman gets credit and this thread is full of people complaining that there was an entire team.
Yes, there was a team, but that doesn't matter. For once a woman is getting credit for the great work they've done and this should be applauded. Stories like this help bring more women into STEM fields. Anyone who is complaining about the lack of fairness in this is making themselves look ignorant by ignoring the last thousand years of scientific progress.
I think it's just that many people feel threatened or inadequate when they (naturally) compare themselves to these people. It's tempting to put them down so that we feel better about ourselves. I think most of us here on HN like to think that we're clever but when people like Katie Bouman get under the spotlight suddenly most of us realize that we're not such hot shots after all.
It's probably worse when it's a woman/child/minority/... because it gives us the convenient excuse of "this is probably a PR stunt" to dismiss them. It's lazy and it's intellectually dishonest but it's also very human unfortunately.
This leads to people getting rejected thinking it's part of some culture war, when the truth is that most people get rejected, some of those people would have been brilliant in the role they got rejected for and it's exactly the same brutal industry that it was in the 1980s.
For an example of this that involves a male, the media has been hyping the Ocean Cleanup project because it provides them with a great prodigy story, but people on HN have been rightly pushing back against its merits.
Many people are intelligent enough, but are not going to work hard enough.
She became interested in this problem in high school and stuck with it all the way through. She is a genius, and also the genius who did the work that let this happen.
I think in this particular case, I have no problem with it. One, she obviously had a big part in it. Maybe it is blow back because they feel a picture of the inside of a black hole isn't a big deal and people are making it into something big? In my opinion, it is. I remember middle school teachers almost scoffing at the idea of a picture of a black hole and yet, 25 years later, here we are. Regardless, she in her twenties has generated something that researchers spend a lifetime trying to find so kudos to her. I'm sure there is a certain gendered element to it in both cases (for and against) and it'd probably be naive to think there wasn't.
Even if this were a smaller aspect of what these researchers were aiming for, I'd love to see a documentary series on what various team members worked on (and in her case, discovered). An image generated by radio waves and she (maybe with others?) was able to construct an image out of that? That's impressive. Probably not, but I'd be curious if this kind of thing could be localized in a way that it could be the "sound to visual model" element of a system so that blind people could make out the world a bit more directly (obviously, there'd need to be a means for them to consume said model. All of this is way above me and my pay grade).
Damned if you do and damned if you don't.
Anyway, I do not want to sidetrack from this amazing achievement.
I kinda hate the recent trend to focus more on gender or race if somebody achieves anything. Look what Morgan Freeman said about racism . Is it really important that she is a woman? Do people think a lot of women can't achieve these things? And if 1 woman achieved this, all women are better than men? Do everybody just expect men to be smarter and if they do something outstanding it's ok, but when a woman does it, it's extraordinary... Why focus so much on this?
In discussions like this we should really focus on the person (and also the team behind her/him, I doubt she could do it alone without the team), not the gender or race or whatever.
I really hope this positive discrimination hype dies out, it doesn't help anybody. Let the best person for the job get the job.
There are regularly posts here linking to articles about misattribution of credit in science and technology, the problem with the "great man theory," laments about the role of social media in creating hype, and there are plenty of male figures discussed here who engender bitter discussions about how credit should be assigned. I honestly don't see any difference between this discussion and any other discussion. I seem to remember similar discussions emerging about discovery of the Meltdown and Spectre hardware vulnerabilities, and many other physics discoveries involving large teams of researchers, just to take a few examples.
The way credit is assigned in science is a significant moral crisis in my opinion (as it is in work in general; cf. rampant income inequality), and it really doesn't matter what the genders of the individuals involved are. Strangely enough, I think attention is being paid to this argument here because of her gender. It's one of these unfortunate circumstances where I think two competing ethical goals are kind of conflicting, one being the better representation of women and minorities in science, the other being lack of fair representation for all in credit.
The sheer toxicity of many of the comments is something I haven't seen for a long time. They really hate that a women is getting credit and that others aren't getting the same level of attention.
I wonder how those same people think about Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs etc. They had huge teams behind them as well.
For every extraordinarily recognized academic/professional person, there’s always going to be many times more people who are never publicly recognized for their achievements.
Maybe they fly under the radar, maybe they picked the wrong subject to focus on or industry for career, maybe their timing is bad, maybe there’s nothing wrong with them.
I’m proud of this (stranger to me) girl for accomplishing something so large at this age. Being about the same age, I’m not jealous - but it is one more reminder that somewhere along the line my record-player skipped a few years. My 20s disappeared too quickly, or maybe I was focused on the wrong things (work) instead of passion.
As in engineering, it's helpful to use proper terminology with people:
if using a gender is necessary for the narrative …
- under 13: girl
- 13 – 18: girl / teenager / young woman (depends on context; 16? – 25?)
- 18 or over: woman
My wife absolutely loathes being called "girl". It is used to reinforce the toxic idea that women are less mature and capable than men. Same feeling from other women that I've discussed this with.
18 or over = woman.
This is why people say there's sexism in tech bud. A male MIT PhD who was the public face of their project would not be subjected to nearly this much doubt and accusations of being deadweight by insecure 4chan weirdos combing through git logs.
As someone who's been interested in astronomy my entire life, and considered getting a degree in it but only ended up with a minor since I sensibly prioritized CS and wanted to graduate in four years, this is an awesome, amazing, really clever accomplishment. And yet many of the comments here are just so negative, either outright sexist, picking nits and trying to argue that it isn't a big breakthrough or anything, or going through code contributions line-by-line trying to establish that really someone else had more to do with it.
All I know is, she must be insanely intelligent and hard-working. What an awesome PhD project, and at MIT no less!, an institution that I have enormous respect for and that I somewhat identify with because my dad attended and I've been there for many events. I'm jealous. This would've been the exact kind of thing I'd have gone into in astronomy for (because of my background in programming) had I seriously pursued it, but I know I'm just not diligent enough to have seen it through. And being honest, I didn't apply myself well enough in undergrad to have gotten good enough grades to get into a good grad school.
It sucks that so many people jump into "push people down" mode instead of "life people up" mode in these kinds of situations rather, because this is an amazing scientific accomplishment that deserves celebrating. One of the PIs in one of the press conferences said that this was the most important accomplishment in astronomy since 2014 [when Rosetta landed a probe on a comet], and I tend to agree. It's not just about this one image, but about establishing the feasibility of a virtual planet-sized radio telescope that is capable of imaging lots more than just black holes. A lot more discoveries are likely to come out of this technique, and guess who came up with the algorithm to make sense of all those petabytes of data?
1) Look back at any physic journal for similar stories of experimental success (example gravitational waves), you won't find news stories of focus pieces on a single team member because it is a COLLABORATIVE effort. The only cases were single people get recognition is for theorists like Prof Higgs, Hawkings etc, but not for the individual experimentalists at the LHC or other astronomical projects.
2) The idea of focussing on a single team member is a technique for creating a clear narrative that readers can follow. The story would get less interest if you were told about the live and works of all of the team members.
It's not all hate :)
I think it's friggin awesome to see women in science. But even if Bouman was male I would still be cautious of attributing so much of an international collaboration to one person in the form of "Meet the _____ behind the first black hole image". That phrasing disregards too much hard work. I see no reason to offer Bouman special treatment in this regard at the expense of others solely because of her gender. That isn't equality.
1/ She led the team and was first author on the image reconstruction paper
2/ She gave a Ted talk on the topic a while back
3/ There's a brilliant photo of her initial reaction to the image that captures the excitement of scientific discovery circulating on the internet
The first headline on Google for me when searching "black hole image" is this very BBC article.
It was clearly written to grab the reader's attention, and it grabs it away from the actual phenomenon as well as all of the other brilliant minds who came together to make this happen.
She led the CS team. But very-long-baseline interferometry has been around for half a century. Heino Falcke proposed the experiment. Shep Doeleman led the entire EHT initiative. Scientists around the world brought techniques to the table.
I imagine even Bouman takes issue with being labeled "the scientist behind the first image of the black hole". She is surely aware and appreciative of the massive international effort involved.
I never made any comment as to her gender being a distraction, either?
Your post is very mean-spirited, ignorant of the views I just expressed, and honestly I don't like your implication that I am not familiar with the accomplishments of women in the past, especially in my field. Or that I have a problem with their gender. Ada Lovelace and Joan of Arc are two of my greatest inspirations! Cut the obvious virtue signalling.
My entire point is that gender has no bearing on this discussion. It's a discussion about misattributing a massive group effort to one individual. The point is that gender should not play a role in either direction, because that would be sexist. Everything you've extrapolated upon you just pulled out of the aether and not my mouth.
I don't think I've ever seen so many people suddenly desperately concerned that the Little People get a mention, and I'm at least part-way convinced that gender (and maybe youth? she's 29...) has a good deal to do with it (apparently the other thing that triggers the "harrumph, what about the team" crowd are stories about child prodigies, according to another thread).
Imagine you had just had your invention create a picture of a black hole, you wrote the paper where you were the first author describing this and then the press came knocking: would you be as gracious as she has been? Or would you feel like the fucking rockstar you would, in fact, be?
Dr. Bouman is a talented, enthusiastic and no doubt indispensable force on the larger team responsible for this achievement. Her role is as a co-lead for one small team which is responsible for one algorithm (out of four) used for imaging, as well as for an imagine verification algorithm (with Dr. Bouman's focus more on the latter). The larger imaging group (about 45 people by my rough count, led by Drs. Michael Johnson and Kazunori Akiyama) is itself one part of the analysis group, which has three other working groups, and then the analysis group is one of a half dozen larger groups in the EHT project which produced this result.
So it's not a case of the project lead being presented as the face of the project, which is par for the course in academia (and the outside world). It is a postdoc one level above the grad students who form the least-senior rung of the project, and many levels from the top suddenly being misleadingly presented as the key figure in a major result.
Imagine you worked on a small team of a couple of postdocs and a few grad students near the bottom of a hierarchy of teams involving hundreds of people, and then came in one day and your colleague and co-lead at the same level as you was suddenly presented as the face and key contributor for not only your small slice of things, not even the larger component to which the slice belongs, but the entire project?
You'd probably be pretty happy for them, but also confused as to why the many people with the actual role as overall group leaders or the project leaders aren't mentioned. One might also note how distant the general public is from the machinations of the academic world that no one is asking how a 20-something CS postdoc ended up leading a multinational astronomy project involving top faculty from top institutions? In terms of notability and improbability, that would probably be a bigger story than any image produced by the group!
Explaining her actual position and contribution is not in any way to detract from her contributions: only to clarify the record in the face of an onslaught of misleading media articles, which seemed to largely sourced (transitively) from a few misleading tweets, themselves triggered by a viral image.
On top of that, none of this is doing Dr. Bouman any favors. Although they are mostly silent, no one in the EHT project is confused about her role, and none of the other people in her faculty or almost anyone else who matters will be under any misconception despite the headlines. If anything, academia is even more picky than other fields when it comes to attribution, so any type of misplaced credit can be viewed very negatively and can attach itself to a person indefinitely. Now she hasn't invited this or propagated this story, so one should consider her a blameless victim here: but not everyone in a position to care will necessarily remember that subtlety.
One needs to just look at another large thread that generated controversy to get an idea of the growing trend .
Which means one has to ask themselves: Is HN cultivating an environment that's only going to get worse? And personally, I think the answer would be yes.
She definitely did something amazing and unfortunately it turned political because it fits the narrative that some people love to push currently.
I'm not a fan of the liberal agenda of positive//negative discrimination. I really believe that it is making everyone worse off, especially women that are being treated like little kids that need to be shown the correct path.
We just want to show that you if you accomplish something in tech you aren't going to be diminished or dismissed simply because you're a woman.
How do you know?
In spite of this, I'm lucky to have an amazing network of other women in my field, and thanks to the internet and cultural exchanges, we don't feel so alone these days.
I worked at one of the most progressive / women-friendly companies in San Francisco, and as of last year, only 34.3% of our technical roles were filled by women (company size ~1,000). I'm eager to see this year's numbers, and hope they've improved, but there's undoubtedly a lot of room to grow.
You may feel uncomfortable knowing the hiring process is weighted. But I feel uncomfortable being in an office that doesn't have other women. If I can change that WHILE at the same time meeting my hiring standards AND not consciously turning away a clearly better candidate then absolutely, I'm going to use positive discrimination.
Women make up 48 percent of the total work force, yet only 24 percent of STEM workers
15% of engineering professionals are women
Women make up less than 10% overall in computer science and engineering
Surely, a man can be a role model for a woman in science (and vice versa) - e.g., if you are from the same small ethnic minority as the role model.
However, male/female lifestyle, upbringing, interests, challenges, etc. are quite different in general, even in otherwise very homogeneous (western) societies.
Therefore, the role model having the same sex/gender is very important.
(Just my view - I don't have evidence or experience in this regard).
I call bunkum on that. TBH it seems both sexist and racist to say one can only be inspired by people of one's own characteristics (in science).
In this case the sex and race are irrelevant to Bouman's contribution AFAICT.
If you were talking about someone like Payne-Gaposchkin, then she overcame a deal of sexism, fair enough.
The whole she did it and had ovaries, omg, seems so condescending and unnecessary.
> The whole she did it and had ovaries, omg, seems so condescending and unnecessary.
it's not omg she had ovaries, it's omg she did it, knowing she's going to get shit on by people (e.g. these comments) instead of applauded for what her and her team did for science. That's how it's inspiring to me.
That may be your personal definition, but that is not the actual denotation of "role model". Some definitions I found are:
"a person whose behavior, example, or success is or can be emulated by others, especially by younger people. "
"a person whose behavior in a particular role is imitated by others"
There is no mention or qualifier of it needing to be someone who shares one's background
Gender, like it or not, shapes the life experience of an individual. Why would you not want to have a role model that had a similar life experience to your own?
Except, inevitably, when a woman expresses that desire, it gets called "toxic feminism", and the justification is, wait for it: the personal anecdotes and experiences of a male.
I am shocked that in 2019 there is still so little self-awareness around this.
By that logic, why shouldn't I as a man say "fuck women in STEM", because apparently we will never be able to communicate about anything meaningful anyway. People who make it clear they don't care about my opinion, why should I want them in my life?
I stated my reasons why I think focusing on gendered role models is misleading and harmful. Fine, you may disagree. But calling it toxic and "mansplaining" - that's not furthering discourse, and frankly, if that is your attitude, STEM may be better off without you anyway. After all, science is about keeping an open mind, among other things.
Ah yes, the classic: "I'm not toxic, you are!".
Where in my original comment did I say the male perspective, anecdotal as it may be in a given context, counts for nothing?
What I did say was that a singular, anecdotal male perspective was not appropriate as a justification for depicting a woman desiring a similarly-gendered role model was somehow indicative of "toxic feminism".
>What makes women unable to have male role models, but men able to have female role models?
No one said they couldn't, but you're depicting what was said as far more benign than it really was. You didn't ask an open-ended question about it, you specifically categorized said desire as "toxic feminism".
>if that is your attitude, STEM may be better off without you anyway. After all, science is about keeping an open mind, among other things.
Maybe one of the STEM fields will be able to develop a device that can accurately measure the immense amount of irony bundled up in that sentence.
Same merry-go-round as usual in these threads:
Subtly patronizing comment(mansplaining if you will), someone points out "hey that's kind of toxic", original commenter retreats to victimhood and "I'm not toxic, you are! No one has an open mind about this kind of thing etc...", and around we go.
If you want to pretend like STEM doesn't have a centuries-long history of fairly uneven footing for other genders and minorities, and accuse everyone of suddenly being close-minded and toxic, fine, but you're going to have a hard time cashing in the victim card when someone points out the ridiculousness of it.
I did NOT say desiring a female role model is toxic feminism. Feminists claiming women need female role models is toxic feminism. There is a difference.
And that is what feminists claim, because they need this claim to support their victim narrative of why fewer women are in STEM.
No point commenting your other stuff, because you completely misrepresented what I said.
And by the way, you directly called ME toxic, whereas I made a general comment about feminism.
Like yeah I got some male role models too, but fuck I want some representation! Someone who I can relate to! Someone who I know went through what I did!
Which is what, exactly? What is so fundamental different abotu your experience? The immeasurable pain of being a minority in a group of people?
1. Your tone is excessively combative for Hacker News. If you're put off by my saying that, ask yourself what a non-combative way to take that in and reflect on it would be. As a concrete example, you said "What makes women unable to have male role models, but men able to have female role models?", in a thread after the OP had already replied to you that she had/has men as role models. It implies either that you aren't listening, or that you're being antagonistic for the sake of being antagonistic. Neither is welcome here.
2. Using phrases like "toxic feminism" make you sound intellectually feeble. Try to be more specific and concrete about what you're addressing without using charged words like that. Unironically using the phrase "toxic feminism" instantly undermines any argument you might make. Again, if your point really is to learn from / share with others, find ways to communicate that don't put up walls.
3. If you're legitimately interested in finding out about why representation matters — and I sincerely hope you are — this is a good piece on it: https://medium.com/@uxdiogenes/just-a-brown-hand-313db35230c...
From the abstract:
" Consistent with the importance of exposure effects in career selection, women and disadvantaged youth are as underrepresented among high-impact inventors as they are among inventors as a whole. These findings suggest that there are many “lost Einsteins”—individuals who would have had highly impactful inventions had they been exposed to innovation in childhood—especially among women, minorities, and children from low-income families."
Well at least according to the paper "The Gender-Equality Paradox in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education
Gijsbert Stoet, David C. Geary"
This is the life of all men in competence hierachies. All of these things happend to me within the last half year and have been since I was a boy. Doesn't matter in the least, you couldn't pry me away from my interests with a crowbar.
This is your real problem: generally, girls want to be invited, boys just do.
The reason I speak up at all and will take all the abuse and downvoting thats sure to follow is it irks me so much.
We got into PCs and didn't matter one damn if they came from space aliens or out of the dumpster. We sat at them, we sat at them and we got scolded for it and told to go outside and called nerds. Our status was absolute dogshit and few women would associate willingly with computing in any form.
I am old enough to remember that at parties we mumbled "something with computers" and smiled apologetically hoping the topic would move on. Yes, many of us spent years, decades even, feeling slightly ashamed of our profession.
Now that the best and brightest of us nerds literally reshaped the world into a place where your personal handheld computer became a status symbol here come the women.
And you know, it would be okay, we are very tame men overall, except now you claim your collective absence from this topic is because we hurt you. No, we did not, you all just didn't like computers.
Please don't. HN threads are supposed to be for people conversing, not copy-pasting.
However, she may be a superstar, no pun intended, and so her getting almost all of the credit is completely warranted, but graduate student and post-doc are training roles, and a lot of the time the post-doc won't really make a name for themsleves until they establish their own lab, because it is unclear who is producing the ideas.
Advisors often range from consultants/consulents to managers. Not because they’re not smart, but because they seldom have months of uninterrupted time to focus on a problem intensely enough.
She started working on this problem in high school, and worked on it across multiple institutions. If the PI should have gotten the credit, she wouldn’t be first author.
There was, however, an extra article about his rocket engineer on HN. Mabye that is more like it.