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The More Gender Equality, the Fewer Women in STEM (2018) (theatlantic.com)
330 points by oftenwrong 8 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 602 comments



It all comes down to equality of opportunity vs equality of outcome. When there is equality of opportunity women choose different fields...often (but not always) because of different interests. Equality of outcome forces people to do things that they may not have an interest in.

And that is before you get into interests vs natural talent and how that does or does not affect ones success in a field. On a fundamental level I personally prefer equality of opportunity and freedom of choice.

As to the men being jerks/toxic etc argument. Are there times when that is true? Absolutely. But, men do not have a monopoly on being jerks, creating toxic work environments or harassing people. Personally I've seen bad behavior from both sides. I've also seen exceptional talent, skill, empathy etc. come from both groups. Many corporate cultures are toxic to everybody, irregardless of your gender.

I'm sure this will be down voted, but it is what it is.


> As to the men being jerks/toxic etc argument...

I think its a lot more complicated than this. Yes, men and women can be jerks. The bigger issues seem to be when a team is 80%+ one gender or another, and the issues aren't about "being mean" the issues are about the dominant group being blind to and then not accommodating the nondominant group's needs.

A huge problem is that we have a lot of 6 person tech teams with 5 guys and 1 women and the women naturally feel alienated and either aren't actually able to do well or are at least perceived as not doing well due to their situation. This holds back women's career development as a group and reduces the numbers of women in higher ranks in corporate life.


> the issues are about the dominant group being blind to and then not accommodating the nondominant group's needs.

I do not think that is the problem of 80%+ one gender groups.

Imagine going into a store and see that 80%+ is the opposite gender. Before anyone has a chance of accommodating your need, what emotions pops up? Now compared that to going into the same store with the 80%+ being your own gender.

Going into an environment where you feel like a part of a dominating group give most people a feeling of security. They feel safe and what ever choice everyone else does is a safe choice to adapt. Entering a group where you are a minority has not just the absence of that, but can also induce a sense of insecurity.

This is one theory why countries like Sweden have a very extreme gender segregation of around 90% of men and 90% of women working in a gender segregated profession. From student to senior employee, every step is impacted in how secure the person feel in continuing with their career path, and the above effect influence how leaky the pipe get.


> the women naturally feel alienated

Why “naturally”? Is it really natural for men and women to alienate each other just by existing?


yes! now get back into your box! ;)


The same is true is in fields dominated by women, such as education


And lots of people are investing lots of time and effort into trying to fix that problem in education, healthcare, etc.


> And lots of people are investing lots of time and effort into trying to fix that problem

Are they? I worked in the mental health space for over 10 years and almost 80% of therapists are women -- and a vast majority of those are white women. There hasn't been any significant movement to "fix" that despite a very compelling argument that finding a therapist who is a good match to a patient is fundamental to the success of treatment -- there's actually a scientific case to be made that more diversity in mental health care is beneficial to outcomes. However, there's little evidence that "more women" designing silicon chips has any measurable benefit (or harm.) Having more women (and old people, and people from different cultural backgrounds) involved in UX design is definitely valuable -- but more women writing back-end server code or designing airplane wings has little effect either good or bad.

Women vastly outnumber men in the social sciences and in education however, "We need more men kindergarten teachers" has never been a serious initiative. Getting more women into commercial fishing, oil field work, plumbing, or over-the-road trucking has never been seriously pursued. But "computer science" -- it's a damned obsession with people of certain politics.

It's a fact that men and women are different, both biologically and socially. Women can certainly be exceptional computer workers and men could be great therapists or kindergarten teachers -- but that doesn't mean they necessarily want those things nor are they necessarily pre-disposed with the characteristics necessary for success in those fields. It's a fact, for example, that there are gender differences in spatial reasoning. That doesn't mean all men are better than all women at spatial reasoning, but it does mean that men have a statistically higher success with spatial reasoning than do women as a group. Women have their own advantages over men as well. There is nothing wrong with differences and it has gotten stupid how people insist on claiming that everyone is equal. They're not. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses.

This insistence that we have to "fix" the "problem" is just woke nonsense. We should absolutely, 100% end discrimination in the professions -- no question or debate there. But we should stop trying to force equality as an outcome. Let people gravitate towards the things they're good at or care about instead of trying to social engineer everything to please some imaginary ideal. If a girl wants to hack on compilers -- we should get out of her way (i.e. removing bias and discrimination) and let her do it. But we shouldn't be focused on going into third-grade classrooms and trying to convince girls that they should care about hacking on compilers. We should be focused on exposing every student to vast possibilities, but we don't need to force it down people's throats as a social imperative.


I think it comes from how software has become a financially lucrative profession in nice office environment with semi-flexible hours relatively recently. An overall attractive package with the corresponding political attention it gets as a result.

While all the other things you mentioned other than maybe oil field work are not as financially lucrative.


> I think it comes from how software has become a financially lucrative profession in nice office environment with semi-flexible hours relatively recently.

In short, the goal is to put people of a certain group in positions of power and influence.


People of a certain group are already in positions of power and influence. The goal is to ensure that people from all groups get a slice of the power and influence. Why would you (or anybody?) not want that?


No one expressed any opinion or judgement, so please don't impose your prejudice on others. The point is that the first step to fix a problem is to correctly identify it. If you misrepresent the problem them obviously you cannot succeed at fixing it.


This is generally a great summary. We have near full employment right now, so that means in order to pull more women into engineering, you'd have to fill those industries the women are coming from with equally talented men.

In other words, you'd effectively be taking would-be male engineers and converting them into nurses and teachers. And vice versa. The number of people that consider those fields a toss up is vanishingly small. They require completely different skill sets.


It's a matter of power. There extremely few women CEOs, or millionaires, in positions of power. Legally they have all the same rights, sure, but all these power structures are men's clubs. IT is one of those, it's a matter of power, but much less ambitious.


It’s a sad reflection of the current world that you were downvoted. It is a matter of power. If it wasn’t professions typicalLy associated with care taking , I.e. women, would not be lower paid than professions associated with men. People in power, mainly men, decide which should be more valued and guess what they tend to value more? Historically software engineering started more a women dominated field (men were in the more valued hardware field then) and as software became more important it became increasingly defined as a men’s field and theories then prop up that it’s the natural way, men are simply more inclined than women. Bollocks!


The power structures are sociopaths' club. If anything, I'd rather say that it's powerful people prefer to be men, than being a man gives one any power. Most of the men are clueless powerless people.


I have managed delivery teams and this all fits my experience. One sex can have 100% best intentions but can nonetheless dominate. My best performing, and funnest, teams have been nearly equally split.


Keep in mind that if I am in a team of 5, then 80% of the group is in the dominant "not-me group" and 20% is in the minority "me group". We often (and reasonably) choose to prioritise the needs of the dominant group over the non-dominant group. If I want to use Elm, but the rest of the team wants to use JS and React, I'd actually be a bit of a jerk to force them all to accommodate my wishes.

While contrived, I'm convinced this is precisely the problem. If I am a woman on a team of men, am I a bit of a jerk for demanding that the rest of the team accommodates me? Perhaps they all have a communication style that suits them that is born from their upbringing as male children while I have a communication style that equally suits me, but is different from theirs. Must I adapt to their system, or should they adapt to mine?

When we talk about programming style, or preferences for tools the answer is seemingly easy. We go with the majority so that we please the most people. When we talk about gender, sexual orientation, race, etc the answer is much more complex. We can divide our groups in infinite ways and yet some categorisations are chosen to be significant while others are not.

Because of this, I feel that it is actually really important that we recognise that we will not and can not accommodate everyone. Being different, having a different opinion, having a different set of experiences is not actually enough to warrant special treatment. In many cases we choose to discriminate: no matter how good a Java programmer you are, we will not write our frontend in GWT! (Real story: I maintain a frontend written in Java and GWT, so I'm taking some liberties ;-) ).

As I said, there are some special cases where we have decided that we wish to provide special accommodation. We do this because, on balance, we believe that doing so enriches our societies. It will always be a tradeoff, though, and it's important to understand that.

Consider the word "discrimination". Without that word, we can not discriminate between "good" and "bad". We do not want to live in a world without discrimination. We should always strive to discriminate in such a way as it makes the world a better place. We wish to avoid behaviour that works against our interests and encourage behaviour that works for our interests.

To that end, we specifically discriminate in certain situations so that we accommodate minority groups in a way that we feel enhances our society. It should not be a surprise if we occasionally get this wrong and I strongly discourage people from assuming that the "right" answer is easy to determine. It is important that we think very carefully about which things we wish accommodate (minority representation of gender, sexual orientation, race) and things which we do not wish to accommodate (hate speech, violent behaviour, and GWT :-D).

P.S. I hereby apologise for my horrible characterisation of Java and GWT. I actually don't mind it that much...


Valid points. I have used the example of a lone vegetarian joining a team with a tradition of eating together at a steak house. In my mind, it would be a reasonable accommodation to stop doing that once a vegetarian is hired -- low cost to switch, highly obnoxious not to.

I find your example of communication style to be trickier. It feels in-between to me. I would agree that some elements of communication style should not be changed to accommodate an inflexible newcomer. On the other hand, when people talk about the benefits of diversity, communication style is a really large element! You know what you enjoy about your current boys' club style -- but it might very well be better if you switched to something more professional even in the absence of onboarding someone new. You won't know until forced to by the introduction of diversity, and that's true in many different subtle areas, not all of which you're going to have any chance of spotting in advance.

The same argument could be applied to just about anything. Perhaps GWT would be a really great fit for what you're working on, but you won't know until you try it. That's far less likely than a communication style change, though, so it's probably one of the costlier and less likely things to try to accommodate.

I agree that the question of whether or not to accommodate a difference is not always answered with "yes!" It depends on the accommodation required.


I don't understand why modern society doesn't understand/want to believe that men and women have different career interests than men. Men and women value things differently, and it's not all because of society.


What I don’t understand is the obsession to draw conclusions as soon as possible. We just don’t have the data yet. From my experience developers are still seen as black magicians by other roles. Being initiated is having been a weird unpopular boy which used computer since he was young. It’s slowly starting to change, and maybe real trends will emerge in 20 years, but why the hurry?

Our only responsibility is that we provide welcoming environment and equality of opportunity. But I may be missing some US context on the obsession here.


There's a whole lot of people who have studied fields that are irrelevant to today's industry needs and have ended up with no real marketable skill. Various forms of activist movements have money in it.

Modern developed societies have solved most of the serious, basic problems making it easier for a group of people to capitalise on solving more lofty problems. I have seen someone who did a degree in communication studies or something like that going after video games for sexism and raise millions for the cause.

This trend will probably continue until we have more serious things to worry about. This is very eloquently described in "Fate of empires" by Sir John Glubbs.


You can just say Anita Sarkeesian, no need to beat around the bush.


Wasn't beating about the bush. I just forgot her name. Either way, her name wasn't important enough for me to look it up. The point was, someone who has no credentials about gender equality, video games or psychology were raising millions to fix a "problem" outside her expertise.


Animals have behavioral differences between males and females, I also don't understand why it's so hard to believe that humans will have differences between the genders as well.


I think it's the people in power are applying the usual divide and conquer technique: they add more women to tech, alienate men and women and keep them busy fighting each other. How to alienate them? By giving special preferences to only one group. This is a textbook technique.


i hate this argument so much! it has been thrown in my face soooooooo many times... it's the go-to excuse managers and sales people use to tell a woman in IT that she's weird for doing what she does. even in teams with 90% men, it was almost never the men in the team that were the problem, but almost always those looking in on the team: managers, sales people, marketeers, project managers, journalists, ...

please, stop telling women they are weird for wanting to work in IT or for enjoying their IT job.


Saying that the disparate representation between genders in technology industries is due to innate differences is not telling women they're weird for working in tech. It is not a statement about those women who go into tech, it's a statement about the aggregate choices of women in society as a whole.

I don't know what your intent was in writing this comment, but trying to frame any attribution of career choices to gender as a personal attack is a common tactic to try and shut down discussion on the topic.

80/20% isn't even very unusual gender split: https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2017/03/06/chart-the-perce...


Woah there, the person you're replying to didn't once use the word "weird" or any synonyms thereof.

They said that men and women tend to have different broad interests. But that doesn't preclude women from having an interest in tech. He's making a statement on statistics, not making a value judgement about anybody.


Does the fact that you "hate that argument" invalidate it in any way?


I never said that, or claimed women have no place in IT or don't belong in IT or anything of the sort. I said men and women value things differently, so you will naturally get disparities in career paths. That doesn't make a male teacher weird because he's vastly outnumbered, nor does it make a woman weird for wanting to get into STEM or IT... It just means on the whole....men and women are different and -most- men and -most- women like different things than each other, completely detached from any societal norm, and there's nothing wrong with that.

We should tackle sexism where it exists, but we can't tackle it properly if we're trying to say everyone is the same...because they aren't.


I don't think that the comment above was speaking in hard and fast rules. They were more making the point that men and women may generally have different interests and that those interests will impact career choices. There wasn't any value judgement about women getting into IT being weird, but more a statement that a 50/50 split may not be feasible if the incoming pipeline is 70/30 due to the interests of those respective individuals.

If you have people telling you that you're weird for your interests, then they're likely either self-conscious or an ass. That goes for most generalizations that evaluate skill or ideas based on the attributes of the person vs. the merit of the idea itself... but that is a different discussion :)


I'm all for equality of opportunity, remove unconscious bias and creating a welcoming environment for all groups, including women. But equality of outcome I think pretty quickly breaks down. If we force 50% of software engineers to be women, we'd pretty quickly run out of women. This cascades as well, as we're not getting gender balance for CS enrollment in colleges either.


I worked with a few women in software development. 2 of them separately told me they liked working in an all men team more than working with women. "Men are more honest and straightforward, women more jealous and backstabbing". Their words, not mine.

But since the whole upheaval of women in workplaces that flowed to Europe from US, I have the feeling that this sentiment has changed.


> I worked with a few women in software development. 2 of them separately told me they liked working in an all men team more than working with women.

There are far more male bosses than female bosses. Accordingly, assuming bad bosses are relatively rare, it's far more likely every female boss you've ever had is awful than every male boss you've ever had is awful. This is just probability.

Let's take an example. Suppose 10% of bosses are awful, regardless of gender. Further suppose that due historical societal reasons, only 20% of bosses are female. If you've had 3 different bosses in your career, there's a far likelier chance that every female boss you've had is awful (3.94%) than every male boss you've had is awful (1.4%). (I'll leave it as an exercise to derive these numbers).

So, even if men and women are just as likely to be awful, you're nearly 3 times as likely for all of your female bosses to be awful than all of your male bosses to be awful simply due to the fact that women are under-represented.

This probability may explain at least some of this common and sad bias against female bosses.


GP's example didn't say anything about bosses, but rather all-male teams vs teams with >0 women. Your comment is just an extended non sequitur


> GP's example didn't say anything about bosses, but rather all-male teams vs teams with >0 women. Your comment is just an extended non sequitur

It doesn't matter if it's bosses or co-workers, the math works out the same.


No, it doesn't. It would require all-male teams to be substantially more common than teams with 1 or more women. It's not clear to me that this is the case (it's very much not my experience: 1/6 teams I've worked on have been women-free).


> 1/6 teams I've worked on have been women-free

If your average team size is 5 people, then on average, the gender breakdown in your company is 72% male/28% female. I assumed 80/20, so yeah, it's still pretty accurate.


This doesn't hold up to scrutiny, since the opposite situation would also occur. People are also nearly 3 times as like for all of your female bosses to have been good, and exclusively had bad male bosses.

If fact, if 10% of bosses are awful then there will be far more people who have exclusively had good female bosses than bad female bosses.


Someone want to break down how to calculate the odds here?


Assuming gender has no impact on awfulness

P(all your female bossses awful) = P(awful boss)^(number of female bosses)

P(all your male bossses awful) = P(awful boss)^(number of male bosses)

The lower the number of male/female bosses, the greater the probability of all of them being awful. The opposite (probability of all of them being not awful) increasing is also true.

This is generally known as a small numbers fallacy[1]

https://human.libretexts.org/Bookshelves/Philosophy/Book%3A_...


That anecdote tells you precisely nothing; women who prefer working in all-female teams, etc, etc, have already been weeded out. Talking to people in the industry is sampling from a population of people who probably don't see a problem regardless of the actual situation.


It tells you that the men in the team weren't treating her like crap. And this is exactly what is always discussed, that being a lone woman in a group of men is toxic, discriminating, etc. The women I work with didn't have this issue.

Sure, I read some horror stories, mainly from US. But that doesn't mean that as a women you can't work pleasantly in an all male environment, as my experience clearly shows.


Quote from the parent comment:

> 2 of them separately told me they liked working in an all men team more than working with women.

It's not comparing all-male to all-female teams, but all-male to teams with any women. As you say, There are roughly zero all-female teams in tech[1], but the proportion of any-female teams is much much higher.

[1] Yes, I know there are teams who have explicitly sought after this for ideological reasons, but theyre a rounding error.


Being in groups of the opposite gender has the benefit that you can opt out of inter-sex competition. Men compete with men. Women with women. A woman working in a otherwise all men team have no other woman to compete with which can be a great freedom. If a person explicitly talked about "jealous and backstabbing" I would interpret it as terminology of inter-sex competition.


Agreement in the form of an anecdatum:

More than one baby-boomer woman I know has said that every time she has a male boss, things are okay, and every time she has a female boss, the whole office gradually goes insane. I'm in particular thinking of my aunt, working in banks (all of her peers were women), but I've heard it elsewhere too.

But then again, it's anecdata. I try not to take it seriously (I mean, I take it seriously about the individual's experience, but not as a description of large-scale patterns). But also when people have just-so stories about how male bosses are toxic to female underlings, I have the same "maybe that was true for you, but I don't see any reason to generalize" reaction.


I am from Europe. I keep hearing the same things. Although it is anecdotal and from other people. At times it seems women have it constantly against each other focusing a lot of their time on social power plays. Myself I work in an environment with 97 percent male ratio so I do not have enough experience to comment on it myself. I would rather have it 50/50 at this point though. I think it would be less boring.


I was curious if these terms were formally defined anyplace, looks like there's actually wikipedia articles devoted to them:

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equality_of_outcome

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equal_opportunity


They've been defined concepts in social science for a while.

Also equality vs equability, etc.


Women are unbelievably toxic if they achieve critical mass in a department. I cannot believe the level of petty conflict that my wife endures in her female-dominated PM team; my male-exclusive band of semi-autistic programmers seems like fiddler's green in comparison.


Not totally related but being the one socially adept developer on a team of semi-autistic devs is the absolute worst. I was also the only woman but it wasn't the gender ratio that bothered me as I've been on great all-male teams in the past. But my god is it hard to enjoy your workday when you're the only person on the team with social skills and nobody ever wants to talk to you or go out for lunch occasionally!


Are you sure it's the lack of social skills? Lot of my male colleagues don't socialize with women at work. They are completely normal outside of work. They just don't want to take risks in today's socio-political climate where any interaction is looked through hyper-deconstructed sexism lens.


> I'm sure this will be down voted, but it is what it is.

I totally agree with you but I hate that you had to end with that line. It's pointless and simply shuts down any useful discussion and implies that 'you disagree/downvote with me because I'm right'.


That was my thought as well. I read a good post, then my dominant thought was changed to a negative slant because of an entirely unecessary -- and probably very inaccurate -- note of paranoid self-defense.


I am a woman, and this pervasive opinion that women are leaving STEM fields because of toxic behavior feels more sexist to me than anything else. It seems to me that if you have a genuine passion for STEM stuff, it takes a lot more than a bad environment to completely redirect your career path.

Every woman I know with a genuine and deep interest in STEM subjects has had to deal with some level of toxic/sexist/whatever stuff in their life, and they persevered and dealt with it because they weren't going to let it get in the way of their passion.

It might sound harsh, but I don't feel terribly concerned about keeping these displaced women in STEM; if their interest isn't strong enough to overcome a bad environment, then maybe they just weren't that interested to begin with. That's not a bad thing, it just means that they misjudged the interest:difficulty ratio.

Of the cases I know of personally, most of these women ended up in a job working fairly close with STEM stuff, writing manuals, doing graphic design, etc, and are perfectly fine with those jobs.

To be clear, I'm not accounting for cases where an entire university or business or whatever is made up of toxic sexism, but that's been pretty uncommon in my experience in the US.

Women of STEM: if you've got a bad environment, do something about it! Tell your higher-ups, talk to people directly, seek a different position, endure what you can, and for God's sake stand up for yourself.

tl;dr the implication that most women in STEM can't handle a toxic work environment without giving up entirely doesn't seem that progressive at all

NB disclaimer, most people I know are computer scientists, plus a few mathematicians, so maybe engineering is different


> Every woman I know with a genuine and deep interest in STEM subjects has had to deal with some level of toxic/sexist/whatever stuff in their life, and they persevered and dealt with it because they weren't going to let it get in the way of their passion.

I grew up in an era when kids interested in STEM were "nerds" and were harassed, denigrated, and had lower social status. This changed when Bill Gates made his first billion. Suddenly, people realized that STEM was a ticket to the good life.

The title of the documentary "Triumph of the Nerds" was no accident.

A Seattle local comedy show "Almost Live" regularly ran skits about Microsoft engineers being socially inept and unable to get dates. (Of course, the joke turned out to be on Almost Live, as the super wealthy Microsoft engineers transformed the city.)

I suppose my point is that men who liked STEM had persevered in spite of the negative image of it.


Yes! Thank you, I failed to touch on this in my comment at all, it's not a gender-specific phenomena to have to push back against negative social aspects in order to pursue the things that truly capture your interest. I agree wholeheartedly.


Good point. As a male, I was heavily socialized not to go near computers. That was nerd shit. Everyone in my peer group came to know that I was into computers, but this interest was always something that I remember bringing a sense of shame, and something I had to downplay. It was a conscious effort to present myself as a normal guy who just happened to be good at using those things.

I recall a well-meaning teacher once publicly recognizing me as a “computer expert”, and the ensuing giggles and ridicule from my friends and peers for being a computer nerd.

While I would not say I was bullied, the “computer nerd”/“spending all your time in front of a computer” was somewhat of an expedient wildcard insult to be used whenever somebody needed to take me down a peg. In terms of group identities, I think the only labels that were lower on the social status ladder were being gay or being obese (exception if you could pull off “the funny fat guy”).

Maybe the millenials had it easier, but I think most people who are well established in their career by now came out of that environment.

Along those lines, it’s no wonder that many men in the field who emerged from that did not develop adequate social skills, and frequently demonstrate their lack of experience in interacting with women. Unfortunately, the social protocol errors are often either lumped in with sexism, or the dreaded “being a creep”, and it’s now fashionable for other (likely traumatized) people to publicly shame them, get them fired, and ensure that their infraction is part of the permanent record of the internet.


Was Almost Live the source of the skit "Studs from Microsoft"? Microsoft used to ship that skit as a demonstration video on their Microsoft Video API MSDN CDs.

EDIT: Found a Raymond Chen blog entry confirming that the skit was indeed from Almost Live -- and it featured Bill Nye.


Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ZOSdFBfpSQ

First aired in 1992. I miss that show.

Cops in Redmond is another classic:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pxGDSucCEI


It's really too bad they never released a compilation DVD set of it. AL is consistently funnier than SNL. Much of the humor is local, though.


My favorite is the 425 area code skit, with a snobby lady (in character) complaining about Renton being in the same area code as Bellevue. No one outside of the Seattle area would ever get that joke, however.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9jlo4Ht2YA

Done in the same style as the WSU drinking ban...another later classic:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Kozfrph9LU

Or Bill Nye as a street walking lawyer on Aurora avenue:

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

They put everything on YouTube. No need for a dvd :)


sweet!


Yup. Bill Nye was a regular on the show before he was famous.


> this pervasive opinion that women are leaving STEM fields because of toxic behavior feels more sexist to me than anything else

I don't think it is sexist at all to claim that some people would not want to be in a field because of its hostile work environment. I sure wouldn't. Factually debatable? Sure. But sexist?

> It might sound harsh, but I don't feel terribly concerned about keeping these displaced women in STEM; if their interest isn't strong enough to overcome a bad environment, then maybe they just weren't that interested to begin with

I'm not a woman, but I am a person of color. And if anyone expressed those exact sentiments about people of color, I would never want to be around that person again. "I don't feel terribly concerned about keeping displaced minorities in my field. If they aren't interested enough to put up with racism, they shouldn't be here to begin with. It is their own responsibility to do something about it and fix the racist environment that they are in". Can you even imagine someone saying that? And yet, I hear the same sentiments being directed towards women constantly.

Ironically enough, you and I probably agree on most things. I don't think the STEM field is "toxic" or any worse than any other profession. At most companies I've worked, both management and other engineers made great efforts to be welcoming and friendly to women. That said, misogyny and hostile work environments do exist, and when it happens, we need to make sure we blame the culprits and not the victims.


To further complicate the matter, the idea of a "bad" environment is relative.

I've been on many all-male programming teams. Played football in high school.

From my experiences, those men tend to make fun of, poke, prod, and occasionally fight their way to agreement.

Comments were very direct. Abrasive at times. But usually got straight to the point.

I don't think I ever thought of any of it as needing "fixing". Quite the contrary, I think those men loved those other men.

But I could see someone of a different disposition being shocked at the crudeness, the brashness of it all and possibly thinking "it's toxic". It could be conflicting if someone wanted to participate in the team activity, but their approach didn't align with the existing members.


> To further complicate the matter, the idea of a "bad" environment is relative.

I see no relativism here.

As a description of your past experiences it was ostensibly a productive, functioning environment where every single member of every single group was comfortable communicating in that style.

As a general prescription for the most productive behavior for groups it's a poor model. As you point out, adding a single member with a different disposition can quickly turn the thing into a toxic environment.

Also, that model suffers from the same issue FLOSS projects do-- namely, it's hard to get any numbers at all on how many people never join up because the communication style isn't welcoming to outsiders.

Anyhow, if you posted this on Twitter I'm sure your description would quickly become transformed into an ostensible prescription by its algorithm as it got distributed for maximum outrage. But that's a problem with anti-human digital platforms, not a sign of ambiguity in what constitutes a productive work environment.

Edit: clarification


>and occasionally fight their way to agreement.

If you literally mean 'fight', then that's just a bad work environment.


I’ve seen fist fights on sports teams when I was younger or blow out arguments in my marriage finally clear the air where a hundred previous logical, empathetic discussions only let the feelings fester.

There is something liberating about finally embracing the anger, rage and resentment that you feel and just letting it all out. Unfiltered.

And strangely, as I get older, I take it less personally if I’m on the receiving end. Sometimes people are overwhelmed and tired of doing mental gymnastics to keep things “nice”. I sorta get that now.


Are you saying that fist fights in the office are ok, then? Or you mean something else?


I’ve never seen a fist fight in an office. Probably not a good idea from a legal or liability standpoint.

But if two consenting adults want to physically fight in a controlled, fair environment, zero problems with that. And I could see how it could be therapeutic to release the resentment towards the other.

Maybe an office boxing league?


Having technical decisions made on the basis of who can punch the hardest doesn't seem sensible. But I don't think you are being serious at this point.


You're forgetting the first and second rule...


> If they aren't interested enough to put up with racism, they shouldn't be here to begin with

I did not say "put up with", I said "deal with", which includes many options other than accepting what you're given. If your workplace discriminates on the basis of race, you could report them for violation of anti-discrimination laws, lobby for stronger laws, leave the workplace for a better one, etc.

> It is their own responsibility to do something about it and fix the racist environment that they are in

Exactly what I just discussed, maybe in an ideal world such things shouldn't be your responsibility, but the only way to guarantee action is to take it. If someone pushes you into a puddle, you might be right to say that it shouldn't be your responsibility to remove yourself from that situation, as you did not put yourself into it, but I think most would agree that the right course of action is to deal with it yourself anyways.

I am not suggesting that the responsibility falls solely on women or minorities to deal with their own problems at all, but I am suggesting that they should take some agency of their own.


Do you have thoughts on whether or not the current discourse is socializing certain group identities to prematurely internalize a victim mindset?

My niece expressed an interest in taking CS, and two of the women present immediately launched into third-hand accounts of how toxic and sexist they have heard that the industry is. It pisses me off a bit that they are convincing an otherwise neutral and open mind that they are both unwelcome and that they’re already a victim in the making. If the goal is truly to get more women in the field, I think the twitter mobs and one-sided viral medium.com posts are doing way more to scare them away than anything else.


>I am not suggesting that the responsibility falls solely on women or minorities to deal with their own problems at all, but I am suggesting that they should take some agency of their own.

Great idea! Perhaps following your comment, women and minority groups will start to organize to protest against unfair and illegal treatment.


> they persevered and dealt with it because they weren't going to let it get in the way of their passion.

Yes, it is true that if someone is really passionate about something, then they will put up with a lot of bad things and problems.

But I am confused as to why you think this is a valid argument as for why society shouldn't try to solve these problems.

There is still a lot of value in fixing problems, so that people who would be otherwise interested, will want to join.


I've seen pretty much both sexes being equally abrasive at work, it's a pretty co-equal trait of the two (plus) sexes.


Practically no one endorses "equality of outcome" in itself. It's a question of whether disparate outcomes evidence disparate opportunities (findings like those in question suggest that they may not).


Gender quotas are basically enforcing equality of outcome. If the reason for disparity in some trades isn't discrimination but preferences (as this article strongly suggests) - gender quotas make both man and women less happy to satisfy statistics and ideology. It's insane.

BTW I wonder if people proposing gender quotas because of pay gap would also support gender quotas in hospitals to fight life expectance gap, and gender quotas in psychiatry to fight suicide percentage gap.


Also prison populations. Women are severely under represented there.


> I'm sure this will be down voted, but it is what it is.

It's currently the number one post.


> As to the men being jerks/toxic etc argument. Are there times when that is true? Absolutely. But, men do not have a monopoly on being jerks

I'd say the bigger point against the idea that women aren't in CS purely* because of men being sexist, is that this implies that male doctors and lawyers in the 60's and 70's were less sexist than male engineers of today. Does anyone actually believe this?

* of course, it may still be a partial factor


>this implies that male doctors and lawyers in the 60's and 70's were less sexist than male engineers of today.

I don't see how it implies this. The more relevant question is whether STEM has higher levels of sexism than other similarly attractive fields.


>I don't see how it implies this

In the sense that if sexism is the major force that prevented women from going into IT, then the much higher sexism of doctors and lawyers in the 60s and 70s would have prevented women from going into those fields too. But women were far more in those fields then, than they are in IT now.


I don't follow this argument. Levels of sexism in the 60s and 70s are irrelevant to decisions that women are making in the present.


>I don't follow this argument. Levels of sexism in the 60s and 70s are irrelevant to decisions that women are making in the present.

The argument is not about that.

It's that "Those very sexist 60s/70s fields still had a lot of women going in, more than women in IT today. If women could go into those very sexist fields then, it's not sexism that keeps them out of IT today".


This is ridiculous, changes in the 60's led to a more gender balanced field, which obviously made for less sexism. Pretending that root causes don't matter isn't helping your case.


Aren't you then acknowledging that as a result, tech now is more sexist than law and medicine?

If so, I can't see where we substantially disagree. As I've repeatedly said, I make no claims about why the gender balance shifted in law and medicine in the 60s. You appeared to suggest that this had nothing to do with levels of sexism. I'm skeptical of that claim (broader societal attitudes are important too, not just the sexism level of lawyers and doctors vs. the sexism level of scientists and engineers), but it's not as if either of us has actually researched this in detail.

The key point is that tech now is disproportionately sexist, as you appear to acknowledge.


the highest levels of sexism I have personally seen are in Finance, followed by construction workers; the highest levels of complaining I have personally seen are in FOSS UnConferences and PhD level academia.


It makes sense that higher levels of complaining would correlate with lower levels of sexism. Things don't usually get fixed unless people complain.


Could be more the other way around: in a really Xist field, there are fewer complaints because a) there are probably fewer [minority group] to complain, b) complaining feels riskier and less likely to achieve anything, c) complaints that do get made are more likely to be quickly shut down rather than amplified.


The rise in complaining has not been correlated with a drop in "sexism", even the kind that is a bit of a stretch.


> I don't see how it implies this.

Gender disparity fell in those professions, while in roughly the same time frame, gender disparity dramatically increased in STEM. If women could put up with the sexism in those two professions, is it really plausible that sexism is the reason they didn't similarly push into STEM?

Engineers would have had to have been a lot more sexist to explain this data.


>Engineers would have had to have been a lot more sexist to explain this data.

I think in general among engineers there is a lot of awareness about sexism and diversity issues but that doesn't always extend to people on the periphery of the engineering world (I'm from non-software engineering world).

Tradespeople such a boilermakers, fitters and welders as well as suppliers, technicians etc don't always have the same attitudes. These are people you have to work closely with on engineering projects which are often in remote locations like mines, construction sites etc where management is not typically present (or visible). Attitudes are improving, for example its not common these days to see pornography in site sheds and similar out on construction sites, 10 years ago this was rife, but I still feel culture out on sites is maybe 5 to 10 years behind where it is in the office.

My sister and I are both engineers (I'm Chem/materials and she is a mech. eng) the way she gets treated and I am treated there is a noticeable difference. People visiting her office have done things like assume she is a secretary and ask her to fix them a coffee this has happened in last 5 years so I think there are still some strides to be made in the engineering world.


> People visiting her office have done things like assume she is a secretary and ask her to fix them a coffee this has happened in last 5 years so I think there are still some strides to be made in the engineering world.

Absolutely, but the question being debated is whether this is worse in STEM than other professions. Every profession still has strides to make for true equality.


How could it not imply it? That's when women started entering those fields en masse and really increasing their numbers. Going by the "the problem is men being sexist" reasoning, that they were able to do this successfully implies that the lawyers and doctors in charge then were less sexist than engineers today.


It does not imply this, because it's likely to be relative rather than absolute levels of sexism that are relevant.


I don't think the field is sexist. I think fewer women choose to study and excel at it. The field is open to whomever wants to have a go at it. Due to "corporate diversity policy" I think (as a man) have less of a chance of actually breaking into software engineering than, say, 10 years ago.


>because it's likely to be relative rather than absolute levels of sexism that are relevant

Relative to what? IT remains less sexist relative to doctors and lawyers, so...


What's your basis for saying that?


I mean, that doctors and lawyers were substantially less sexist compared to engineers in the 60's and 70's also strikes me as less than plausible, though I'll grant that'd be a closer competition than comparing them to engineers now. Do you have any evidence of an advantage there?


I am talking about relative levels of sexism in the present, not in the 60s and 70s.


But the 60's and 70's are when the representation levels started really diverging. That's the key part.

That they may be less sexist now, after having achieved gender parity or something close to it, is hardly unexpected. Of course a field with roughly even numbers is usually going to be less sexist than one dominated by one gender or another.


You'll have to spell the argument out. My claim is that relative sexism in STEM puts women off now. This does not require me to commit to the claim that relative sexism was a dominant factor in women's career choices in the 60s. Note, however, that the issue is sexist attitudes in society as a whole, not just engineers being sexist. Even if 60s lawyers are just as sexist as 60s engineers, the idea of a female lawyer (especially a junior one) may still be more socially acceptable.


Asserting that a gender balanced field is less sexist than a gender imbalanced one isn't very interesting. The interesting part is that law and medicine used to be just as gender imbalanced, and then steadily became less so.

This is the crux of the issue that you're avoiding grappling with. Saying "well I don't care about the history" is irrelevant, it's still the most important part whether you personally care or not.

It's like looking at which countries are desirable to immigrate to without grappling with patterns of development, despite the obvious fact that the biggest thing that makes countries more desirable is being rich/developed.


I covered this in a response to another one of your comments, so I'll cut this thread short.


You’re correct. Good point.


Measuring these things by outcomes is always wrought with errors. For example, how do you compare women's interest in medicine 50 years ago to their interest in comp sci today? If raw interest is low even a trivial scale issue might dissuade you.

It's also dangerous to treat all software development the same. I'm my experience women tend to be more interested in human facing parts of software like web and ui development, but less interested in the back end parts. Is this the result of sexism? Maybe, but regardless I bet the gender stats are very different if you consider front end as different than back end development.


Eh, pain is relative. If you think hospitals today are less sexist workplaces than software companies, you might pick med school.

I hope that it's clear to most people that there isn't a single reason for the disparity though. People are complicated.


I'm not talking about hospitals today. I'm talking about potential gatekeepers in the 60's and 70's.


I (and others from looking at some sibling comments) didn't see your comment as being about gatekeepers, but rather about the environment being perceived as unfriendly towards, so women seeking out different fields.


This article implies that the correlation between gender-opportunity and representation in STEM is a causation.

Look at the chart in the article, look at the countries on each end of the opportunity spectrum. There are many obvious economic, societal, and cultural differences between the countries on one side and the other of that spectrum.

To take this correlation and use it to forward a sexist idea (that women PREFER different, often worse-paying, fields and that's why there's less women, and thus we don't need to change anything in our industry's culture) is the reason I would downvote this article and the OP's comment.


Please don’t spread moral panic by labeling other people’s worldviews sexist. It does not sell your argument but only serves to polarize the debate.

I know a lot of women in tech who feel uncomfortable with all the special treatment they get — entire conferences dedicated to “women in tech.” I find the idea so patronizing, just like I would a “men in daycare” conference. It is an extension of coddling the incapable and meek servile woman. Get out of here.


It's not patronizing. We have, e.g., men in nursing conferences (https://www.aamn.org/2019-annual-conference). I don't find that patronizing as a man. It makes sense for a field where men are a minority.


“Looks Like This Domain Isn't Connected To A Website Yet!“

Hm.



I don't find the concept of a women in tech conference inherently patronizing, but having attended several of them I wish they had more technical talks and less focus on fluffier topics. I swear half the talks at the Grace Hopper conference (which is about women in COMPUTING, not just tech) in NYC this year were about diversity and inclusion, which is a worthy goal but not something I find particularly interesting in a conference lecture. There were probably 1/3 tech talks, 1/3 diversity and inclusion and 1/3 business-related when it's supposed to be a conference about computing. It just felt it was feeding into the negative stereotypes about women being unsuited for technical roles or not caring about tech itself but just the more social aspects. I came for the cool tech talks!


An earlier partner of mine went to such a conference. “Women in computing.” There was a show of hands who wanted to be a programmer etc; basically none did except my partner. She left feeling more of an outsider.


To take a perfectly rational conclusion and call it sexist is quite a deriding trick, isn’t it?

You’d need to try really hard to disprove different interest of men and women, as literature suggests differences from a very young age, even before those children have chances to meet their peers.

You’re just giving alternative explanations, which given the left side of the chart are much, much less likely. The economic argument also doesn’t make sense. STEM jobs may be among the highest paying ones, but certainly are not THE highest (not to mention the amount of effort compared to different high pay jobs).


You're taking an idea, that there are differences in preference between men and women and calling it sexist. Why is it sexist? Do you not think there are difference in preference between men and women? That perhaps the different levels of hormones would result in a difference in temperament? For example higher levels of testosterone leads to more risky and aggressive behavior.


Implicit bias also guides interests and choice. Many women I meet today simply did not consider the possibility of an engineering career, not that they were forced out of it.

We look to outcome equality to gain some kind of insight into this.


> Many women I meet today simply did not consider the possibility of an engineering career

And I'm sure many men simply did not consider the possibility of a career in female dominated professions, like nursing or elementary education. I think there's certainly something to the idea that we internalize stereotypes and that can restrict our options, but I'm skeptical that it generally explains large differences in career preference today.

For example, women were once stereotyped as not being doctors or lawyers, but that didn't seem to stop them from joining those fields en masse. If internalized stereotyping didn't matter enough to stop them then, for those fields, why does it matter now for engineering?


Well it's certainly an open question, although here's something that's just struck me. Careers that were dominated by women were in the orbit of doctors and lawyers, those being nurses, paralegals and secretaries. If you're thinking about being a nurse, why not consider being a doctor? I'm not sure STEM professions had these associated careers.


Media representation? Female lawyers and female doctors are fairly common in media. Female engineers, not so much, and definitely not in a context where the women are not deviating from social norms (you need to be a tomboy, you need to be geeky, you need to be "not like those other girls" etc.)

Representation is important - MLK convinced Nichelle Nichols to stay on Star Trek because she was, at the time, the only black educated woman in a leadership position on television.


> Female lawyers and female doctors are fairly common in media.

Now, yes, but what about in the 60's and 70's?


How many engineers are represented in the media in general? Has there been a hit TV show with male engineers as the main character?


How big a hit? Halt and Catch Fire fictionalized a lot but two of the four leads were software and hardware engineers, The Expanse has the primary hardware/software hacker on the ship as one of the four main characters but it's a woman, Person of Interest had two of the four main characters be software programmers, one a man and one a woman, Mr Robot has software developers for most roles besides gangster and law enforcement, one of the four or five primary characters on 12 Monkeys was a scientist/engineer but a woman, Westworld has the scientist as the main human character for the first season and a different one for the second, most of what they do looks like software programming, Chernobyl showed a lot of engineers in the nuclear control room, trying to fix things afterwards.


There's also McGyver, Neo & Trinity, Rey also doesn't seem to have her thumb in the middle of her hand, David Lightman, Tony Stark--in fact, Marvel is chock full of male engineering types; Beast, Hulk, Reed Richards, Peter Parker.

The examples are legion.


You can add in Fast and Furious 6+ (lol)


There are plenty of female lawyers and doctors who aren't main characters in television shows, and where being a lawyer or doctor is not a defining characteristic of how feminine they are.

The same cannot be said for the legion "quirky female hacker" characters that exist in many TV shows.


Big bang theory, for example, has mostly male nerds. The core Silicon Valley engineering team is male. There are of course exceptions but male and female engineers are not represented equally in media.


Big Bang Theory first season maybe. Ultimately they were almost parity.


But what should they represent? The real world, some fictional idealistic world? If so, whose idealistic world should tv shows represent?


Depending on exactly what you mean, mythbusters or Mr. Robot count.


>For example, women were once stereotyped as not being doctors or lawyers, but that didn't seem to stop them from joining those fields en masse. If internalized stereotyping didn't matter enough to stop them then, for those fields, why does it matter now for engineering?

The fields you mention made serious efforts to counter sexism. STEM hasn't, yet.


STEM hasn't made serious efforts to counter sexism? That starkly contrasts with my observations. For the entirety of my life (I'm over 25) that I can remember I've encountered programs and initiatives working towards getting women into STEM. All of the companies I've worked at instituted hiring policies that favor women (e.g. giving women 2 chances to pass a technical phone screen instead of one). And we're not alone in this. Microsoft and Intel have both instituted policies of witholding bonuses unless diversity quotas are met, and Facebook gives recruiters more points - which count towards performance reviews - for recruiting diverse candidates[1].

1. https://www.payscale.com/compensation-today/2019/03/tie-bonu...


> For the entirety of my life (I'm over 25)

Mine, too, and I'm over 45.


These kinds of top-down initiatives are well and good, but the real problem is cultural. You only have to read this discussion to see why women don't want to work in STEM.


Elaborate. What are the "serious efforts" made by medical and law industries that got women into these professions that STEM has not employed?

Furthermore, do you care to identify what in this discussion makes it so clear why women would not go into STEM?


> What are the "serious efforts" made by medical and law industries that got women into these professions that STEM has not employed?

More than that, what "cultural changes" did they enact? From what I've read of the history, culture only shifted after women achieved rough gender parity. Cultural shifts follow demographic shifts, not vice versa.

And even now, gender disparities exist that can't be explained by sexist theories. For instance, why is surgery dominated by men and pediatrics dominated by women?

Sexist theories have a lot of holes like these gender disparities within fields and the gender equality paradox that's the subject of this article. And yet, there's a theory that explains all of the data we see:

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.0018...

This theory relegates sexism to a minor role, perhaps affecting single digit differences in gender disparities, not the double digits we actually see.


Medicine and Law have made serious efforts to counter sexism? Like what?

Law is essentially the definition of the "Old Boys Club" and as for Medicine... I used to work in the medical field for a while. Go ask any (female) surgical nurse about the supposed efforts to counter sexism in the OR.

I don't believe your claim is true.


Woman lawyer from Wall Street here. That’s about as “Old Boys Club” as it gets. When I left law to pursue tech I figured it couldn’t possibly be as bad as what I was leaving behind. I was so wrong. Silicon Valley is infinitely more difficult to navigate and less welcoming.

The major difference (in my opinion) is that the Old Boys Club owns it. They know they’re not welcoming to women and for the most part they don’t care. But Silicon Valley, for whatever reason, absolutely insists that they’re welcoming and that it’s all in our heads. The Old Boys Club was frustrating but Tech is infuriating.


Would you care to give some examples, what behaviour is so unwelcoming in the tech world?

Did you consider other reasons than sexism for the environment that you perceive as unwelcoming? E.g., I guess the ratio of introverts vs. extroverts is pretty different between Wall Street law firms and software developers.

thu2111 8 months ago [flagged]

Given the rampant discrimination against men that exists in the modern tech sector and that even stating "maybe women naturally prefer to do other jobs than tech" gets you fired, what exactly do you have in mind that would make it even more welcoming?


Please don't post in the flamewar style to HN. Your comment here broke several of the site guidelines. Would you please review them and stick to the rules when posting here?

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Are you... insisting that tech is welcoming to women?

Hm. I guess it was all in my head.


What it means to be "welcoming" is rather subjective. But there has been widespread adoption of discriminatory policies designed to make women get offers more frequently than men as I have shared in a previous comment [1]. I think this is what was being referred to when the above commenter talked about companies being more welcoming to women.

The extent to which discrimination makes tech more welcoming is debatable. It does have the immediate effect of increasing the number of women in tech roles, but it does so at the expense of putting them in an environment where they know that their male co-workers were held to a different standard and vice versa.

1. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21776455


[flagged]


Now you've crossed into personal attack in a way that will get you banned if you do it again.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

Edit: your comment history shows a lot of political and ideological flamewar comments, and we've already had to warn you about not taking HN threads into gender war. If you keep this up we're going to have to ban you, so please don't.


Perhaps the ironic, unintended result that you describe is part of the reason for her experience?


I'm not saying that law and medicine are perfect. But they were once just as stereotypically male as tech is now, and yet have radically shifted their gender balance. Fifty years ago people would no doubt have told you that women just weren't interested in becoming lawyers or doctors. Now a majority of attorneys in the US are women, and more women are enrolling in medical school than men.


> But they were once just as stereotypically male as tech is now, and yet have radically shifted their gender balance.

You say this as if the fields themselves decided, but it could just as easily be that women pushed in harder.

> Fifty years ago people would no doubt have told you that women just weren't interested in becoming lawyers or doctors.

Again, what was the difference? You've suggested a relative difference in sexism at the time, but I've seen no data suggesting this. It just looks like a guess on your part.


I think you are reading a lot into my comment that isn't there. I don't know exactly why women fifty years ago made the decisions that they did. You don't, either.


You're being vague and deflecting here. In one comment you suggest that the cause is law and medicine being relatively less sexist, and here you just say, "well, we don't know why they did what they did." Well, which is it? What basis do you have for your earlier point?

> You don't, either.

Why would you even say this? The comment you responded to didn't have me asserting a reason why. It's like you're attacking a strawman.


>. In one comment you suggest that the cause is law and medicine being relatively less sexist

I claimed that this is the case today. You are the only one of us making any assertions whatsoever about levels of sexism in the 1960s and 1970s, which are irrelevant to choices women make now.


So you're suggesting the lawyers and doctors in charge back in the 60's and 70's were more progressive and less sexist than engineers in 2019? Really? That's what you're going with?


No? Where do I say that?


TulliusCicero is saying that the 60s and 70s were the period when women entered those fields en masse. Hence you should compare the state of those fields in the 60s/70s to the CS field now if you wanna determine sexism as the cause of entering/not-entering a given field.


It's implied by saying that those other fields made serious efforts to combat sexism back then, but CS hasn't made an equivalent effort now. What other reason would there be for such a discrepancy, other than being motivated by sexism?


You've made this point elsewhere in the thread, but it doesn't really make any sense. See the responses to your other comment: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21775710


> The fields you mention made serious efforts to counter sexism.

Do you have any references on what those efforts were?


I've served multiple times at SheTech (an event where we invite thousands of highschool girls to come learn about tech and jobs), and I've helped host at least five Hour of Code events at Adobe where we make sure half of those invited are female where we teach robotics. I've also spent a couple years teaching refugees how to code, and we make sure half of those students are female, as well.

I've never attended personally, but we also host an event yearly called "Girls Who Code."

Adobe has also partnered with a local dev bootcamp to hire intern graduates-- I can't say for sure, but I'm pretty confident that there's an emphasis on female graduates.


It sounds like informing everyone that these options exist is part of creating a more equal opportunity. If two people didn't have the same information for available options then there wasn't an equal opportunity.


I just hate that the emphasis seems to be strictly based on careers with high income. There is no focus spreading equality or equity or informing everyone when the career is about social good, life satisfaction, or blunt quality of life.


Yes, don't forget all the shitty careers, with long hours, danger, and significant health hazards. Not much equality of outcome on those either. Somehow no one is claiming sexism is the cause of disparity for those.


Actually, a lot of people are saying that sexism is the cause of disparity in those cases. It's a commonplace observation that sexism harms men as well as women.

Historically, the professions you're alluding to have been closed to women by men. So for example, the reason that women couldn't serve in the military until relatively recently is not that women used their power and influence within society to get a pass on military service. Rather, it's that men didn't want to let women serve.


I'd hope if women had thought about the serving example they would have made the same choice out of a sensible respect for setting up the future. A society that keeps their women from dying needless deaths has a reproductive advantage over societies that send them into the meat grinder - the protective society can produce more children after the conflict. From a quick and lazy glance at some statistics [0] losing a young man in 1945 is statistically losing a man, losing a young women is more like statistically losing 6 people (1 now, 5 next generation). The baby boom doesn't work out as well as it did if a big group of women just died off.

Equality of opportunity to die serving a country is all very well, but until men figure out how to operate wombs without women there are practical differences when deciding who is risks probable death. The situation has probably changed now that growing populations no longer looks like an easy win but the calculus goes a bit beyond 'men just didn't like the idea'. Men didn't like the idea because it is an objectively bad idea in an era where population really mattered. The women probably agreed with that one on the whole.

[0] https://ourworldindata.org/fertility-rate


Wow, extremely insightful point, and did not realize that! But it makes sense when we consider it from a biological standpoint: men are needed "temporarily" in the reproductive process to put it mildly. Perhaps this explains the slow growth of the soviet union after ww2 (# of women killed serving in the military)?


>Men didn't like the idea because it is an objectively bad idea in an era where population really mattered.

This is an argument that's rarely if ever been used against allowing women to serve in the military. I think it's the argument that you'd like people to make rather than an argument that people have actually historically made.

More broadly, if you see women primarily as baby machines, then military service should be the least of your worries when it comes to fertility.


Well it is is pretty obvious to me that in day to day practice women were kept out of the army because (as sibling poster) they are physically worse fighters than men by raw strength. But it is also pretty obvious to me that over the centuries brilliant military planners would have regularly thought about using women on the front lines and then rejected the idea for much better reasons than 'I'm a sexist'. The stereotypes here aren't arbitrary, an unbiased thinker would have reasonably reached the same practices.

And we can't really say for certain that what everybody thought was controlling what happened. What everybody thinks and what actually happens in, eg, banking and finance are completely different. The people in control are not the people talking on the street.

> More broadly, if you see women primarily as baby machines, then military service should be the least of your worries when it comes to fertility.

Call me old fashioned but I'm ruling out the idea that men are the primary baby making engine of humanity.

On your actual point; the fact that there are other things to think about doesn't stop people thinking about this specific thing. The US lost 400,000 servicemen in WWII without really even seeing a foreign invasion; those sort of numbers absolutely should involve someone asking the question 'who can we most and least afford to lose?'. The militaries of the world are not warm and happy-go-lucky organisations. They ask quite unpleasant questions all the time.


>Well it is is pretty obvious to me that [...]

I think you are just advancing your own arguments against allowing women to serve in the military here, not actually giving any evidence that these arguments were widely used in opposition to women's military service. That's a tangent.

Incidentally, in the broader context of this thread, this is exactly the kind of fringe content that just might give women the impression that the tech community has a sexism problem.

>Call me old fashioned but I'm ruling out the idea that men are the primary baby making engine of humanity.

I think you misread. I said "if you see women primarily as baby machines", not "if you see women as the primary baby machines".


And of course, obviously, men were better at fighting than women. So the risk/reward was completely off.


Really? Below is a list of the top 8 most dangerous jobs in the US. Which ones do you think would have equal gender representation if there was no sexism?

1 - Logging workers

2 - Fishers and fishing workers

3 - Aircraft pilots and flight engineers

4 - Roofers

5 - Refuse and recyclable material collectors

6 - Structural iron and steel workers

7 - Truck drivers

8 - Farmers, ranchers and agricultural managers


That list is obviously a bit whack (how can being a pilot possibly be the third most dangerous job in the US?)

But yeah, many of those jobs have a skewed gender distribution in significant part due to sexist stereotypes.


Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2017/01/04/the-10-most-dangerous-jobs-f...

I ignored the "for men" qualifier as it seems obvious that these are the most dangerous jobs period.


Is that really that obvious? Given that nursing and nursing assitant jobs are amoung the most dangerous and the fact that the vast majority of those jobs are filled with women, your willingness to erase an important aspect of a headline is a good example of the bias that this entire discussion is centered around.


Yes, it is obvious. I did not try to erase anything, I posted the source without being asked for, and pointed out the discrepancy and my interpretation of it, which was correct, as you can see in this other article: https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2019/01/08/most-dangero...


I said "erase" meaning "erase from your attention as an important aspect of the headline", but ok, poor word. You still chose to ignore that important point because you've chosen it was unimportant. Why? It helps you reach a conclusion because you want that conclusion. I provided you with two professions that run contrary to your view and you're ignoring that as well.


You provided no such thing, the professions you mention are not part of the top 25 let alone 8, so there is nothing to respond to in your comments


Fair enough. I believe those stats are skewed by a small number of pilots doing relatively dangerous kinds of flying. In any case, yes, more women would be doing these jobs if sexism were eliminated.


OK, but would you expect a 50/50 split if it was? And if you do not expect it, then how would you explain any remaining disparity?


You are talking about a hypothetical scenario where all sexist stereotypes are eliminated. It’s obviously silly to guess at what the numbers would be. I see no reason to expect a precise 50/50 gender balance in every one of the listed fields. Conversely, I would also not expect to see the massive disparities that we see currently.

The problem in STEM isn’t that the gender balance isn’t exactly 50/50. It’s that substantial numbers of women are discouraged from STEM careers by sexism.


If you cannot guess what the numbers should be then how would you know the problem is fixed? Or even if there is any problem at all?


First of all, note that this argument works both ways. You also can’t put exact numbers on how many women we’d expect there to be in the industry in the absence of any sexism whatever. So how do you know that there’s no problem?

But actually, the question is quite easy to answer for me. I am more interested in sexism per se than in the gender distribution. When women in the industry infrequently report that they are experiencing sexism, then I’ll consider that we’re well on the way to solving the problem. The current gender imbalance is a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself.


> When women in the industry infrequently report that they are experiencing sexism, then I’ll consider that we’re well on the way to solving the problem.

This is the fox guarding the henhouse. There is no incentive for women to ever stop crying "sexism!" if this is the criterion in use.


I think you're being overly literal, not to mention suspicious. I'm not suggesting that we turn off our critical faculties and reflexively believe everything that we hear. At the moment, we'd have to reflexively disbelieve everything women tell us to conclude that there's no sexism problem in tech.


And now that women can serve in the military, it's time to update the Select Service law so it requires both men _and_ women to register on their 18th birthday.


Sure. Do you think that there are many people who both (a) agree with the registration requirement in the first place and (b) think that it should apply to men only?


Yes.


Who? This is an obscure issue. I should think that very few Americans are even aware of the disparity.


I think people who are not part of the culture war, which I believe is most people, would be perfectly fine with this disparity.


I doubt that many 18 y/o males are fine with it since that doubles the chances that they'll be forced to enroll in the military for very little pay. I'm sure most other people would prefer that 18 y/o males continue to be the selectively signed up and have no problem with females not doing the same. Imho though, either everyone should be forced to enroll or no one should - most military workers are support staff anyway.


Speculate as you please. This is an extremely obscure issue, and I suspect that very few people have a strong opinion on it. (If I'm wrong about this, it should be easy to point to a counterexample.)


It is an extremely obscure issue because the vast majority consider women signing up for the draft to be ludicrous, and dismiss the conversation thereafter.


Evidence of this?


Historically, the military mostly drafted people, especially if we look at the last 100 years. Conscription has very little to do with choices, and male only conscription has a long history.

There is a good discussion to be had over why conscription has mostly been male only. Is it powerful men wanting to get rid of young expendable men in some form of evolutionary benefit to themselves? It it because of historical benefit of muscle differences? Did women use their power and influence within society to get a pass on conscription?

Men did not choose to be forced into the military. People do not generally chose to be forced to the front line and die. It is also worth mentioning that in the US, black males were proportionally drafted in higher rates than white males during the Vietnam war. Most people would agree that white men used their power and influence to get a pass on military service.

Maybe the first question to discuss is if being drafted is a benefit or disadvantage in term of power and influence.


Voluntary military service was also male only, so I'm not sure why you are focusing so much on conscription.

As you point out, the people in charge were all men. It was up to them to make the rules about who could or couldn't volunteer and who would or wouldn't be conscripted.

>Most people would agree that white men used their power and influence to get a pass on military service.

This perfectly illustrates my point. That is exactly not how women got a pass on military service. Thus, it misses the point to complain that men disproportionately do certain dangerous jobs. Women have been kept out of those jobs by men, and by sexist attitudes more broadly, not by some kind of inverse sexism that favors women over men.


> Voluntary military service was also male only, so I'm not sure why you are focusing so much on conscription.

Most worlds armies are conscription, and even the US army had conscription during the American Revolution, the American Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. It culturally defines the military.

> This perfectly illustrates my point.

No it does not. Men as a group did not keep women out of conscription so men alone could get the privilege of being conscripted. It not a privilege. A better claim is that society pick which ever demographic is most expendable and force them to pick up arms during major conflicts. Young men, especially men of color, is consistently seen as expendable. It is racism, sexism, ageism, and a bunch more isms, and part of it favor women over young men.

During world war 2 almost all nations involved used prison population for conscription purposes. It is the most obvious place to find a lot of expendable people.

Voluntary military service still carries with it that culture and non-expendable people tend to not be near the front line.


>Most worlds armies are conscription,

Yes, but so what? The gender requirement on front-line service has never been limited to conscription.

>It not a privilege.

This is a well-worn argument. When women wanted to vote and join the workplace, they also got told that these things were terrible burdens that they ought to be glad not to have to bear.

Clearly, there are women who do want to join the military, just as there have always been men who want to join the military.

In a modern context, in the US and Europe, the question is not about whether women should be forced to serve in the military against their will, but whether they should have the same right to volunteer for service as men, and the same range of opportunities subsequently.

Until recently, the men in charge thought that they should not.


> Until recently, the men in charge thought that they should not.

Not men as a group. Rich old men thought that poor young men, disproportionately African Americans, should be forced into the military.

In modern context we still have remnant views that military is a punishment. Popular culture often use the trope that troublesome boys who don't behave get sent to military school so the boy can redeem themselves in the eyes of society. The concept of military service as a punishment directed at young men is still well alive. One never see the idea of sending misbehaving girls to military school.

In Europe most nation still have conscription. The question has been whether women should be forced to serve in the military against their will. To pick a few examples, both Sweden and Norway think they should, and thus we have conscription there for both genders. As the advertisements says, everyone has equal responsibility to server their nation. The word "responsibility" is used here to make the conscription sound nicer but it no less forced.


>Not men as a group.

Of course it was men as a group. You only have to go back a few decades to get to a time when the majority of men, across social classes, found the idea of women serving in the military ridiculous.

I still don't see how the rest of your comment is relevant to this discussion. Again, the gender requirement was not specific to conscription.

>One never see the idea of sending misbehaving girls to military school.

Because girls couldn't join the military!


Then we are at an impasse. Men as a group did not choose to force themselves at the threat of gun point to go into trench war fare and die. That is just ridiculous.

Young poor men has always been at the bottom of the social ladder.


>Men as a group did not choose to force themselves at the threat of gun point to go into trench war fare and die.

As you must be aware, I didn't suggest that this is the case.

I simply said that men chose to exclude women from military service.


The men who got forced into the trench war did not have a choice in who got drafted. People who society deems expendable and at the bottom of the social ladder do not have that power or influence.

The people who got excluded from military conscription were women, rich men and men with influence.


But there were plenty of rich men who volunteered to join the military. Women couldn't, regardless of whether they wanted to.

What you're saying is correct, it's just completely irrelevant.


The usually social ladder puts rich men at top, women in the middle and poor men at the bottom. Sometimes described as a differences in bell curves during gender equality discussions.

Poor men, having no influence or power gets conscripted against their will. Women, being in the middle, are exempted from conscription but can't volunteer. Rich men, being at the top of influence and power, was exempted from conscription and also had the choice to volunteer (usually for officer or other high ranking positions).

No one denies that the small percent that makes up rich men have more influence and power with more freedom to choose during conscription. Men as a group however is both the poor and the rich. If we only look at the top then we ignore an already marginalized and vulnerable part of the population. Those at the bottom.


>Women, being in the middle [in terms of power and influence], are exempted from conscription

This is just a wrong analysis. Women didn't get our of conscription as a result of their power and influence. They were exempted from military service because almost all men, across all classes, were opposed to women serving in the military.


And this is the point where we disagree. Women didn't get conscription because they are not seen as expendable by rich men.

And you are wrong that almost all men, across all classes, were opposed to women serving in the military. Armies that are created by rich men at the top looks very different to those created by lower classes, such as resistance movements in Europe during world war 2.


Side note: it's interesting that it's these male-dominant fields that have the noble "serve" descriptor associated with them. Given that women have dominated the fields of educating children and nursing our sick, it seems that these are more deserving of the serving label rather than those who destroy.


I remember high-school guidance counsel lists being dominated by things like "actuarial" and "insurance salesman." After reading that I would have rather worked in a restaurant my whole life.

Absolutely had no clue what to go into and they didn't help much. Perhaps they were at a greater disadvantage because the internet revolution was about to hit.


I'm not following you.

Girls don't know that there's such a thing as programming or Computer Science degrees?


If they aren't convinced it is a real option than they didn't have the same opportunity. Either way it isn't a problem that can be solved by pushing people into the field to create a more equal ratio.


It's about internalizing the idea that it's a feasible choice you give actual thought to.


How to distinguish between "I didn't know that was a feasible choice for me" and "I know what programming is like and I don't want to do that as a career"?

How many girls and women fall into each category?


The majority of people fall into the first category, regardless of sex. There are a lot of people who with exposure might consider software development as a career, but didn't think of it as an option. For various historical reasons (exposure to programmable computers, video games, adults that can explain or teach programming, access in school, peers that program, role models, etc) the people that tend to realize programming is a career option and understand what that career might entail tend to be white and asian males. That isn't to say there aren't many white and asian males that also don't know programming is a career option.

Now that "tech" is so important and lucrative I'm sure this is changing to some extent, but this is a recent trend that's probably 5 years old at most. Tech wasn't viewed the same as it was now in 2012-2014 and felt like a much more risky and inaccessible field. Now it looks a lot more like any other high paying corporate job.


5 years old? Are you joking?

The Dot Net bubble in the 90s was arguably the biggest news story of the decade. Everyone knew there was tons of money to be had in tech, and stories of people landing jobs at startups after learning a little bit of HTML.


I'm aware of the dot com bubble. My point wasn't that people weren't making money, my point is tech looked risky and new, especially the web based companies that dominate now. Microsoft, IBM, Oracle etc were stable jobs but they were for engineers/nerds. There was money to be made back then of course but money isn't the only thing that makes jobs attractive. Social and cultural status and stability are important as well. A doctor is a safe, high paying, high status job. Tech is only just now starting to look that way to mainstream people.


I'm not sure I understand the question. As phrased I think you have a natural understanding of the difference. Are you asking how we measure that nationally?


I mean what are the relative sizes of those two groups, maybe worded it awkwardly.


In school way back in olden times, most of the girls in my class would say "oh, I hate computers," when the subject was brought up. Odd, because I loved them.

I don't hear this anymore from the grown-up-on-iPad generation.


> In school way back in olden times, most of the girls in my class would say "oh, I hate computers,"

I'm pretty sure most of the boys said that too.


Never heard that once from a boy, but perhaps ~ten times over the decade from girls.


> Implicit bias also guides interests and choice.

The existence of implicit bias is contentious. All purported tests to measure its existence have failed replication.


Unrelated to the topic but can you even downvote in HN? I only have an upvote button. Does it have something to do with how much the HN equivalent of karma that you have?


Yep, not sure what the current threshold is, but in the past it was 500. You're close!


Downvoted for this:

> Equality of outcome forces people to do things that they may not have an interest in

What?! Equality of outcome, as I've encountered it, is always downstream of individual choice. That is, it's up to the hiring committee to enforce gender parity by selecting from available applicants, and not up to educators or policy-makers to force equal amounts of women to be in STEM. No one has ever, to my knowledge, made the argument the way you represented it (except, ironically, incels calling for mandated marriage).

I'd have taken you more seriously if you hadn't straw-manned the shit out of equality of outcome.


    s/irregardless/regardless


"As to the men being jerks/toxic etc argument. Are there times when that is true? Absolutely. But, men do not have a monopoly on being jerks, creating toxic work environments or harassing people"

This is a red herring. If you ask women they won't say their bosses were "jerks" or "toxic" (though a lot of time they are), they'll say they made them "uncomfortable", "un-accommodating".

It reminds me of a friend who got pregnant and left the STEM field because the dudes at her office made her feel like she was SUCH a huge drag on them. None of them were jerks, just not accommodating. Its a subtle but substantial difference.

"I'm sure this will be down voted, but it is what it is."

Actually, its the top comment, the popularity of this opinion among programmers is the crux of the issue. Nobody wants to work at a company where a majority of people think you are "unnatural" or an "outlier" for being there.


> If you ask women they won't say their bosses were "jerks" or "toxic"

Most women I know do exactly that though if you speak with them in a private setting?

I'll have to take your word for the rest of your opinion, as I don't know your friend nor her colleagues.

I'm a little surprised you expect them to be totally accommodating though. It's a professional setting after all. It's nice if you can create good friendships there, but expecting it is just asking for trouble


"Most women I know do exactly that though if you speak with them in a private setting?"

Proves my point even more then.


Coming from one of these countries to America, the answer seems obvious. STEM jobs have a HUGE differential in stability and status in those countries, so women put up up with much more patriarchal BS at the workplace to hold on to them.

My sister was a STEM worker in India. When she moved to America, she looked around to see writers with relatively safe, high-status job and switched out immediately.

Yes, women in America are "organically" picking non-STEM jobs, but that is because the jobs suck, the environments suck and people are assholes at these jobs. My sister loved the core STEM aspects of her job, but hated the culture of the companies she was stuck working with. This is not "equality", its hostile corporate culture.

tl;dr: Ask Women.


Ask women and you'll find that most aren't interested in programming a computer all day. Which one could argue is a sane choice. If anything it's more sane.

Stop trying to make them feel like something is wrong if they don't have this inclination. Males and females have different preferences on average, some as early as birth[1]. This is not a bad thing.

For the ones that want to program all day, obviously they should be welcomed and any company that doesn't is doing themselves a huge disservice. In fact the best programmer I've ever worked with is a woman.

1. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/222673203_Sex_Diffe...


Most people, period, are not interested in programming a computer all day.

My girl child likes trucks, not Frozen, and the pressure from other adults to get her to conform and play with Disney-branded dolls is non-trivial and unrelenting. Ugh.


> Most people, period, are not interested in programming a computer all day.

That's true. But if you ask 1000 men and 1000 women if they want to program all day, you'll get a much higher % of men.

> My girl child likes trucks, not Frozen, and the pressure from other adults to get her to conform and play with Disney-branded dolls is non-trivial and unrelenting. Ugh.

I largely agree, Disney is overwhelming. Though no one has pressured or tried to make my daughter conform, other adults do mostly buy her girl typical things. Her cars, trains, dinosaurs, legos and the like mostly came from us (didn't buy any dolls, she got those from others). She likes trucks and Frozen. But mostly Paw Patrol. It's amazing, everything else is a distant 2nd to those pups!


> the pressure from other adults to get her to conform and play with Disney-branded dolls is non-trivial and unrelenting

Throw them out, seriously. I did when they got to be too large a portion of the toys.


I thought you meant the other adults at first, and I completely agreed!


Often you can just return them to the store and get something she likes.


We practice constant pruning.


A few years ago I was on a plane wearing a sweater with the logo of the major tech company I work at. The person sitting next to me was excited to talk to me about how he was trying to develop his son into an engineer. His son was like six. He was buying his son toys and games that tried to promote an interest in technology.

He also had a daughter. Similar age. He was not doing the same for her.

Perhaps these children had such a strong idea of what they wanted at a very very early age and the father was responding to that. But I find it more likely that the father held an implicit bias about what jobs his son and daughter should have and was providing support to push his son into tech.

When these two people graduate college and the son becomes a software engineer and the daughter doesn't it will be their choice. But it is not clear to me that it wasn't sexism that produced the circumstances for that choice.


> Males and females have different preferences on average, and do from birth[1]. This is not a bad thing.

I feel like this is a “??? Profit!” argument. Accepting that girl infants prefer faces and boy infants prefer trucks—what does that have to do with programming? Even within the context of traditional stereotypes about male/female preferences, what makes programming a “male” thing? The analogy that programmers “build things” is just that—your typical programmer is certainly not cut out to be a construction worker.


> The analogy that programmers “build things” is just that—your typical programmer is certainly not cut out to be a construction worker.

Building things is not just construction though. I mean, your average clock maker is not qualified to plumb a bathroom, but that doesn't mean he's not making things.

I don't have an opinion on this, but the idea that programmers aren't building something is a bit silly.


Programmers build things the same way garment-makers build things with sewing machines and needles.

Construction worker may do even less engineering design work than garment-makers do.


Right... garment workers do build things. That's the point.... building is not just making structures. It's production in general.


>Accepting that girl infants prefer faces and boy infants prefer trucks—what does that have to do with programming?

Programming jobs often involve extremely minimal face to face interactions


I've spent the last 15 years of my life working with engineering teams, hundreds of them, and I've never met a single one that worked this way. The opposite thing is true, unless you're fixated on literal in-the-same-room face-to-face interactions, in which case, what's your point?


You think programmers spend more time having face to face (as opposed to face to computer) interactions than people in health care, child care, social work, or education?


I don't believe the distinction between face-to-face and screen-to-screen is at all relevant. But: the programmers I work with spend lots of time in meetings, too.


Why don't you believe there can be any relation between female infants preference towards faces and female adults preference towards occupations with more face to face, people oriented interactions?


I don't, but I also don't care to debate it, and don't need to, because, once again, face-to-face interactions are also extremely common in professional software development.


Not common enough, it seems. As a former software developer, the mental isolation was one of the main reasons why I changed professions, and I feel much better for it.

Deep contemplation of technical problems while staring at a screen and talking to computers for hours on end often made talking to people after work exceedingly difficult


You’ve a skewed perception of “extremely common”. There are many jobs where pretty much the entire job is dealing with people - doctor, lawyer, clerk, marketer, teacher, ... in contrast, programmers can get a lot of stuff done (except coordination) just with computers.

And some of us like it that way.


This seems like shifting rationalization to me. They used to say women don’t want to be lawyers because it’s too much confrontation. Now women are well represented in law because it’s people oriented. Moreover, corporate law firms are 50% women, but that work is even more solitary than programming in a corporate environment. (Having done both myself.) You’re sitting in your office alone reviewing documents, writing briefs, or doing due diligence ten times as much as you’re in court or talking to clients.

Also, if programming is solitary as you suggest, why do tech companies discourage remote work and insist on culture fit, team building, collaborative work spaces, etc.? Much more so than law firms.


I've wondered about that. I think its part the youth culture of programming. Have to be in the clique to be acceptable. Counteracting the isolation of the programming process, with rules to try and create social interaction in the group.


The core activity of software engineering, programming, writing code, is a solitary activity. It's what people think of when they think of programming. It's what we spend hours being trained for, getting good at. Yes, in between writing software, we need to coordinate with others, so we have meetings. You'd really describe this overall process as being more people-oriented than thing-oriented?

I've heard the argument that somehow "actual coding is a relatively small part of being a software engineer," but unless you're a manager (of which there are many more women), the thing you're being trained for, the thing you spend most of your time doing, and the basis of how people perceive the profession, is sitting in front of a computer coding. You can describe any profession as people-oriented on the basis that one needs to work with others, but the key question is whether the basic activity of the job is a social one.

Regardless of whether the people-vs-thing distinction is significant or not, it seems inaccurate in a big-picture way to describe programming as people-oriented. Like, that's not what people mean when they draw that distinction.


Does this apply to other solitary activities, like writing prose (majority women), painting and drawing, poetry, creating clothes & other fashion?


According to research[1], on average, men tend to be more utilitarian while women tend to be more expressive; so your examples seem to be in accordance with those differences. Social nature is quite nuanced, so any one particular variable cannot be used to totally explain everything.

[1]https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/beautiful-minds/taking-...


Ime this is completely untrue.


The purpose of the faces/trucks data point is just to illustrate that these differences start from birth. The larger argument is that the people-vs-things gap, and later, interest in computers specifically, basically remains stable throughout childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood: https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/08/07/contra-grant-on-exagge...

I don't even know if the data is ready for us to draw any conclusions, but at the very least it seems to me we should find this to be an extremely interesting pattern, and use it to motivate hypotheses.


> Males and females have different preferences on average, and do from birth[1]. This is not a bad thing.

Sure, but it seems more than a little convenient that the male-chosen professions seem to generally pay significantly more, on average, than the female-chosen ones. Haven't there been studies that showed that women moving into a profession was actually associated with pay dropping?


Are we talking about programming, specifically?

Programmers are paid relatively well because

1. Software is "eating the world", so a lot of software is being written leading to demand for programmers. 2. Programming scales really well. Software has zero reproduction cost and can reach a global audience almost instantaneously. So software companies can make a lot of money with relatively few employees.

What would be the mechanism for pay dropping when women enter a profession?

Some global masterminds reducing pay across multiple corporations across the board when they find out women are being hired in that industry?

Maybe it's just a matter of a sudden increase of supply of workers as women enter a field to meet the existing demand, driving wages down?

Is it because the women are being paid less, while the men are being paid the same as before?


It's because women are getting paid less, promoted later, and have lower bonuses.


> Some global masterminds reducing pay across multiple corporations across the board when they find out women are being hired in that industry?

No coordination is necessary. People will simply start to view the role as less valuable or skilled due to more women being in it.


The other responses covered some reasons for this, but also men tend to accept more risk, more willing to devote their life to work or have a myopic focus. Again, less sane one could argue. It's a less balanced life.

Men hit the extremes more often and as a result occupy more of the outlier positions. They're also over represented at the bottom of the ladder. i.e., the homeless and prison populations. But I don't see anyone claiming it's a conspiracy that men over represent this end of the spectrum.


more than a little convenient that the male-chosen professions seem to generally pay significantly more

It’s not a coincidence at all. Men place a higher priority on pay to the exclusion of all else, when choosing a career, than do women. Women are much more likely to choose careers with flexible working hours, benefits, and the potential to help other people (positive externalities).

When you look at it this way, it makes more sense that you’ll find men occupying all these different high paying positions. It makes a lot less sense that every employer deliberately pays less for women-dominated positions just because there are women there.


Given women are usually called upon to take more time to do unpaid labor like child-rearing, elder care, and holiday preparation, the fact women choose a flexible schedule is a result of societal expectations, and should be ruled out as a causal link.

Because, on average, men are given a lot less social pressure to "be there", they can more often take high-pressure jobs. Then the high pressure becomes a status symbol, and a gate to keep people with higher social obligations out.

As this phenomenon also causes a ton of burnout and is a cause for men's shorter lifespans, the whole thing needs to be actively taken down.


Women aren't just "called upon" to do child rearing, it's a huge part of their biology. In addition to giving birth and developing a strong maternal bond, women breastfeed their children which is not as convenient at work.

And as for high-powered careers being a status symbol, I would offer that a man's socioeconomic status is a major component in attraction for women. The reverse is true to far less of an extent. The stats on dating apps bear this out.


And the so called 'male-chosen' professions generally have higher risk of serious health consequences, injuries or death.


It's true that men tend to hold more of the physically dangerous professions, but the ones well known for being high paying, like software engineering or finance, generally don't fit that model.


If we talk about gender equality why take into consideration only part of the picture not a whole? Is it fair?


Men in general, are more aggressive and assertive when it comes to pay increases. If a male dominated industry has sustained pay increases year on year, this is probably why. Over time, female dominated professions have wages that do not increase at the same rate.


"Men in general, are more aggressive and assertive when it comes to pay increases."

Isn't there a study that said women ask for pay raises at the same rate as men, but they are granted them less often?


The way you ask can be just as important as asking. Hence, my comment.


Isn't there another study that said that women were punished for being aggressive like a male in the form of lower performance reviews?


Surely it would be more productive to actually link the studies than repeatedly post this rhetorical question.


Consider the reverse. A female boss, and a male being aggressive in wanting a pay rise. How do you think she would respond? Or even just consider a woman going to another woman for a pay rise. Do you think being more aggressive would work or not?


And women are punished for demanding pay increases, so they can't win either way.


Source?


https://www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/lean-out-t...

> In four studies, Bowles and collaborators from Carnegie Mellon found that people penalized women who initiated negotiations for higher compensation more than they did men. The effect held whether they saw the negotiation on video or read about it on paper, whether they viewed it from a disinterested third-party perspective or imagined themselves as senior managers in a corporation evaluating an internal candidate. Even women penalized the women who initiated the conversation, though they also penalized the men who did so. They just didn’t seem to like seeing someone ask for more money.

The paper: https://www.cfa.harvard.edu/cfawis/bowles.pdf


Rubbish "study". Nothing in there is based on reality, but people put in a test environment and asked to try and behave how they would in the real world. Reading written accounts of people asking for a pay rise and deciding what to do? How does that in any way mirror an face to face interaction? All 4 experiments are either on paper, or using video recordings. No statistics, very few people. Just another "gender gap" study that the media can cite to push the narrative.


How exactly would you measure social 'punishment' in response to negotiating in the real world? Contact random women's bosses right after they attempt to negotiate and ask them how they felt about it? You could set up interviews with real companies using your own candidates who will negotiate or not negotiate as you direct them, but then how do you gather data on the feelings of the bosses?

Some things can only really be tested in artificial environments.


>Some things can only really be tested in artificial environments.

What exactly do you think will be tested in that artificial environment when the environment itself (with what I'd hazard to guess quite a list of specifics, many of the "subtle and implicit, but influential" kind) is a central variable of the test?

If an observational study of this kind is deemed hard/improbable/impossible to set up - how hard do you think it is to get the artificial setup right? To account for - or even identify - all variables and preconditions? This is so easy to mess up and end up with basically meaningless data. (Yeah, I know - that doesn't mean it won't be published. Everybody raise your hands and shout "Replication Crisis"! :) )


It's not some conspiracy to pay women less. It works like this:

1. More people (women in this case) enter the profession.

2. Due to increased labor supply, pay starts to drop.

3. Men, placing a relatively higher priority on high pay, begin to avoid the profession.

That last point is sort of interesting. Men are strongly associated with their careers and level of pay. This is most of their status. It has a tremendous impact in the dating market. It is a key factor in the likelihood of divorce. Men follow the money; they don't get randomly assigned careers and they don't just follow their dreams. Men strongly seek the status of a high-paid job. To marry and start a family, that job is almost required. Women have no such trouble, so they don't need to prioritize earnings. Women can pick careers they actually enjoy.


> 2. Due to increased labor supply, pay starts to drop.

While this is plausible, the data on this isn't consistent. In fact, some professions that saw a large influx of women also saw wage increases. There are many variables at play.


> Sure, but it seems more than a little convenient that the male-chosen professions seem to generally pay significantly more, on average, than the female-chosen ones.

They don't. Most men have to work in order to earn money and attract a partner. You think all of us love sitting in open offices, following our Scrum Master? Of course not, we just don't have the luxury, as do women, to follow our 'passions' in lower paying jobs. We can't marry a breadwinner too easily. We don't receive subsidies from the state, unlike women who are a net tax loss. We aren't able to attract a mate simply by being young, as can women, due to biological differences between genders.

In Scandinavia, where salaries are progressively taxed and women have tons of opportunity to do what they want, women still choose not to sit in front of computers all day. Why the hell would they if everyone's salary is essentially equalized, regardless of whether you're a part-time teacher, social worker or a talented computer engineer working 60/hours a week. All salaries are taxed down to a median $75K / year, with the same health insurance, subsidized parental leave, etc.

Thus, Scandinavian women follow their 'passions' which is what most Western women do, as we see from their choices in college majors, all of which are unarguably 'easier' but pay less. If society were to equalize my salary at $75K year whether I coded all day or worked for a charity or NGO or a music teacher or artist or actor, I'd dump my programming job as fast as I could.

Look at India or China where far more women are into computers - they don't have the luxury of following their passion in dance or writing, because they don't have as much PRIVILEGE in their societies as do women in the West.

* http://www.randalolson.com/2014/06/25/average-iq-of-students...


> We don't receive subsidies from the state, unlike women who are a net tax loss.

Source for this? I've never heard this claim before and on the surface it makes no sense. I'm a woman and I don't get any kind of special tax exemptions for it...


I'm looking at things in aggregate. The main idea is that men earn more, taxes are progressive, thus men pay more in federal and state income taxes than women, and women receive more benefits than men.

The tax revenue point can be proven by the same 'wage gap' arguments which are true in the sense that men work more and are paid higher, in aggregate, so pay more income taxes.

Second idea is that most federal and state benefits that are direct subsidies go to women: TANF, WIC, SNAP, Section 8, etc. Most people (i.e. women) who receive these benefits have children.

The biggest difference, can't remember where I saw it, is as our population shifts towards a higher median age, health care (and social security and other things like government pensions) become a larger share of net pay outs. Women live longer and spend more on health care.d.

But responding to your own question, no I don't think there are any special exemptions for working women, though it is creeping into US law in many states and soon Federally. Expenses like parental leave will be paid for by all taxpayers but be distributed mostly to women.

Obviously, some of these discrepancies are due to child care being a non-paid job, but it isn't the only difference.


> Ask women and you'll find that most aren't interested in programming a computer all day

I think this though itself is an artefact of a male dominated profession. The fact that working with software is "programming a computer all day" reflects a male preference and value system, and many people open acknowledge that it's quite harmful and often creates quite dysfunctional teams. We need better requirements, better communication, better documentation, more human approach to the whole process. I've talked to great women working in software development who say "I don't really care about the programming itself and I would never go home and do it for fun - but I love the other aspects of the job". Perhaps the nature of the job itself needs to change a bit for the preferences to adjust.


If I understand you correctly, people who like working alone on challenging tasks are inherently deficient and we need to drive them out of the workplace to make others more comfortable?

Isn't there a place for people good at thinking deeply about difficult problems on their own and coming up with effective solutions?

Yes, everyone needs to be able to communicate well to be part of an effective team. But there is also a role for deep thinking and introspection.

By the way, introverted women exist, too.


> If I understand you correctly, people who like working alone on challenging tasks are inherently deficient and we need to drive them out of the workplace to make others more comfortable?

You can't possibly think that this is what the person you are replying to is saying. But anyway, the point is that the conception of programming as a task suited to people who like to work in isolation is incorrect and harmful. One of the most common pitfalls of software development is writing software that no-one wants or needs. The solution to that problem lies in better communication. Of course, there are some kinds of programming problems that are suited to intense work in isolation. But most programmers probably need to spend more time talking to their non-programmer colleagues.


> You can't possibly think that this is what the person you are replying to is saying.

I do think that.

I think programming selects for people high in introversion and maybe even on the autistic spectrum.

I think some extroverted people find those people deficient and don't like working with them, and would like to change the working environment to be less comfortable for the introverts and more comfortable for the extroverts.


Programming culture selects for those people, to an extent.

If you're employed as a programmer, you're most likely being paid to solve other people's problems by writing code. If you can't communicate with those people, you'll never be able to do that successfully.

It's no conspiracy. A socially clueless introvert who's being paid a lot of money to do nothing useful doesn't have much to offer.


Of course you have to communicate with people to be effective.

There are also a lot of tasks where thinking deeply without distractions or interruptions for an extended period of time is the best way to come up with good solutions.

And even a lot of the best communication comes from taking time in quiet and deeply thinking about what you want to say and writing a good, convincing argument.

Thinking introverts have nothing productive to offer is just bigotry, and really makes you come across as a complete ass.


Of course you sometimes need quiet time alone to work on a programming task. The point is that you'd better also be capable of communicating frequently and effectively with your colleagues. For sure, many introverts are perfectly capable of doing that. (There are also many extroverts who can work alone when the occasion calls for it.) My point is that introversion is not a wholly adventitious trait for a programmer. Looking at the job description objectively, one would not expect programmers to skew strongly towards introversion.


I don't really follow the distinction you're drawing here. If you think that working in isolation is a bad thing, and most programmers should be talking to lots of people all the time, "people who like working alone on challenging tasks are inherently deficient" sounds like an accurate summary of that view. It seems perfectly reasonable for an introvert to say that they don't want to work that way, and that it would be bad for them if your views on how programmers ought to work become more common.


>"people who like working alone on challenging tasks are inherently deficient" sounds like an accurate summary of that view.

???

I don't say that they're deficient as people, or that working in isolation is bad per se. I'm just saying that people who like to work in isolation are unlikely to make good programmers (in the context of a typical programming job).

Personally, I switched to programming from academia, where I really did work in isolation on challenging problems. Now I spend most of my time talking to my colleagues to figure out exactly which not very challenging problem I should be spending my limited time on solving.


Ah, so you are in an environment with “not very challenging problems” and you assume all work environments are like that.

Now it makes sense.


Nice shade, but here's some in return. If you frequently find your work challenging, then you are not a good programmer (or you are working on problems that aren't primarily programming problems).


Yes indeed. Women just don't want to work in one of the fastest growing and highest paying professions in America. They would much rather take lower paying jobs where you don't get free lunches and flexible dress codes at the office.

I'm sure you're right.


Well, you seem to be sarcastically implying the opposite: that there are hordes of women who want to move into a profession that’s in high demand with a low barrier for entry, but that… they’re not for some reason? Where are all these women? What are their reasons? I’m not even familiar with any anecdotal evidence that there are a lot of women who want to work as software developers but are unable to. Everywhere I’ve ever worked has fallen all over itself to hire women, even going so far as to lower the hiring bar to meet some diversity quotas, and has _still_ been unable to find these apocryphal women who are interested and capable of working as computer programmers but are unable to find the opportunity.


The problem I always have with this argument is "Why not medicine? Why not Law?"

Why is it that two professions that you'd naively expect to be just as sexist, if not far more sexist than STEM (Higher status, more of an "old boys club", established hierarchy that has positions like nurses for women, etc) have achieved gender parity, while STEM hasn't?


The legal profession is far ahead of STEM in addressing sexism. Many law firms have adopted the Mansfield Rule, which requires the pools of promotion candidates to comprise 30-50% women or other underrepresented groups: https://www.law.com/dailyreportonline/2019/09/06/more-firms-.... Major clients are imposing diversity criteria on outside counsel hired for their matters. Many major firms have 20% or more women in the equity partnership ranks. About a third of newly promoted partners are women. More than 30% of Fortune 500 GCs are now women.

That’s the result of decades of work, which started with affirmative efforts by law schools to achieve gender parity at the beginning of the pipeline. (Those efforts proved self sustaining. Once women didn’t have to swim upstream to choose law school—facing years of being in a small minority at the outset of their careers—efforts to recruit them specifically became unnecessary.) There is a ways to go yet before we hit parity, but I feel like in STEM folks are still litigating the issue of whether numeric parity should even be the goal. That question was settled in the legal field a long time ago.


> promotion candidates to comprise 30-50% women or other underrepresented groups

I think most tech companies would go into a full-blown panic if you imposed a quota of non-asians (who are something like 5% of the U.S. population) for technical positions.


> The legal profession is far ahead of STEM in addressing sexism. Many law firms have adopted the Mansfield Rule

But did they have this back in the 60's and 70's when representation started going up? What caused it back then, that didn't apply to engineering?


There have been decades of efforts at the various stages of the pipeline. In the 1960s and 1970s law schools started admitting gender balanced classes. In the 1970s and 1980s there was a series of lawsuits as a result of which law firms began to hire gender balanced classes of entry level lawyers. The Mansfield rule is now directed at addressing remaining disparities in the partner ranks.


> In the 1960s and 1970s law schools started admitting gender balanced classes.

Be specific, because this could mean different things. Were the genders balanced because the applicant pool itself had become balanced, or because law schools started enforcing balance in admission, or a mix of both?

> In the 1970s and 1980s there was a series of lawsuits as a result of which law firms began to hire gender balanced classes of entry level lawyers

And what were the graduate pools like at the time, re: gender balance? Do you have sources that talk about these points, because it sounds interesting.

Part of the issue for tech companies is that there are fewer women with CS degrees, something they don't directly control, and have only modest at best influence over. And then at the university level, they've had issues getting more women to sign up, though I understand some schools have had more success than others.


Your proposal is to force numeric parity through discrimination when women comprise 20% of the people entering the field? Of course people oppose this: it's blatant sexism, and it is illegal.


From quite long time ago women are accepted to universities. Yet to prove your point about "law being fixed long time ago" you refer to news from few months ago.


I didn’t say law was “fixed.” (To paraphrase Justice Ginsberg, law will be “fixed” when there are nine women on the Supreme Court.)

What I said was that recent progress is the result of work that started decades ago. Harvard law graduated its first women in 1953. But back then top women law graduates were still getting offers to be secretaries. (Justice Ginsberg’s story was not at all atypical for her cohort.) That, along with the prospect of joining a 90%+ male class in and of itself dissuaded women from pursing law. Law schools fixed that by making 50-50 classes an express goal, and then achieving that goal. Then law firms made 50-50 classes of incoming associates an express goal, and achieved that goal. Gender parity was achieved not simply by accepting women to law schools, but by actively seeking to admit gender balanced classes. But once that happened, the new ratio became self-perpetuating. When being a woman lawyer no longer meant being part of a tiny minority in law school, a firm, etc., women self-selected into it when previously they had opted out.

I strongly suspect the same factors are in play in STEM: women who would be good programmers self-select out of the field because they don’t want to be the 1-2 women in a class of 20 men, or the 1-2 women programmers on a team of 20 men.


> (To paraphrase Justice Ginsberg, law will be “fixed” when there are nine women on the Supreme Court.)

Wait, what? Is this an argument that men are inherently unsuited to be Supreme Court Justices?

My guess is this means having 9 women on the Supreme Court is to make up for all the years there were 9 men on the Supreme Court.

I find this dangerous logic. Seeking to alternate oppression of one group versus another doesn't seem like a good long term solution, in my opinion.

By the way, thanks for your analysis about the progression of gender equality in the legal profession. That's something I didn't know about.


> > (To paraphrase Justice Ginsberg, law will be “fixed” when there are nine women on the Supreme Court.)

> Wait, what? Is this an argument that men are inherently unsuited to be Supreme Court Justices?

It just means that if gender is not considered, we should see an all women's court once every 2^9 = 512 time.

If the number never goes above the mean, gender must still be a factor.


> My guess is this means having 9 women on the Supreme Court is to make up for all the years there were 9 men on the Supreme Court.

I took that to mean "just as it was unremarkable in the very recent past for the SC to be 100% male, it should be unremarkable if in the future it became 100% female (on merit)".


Well, it's doubtful it would be based completely on merit in either scenario.


My experience in school was more that the men in group projects would think that you were an idiot and you couldn’t find a team.


Interesting. I wonder if law vs CS makes much difference.

I do remember in my first CS class: about 70% of the men, and all but one or two women dropped the week after pointers were introduced.


My engineering university only started taking women in the 1970s. My mother could not attend as they did not accept women.


In case of medicine - because it's a large field full of career paths that are very different from each other. The daily realities of being a pediatrician, a surgeon, a psychiatrist or a radiologist have very little in common.

There's this hypothesis that men statistically tend to pick jobs involving working with and treating patients as things, and women tend to pick jobs involving people and socializing. Medicine as a field is full of high-status jobs of both kind, so - under this hypothesis - gender parity of the overarching field is entirely unsurprising. And, as predicted, individual specializations tend to show strong gender skew.

Law is also a very large field, so I suspect the profession probably shows a similar dynamic.

Viewed through this lens, our industry is less like "medicine", and more like "radiology". And I suspect - but didn't check - that if you expand the definition of "software" to include supporting fields like design, UX and testing, the overall gender ratio will be much closer to 1:1.


Exactly. And once you look at the sub fields, medicine stops looking so gender equal. Most nurses are female. Most surgeons are male. Most family doctors are female, etc. In aggregate the field is about 50-50, but medicine specialties are not gender neutral at all.


> And I suspect - but didn't check - that if you expand the definition of "software" to include supporting fields like design, UX and testing, the overall gender ratio will be much closer to 1:1.

Could also look at careers like "developer evangelist" and "solutions engineer", both of which are technical but much more people-oriented than being a regular software engineer.


Are women better represented in those roles?


Anecdotally, it seems like it at least for developer evangelist. But I haven't seen any hard data.


This was true when I was working as a developer evangelist at Microsoft. But Microsoft has been specifically recruiting women out of college to try to increase representation. Most of the men in my org were industry veterans while most of the women were fresh out of college. This leads to an imbalance of experience and often means the women are relegated to less technical aspects of the job which hinders their progress.

The evangelists also have to deal with not just the environment at Microsoft, but also the partners we were helping architect solutions for. On more than one occasion I know women had problems delivering solutions to a partner because that partner had blatantly sexist stakeholders who would constantly try to question or circumvent them in ways that didn't happen for men. One of the college hires I was mentoring was the point person on a project, yet every single question was sent my way and I had to keep redirecting them to the woman who was perfectly capable of answering the question and was actually in charge of the account.

So yes, there were a lot more face to face interactions, but the women still didn't stick around for these roles. Some had much better experiences actually writing code on the product teams. Some moved into project management or research.


> There's this hypothesis that men statistically tend to pick jobs involving working with and treating patients as things, and women tend to pick jobs involving people and socializing.

Data to support this hypothesis here: https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/08/07/contra-grant-on-exagge...

ObGyns are 85% female, Pediatrics 75%, while radiology is 72% male and anesthesiology 63%.


One caveat is that OB-GYN falls under much more of a surgical specialty so it doesn't really fit that hypothesis.


I think STEM just has a much lower barrier to entry than med and law. It's a lot more accessible in terms of cost and number of opportunities available, and doesn't require spending a third of your life in school.


Perhaps the biases around the home PC and video games from the 80's is still embedded today? It's my personal favorite theory: the girls were told they couldn't play in our forts 30+ years ago. This became part of modern western culture with respect to computers & gaming and became applied to computers in general.

https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2014/10/21/357629765/when...


Medicine is, in fact, absolutely brutal with misogyny and every other kind of discrimination. People just can't leave it because they are $200k deep in debt, and just have to put up with it. It can be better if you end up as an attending with autonomy, but you still have problem with hospital management etc.

Even straight white men hate medicine and can't leave because of debt... so it's not a great comparison.


Not necessarily disagreeing or commenting on your point, but doesn't medicine typically fall under STEM?


Not that I'm aware - Science Technology Engineering Math is the definition of STEM I see most frequently. I'd consider Medicine to be heavily STEM adjacent, particularly in the US where most doctors get a bachelors in a STEM field before heading to med school, but not a part of it.

Googling around seems that it's contentious, and that a lot of people consider nurses, physicians etc to be STEM careers under the 'science' heading. But this doesn't seem all that core to me. (And you have to draw the line somewhere - are psychiatrists STEM? How about psychologists?)


Engineering and Math are the only two of those letters that have an actual college major with the same name..... you can't major in 'science', you major in one of the subfields of science. In fact, medicine isn't even an undergraduate major (although some universities will offer a 'pre-med' major, but not many).

Many people who go on to go to medical school will major in a STEM subject in undergrad (like biology or something)


> In fact, medicine isn't even an undergraduate major (although some universities will offer a 'pre-med' major, but not many).

This is a US-centric view - most people do in fact study medicine right out of school. It is interesting though that the definition of what constitutes a field vary quite greaty around the globe.


It was using the example of US colleges to make the point that it is too narrow a definition to say only fields that are pure science count as STEM. There are very few pure science or math fields, but I don't think you need to be 'pure' to be considered STEM.


Honestly, the definition of STEM can go in a lot of directions. CS is basically a field of engineering with a heavy slant of maths. Medicine shares a lot of characteristics with engineering, as it is very practical and result-focused, and it shares a lot of the methodology with the Sciences. I think it is quite firmly in the STEM spectrum.


NOOO. Science, Technics, Engineering, Math.

The M is not for Medicine


But science includes biology, chemistry, pharmacy and medical research (e.g. molecular biology, neurology,...). So just because it is not the M does not say it is not part of STEM.

Actually, I am unsure how country specific this is and where to put medicine with respect to hard sciences, soft sciences, social sciences etc.


> Actually, I am unsure how country specific

It is kind of hilarious how different this works in a lot of countries. For example in German, the translation of science is 'Wissenschaft'. It would literally translate to "the thing you do to make knowledge". Humanities are called 'Geistes'wissenschaft and Law is called 'Rechts'wissenschaft'. Math is generally considered to be part of the humanities, and CS is usually either part of the math-department or very closely settled to the engineering department.

There's many more differences between the german and anglo academic culture, let alone all the other ones out there.


> Math is generally considered to be part of the humanities

Hm, not always. In my experience it was a B.Sc., M. Sc. and Dr. rer. nat. and in the math-nat department, but it can also be associated with philosophy and of course there is no scientific method in math.

For medicine you also have the (again country specific?) question whether a medical doctorate is comparable to a hard science one, e.g. for the purpose of grants in medical research.


I would think medicine falls under the science category.


Let's think liberally and not confine this concept to a strict acronym that seems overly narrow


It depends who you ask, but typically not. STEM = Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (ie the 'M' isn't 'medicine', which is what a lot of people think).


Right, but medicine is part of science.... would you argue that a Physics major isn't in STEM because P is not one of the letters of STEM?


No, it isn't; Biology is a part of science. Medicine is, as DuskStar put it, "[Science/]STEM adjacent".


How is it not a part of science? What does a field need to have to be included in STEM?

Just because there are other skills needed besides science based ones doesn't mean it isn't a science field.


It's obviously not a 'basic' science though and other applied sciences that are uncontroversially included in STEM get their own letter (engineering and technology).

People differ in whether they think medicine and the other applied sciences fall under the 'science' umbrella or not. Try searching around and you'll see a lot of mixed opinions on the subject.


I guess you could argue that Tech and Eng getting their own letter means they don't fit under the "S" in STEM, so STEM might not include the non-enumerated applied sciences. (Nor fields of "applied technology", like trucking.)


Right I definitely knew it was math (have 2 engineering degrees myself :) )...but still assumed it was commonly assumed to fall on the spectrum of STEM (definitely on the opposite end from say...physics...but still on the spectrum).

How can anyone get a qualifying score on the MCAT without significant exposure to science?

Disclaimer: I'm definitely coming at this from a U.S. point of view which someone mentioned in another comment effectively (not always but definitely in the overwhelming majority of cases) requires STEM undergrad degrees to get into medicine.


Some branches of medical research are basic sciences (eg endocrinology), and some are applied sciences (those broadly construed as 'health science', eg dietetics). But the practice of medicine in a clinical setting (healthcare) is both a science and an art (ie a skill learned by practicing it), and I think most would say that the knowledge it requires is scientific but much of the day-to-day work is an art.

So people tend to disagree about where to put medicine. But overall, most major public institutions in the US don't include medicine in STEM:

* US Department of Labor (Bureau of Labor Statistics) -- No. (https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2007/spring/art04.pdf)

* US Department of Commerce (Economics and Statistics Administration) -- No. (https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED522129.pdf)

* NSF -- No. "The National Science Foundation is a United States government agency that supports fundamental research and education in all the non-medical fields of science and engineering."


Some people use STEMM for “science technology engineering mathematics and medicine”

Medicine-aligned subjects do a lot to improve the gender ratio, if one wants to improve the gender equality figures...


You're talking right past the comment you're replying to. "Why not medicine? Why not Law?" is straightforwardly explained by the original theory (higher status/stability), yet you're bringing them up as if they're counter examples.


> tl;dr: Ask Women.

This would be an amazing survey. I look forward to its publishing. I wouldn't be surprised if someone is doing it as we speak. It shouldn't be too hard or cost that much.

Though, I do have to say, your sample of one is not sufficiently convincing to me.


I don’t know how such a survey could control for projection, though. I remember reading Susan Fowler’s “blog post that was heard around the world” that ended up taking down Uber’s CEO (and nearly Uber itself) and being surprised how little of it had anything to do with being a woman - most of the frustrations she expressed were things that I’ve been frustrated by, too. It seems to me that she just experienced what every developer experienced (other than the thing about the T-shirts) and attributed all of it to her being a women, assuming that the grass must be greener on the other side.


Hmmm, I wouldn't think that it would be a fact finding mission, but a plain old survey of opinion.


I can't believe this comment get voted up.

> women in America are "organically" picking non-STEM jobs, but that is because the jobs suck, the environments suck and people are assholes at these jobs

Very general assessment without any supporting evidence.

Your sister is not sufficient evidence to make this kind of assessment. Neither is "Ask Women".

By the way, I will be very surprised to hear women in general are treated better in India than in America. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_inequality_in_India


You're right about one thing "patriarchal BS". The theory that there should be more women at some particular job sector has now reached a tipping point where it no longer makes sense because it is non-disprovable. Really, is there any kind of evidence that can hope for that would disprove this bad idea? Or will you always try to come up with some excuses?

Preferential treatment (positive discrimination) in hard science not only makes the mistake of treating women as handicapped (they're surely not), but also makes the situation worse by skewing meritocracy.


Here is a theory, perhaps you could comment on how if fits your experience: Women are less inclined than men to choose STEM Fields, for biological reasons, that is they tend to be more interested in people than things. Because of this STEM fields are dominated by men, who, because of sheer numbers alone, end up shaping the culture to be more masculine. This makes STEM even less appealing for the relatively rare women who do have some degree of passion for STEM. If we were to accept this theory, how would we go about improving matters for society?


Robert Martin talks about how in the 60's and 70's women made up a large amount of the worlds programmers. It would seem somewhere along the way we found ways to significantly reduce the number of women entering the profession. I would argue that any biological reasons have little to no influence compared to social factors. If we accept this alternative theory, then the solution is to change the social culture around STEM to not be so exclusionary.


In the early days, programming was more of a secretarial position. The computer scientists and mathematicians who created the algorithms couldn’t be bothered to write the code and type everything up on the punchcard machines.

This sort of job for women is basically a continuation of the days when women were human computers, hired to do loads of calculations for mathematicians and scientists. The fact that women took these jobs has more to do with their limited opportunities elsewhere than anything else.


> Robert Martin talks about how in the 60's and 70's women made up a large amount of the worlds programmers. It would seem somewhere along the way we found ways to significantly reduce the number of women entering the profession. I would argue that any biological reasons have little to no influence compared to social factors. If we accept this alternative theory, then the solution is to change the social culture around STEM to not be so exclusionary.

First of all, the peak of women's representation in computing was ~35% - not all that much different from today's 20-25%. Second, even if we accept that social changes are what prompted the change in women's representation (and I would agree) it is erroneous to assume that this was due to exclusionary culture in technology. In fact, the data suggests the opposite - reductions in sexism result in reductions in the share of women in tech.

This is likely what played out in the united states. Women were displayed into computing due to sexism in other fields. Several of the women interviewed in Clive Thompson's book Coders, explained that they chose to study computer science because law firms told them explicitly that they would not let women be trial lawyers. The reduction in the share of women in computing was due to the opening of opportunities in other fields like law and medicine, which in turn meant that women who would have been displaced into computing now have the opportunity to study the field of their choice.


I am going to assume that the ~35% number that you are giving without context is the number quoted for peak female representation in earning cs degrees in the 80's. If I am wrong, please correct me. This is much later then I was thinking. I could not find numbers but everything that I have found says that at least a majority of programmers were women in before the early 70's. One of the questions I think is important is why were cs degrees so male dominated in something that was previously a female dominated field?

I am going to take your point about a reduction in sexism in other fields at face value since it seems you are more read up on that than I am. I'm not sure if this is a rebuttal to my argument though. A reduction in sexism in other fields would in fact complement an increase in sexism in computer science. I'm not sure if it is possible to distinguish the effects of each, especially if they compound on top of each other. It might be a little ironic to choose trial lawyers as an example since I don't think they have that much better of a percentage. I would also like to point out that your conclusion of "field of their choice", in my eyes, is heavily influenced by social factors.


> I am going to assume that the ~35% number that you are giving without context is the number quoted for peak female representation in earning cs degrees in the 80's. If I am wrong, please correct me. This is much later then I was thinking. I could not find numbers but everything that I have found says that at least a majority of programmers were women in before the early 70's.

Yes, these figures are from degrees earned.

I searched for sources that claim that the majority of computer programmers were women prior to the 70s. The only one I found is very poorly sources. The only one I found was from this page [1] which links to a Guardian article [2], which does not actually provide any data on the workforce composition of computing industries nor how they define what is and isn't a computing job.

> One of the questions I think is important is why were cs degrees so male dominated in something that was previously a female dominated field?

The question cannot be answered because it is based on an incorrect assertion: women never were dominant in programming or computer science - at least computer science as we understand it today.

To be more specific, in order find a time period during which computing was female dominated one has to take a very broad view of what it means to work in "computing". Women dominated computing back when "computer" was a job title [1]. Well into the 20th century, computation was mostly performed by humans and assisted with mechanical calculators [2] and slide rules. This is computing in a very raw sense, but it is not programming. The workers were not creating programs, they were executing programs. This changed during the 1960s and 70s as computers capable of storing and executing programs became cheaper and replaced human computers. To answer your question, women ceased to dominate computing when "computer" no longer referred to people and instead referred to machines and the work involved changed from personally performing computations to programming a computer to perform computations.

Personally, I don't think a human computer has very much to do with computer programming and I think it's a big stretch to try and put the two under the same banner.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_(job_description)

2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mechanical_calculator#1900s_to...

> I am going to take your point about a reduction in sexism in other fields at face value since it seems you are more read up on that than I am. I'm not sure if this is a rebuttal to my argument though. A reduction in sexism in other fields would in fact complement an increase in sexism in computer science.

I'm not sure I follow. Why would a reduction in sexism in other fields have any effect on sexism in computer science?

> I'm not sure if it is possible to distinguish the effects of each, especially if they compound on top of each other. It might be a little ironic to choose trial lawyers as an example since I don't think they have that much better of a percentage. I would also like to point out that your conclusion of "field of their choice", in my eyes, is heavily influenced by social factors.

Women exceeded 40% representation in law schools in 1985, and have been at roughly parity since the 1990s. Representation of women in law is unambiguously higher than in computing, and it has been for decades. While the stories of women shared by Clive Thompson specifically wanted to become trial lawyers, their stories were representative of the field of law opening up to women more broadly. The point is, we observe a reduction of women in computing occurring at the time time that fields previously closed to women open up. The result is that women who would have been displaced into computing due to their field of choice being inaccessible now have the opportunity to study their field of choice. This would result in a reduction in women in computing even as computing remained as welcoming as it was before. This is consistent with the data presented by the original post, which observed a negative correlation between gender equality and women's representation in technology fields.


> It would seem somewhere along the way we found ways to significantly reduce the number of women entering the profession.

In absolute numbers, the number of men entering computer science just grew faster, than the number of women. Don't forget that 50 years ago, there were fewer people in CS or programming than today.


This kind of confirms a hunch I have which is that macro social beliefs change faster than corporate cultures. So a society as a whole might decide "men and women can work wherever they want" and start to teach children these values, but that doesn't mean the employees at a law or accounting firm are going to change their behaviors (not to mention their policies) at the same rate.

My father was a postal worker and described to me the process that the USPS used to improve their culture, and it involved new policies, procedures, and training for all employees.


> she looked around to see writers with relatively safe, high-status job

She did? Where did she find these writers with safe, high status jobs? Maybe PR?


I am a woman in software and I agree with this.


My gf is in a community oriented job here in India. Dominated by women. Men are criticized much harshly, the environment is outright unprofessional with sex talk and gossip constantly at work. Every other day there is another girl crying because her work was criticized (fairly). Maybe try looking outside populist narratives with a more nuanced view, toxicity flows both ways.

tl;dr: Ask Men and Women.


You mean Ask People? What does any of that have to do with being a woman? Just blanket 'patriarchy bs'?


Well, you know, if the question is "Why are there so few women in STEM?", then specifically asking women might make some sense...


Not, necessarily. The question could also be, why are there so many men in STEM? Because, the perceived problem, some activists try to fix is, the ratio of women vs. men in STEM. The silent assumption is often, that a ration far away from 1:1 is an indicator for blatant sexism.


I understand, but it's referencing the environment in a workplace that applies to both sexes not just women. Her complaint may have also applied to the men there, so really we should get both sides opinion shouldn't we?


That's fair. Her comments about her country of origin include "patriarchal BS at the workplace", which is gender-specific, but her complaints about the US were "the jobs suck, the environments suck and people are assholes at these jobs". The first two may (or may not) be felt more strongly by women in the same circumstances. The last one may (or may not) actually be different for women. But you'd have to ask both men and women to find out.


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