Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login

Right, this is just a call for something akin to affirmative action, which has had questionable results at best.

The onus here isn't on women. And the right solution is not to preferentially favor women in the tech field. What you'll end up with is a situation where asshole misogynists consider themselves even more justified in treating women in tech as second class citizens. This time because "they only got there through charity".

The solution is simple. People in tech need to treat other people in tech like human fucking beings, regardless of gender, race, or age. And more importantly, when we see people treating others based not on the quality of their work but on superficial qualities like gender, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or what-have-you we need to call them out on it. Loudly. Publicly. Repeatedly.

I'm a little confused as to what the problem is. Is it that there aren't enough women in tech, or is it that women who are in tech aren't being treated fairly?

If it's the latter, then I'm all for fixing that problem. But if it's the former, then it may just be the case that women don't' want to be in tech. I try encouraging my sister to learn about programming and computers all the time, but she'll have nothing to do with it. It has a certain, ah, stereotype when you're good at that stuff that she'd rather avoid (although she's smarter than I am and could probably learn it very quickly).

Then that stereotype is the problem that people want to fix. And then it becomes a chicke-and-egg problem: how do you fix the stereotype without having more women in tech? So you try improving things on both sides.

Both things are a problem, for numerous reasons.

This is one of those "fish don't have a word for water" problems to some degree, beyond the misogyny that so often exists in tech. Part of the problem is that there is this stereotype of the tech "nerd" who is socially awkward, doesn't shower, works 70+ hours a week. That serves as a roadblock for guys to get into tech as well, but it's far easier for guys to overcome it than women. The fact that women are much less likely to find that stereotype desirable is used as a reinforcement of the notion that "girls just aren't well suited to the tech lifestyle". But the "tech lifestyle" is not an absolute, it's just a semi-arbitrary tradition. And it forms the core of just as much of an "old boy's club" as, say, traditions of cigars, scotch, and golf do in other activities. Or, more so, traditions of strip clubs and casual acceptance of pornographic representations of women, which is also a thing in many corners of tech.

Self-reinforcing stereotypes are part of the problem. The way that women are treated as outsiders and 2nd class citizens is part of the problem. The fact that women who are interested in tech and talented are turned off by the stereotypes and the culture is part of the problem.

I completely disagree.

Tech is supposed to be meritocracy.

Anyone here who would discount other's because of perceived charity is shortsighted at best and ignorant asshole at worst.

All we are supposed to care about is can you code and/or help our business.

Being red/white/magenta or whatever gender or permutation there of shouldn't enter into the conversation if Tech is really the "meritocracy" it claims itself to be.

Obviously money won't necessarily hurt but anyone who has ever paid attention on HN or even to the Tech industry as a whole should know about "dumb money."

who cares how much you can raise if you can't figure out what to do with it

> Tech is supposed to be meritocracy.

You can't have a proper meritocracy if the prospective field don't have access to the same level of opportunities. Women get ostracised from I.T. fairly early on (i.e before education has finished).

> Women get ostracised from I.T. fairly early on

What evidence have you found that suggests that women are systematically ostracized from I.T.?

> What evidence have you found that suggests that women are systematically ostracized from I.T.?

It's pervasive in everything, even in the names of stuff. E.g. there's a recent programming language that calls its interpolated strings "G-Strings". That's the class name in the code. A method for finding out the length of the "G-String" was added, called "size", in addition to the existing one called "length". So...

    assert "----V----".size() == 9
The language designers who invented those names had a good old laugh at the pun in the mailing lists. But female programmers are often offended, and have a case for having that language (and related web framework) banned from their workplace, in favor of another.

And I'm supposed to hire anyone with that much of a stick up their ass, regardless of gender?

Where do you draw the line though?

We often say in the Perl world that objects that are ported to Moose "grow antlers." Arguably this is at least as female-hostile statement since only male moose grow antlers and therefore it establishes a male-normal perspective.

It's all anecdotal of course, but my female IT friends, both in uni and work, have to deal with not being made welcome, or being made too welcome.

If I got leared at and hit on all the time when I'm just trying to get shit done I'd feel like I wasn't welcome either.

The low numbers of women in I.T with CS majors, is indicative of this.

Are you just trying to enforce a burden of proof here? Or do you seriously not think that woman are ostracised in I.T?

There's a lot of Asian's in IT in the U.S., yet how many are CTO's or CEO's in Silicon Valley? Are Asian's ostracized from upper management?

I'm not sure what point you are driving to.

I was referring world wide, not just U.S.

I suspect, yes, in some countries asian's are ostracised from upper management.

>You can't have a proper meritocracy if the prospective field don't have access to the same level of opportunities.

Agreed but how do you define the same level of opportunities?

Suppose the opportunity is "work hard, every day, 12 hours every day from when you are 20 until you are 40 and then retire as a billionaire." There is nothing stopping women from taking that opportunity. But women who do lose something that men who take that opportunity do not lose, namely the ability to really have a family with kids of one's own.

> There is nothing stopping women from taking that opportunity.

There's societal misogyny. The number of women I've met who refuse to try to do something technical because they're female or blonde has long boggled my mind. That's probably not the tech industry's fault.

But it does mean there aren't the same level of opportunities. If someone whacks your shin with a crowbar before you do your figure skating, that just ain't a meritocracy, no matter how fair the judges are.

That's true. And anyone who doesn't believe that needs to read "Birth as an American Rite of Passage" by Robbie Davis-Floyd. What she covers will boggle the mind and challenge what folks think about gender issues generally.

>But it does mean there aren't the same level of opportunities. If someone whacks your shin with a crowbar before you do your figure skating, that just ain't a meritocracy, no matter how fair the judges are.

That's true too, but what I am getting at is that when we talk about women in technology startups (which is really the subject of the article and many discussions here on HN) I don't think that's what's really going on.

Rather I think that what is going on is that in the area of startups, the entry fee is much higher for women, and the lifestyle demands sacrifices of a sort that men don't have to make. The bigger question in my mind is how we solve that structural problem.

> The bigger question in my mind is how we solve that structural problem.

Agreed. But I don't think that's a battle worth fighting just in the tech industry. There are rights for women that can be fought for in general: better protections against sexual harassment, better requirements for maternity (and paternity) leaves, etc. (Google found me this: http://www.now.org/issues/wfw/empledge.html )

Tech could strive to be a leader here: an industry that's more friendly to women than any other. But it would be setting an example for the rest of the nation, rather than making it a purely tech-industry-specific issue.

This doesn't solve the essential issue of Sexist Men Exist, but really... the only way to solve that is, ironically, conversation.

What about a basic shift from a company-as-machine model to a company-as-ecosystem model? It seems to me that a standard company is a bit like a standard vegetable garden, highly ordered to the detriment of long- and even short-term productivity. A better approach might be to create companies where family life and work life don't have to be separate, where you can still put in that 130 hour work week from home, taking your 15 min coffee breaks to play with the kids? Maybe ensure that new parents back from maternity or paternity leave can bring their kids to work for the first year or two?

Those things you mention strike me as band-aids. Sure they'd help but wouldn't it be better to rethink the way we emphasize the separation of work and family and the separation of work and home?

> What about a basic shift from a company-as-machine model to a company-as-ecosystem model?

Replace "company" with "society" and you have a deal. If you want to start at the company level, that makes sense to me; I'd argue that most startups are, by necessity, run according to an ecosystem model.

> Those things you mention strike me as band-aids.

I am not, unfortunately, a political genius and my suggestions are not the best possible. If something better and actionable comes along, I am more than happy to back it.

But asking 300 million people, let alone 7 billion, to "rethink the way we" do anything is a fairly gargantuan task. Some of us have already changed our minds. Others will need convincing. Still others will not be convinced.

I agree. You would also see resentment towards women founders from the guys who are pitching if startups are being picked based on the gender of the founders rather than quality.

But that's just a transitional thing. Once you build a bigger more vibrant culture of women in IT, the artificial bias can be removed.

Surely the victims of the transition will demand their kids also receive a favorable bias anew.

It's nothing like affirmative action. He's not saying "investors should invest more in women-founded startups". He's saying "more women should invest in startups". It's self-help, not affirmative action.

I disagree. I don't see it as 'tokenism' or 'charity'. We are solving a big problem (gender-inequality).

Is it a problem that the nursing profession is dominated by women? If so, why?

I have a friend who's a nurse.

He's told me that he's gotten some shit from people because of his profession. From other guys who aren't nurses. Weird, huh? But I've seen more hostility or unintentionally discouraging behavior towards female programmers from male ones than he's mentioned ever encountering from female nurses, so in that regard it's less of a problem.

Yet he's also mentioned that the number of males in the field is increasing, and that there are, in fact, efforts being made to get more men into the field.

Why would a limited labor pool for any profession be a good thing? And why should I believe that the current distribution in a very young field represents a natural equilibrium?

We address this is every gender thread on hacker's news. Yes, it is a problem. Yes, people are trying to fix it. Yes, including creating male-only nursing scholarships and spaces and community groups.

None of which has anything to do with programming. I don't know if you think you are being clever or if you are just repeating a talking point, but either way it's a derailment that has been addressed a hundred times before if you cared to do a little bit of homework.

This entire conversation has been said 100 times.

It's interesting how the original article throws something at least kinda new into the mix, but this whole thread just heads right back to the same old grounds.

That's because it's not new. Read the comments on the original article. If a magic solution was enough, it would have been fixed already and no one would bother talking about the non-issue.

Actually my intention was neither; I simply asked a question I am curious about the answer to.

Why is it a problem that nursing is dominated by women?

That's not a problem.

The problem is that people believe nursing is supposed to be a woman's job, and that a male nurse is thus unmanly for freely choosing to become one.

These beliefs are wrong. They are sexist. Full stop.

An indicator of the prevalence of these beliefs is the dominance of women in the nursing profession. This is hard, factual, statistical data that we can point to; it's easier to parse than qualitative data, such as stories of males laughing at male nurses for their profession.

It is a chicken-and-egg problem. Are blacks more likely to be criminals, or does the expectation that blacks become criminals increase the number of blacks being investigated for crime, leading to a higher rate of discovery? Is it because blacks are systematically discouraged from getting an education, which tends towards lower incomes and higher likelihoods of becoming criminal?

These are statistical truths. Absolute? Hardly; they're still mere statistics, which always lie. But statistics are closer to the truth than the dubious anecdotes we had before. They can demonstrate the existence of bias, even if that bias cannot be causatively tied to sexism. And in the end, that demonstration is more proof than the inverse position, the position that the nursing profession should be biased towards women, which really only has the above-mentioned sexist beliefs to fall back on.

> These beliefs are wrong.

Those are value judgements, they cannot be "wrong". You can judge them as wrong, but that's just one value judgement on top of another. There is no way to even hold a discussion between them on that ground.

> An indicator of the prevalence of these beliefs is the dominance of women in the nursing profession. This is hard, factual, statistical data that we can point to

This is hard, factual, statistical data that doesn't support your conclusion. Maybe women really do have a stronger preference for nursing jobs, or they are socialized that way, or those jobs fit their schedule better, or they like working with other women so they congregate in jobs already dominated by other women, or..., or some combination of the above.

Why take one piece of data and jump to the least charitable explanation? Sexism is just one of very many possible causes.

> Are blacks more likely to be criminals, or does the expectation that blacks become criminals increase the number of blacks being investigated for crime, leading to a higher rate of discovery?

Again, or both, or neither. Or both but maybe some other factor completely dwarfs those two you mention, rates of single motherhood come to mind.

> Those are value judgements, they cannot be "wrong".

Uh, of course it's a value judgement. That's the entire point of calling out sexism.

Do you disagree that they're sexist, or do you disagree that a sexist belief is wrong?

> This is hard, factual, statistical data that doesn't support your conclusion.

I'm pretty sure I said that. In fact, I'm pretty sure I spent two entire paragraphs on that.

I don't know anything about the nursing industry.

But I would comment, that increased diversity (whether it is gender/race/age/etc) always yields benefits as you have a more diverse range of viewpoints to draw from. So it is always a problem when one group is over(or under) represented in a given area.

People are quite good at selecting people like them - in my experience, it's quite possible to have a nice diverse group of people, all of whom have exactly the same viewpoints.

I'm not objecting to this proposal in any way - nothing wrong with more investors - but there's no doubt in my mind that the female tech entrepreneurs who'll benefit from this will have worldviews very similar to their male counterparts.

If you really want diversity of viewpoints, you'll need to discriminate on harder-to-nail-down concepts like socioeconomic class or culture.

The benefits of diversity come with costs. Shared viewpoint and culture makes things much simpler. Things people consider universal ("well that's just common sense!", "It's about respect!") reasonably often turn out not to be universal. The very notion of the benefit of diversity is itself not held by all cultures.

Not to mention the physical issues. My wife was nursing and according to her the inability to carry most of the patients is one of the bigger problems in that field. The way it works now you need a group of male employees basically just for carrying people - not a very popular job. They try to solve it with robots in Japan, but it's at least another 10 years until those solutions are really viable. 50% male nurses would certainly help there.

Do you have evidence for increasing diversity helps?

The Impact of Gender Composition on Team Performance and Decision-Making: Evidence from the Field


"Looking across the performance distribution, we find that for undergraduates, three women teams are outperformed throughout... For MBA students, at the top, the best performing group is two men and one woman."


"The standard argument is that diversity is good and you should have both men and women in a group. But so far, the data show, the more women, the better."


"The optimal percentage for the gender balance of men and women on teams is 50:50. Neither men nor women flourish when in a minority on teams. When in a minority, women tend to network outside whereas men tend to become less motivated. Having a slight majority of women on teams (about 60%) improves the self-confidence of the team."

I think the evidence is pretty clear. Anecdotally, I've seen the best performance out of mixed teams. All men teams and all women teams generally don't work out so well.

Moreover, companies which have more female execs report higher earnings. They literally make more money as the number of women in senior management increases.[1][2]

However "if many stock speculators believed Kay and Shipman, firm stock prices would jump upon hiring more female execs, making most CEOS quite eager to hire more women execs. There would be a boom in female execs and Kay and Shipman would not have bothered to write their oped. Since that didn’t happen, I’ve gotta believe most speculators don’t believe those studies, and so I shouldn’t believe them either. If you think otherwise, go speculate."[3]

Here's your chance to put your money where your mouth is and rake in the returns, laughing at the sexists all the way to the bank.

[1]This oped mentions sources http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07... for example.

[2] http://www.catalyst.org/press-release/73/companies-with-more...

[3] http://www.overcomingbias.com/2009/07/femfirmfinance.html

> I think the evidence is pretty clear.

Uh? The 3 excerpts you quote say 3 different things.

Could you show me the differences? Those three excerpts seem to be saying the same thing to me.

By extension, do you support "empowering" the employment of men in a female dominated profession by decree with the same zeal you show here toward women in tech?

What about women in coal mines and crab fishing boats? It's true that a man has greater mobility towards the top of the career ladder but this "privilege" also exposes him to the much more likely risk of ending up on the bottom of the ladder.

It's not equal to have proportional gender representation in only desirable jobs.

By "the bottom of the ladder" do you mean economically? Is your claim that women have a higher earnings floor then men? Could you provide figures?

It's not something you can completely measure economically. A coal miner makes decent money but how do you put a price tag on black lung or being crushed to death?

>When I did the research for a book called The Myth of Male Power I discovered a Glass Cellar that holds far more men than the Glass Ceiling. The Glass Cellar consists of the hazardous jobs and the worst jobs (minimum security, low pay, bad conditions). The hazardous jobs-or Death Professions-result in 93% of the people who are killed at work being men. Of the 25 professions that the Jobs Rated Almanac rates as the worse professions, 24 have in common the fact that they constitute 85% or more males (welders, roofers, etc.).


Also need to consider the other costs externalized on marginalized men. Men are ~5 times more likely to die from suicide. Men are more likely to be homeless. They are more likely to be pariah of society. They live 7 years less than a women when a century ago the difference was 2 years. These are all costs externalized on men based on the traditional idea that men are strong/privileged and need to "man up".

I'd be cautious of using a 'Glass Cellar' as an excuse not to act on gender inequality.

I agree, the ratio is so skewed that the possibility of legitimate discrimination should be considered.

But consider this. We're experiencing the first generation of men that will be less educated than their fathers. Women are outpacing men in college education and literacy rates and this divide continues to grow. If we continue to systematically approach "gender equality" from such a lopsided perspective we're all going to hurt as a society. We're on the path to resembling Eastern Europe. Where the social cost of being a man is so high they are disproportionately dying and creating a gap in eligible bachelors.

But here is the problem.

It just might be that women generally get so late into the tech game that there are just far fewer of them who are any good and have any experience.

I know a few amazing women in tech, but only a few. I don't think my experience is unique.

Hopefully people like Merissa Mayer will change that.

Wait, can you provide any data for the "questionable results" of affirmative action?

I don't see anything wrong with helping people be more comfortable in tech, when the typical format does not work for them.

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