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When She Codes, The Revolution’s Coming (torontostandard.com)
115 points by queenstreet on Jan 22, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 137 comments



Avery Swartz, a mentor at another table, works as a freelance website designer. “A lot of my clients are women. They don’t necessarily want to work with a man because they are afraid of the intimidation factor, the tech speak, the ‘jargon’. I want women to feel empowered, to know that they can take an active role.”

This is not a gender problem, it's pedagogical. My granddad would be intimidated to learn to code for those exact same reasons. I assume that having a name like Ladies Learning Code somewhat entices women to approach programming with the perspective that the pedagogy will be different. Playing on the notion that there's an alternative way to explain code to different gender might be a good marketing ploy, but I'm wondering if it's not also doing a disservice by perpetuating the myth.


You're missing the point-- it is about gender. Women don't want to work with, and especially learn from, men because they are afraid that the man will not know how to speak to them as an equal. They're afraid he'll hide his discomfort behind jargon, and that he will be unable to be nice without being patronizing. Heaven forfend that this man, like many highly technical people, is socially awkward in general! In that case, he may be outright incapable of communicating with them.

They're not afraid of this by chance; this is a rational fear arising from a hundred, a thousand previous encounters with men, even trained teachers, who were abjectly unable to interact with women in a way that left them feeling comfortable. This is of course not to say that such men do not exist, as they surely do. But after a decade or two of experience, why roll the dice?


It is about gender. Men don't want to work with women because they are afraid that the women won't be able to reason logically. They're afraid she might hide her insecurity behind politics and power trips, and she will be unable to be assertive without being controlling. Heaven forfend that this woman, like many women with careers, is bitchy in general! In that case, she may be outright incapable of working with logical technical types.

They're not afraid of this by chance; this is a rational fear arising from a hundred, a thousand previous encounters with women, even women in management, who were abjectly unable to interact with men in a way that left them feeling comfortable. This is of course not to say that such women do not exist, as they surely do. But after a decade or two of experience, why roll the dice?

Now that I've flipped the genders, do you see how offensive your comment is?

My general view: if women are avoiding computing due to the stereotypes and intolerance as you describe, then good riddance.


I'm sorry, what? I'm a man, I made a statement about men which I do not find offensive. You edited it to be offensive to women, and that's supposed to make me feel offense?

No. I'd recommend you also ask a woman for her opinion, though, in case my male-ness has prevented me from seeing the obvious.

For future reference, statements made about privileged groups are not, generally, as offensive as those made about the unprivileged. For example:

My general view: if men are avoiding childcare due to the stereotypes and intolerance as you describe, then good riddance.


His point is that it's offensive to prejudge all men in tech as incapable or unwilling to treat women as equal individuals. This sentiment is rooted in the idea that most men are not sexist, chauvinist, assholes. Those individuals who can't even be bothered to endure the torment of a male teacher lest they be patronized or spoken to with a tone of condescension are probably not well balanced people.

From another perspective, would you think it reasonable for black men to avoid tech because of "a thousand previous encounters with [white]men who were abjectly unable to interact with [black individuals] in a way that left them feeling comfortable"?


Then he and you should take it up with the women who have had these negative experiences, whose prejudice you both are supposing, and not me. Do let me know how that goes.


This was on my mind earlier, but, finding myself unable to put it into words, I didn't comment.

My first thought when I read the article was "lol 'built a wordpress.org,' nice." Then I realized I was being an idiot and that it's great that they're learning. But something didn't jive---excluding my little sister, at no point can I remember teaching a female anything technical without getting either impatient or patronizing.

But, as I think about it, both are signs that I wasn't really there to teach. I was either trying to impress them, or uphold my self-image of being smart, or something else that wasn't teaching.

As a single guy of no particular attractiveness studying a technical subject, I consider myself a member of what one could call the aspirational class of the social world. I don't feel satisfied with where I am in life. Considering the low value we place on teaching in our society, I'm pretty sure teaching would not be a good way to remedy this.

I wouldn't be surprised if many male teachers of technical subjects aren't really happy to be teaching at all. Wallowing in their discontent or outside ambitions, perhaps they're unable to fully engage in the empathy required for good teaching. Questions "obvious" from the instructor's point of view will be brushed off or scorned, reflections of his self-hate. A male student hearing this will think, "Fuck him, I'll learn this anyway." A female student will think, "Why on earth am I hanging out in this environment?"


It's not about gender. From your point of view it's about character weakness. A woman has bad experiences with men, so she should be trained to seek haven among women? If she wants to get a mortgage, should she do so only through a female mortgage broker? If she wants to buy a car, does it have to be sold to her by a woman? Or more generally does she need to attend a women-only class that teaches her to negotiate with salesmen? Sounds like a form of community codependency to me.

A better solution might be to teach women (and men) to accept and understand different styles of communication. And that class shouldn't be gender-specific.

In regard to programming, another commenter had a great solution. Get some books, make a github account, learn to code. You have complete anonymity on github. It's a place where all aspects of your individuality can drop out of consideration except the most important in the context: your ability to understand and write code.


Character weakness? In whom? In the men who populate male-dominated fields who are incapable of treating women as equals, or in the women who avoid communities where they are not treated as equals?

Think carefully.


By your description it's both. But exculpating one party and relegating them to gender-biased solutions is not a solution at all.


I totally agree with you, except I don't think fear is quite the right way to frame it, and perhaps more that many women know they will be talked down to, make a rational decision that they don't want to put up with that, and do something else with their time.


Afraid doesn't necessarily denote the emotion of fear, I think in this context we can safely say it's merely the anticipation of something which is disliked. Like, "I'm afraid if I order from Sloppy Joe's Pizzeria, I'll find another hair in my pizza."


Well said. It's a pedagogical problem; and it's about gender.


> They're not afraid of this by chance; this is a rational fear arising from a hundred, a thousand previous encounters with men, even trained teachers, who were abjectly unable to interact with women in a way that left them feeling comfortable.

This is a somewhat prejudiced argument; try switching the roles, or maybe adding ethnicity in there, and you'll see. “Everyone knows” etc.

Of course, that's not to say it must be untrue. The (at least perceived) alternate pedagogy does seem to work, so I'm all for it!


I agree that it's not a gender problem, or at least not only a gender problem. But the problem being more general does not necessarily imply that the solution should be equally general. I think a class like this might be just thing thing to get a certain class of women interested in programming, which is never a bad thing, even if it doesn't help people like your granddad. A similar class for older people might be just as successful. Sometimes being very targeted with your demographic is a better approach than trying to solve an entire, huge problem in one shot.

Of course, I imagine there are plenty of women who would never attend a class called "Ladies Learning Code," but they might be receptive to a different strategy. The point is that having multiple fronts in this war on computer illiteracy may be more effective than having a single big one.


Never a bad thing? The median male developer is so inept at writing correct software that the industry would be better off without him. If these women weren't irresistibly drawn to the work, how can we expect them to be substantially better, rather than merely doubling the amount of crap we're already struggling with? If anything, we need a much tougher filter before we go out and entice the masses.


You've expressed an ivory tower viewpoint. Forget the "industry". These people are learning to code for themselves, to scratch their own itches.

I encourage you to think less like a software engineer and more like a hacker. These people are gaining greater digital literacy. They are gaining the tools to solve their own problems.

Only a few of them will take up software as a profession. They will be subject to the same filtering process as everyone else.


Oh, I'm all for everyone tinkering, that's practically a sacrament. But

> If we allow the future of the web, software, hardware, video games, etc. to be conceptualized, created and maintained by just one sector of the population, it’s impossible to expect that it will serve the needs of the entire group.

and

> We recognize the power of diversity and want to seek ways to attract more women and girls in to the tech industry – for their own personal benefit and the overall potential of the industry.

suggest the goal is to substantially change the face of the industry. And the existing filter is entirely inadequate for a large number of candidates only moderately interested.


Also, I fear that groups of women programming might not get the same experience as if they were also programming with men. I'm skeptical of the value of gender-biased environments helping defeat perceived gender biases found in a particular activity. It seems it would only further promote gender biases.

The program fails if most of the women, upon exiting the program, start programming with men and say "This isn't like Ladies Learning Code!" and either quit programming altogether or simply join other groups of women to program.


> I left Ladies Learning Code having accomplished my goal. I built a WordPress.org

What does this actually mean? The sentence itself seems to indicate that the class was focused around learning to program by building a WordPress clone. My suspicion based on reading the whole article is that she took a class showing her how to use WordPress to create a blog. If she doesn't know the distinction, I'm skeptical that she really learned to program in any meaningful way.

I do think it's great that people who are mostly technically illiterate are making efforts to change that, though.


Wordpress dot com is a blog hosting service based on wordpress. Perhaps she meant they were setting up a web server to run multiple blogs with multiple users, using wordpress as as a platform (and specifically the MultiSite feature https://codex.wordpress.org/Create_A_Network ).

I can see how this would be a useful endeavor. In any case, yes, her language may be imprecise here but remember to be forgiving to people who are just learning!!! You are skeptical of her skills; I am skeptical of the notion that you have enough information to evaluate her skills or the class. :)


No, you're right; I don't really have enough information to evaluate her skills, mainly because she didn't talk about what she learned. So, the language she used to describe technical things is the only way I could try to evaluate her technical knowledge.

And upon further review, it seems pretty likely that the class she took is this one: http://ladieslearningcodejan14.eventbrite.com/


Wow, an 8 hour $40 course with a 4:1 student to instructor ratio. With even just a little bit of demand no wonder it sells out so quickly.


Seems like they have an open call to devs to take the sessions, presumably with a cut for each dev that does it and where they do it. So the quality of the information would ddepend on the dev that bothered to nominate themselves.

Unfortunately this could mean that the quality of the cource is wholy dependant on the dev assigned to you're 4:1 session.

I wonder what the screening process is. But undoubtedly a good business model for raising quick capital, with a high pivot rate, as & when it supports demand.


As a developer for BlogHer, a women's media company with a big network of independent women bloggers, I hear lots of people who don't know the correct terminology say things like this. When they say "a WordPress.org" they mean "a self-hosted WordPress site".


I know what she meant, just like I know what my mom means when she points to her computer tower and calls it a CPU or calls her browser a search engine. I was just trying to make the point that her vocabulary didn't reflect a person who was particularly competent at programming. I later realized that she likely only learned enough HTML and CSS to customize a WordPress page, which just means that I assumed wrong about what the "Learning Code" portion of the program name implied.


It is learning code.

Think back to the first eight hours of coding of your entire life. It was probably copy-pasting stuff you didn't really understand from a magazine or a web page and watching some colors flash or text scrolling down.

It is not a lot, but it is a start. 8 down, 9992 to go to mastery.


This is pretty great. Its first-order effects would be good enough: a successful class that turns people from mere users into content creators. Great!

But the second-order effects may be more important. Nearly anyone, when first introduced to computers, is "just" a user---they use the computer in the ways that are taught to them. Those of us that progress into general programmers generally had some transition phase where we were sort of "just users", typing something in or following instructions, but those things we typed in were our gateway to the next level. For me, it was typing in BASIC listings from magazines in the mid-80s on the family Apple IIe, and then figuring out that I could tweak them and make the programs do new things that weren't in the original article. For some of my students these days, it was typing in WoW macros and then learning to tweak their own.

A couple years ago, I had a student whose original entree into programming came via a web design class mostly involving HTML and largely done using a front-end app (Dreamweaver maybe?). But it was a start, and it inspired her to learn more about HTML and then eventually to take AP CS and major in it in college. I think her sex and her gender are only statistically relevant here---there most certainly are girls that play video games and will want to write macros, and there are boys that can will be well-served by an HTML-first curriculum. But she suspected, and I agree, that teaching people structured content creation will have long-term effects of increasing the ratio of females in all areas of CS.

But whether that speculation is accurate or not, let's not be dissing this person's experience because it's not programming-y enough. We don't need to be gatekeeping the secrets of the High Priesthood here; everyone needs to start somewhere. And whether Ms. Mlotek eventually goes on into "true" programming or not, she's more computer-empowered than before, so we should be happy for her, and if not her then others who go through this program, both male and female, will find their way into programming and other CS disciplines. And that is something we should all be happy about.

(PS: For those of you complaining that the post was more about feminism than programming, she warned you right there in the subhed: "Is Ladies Learning Code awesome and feminist, or just awesome?". What did you think it would be about?)


So I'm reading this, then I skim down and see how long it is. I read some more.

Is it me or did this make no real point at all?

Ladies learning code. Good idea, because more people coding is good, ladies or otherwise. I fail to see why the author is so amazingly hung up on whether or not it's feminist.


The writing definitely struck me as pretty meandering. I was pretty sure I was going to read about what the class was like and what she learned at first, but then it just kind of veered off into debating whether or not it was a feminist organization with no real direction. It's only tangentially about learning to use WordPress.


You're missing the point of the article. It's not about getting you introduced to the class; it's about discussing why this class is dedicated to women but not identifying as "feminist".


Because if it identified as feminist they'd have to spend the first two hours of the class installing a custom version of Linux that had politically correct terminology in the the interface, instead of teaching people how to use wordpress.

eg. womyn pages instead of man pages.


My take on the article is that she had a problem - she needed to better understand how things worked underneath the web software that is Wordpress. The meeting she wrote about helped her do that. It also raised (meta?) questions related to gender issues in the technology field.

As the married father of a four year old daughter, I do get the sense of comfort that is prevalent in ladies clubs. Watching my daughter play with boys and girls, just boys and then just girls I have observed a noticeable difference in the intersections between the children. I have also noticed the differences in my wife's book club (all women) when its her turn to host. It's not that they exclude me or the other guy's we are friends with but, the books they read are not to my taste so I would not be able to contribute anything meaningful to the discussion. Although I do still need read The Girl With THe Dragon Tattoo book on their recommendation.

So reading about an women's club where they go into the basics of coding is a good thing even if most of the members never become elite programmers - they will have learned a valuable skill in a comfortable setting. That is something they can take back to work and apply now: how to talk to the programmer in a meaningful way. For my daughters generation (not just girls) I am coming to suspect that a line will be drawn between those who can make use of the technology underneath the productivity tools their generation is raised on (web/office being the most prevalent today) and learning to code in anything is a step towards being successful in any field, not just web and software.


"If we allow ..."

Who is this we and how is this authoritarian power exercised?

Interestingly enough, Age discrimination in the industry continues to be ignored while the (IMO) highly debatable notion of sex discrimination in the field is the subject of countless articles and debates. At least the Japanese are honest about the fact that they don't want programmers older than 30 years of age.

The barrier to entry in this field is low. Github, for example, doesn't ask you to check a box with your sex when you open an account. Nor do I care one bit when I [pull] a project if the author was a woman.


There's nothing debatable about gender discrimination existing in the industry. It's not your opinion. It exists.

Age discrimination exists as well, but that's not what this article is about, and you shouldn't try to grab focus with it.


My personal experience in the field does not support your apparently strongly held assertion. Thus "IMO".

> "you shouldn't try to grab focus with"

Please do not question my motivation. I had a point to make.


It's not an assertion because this isn't something up for debate. Women face a lot of discrimination in the tech industry. You can say, "I don't see it," but saying it's your opinion that it doesn't exist is characterizing it as something that is opinionated.

I'm sorry if it wasn't your intent to steal focus. What you did, whether intentional or not, is a common derailing tactic.


"It's not an assertion because this isn't something up for debate."

If he hasn't seen any compelling evidence of [Issue X], then for him it remains unresolved. Rather than being offended that his mind isn't made up the right way, you might consider sharing whatever evidence makes you convinced that [Issue X] is a problem.

---

assertion - a positive statement or declaration, often without support or reason (from dictionary.com)

That seems like a perfectly fitting word to me.


If you assumed I was offended by his post, you're far off. I'm only disappointed. The evidence is this blog post and the countless ones like it saying how tough it is for a woman to get into programming without being bombarded with negative attention just because of their gender.

As I said in the other reply, there is no way to perfectly measure discrimination. If you don't trust the various testimonies by women in the tech industry and would rather plug your ears, please do not further this discussion.

Links to check out:

http://www.stubbornella.org/content/2010/07/26/woman-in-tech...

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/12/edlife/12STABINE.html

http://www.bluepoof.com/Colloquium/attitudes.html

http://web.mit.edu/fnl/women/women.html


Your first link does not show evidence of discrimination. It claims that women are not present in computing because women are different from men in ways that make them poorly suited to a role in computing:

"CS education works best for people who already know how to code before they begin. CS teaches the theory behind a practice in which they assume you already have some skill..."

"CS education also focuses a lot of effort on puzzles and very abstract concepts..."

"Women are less likely to jump up and say “me! me! me!” "

"Recognize the need for work-life balance. Most women still have primary responsibility for children and home."

I didn't bother with your other links.


You should have read the entire article.

"I believe CS and Web Development currently select for certain masculine qualities that are largely unrelated to someone’s prowess as a coder. I believe it is these tangential code-cowboy qualities women are unable or unwilling to emulate, and not their skill or capacity for abstraction, problem solving, creative thinking, or communication — All of which actually make them better developers."

"Scholarships like the one Google proposes aren’t meant to give women of lower merit something they don’t deserve, they are meant to circumvent the discrimination that extremely talented women still face."

You also pulled your quotes completely out of context.


Could you explain how context changes the substance of my quotes?

I realize the author doesn't believe that spending time on your work, improving your skills and solving abstract puzzles matter. Maybe she's right, though I prefer employees who don't need hand holding. But that's irrelevant - rewarding autodidacts, puzzle-lovers and hard workers is not discrimination.


She wasn't talking about reasons why women are "poorly suited to a role in computing". She was talking about ways which CS could be bettered in general. For the first part you quoted, gender isn't even mentioned. The second quote? Full context:

"CS education also focuses a lot of effort on puzzles and very abstract concepts when practical applications where you can see the why and how might work better for women (and a hell of a lot of men). I like yummy algorithms, but we could make CS education more accessible by putting them in context."

Your third quote has to do with the environment that exists— not because women don't inherently participate.


She was talking about ways which CS could be bettered in general.

From the article: "She said that CS is the only science where the participation of women is getting worse not better. We have a problem. We’re geeks (supposed to be good at problem solving). So let’s figure it out!

I think we should look at:

[The bulleted list from which I quoted some items]"

According to her, these particular items are reasons why women specifically are not participating in tech.

And again - focusing a CS class on algorithms is not discrimination.


They're reasons why women are not participating— not reasons why "women are different from men in ways that make them poorly suited to a role in computing". There is a huge difference.

No one is saying a class on algorithms is discrimination. Are you intentionally misconstruing her article or are you truly this confused?


You cited this article as evidence of discrimination. In reality, it says the gender gap is caused by gender differences in ability/preference.


No, it says the gender gap is caused— in part— by assumptions that favor men due to the tech industry already favoring men. The first item on the list about video games being male-centric sets up the rest.


Fine; replace 'offended' with 'disappointed.' My point--which you seem to have missed--is the same.

I'm not addressing the issue of gender discrimination.

I'm saying that your rhetorical approach, which seems to be "loudly proclaim that everyone should magically see things the same way I do," is ridiculous.


What part is magic? I'm saying to take the testimony of women who are either in the field or have attempted to join as evidence. Were you just nit-picking at my use of "it's not up for debate"?


The only way for it to not be up for debate would be if there existed a perfect discrimination-measuring machine.

Look, if lack of diversity can only be explained by discrimination, you need to show that the field where women are most underrepresented - higher mathematics - is also the most rife with discrimination. I've never seen a female mathematician suggest it is. How do you explain this?


By that logic, nothing can ever exist without some way to measure it, yet we know of things like emotions and attractiveness. Would you then say that "hatred" or "love" cannot exist because there isn't a hatred/love-measuring machine?

Just because you have not seen it does not mean it doesn't exist. I don't have any experience with higher mathematics, but let's take programming. Would the existence of a women-centric programming club be proof enough of the discrimination women face? What about the blog posts of women in CS courses expressing their disdain for their male classmates/teachers? Or the attempts to attract women into the field?


Would the existence of a women-centric programming club be proof enough of the discrimination women face?

Would a whites-centric golf club be proof enough of the discrimination white people face? Would a blog post of a white man in basketball expressing disdain for his black teammates similarly be evidence of discrimination against whites?


Your examples are things that can be measured. Also, if you don't need evidence, then I can say anything.


I have plenty of evidence in the form of experience by women. I don't have a "discrimination-measuring machine", though. You'd be hard-pressed to find one of those.

I know this isn't what a lot of HNers like to hear, but discrimination exists whether you can measure it with a ruler or not. This is one of those things where you have to piece together anecdotal evidence with an empirical lack of women to get the answer.


Is discrimination the only possible explanation for the empirical lack of women?

If you're sure it is, and you're actually interested in these questions, investigating discrimination in tech when you could be investigating discrimination in higher mathematics is like studying swedish-norwegian racism when you could be studying black-white racism.

You don't need personal experience, just casually google it for a while and report your findings.


Of course it's not the only possible explanation; however, it's the most realistic explanation given the number of women who have expressed disgust at the level of discrimination present in the tech industry.

Your analogy doesn't make sense to me because, again, I'm not familiar with higher mathematics. I can't say, "Yes, higher mathematics relates to the tech industry like racism against Norwegians relates to racism against black people."


So there can only be one explanation?


There's a main explanation. Do you have another that might suffice?


Alright, if discrimination is the main explanation, what's the second most important explanation? The third? Why are you sure they're less important than discrimination?


I'm not the one saying there's another realistic explanation. You should direct those questions at someone who is.


Which one of the non-realistic explanations is the closest to being a realistic explanation, and in what way does it fall short?


A non-realistic explanation would be that women are evolutionarily built to hate programming/technology so these fields naturally do not appeal to them. This also encompasses the "men are better at tech" thing.

Another non-realistic explanation would be that women collectively do not want to go into tech despite being equally good at it as men. As in, there isn't any discrimination, and they would be just as suited as men, but most women just go, "Meh. Don't care." for some reason.

I've heard both of these things and neither of them make any sense.


And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen: The modern godless creationist in full crusader gear. Thank you, it's been a pleasure.


I have one to offer, though I will admit it is reasonably controversial in various dimensions (e.g. sexist, etc.):

- I am /of the opinion/ that young women have greater social intelligence and nuanced sensitivity than young men.

- And, that (IMO) here in America there is a prevalent negative social attitude towards nerds/geeks/intellectuals.

- Matters have certainly improved since the realization that "nerds" can become tycoons, and some are recognized. But it should be noted that this does not indicate a change is societal attitude towards geeks. Linus Torvalds is not a household name. Zuckermann is well known, but he is a business success and celebrated for his business (and yes, social), and not technical, acumen.

- The field, in my experience, is one of the most meritocratic in existence today in our society (which is the primary reason I continue a professional practice). I would code for fun, regardless.

- But, it is certainly true in my experience that the workforce was and remains preponderantly male, although it seems to have improved (but see below).

The summation of above considerations gives support to a thought that is further reinforced by a consideration of the female colleagues I have worked with over the past 20 years:

Every single one was either an immigrant (1 Israeli, 1 Romanian, 1 Pakistani, 1 Brazilian, & recently quite a few Indian and/or Russian/Eastern European women), or, the designated brainiac social minority group that themselves celebrate cerebral members, e.g. Jewish and Asian Americans, etc. In fact, my first female coworker (who happened to also be my boss/team-lead) was a Cooper Union grad and a Chinese American.

Finally, let me tell you a very simple human fact: most of us men in the field would probably be very happy to have a more balanced work environment. So the thought that we would go out of our way to discriminate against women flies in the face of both personal experience (I interviewed and selected the Israeli and the Romanian as the de facto CTO of a startup in '89), and my general understanding of my fellow male geeks.

(Also, note that I made an effort to reach out to a fellow geek (female, of course) that I only know via her github projects. She confirmed that "agism" was what concerned her most.)

None of this is to offer a conclusive explanation, but I am of the strong opinion that:

when the day arrives that (American) society adopts the same social respect/capital towards its cerebral members that it currently affords business, media, and sports personalities, will be the day that will see young cerebral women make the (intelligent and thoughtful) choice to enter into the field (and related fields, such as Mathematics) in greater numbers.

(End opinion)


No, by that logic, it's just up for debate.


And which side would you take in that debate?


The dark side


>It's not an assertion because this isn't something up for debate.

You aren't willing to debate it, which is a perfectly legitimate (if elitist) sentiment to express.

Your entire strategy in writing has been to combat while loudly saying you aren't going to fight.


At least the Japanese are honest about the fact that they don't want programmers older than 30 years of age.

When I lived in Japan it seemed like nobody even got a job until they were 30...


We always talk about ageism in the US but thats really the double whammy if both of these statements are true. I guess you'd have a year long career as a programmer.


I personally have worked with half a dozen programmers over 40 and 2 over 50. All of the people I currently work with are over 30, myself included.

I have worked with one female developer in my entire career.


I have worked with more female coders than over-40s. Maybe the industry is changing, and that change is visible at younger companies with younger staff.

Also, minorities tend to congregate in supportive environments, so you will find a bimodal distribution of organizations with peaks at many or no women, and trough at 1 or few women.


What I find interesting is that "tech jargon" is listed as the number one reason these women feared getting involved in the technical side of there businesses. It is not as though men are born knowing this jargon; they spend both work and free time learning it as a part of their interests.

I know this is an old question, but how are we raising our young women to shy away from these things? Why is it acceptable to let young girls get away with not having to learn the small bits of technical language that will help them develop an interest and feel confidence with these subjects at a young age?


Why? Because misogyny is a tool that can be wielded in many directions. And it gets wielded to defend privilege and power. Once a field is defined as powerful, part of an elite, girls often are driven out of it as that field or interest is redefined to be a male thing. Boys, and girls too, ostracize and mock girls who are "into computers" because they are going outside a gender norm. If you think this doesn't still happen, hang out with some kids in a computer lab.


Your world model doesn't fit the fact that women have been gaining in every elite profession I can think of over the last 50 years. Take the example of the gender breakdown of law and medicine students:

http://chronicle.com/blogs/brainstorm/equality-for-women-bet...

Also, I would like to journey to this mythical world of yours where programming is considered an "elite" job.


On average I will make more money than any other 4 year degree at my school (According to our schools alum association).

I am part of a profession that has created a significant amount of recent world wide change, like Facebook, Twitter, Google, and almost every innovation on or related to the web since it's beginning.

There is a different between programmers (Like the ones Microsoft hires), and people who can program (Like the ones a small website will hire). A programmer knows more than just programming, he knows data structures, algorithms, programming language theory, how operating systems work, and a lot more, because it makes him better at his job.

If that isn't elite I don't know what is. (Lawyers and doctors can change the world, or they can practice their craft on everyday matters, and there is a wide variance between full on doctor and nurse/physician/ect., it is the same with programmers [We just haven't labeled the different tiers yet])


Programmers have much lower social status than the Professions. Programming has poor job security, entails long hours if you want to make decent money, and often requires you to work with socially inept peers.

The higher status that programming gets, the more women I expect to enter the field. Not less.


This, most definitely this. It wasn't until I went to university until I noticed it (And a very feminist [In the fact it has a large women's studies program] university at that, considering it was originally an all girls school).

Our major's lab probably isn't as bad as some, but there are still plenty of times that I could see a woman not feeling welcome in that room. I try to call them out on it, with the help of some other people, but it's only a marginal thing.

We also got some grant money to teach a general intro to CS class (marketed to freshmen, with a word choice aimed at females) that was very successful (and covered topics from basic programming, to algorithms and data structures, and touching on a lot of fields like cryptography, AI, graphics, ect.) 2 quarters after that class and our ratio of female majors has gone from 1:9 to 1:7. (Which may also be other factors)

But at least our majors lab has stopped singling out women for their gender...


You are confused if you think it is just girls who are ostracized for being "into computers". I'd agree that it may be worse for girls, but I would explain that being due to girls having a much larger propensity to emotional hurt one another than boys.


I think maybe you read the first part of my statement and not the second. Please read my original statement.

Of course I think this still happens. I'm not shocked, just frustrated. I'm wondering what we can do as individuals to change this.


Amazon.com will sell you many great books regardless of gender. Github.com will let you study quality code regardless of gender. Codeacademy.com will teach you some fundamentals regardless of gender. Google.com permits queries for all genders.

Are sexism and discrimination real problems? I think they are. I also think programs like Ladies Learn Code are important and encouraging, but there are no powerful men or fumbling neckbeards preventing women from accessing the knowledge that would empower them as developers.


It's a fantastic movement, and the feminist in me is very happy to see the profession moving away from such a male focus. My only concern with articles like this (and female friends who participate in similar learning) is that learning HTML hardly makes you employable as a hot-shot startup whizz. In fact, it's arguable that HTML isn't even programming, it's really just basic computer use skills these days. I suppose we all have to start somewhere (I started with HTML too), but I hope these "ladies" don't stop with HTML.


A comment on the OP from somebody associated with Ladies Learning to Code mentions that they have a much broader range of courses available, with more planned for the future. It's great to see this program meeting success, the number of similar initiatives that just sort of wither can be depressing.


The first event was learning Ruby. See: http://ladieslearningcode.com/events/


The first event that I see on that page is "HTML and CSS or Beginners."

It seems like the class the author took was "WordPress with Wes Bos," since she mentioned that he was the lead instructor


I can see why it might be confusing, the Ruby event is directly after the "Launch Party" event. Someone might assume that was the first event if they didn't scroll further down.


It's not really arguable - HTML is not programming, it's markup.

But the point is not to make someone employable as a "hot-shot startup whizz"; just to teach them some basics so they can communicate with devs as equals. And anyway, it would be worrying if just taking a few coding lessons would qualify someone to be employable as a programmer at all :)


They talk about needing to know enough to effectively communicate with developers, not being a start up whiz.


If you know HTML+JS+CSS (and know it really well), then you're the hottest technical specialist on the market.

Compared to back-end programming it's harder to learn by accident (surprisingly so), it requires less common character traits, it's less rewarding in the weird programming sense than coding neat gems in ruby. But the demand is huge because most projects has bigger front-end than back-end these days.


> “If we allow the future of the web, software, hardware, video games, etc. to be conceptualized, created and maintained by just one sector of the population, it’s impossible to expect that it will serve the needs of the entire group.

I don't think it is so bad, if there is an user base soon or later a web site will be created serving the needs of this user base, because this means profit for the site creator. It seems strange to think that to represent everybody's need the web needs to be developed by everybody.

Just to make a more concrete example, games appear to be really developed with men in mind, but this is because the population of players is mostly dominated by teenager males.


The population of players of video games is dominated by teenager males because the developers of video games have teenager males in mind.

Game developers have teenager males in mind because the original game developers _were_ teenager males.

Farmville and Wii Sports show that there is a vast market for video games aimed at women that is only now starting to be explored.


> The population of players of video games is dominated by teenager males because the developers of video games have teenager males in mind.

As of 2011, the average age for a video game player is 37, a number slowly increasing as people who were children playing the first arcade, console and home computer games continue playing now on current systems.

Plus, video games (and consoles) are expensive. It helps to have a job. :)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Video_game_culture#Demographic...


The population of players of video games is dominated by teenager males because the developers of video games have teenager males in mind.

I would not be so sure. We all played games like pac-man, goonies, super mario and such. I remember when we were kids that we had tons of somewhat gender neutral games, but boys were the ones mostly interested in playing. Looking back, I'm more convinced today that it was a cultural issue. Girls were simply conditioned to do "girl things". Eventually, game developers skewed their production toward their dominant market. This conditioning still exists today, but is slowly disappearing and game developers will, in time, adjust accordingly.


The first thing my mom said when I showed her StarCraft was, "but why do you want to kill the aliens, why can't you be friends with the aliens."

That's the kind of game we need.


Look at the three games you listed. Pac-Man, Super Mario, Goonies (a game about young men).


Are you making the point that characters in the games were male, hence they were guy games? There have been a number of famous female protagonists in games, it hasn't necessarily made them popular with girls, or unpopular with guys (Samus Aran, Lara Croft, etc).

My Dad actually bought me Ms Pac-man with my atari 2600, I never had the original Pac-man (there was no point, it was the exact same game). I only listed Pac-man because it's the more renown title of the series. I also fail to see what makes a game like pac-man, goonies or super mario gender specific. I was introduced to the Mario character by my much older sister when she had these little electronic games that Nintendo used to make (she had the classic Donkey-Kong). Nintendo eventually entered the video game arena and released their adaptations of such classics as Tetris. Even back in those days the spectrum of game themes was already large enough to cater to a diverse audience. I'm not denying that there was a gradual predominance of male oriented themes, but many of the classics were pretty much gender neutral and I don't hear many females reminiscing on them. I don't know why it should be difficult to consider that girls were simply conditioned (parents? society?) to believe that it was a guy thing.


I have a female friend who enjoys the Mario series. That doesn't mean it's not gender-specific; it means there exist some women to which that game appeals. Super Mario is extremely gender-specific: the main characters are male attempting to save princesses. Pac-Man was less specific aside from his name, but even then, Ms Pac-Man was a hyper-gendered incarnation of her male counterpart. Take a look:

Pac-Man logo: http://images.wikia.com/logopedia/images/6/60/Pacman-logo.jp...

Ms Pac-Man logo: http://sherisays.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/ms.jpg

This is exactly what all those blog posts are talking about with regard to Arkham City and the DC New 52. The women are male fantasies of women. Ms Pac-Man doesn't appeal to women; it appeals to men.


It seems to me that you're arguing only for the sake of it. In my original reply I addressed the perceived cause and effect of why women are under-represented in the videogame industry. I disagreed with the quick and easy finger pointing toward game designers as the original culprit. I redirected attention to historic games that were gender neutral and that were shunned by the female gender, due most likely to social prejudices, that videogames are a guy thing. You replied to my arguments by implicitly inferring that the games I cited as examples were somewhat gender biased. I added some arguments to the contrary.

Now you use Ms Pac-man's logo as the basis of your argument about the genderization in the game? Have you actually played any of these games? The last thing I remember from any of them was the packaging. Do you remember what the actual graphics or game-play was like at all? You force yourself to see "hyper-gendered incarnation" and to me, this is an example of what I believe the problem was originally with games: adults meddling in kids business, because they thought they saw something, that would normally have gone unnoticed to children. That's how we ended up with girls thinking that videogames are for boys. Someone had to tell them that.

Mario could have been after the golden treasure, or the secret chamber, or delivering the princess, or whatever, it made absolutely no difference to game play. People (boys and girls alike who enjoyed these games) didn't care. Ms Pac-man was a round yellow dot walking around in a labyrinth and swallowing ghosts. My friends and I played these without even knowing any English, so we had no idea what was being said in all the written messages, nor did we really care about the objective, we just enjoyed going stage after stage and defeating the "boss". In the case of Mario, we had no clue that the little person at the end of the stages was a girl, let alone a princess that we needed to eventually deliver. That's definitely not what enticed us to play and I don't believe that's what deterred girls to do the same. Mario could have been an old wizard, some type of sea monster and yes, a girl, the outcome would be the same, if there was game play, we would be there.

I haven't played any games in eons, but a quick look in a videogame store showed me evidence that today the offering in games is rather skewed toward young male. I am absolutely not in disagreement and actually agreed with the observation previously, but this was not the argument, but rather what's the root cause of the situation, since it pertains to aspect of the main debate on the thread: women and technology. The 2 games that you cited Arkham City and DC New 52, I've never heard of, so I won't dispute your claims. I would however underline the fact that they're recent releases and bear no weight in our current discussion.


> I redirected attention to historic games that were gender neutral and that were shunned by the female gender, due most likely to social prejudices, that videogames are a guy thing. You replied to my arguments by implicitly inferring that the games I cited as examples were somewhat gender biased. I added some arguments to the contrary. Now you use Ms Pac-man's logo as the basis of your argument about the genderization in the game?

Is the advertising/packaging somehow exempt from scrutiny in gender discussions? I don't see why I can't point to the packaging of Ms Pac-Man as a reason it's gendered. You do realize you're arguing against the notion that advertising intends to capture a specific audience, correct?

> The last thing I remember from any of them was the packaging.

That's great. Many people remember the packaging, and it's a huge factor in purchases.

> Mario could have been after the golden treasure, or the secret chamber, or delivering the princess, or whatever, it made absolutely no difference to game play.

But it wasn't, and until you can see that it wasn't, you'll never understand why gender discrimination is such an issue.

> The 2 games that you cited Arkham City and DC New 52, I've never heard of, so I won't dispute your claims. I would however underline the fact that they're recent releases and bear no weight in our current discussion.

I only used those because I assumed you had prior knowledge of them. DC New 52 isn't even a game; it's a reboot of the original DC comic characters but made more "modern" which equates to all the female characters becoming slutty. I used them to prove my point that video games have rarely been female-friendly or had women in mind. Lara Croft? Appealed to young men with her chest and short-shorts. Samus Aran? Did you see what she looked like at the end of the first game? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Samus_at_the_end_of_Metroi... That's on the NES!

Please, take the time to put yourself in a woman's shoes. How would you feel if every major video game ever made had either a male or male-fantasy female main character?


I'm not going to continue to discuss this with you, because I realize now that I've been pointing in a specific direction, while you've had your own agenda all along and simply decided to engage me with no regard to what the discussion was actually about.

About Lara Croft and Samus Aran (which btw, were only introduced to the conversation to make the point that male/female protagonists have nothing to do with gameplay), I'd simply like to point out that I don't see what distinguish them so much from the Madonnas and other Britney Spears.


You're doing a poor job of not continuing to discuss it with me by immediately continuing to discuss it. Of course I have an agenda: it's to hopefully enlighten some HN readers about gender discrimination in the tech industry. Most people have an agenda; you obviously did when you replied to me.

If you don't understand this discussion's direction, I'd be happy to guide you through it. For starters, it's about how video games have always been— and continue to be— gendered towards males. If you thought it was about something else, I can't really see why, since my original reply cemented the topic by pointing out the gendering in classic retro games.

> About Lara Croft and Samus Aran (which btw, were only introduced to the conversation to make the point that male/female protagonists have nothing to do with gameplay), I'd simply like to point out that I don't see what distinguish them so much from the Madonnas and other Britney Spears.

That's great! You're seeing how sexualized many female "role models" are. And just to round out my reply: we're not limited to gameplay here— story and graphics are more important. There's a reason Lara Croft was busty and Samus Aran wore a bikini under her suit despite it not making any sense, and it wasn't because girls love playing as them.


In that case, games with non-gendered characters should be popular among women. For example, Galaga, Mechwarrior, Metroid, etc. Similarly, games with male and female characters such as Golden Axe (clad in a mankini and bikini, respectively) should be equally popular.

Does reality agree with this?


Metroid is gendered. Using this from another comment, here Samus is at the end of the first game: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Samus_at_the_end_of_Metroi... Do you think that appeals to women?

Do you have stats on the popularity of those games compared to other, gendered games? I'd be more than happy to look over them.


> It seems strange to think that to represent everybody's need the web needs to be developed by everybody.

It's not that strange. It's hard to represent the needs of people that you don't fully understand.

When it comes to an under-represented cultural/social/racial group, I simply don't understand the market, what they want, or what is important to them. I don't come up anything like the ideas that entrepreneurial members of that group will come up with, and even once I've heard the ideas, it often takes a radical shift in my thinking to see the advantages.

Women make up roughly 50% of the population, but many industries repeatedly fail to provide the products that women would prefer -- as you've almost accidentally elucidated above with your comment regarding video games.


So, I know a few developers at theknot.com, the life events site whose entire market is women. Apparently, most of the ~40 developers are men, yet they seem to serve the needs of their target market successfully.

The idea that men can't write code which women can feel comfortable using is absurd.


Maybe the next Request for Startups should be "By Women, For Women."

Seems there might be an opportunity to address the other half of the population, for their ideas and for the market.


Honestly, I really do not understand why women being programmers is such a hyped concept. I have seen many women as doctors, lawyers and in science. Women might be more interested in other professions, which I think is the only reason that keeps women from working as programmers or engineers.

Definitely, the problem, if it is a problem, is due to choice women make, not due to their abilities.


Women becoming programmers is hyped for the same reason women becoming doctors and lawyers was hyped decades ago: diversity fuels innovation. They're interested in other professions because the culture surrounding programming is such a "boy's club", it's like a nigh-impenetrable shield. And it's not so much they're interested in other professions as they are pushed away from programming.

The lack of women in programming isn't their fault. It's ours.


Please name a couple of diversity-fuelled innovations


Here are a couple of links to lists of contributions by women to various fields.

Medicine: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_medicine#Pioneering_wo...

Computing: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_Computing#Timeline_of_...

Engineering: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_engineering#Notable_wo...

Geology: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_geology#Female_geologi...

Hopefully it's apparent that having a fresh viewpoint on a problem or in a profession is valuable.


Surely you can see that those lists doesn't answer the question. "Nineteenth century British geologist" isn't an innovation, and a woman contributing to a field does not mean that "diversity fuels innovation".


I'm sorry. I don't have a list of innovations that happened because an underprivileged person joined a profession and used their world view. I could say the rise in Facebook/casual gaming proves there was a market going untapped, but I'm not sure if that was done by a woman/casual gamer, so I'm hesitant to use it.

I was hoping it would be apparent that bringing in a different perspective would help a brand or profession appeal to a wider audience, but if you would like hard evidence this happens, I'm afraid I don't have the patience to research it. If that means my point is null-and-void, so be it.


I'd agree that bringing in a different perspective helps a brand or profession appeal to a wider audience. What's not apparent is that diversity fuels innovation. They're different statements.


I believe innovation is the next logical step to widening your appeal. You make new and interesting advances when the work you're doing is for a different type of person or project.


I'm not sure what you're saying, and even less sure of how it relates to the question at hand.


What's not to understand? When you work on something new, or take a new perspective, you make new advances. That seems pretty straight-forward.


How are women different?


They are few and far-between in a lot of the tech industry.


Is it just me, or is the title an allusion to the Biblical name 'Methusaleh' (meaning, when he dies, the flood comes)


The title is a reference to the song "Rebel Girl" by the seminal Riot Grrrl band Bikini Kill.


"seminal", huh. I doubt whether they would take that as a compliment.


Nothing sexual was implied by my comment, though I do see how the word is problematic. "Seminal" is so frequently used to describe early and influential bands in punk, including Riot Grrrl, that the etymology is rarely considered.


It's growing movement

http://sfrubyworkshops.com/


Good for you guys. Awesome!


unlol. Trolling with intent to kill...

although to get back to the lulz, it's Trolling with Intent to Bikini Kill ;)


i liked this maybe can help my talented but apathetic teenage sister want to pick up coding.


Fortunately you can learn from books, magazines, videos and websites and the computer itself and none of them care what gender, race or age you are. Just settle down and start learning. And most of those methods are free too.


That is true, and yet it is also true that it's helpful for many women to learn coding with each other's social support.


I approve of people learning to be programmer professionally or as a hobby, I think it is a good thing.

But this repeated media phenomenon of people learning to code is something that really worry me -- it is like 1999 again.

It feels like when mainstream media writes that it is time to invest in the stock market; when e.g. Time write about how good it is going, it is so far over the hill that soon there will be a crash...


Obviously nothing to do with more women learning to code (sounds great to me), but I share your fear. The hype makes me cringe a little bit. I wish it didn't but I've seen this cycle too many times. Every time there is an overhyped market, the deflation gets preceded with a media push of 'you should get involved with this' because its the wave of the future.


I don't know. Women have always coded. I was taught assembler (my first programming job) by a woman.

They have always been there (admittedly in smaller numbers then men) but they have always struck me as being excellent coders.

We have women like Ada Lovelace and Grace Murray Hopper as fine computing minds to emulate and admire.

Women have always been able to take to coding in my experience and be first class at it. They tend to be good at languages -- better than men generally -- and that includes programming languages, too.


Don't include Ada with Hopper as Ada didn't really contribute anything and she is incorrectly considered the first programmer. Hopper actually did something and she did influence the field.


That's simply not true. Countess Lovelace was a brilliant algorithmic wrangler. She was one of the first of her time to realise that any mathematically definable problem could be reduced to a series of true/false branches and that from that a machine (mechanical or electronic) would be able to make calculations of almost any type.

She also was behind a lot of analysis of stuff like log table errors.

This is probably more the definition of a Systems Analyst, but that job doesn't exist anymore, so we would regard her as a coder.


That's simply not backed by evidence. It was Charles Babbage who most likely wrote the first "program" not to mention he created and thought of them without any help from her. Her role is greatly exaggerated and usually baseless. It's like if you credit me about with the invention of search technology if I say something like that will power the search of everything.

If she were a man, I doubt we would be mentioning her, just like the man who her set of notes were based on (with the program done by Babbage in the appendix). Either way, it's not all that important as I don't think anyone in computer science was influenced by this work, Babbage included. He is a historical interest and ahead of his time.


> Women have always been able to take to coding in my experience and be first class at it.

When you say this, I'm not sure what you mean. Here are some possible interpretations:

(a) Most women can be first-class programmers.

(b) Among first-class programmers, some are women.

(c) Some third thing?


All of the above. Probably.


First sentence:

"The magazine I also work for, is rebuilding our website in WordPress."

I couldn't find anything valuable in the first few paragraphs. Can anyone post a quick summary of any specific facts from the article that were surprising, or are going to affect the reader's behavior in the future?




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