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I see the usual grab bag of men making excuses for misogyny in software is out in force on Hacker News:

* Insisting sexism is not endemic to software, it's just idiots being idiots.

* Insisting sexism is not endemic to software, it's just jerks being jerks.

* Dismissive pedantry over the claim that women are deterred from software by incidents of sexism.

* Blaming women themselves for not going into software.

And all of it laced with blithe stereotyping language ("panty bunching equivalent", "bitching", "drama" and so on).

This predictably depressing reaction hasn't been good enough for a long time. The reason more women aren't in software is staring us right in the face but we're too busy being dismissively sexist to see it.




"The reason more women aren't in software is staring us right in the face but we're too busy being dismissively sexist to see it."

This is the primary argument I disagree with. As someone who's worked with ad agencies, I can say sexism is so much worse there, yet there are tons of women in advertising. I agree with the poster that this type of thing shouldn't be tolerated in a professional context, but I don't think this is the reason women are not interested in computer science as a major and job choice (it may be the reason they have a high attrition rate once there though)

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Just because its arguably worse somewhere else doesn't make it less of an issue in other fields.

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That would be true if other fields were also having trouble attracting recruits.

Sexism, intentional or as a result of boorishness is unacceptable and bad. Needs change, and that needs to be a priority. Got it, agree. Also think that diversity for the sake of diversity is a good thing, as controversial as some people find that.

But the point is: more chauvinistic and sexist industries (eg: finance, advertising, previously medicine) appear to be having little trouble attracting women. So why is it that software puts its gender imbalance down almost exclusively to chauvinism?

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Without having worked in finance or national level advertising, I'm afraid I don't have an answer for you other than how I perceive those industries, but that is neither here nor there.

As a datapoint, I cannot for the life of me understand why a woman wouldn't work in software other than the environment. I enjoy my work thoroughly. It pays well, its engaging, and I find it rewarding. Do I speak for my entire gender? Of course not, but neither does any other woman.

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> I cannot for the life of me understand why a woman wouldn't work in software other than the environment

I have spent the last few years automating warehouses. In aggregate, it seems men prefer processes that involve them going and finding and moving things, where women prefer processes that involve them standing still and doing repetitive tasks, provided they're within talking distance of other people. At a supervisor, men and women are equally interested in roles, but anecdotally appear to solve certain warehouse conditions in different ways.

It may be that this is some massive warehouse related conspiracy. Maybe we have been raised to expect men and women to have different gender roles, and society imposes their views on warehouse related problem solving. Maybe it's a sign of sexism? Perhaps fetching items and collating orders naturally leads to sexism and misogyny, where standing within social distance of other people blah blah, lorem ipsum pop science etc.

Or maybe, just maybe, there is a genuine in-aggregate difference in men and women that makes some tasks more fun for some genders than other, in aggregate. I keep stressing "in aggregate" because it certainly doesn't apply to everyone.

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_and_psychology#Spatial_abil...

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I agree with you that it is a mistake to declare that the lack of women in tech and software professions is solely due to sexism. As you rightly point out, women deal with sexism in many industries and spheres of life.

However, sexism is a part of the western social fabric. Women that do or do not want to pursue work will invariably find themselves in sexist encounters and situations. Also, industries like finance and advertising have a problem with women being represented in management, esp. at the highest levels due to institutional sexism and discrimination. We already see women leave fields due to those kinds of pressures and treatment, so to paint a picture of those industries being full of well treated women is disingenuous.

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Yes. Sexism is wrong and bad, and part of the social fabric. I made all of those points in the original post.

Using it to explain lack of women in software where it can't be used to explain lack of women in other fields where it appears more prevalent seems disingenuous.

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Agreed, I just wanted to point out that sexism is much more complicated, and that women may choose to work in fields in the face of sexism problems, both on a personal and systemic level.

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"more chauvinistic and sexist industries (eg: finance, advertising, previously medicine) appear to be having little trouble attracting women"

I can't speak to advertising, but finance and medicine are some of the few employment traditionally open to women: tellers and nurses. Of course, they aren't traditionally represented in the higher levels of those industries. That seems to be changing, but I suspect the "traditional field" aspect is the key-in-the-door there.

Software, and similar science, technology, and engineering industries, don't have those kinds of traditional positions, making the imbalance more obvious and less, well, fixable.

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That's just factually wrong. Software does have those. Computer programmers used to be almost exclusively women.

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"Software does have those."

Could you tell me which part of the software industry currently has a majority of women? (We agree that "does" is present tense, right?) I seem to be missing it.

"Computer programmers used to be almost exclusively women."

True. But that was before I was born. And I'm 45.[1]

[1] http://gender.stanford.edu/news/2011/researcher-reveals-how-...

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Oh, what I meant was that software does also have a history of such roles. Today, developers are mostly men, but QA and documentation seem to be female-dominated.

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There was an actual joke in The Office with Michael Scott also confusing "working in finance" with being a teller at a bank.

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Right, but it may act as a counterexample as to why more women aren't in CS/CE/programming.

Advertising and finance (my field) are both known to be sexist and yet there are plenty of women in these fields.

CS/CE/programming is known to be sexist and there are not so many women in this field.

Sexism is a factor, but it's not the only factor.

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> The reason more women aren't in software is staring us right in the face.

Yes, I agree completely. The reason is entirely clear - from a young age, boys are marketed to in an entirely different fashion than girls, parents gently nudge their daughters into more passive roles, and the types of toys that are available for girls that don't reinforce social stereotypes suck in a fashion that I don't think I can explain to someone who isn't raising a daughter.

Lego has finally released some Legos (yeah, I pluralize it) that appeal to girls, and while some of them are lame (a hair salon, for example), others are cool, but the vast overwhelming acreage of the girls' half of any given toy store is filled with pink dolls, barbies, kitchen sets, crap to do with your hair, and the the type of half-assed girl versions of boy toys that make a responsible parent want to burn the place down.

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I agree with you that those toys and that marketing sucks, but I disagree that it is entirely clear that the toys and marketing are the cause of the problem.

Let me offer an example. I have a pair of friends who are both PhDs in CS, and both work at Google. They have a daughter whom both parents would love to see in engineering. The mom has the following story of when she gave up trying to resist her daughter's inclinations to make everything pretty instead of wanting to build stuff.

Mom left her daughter to play with a box of regular legos for a bit hoping that she would try to build something. When she came back a few minutes later, every green lego was out and a smattering of others scattered over the floor. Her daughter looked up with a big smile and announced, "Look! Here is my lawn, and these are the pretty flowers!"

I have watched this with my own daughter. First, let's be clear, we do not have a TV in our house and she does not see most of that marketing. But everything "girly" that she's been exposed to, she wants. Why? My best guess is that she's keenly aware that she's a girl, she's not a boy, and she actively seeks out clues as to how to not be a boy. At preschool she gets exposed to the idea of what girls play with, and she's happy to go along.

That is in her case it isn't a push from the external environment to be that way. It is a pull from within herself to figure out how to conform.

Whatever the cause, the extreme girl toys you hate are in the store because they sell. The marketing that you hate is done because it works.

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Yes, I see that in my daughter as well. She plays with dragons and dinosaurs (her choice) but instead of them killing each other (like in my son's case) they have families and go to the park. Though with Lego she does build very creatively, it might be my son's influence.

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> The reason more women aren't in software is staring us right in the face.

I'm no node.js wiz here, but I think I have a valid idea... maybe the reason that most of the women that didn't become programmers, didn't become programmers because they had no interest in it and didn't want to become a programmer?

Also, does anyone else get the sinking feeling that the reason so many young men on HN feel so strongly about "fixing" the fact that many women have no interest in writing code, is actually more about said young mens' desire to work in an office where they are surrounded by women all day?

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I agree entirely. A lot of people on here seem to be clutching at straws at best. They offer a lot of "evidence" into why women aren't programmers without actually knowing anything.

In my head, positive discrimination is another form of discrimination. I know plenty of female programmers and they all got into programming because that's what they wanted to do, not because it was marketed as a career to them and not because they've never interacted with shitty co-workers.

If there's any problem with Software Engineering as a career it's the idea that it's a field for socially-inept nerds that sit in the basement and code away from the outside world. The "evidence" for this attitude is all over the place and in my mind this is as likely to turn women away from the field as much as it is men. When the field decides to stop allowing itself to be further commoditised and demand some respect (and better pay) we might see more women want to join us.

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"I'm no node.js wiz here, but I think I have a valid idea... maybe the reason that most of the women that didn't become programmers, didn't become programmers because they had no interest in it and didn't want to become a programmer?"

{{Citation needed}}

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I entirely agree, the main reason I got into tech was that I enjoyed video games as a child and had a pier group of male friends who also enjoyed them.

We got into doing programming because it allowed us to make and modify games. At my university CS class, a large number of the guys there had similar motivations. Now consider that the majority of video games were marketed towards males at that time and it's not difficult to see a link.

However these days with the rise of casual/social gaming and it becoming more socially acceptable for girls to play video games in general, combined with the fact that blogging and running webstores etc are popular with women we might actually start to see a steady organic shift as more women enter the industry.

In other words, I don't think it's entirely fair to blame the industry itself for everything. Sure, people who are doing things that will actively discourage women from entering the industry or make women already here feel bad about themselves in some way should stop doing that. OTOH when you have an industry that is 90% male it seems inevitable that it will cater to the male demographic first.

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I disagree heavily.

You're right that boys are marketed to differently than girls, and there is still a heavy bias in media, fashion, and toys towards antiquated gender roles.

But it doesn't explain the lack of women in software, because there are record-breaking numbers of women going into fields that were previously stereotypically male. All the physical sciences, law, medicine, you name it. Women are busting out of the traditional gender stereotypes in every direction except software.

So whatever the effects of gender role indoctrination in children, the software industry is doing worse, much much worse than even that pathetic baseline.

Knowing this, IMO blaming the phenomenon on society in general is a huge cop out. We are doing far, far worse than just about any other profession.

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Name one field with low social prestige that has a record number amount of women entering it.

Remember, the software industry is where "nerds" go, but the "smart money" is in finance and the "creme of the crop" is in finance.

My thinking is that in aggregate women choose to go to the highest paying, and most socially prestigious fields: law, medicine, finance, sciences in that order.

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Where do you live that lab research chemistry, to pick one specific subfield, is more socially prestigious or higher paying than software development?

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For what it's worth, Lego has been trying to release products to "appeal to girls" for a long time, there's nothing "finally" about it.

First I remember offhand are the "Paradisa" sets from 1993 or so, which were basically the same as other "town" Lego sets, but in pastel colors. Those stuck around for a couple years, then Lego moved onto a different supposedly-girl-oriented theme.

I do recall hearing that they've recently released the latest attempt, but it's not a new idea.

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I think this new round has actually worked.

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It's extremely bad style to accuse everyone who disagrees with you of sexism.

I don't think sexism is endemic to software, at least not more than areas where men are underrepresented.

I don't think this talk was sexist, at least not only to women.

I don't think anyone's to "blame" that women don't go into software. If anything, I've been way more convinced by the explanation that society pressures boys into strict field, like the STEM fields, and girls into "softer" fields.

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It's extremely bad style to accuse everyone who disagrees with you of sexism.

Fuck style; if it's true, it needs to be addressed.

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So it's true that everyone who disagrees with you is sexist? I dont think you mean that. Do you mean sexism should be addressed? There I agree, but that doesn't mean that every other point of view is sexist. And thats exactly on of the problems these kinds of discussion face. Every opposing argument is dismissed as "sexist" and not even taken slightly in account. And thats why some feminists are seen as fanatic- they refuse to take other points of view seriously, on the ground that it is sexist anyway. I think discussions don't work when you are aren't ready to accept other points of view, or at least take them serious.

Calling someone "mysoginistic" when he calmly and reasonably rational commented on a gender related issue, even if you dont agree, is not in bad taste. It's taking a dump on every feminist who worked on enabling women to be able to discuss these issues and be taken serious with that.

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It's worse than just bad style, it's a label "used to suppress ideas" http://www.paulgraham.com/labels.html

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What ideas do you think are being suppressed here? The idea that this isn't a problem? The idea that we shouldn't do anything about it, because idiots will be idiots or jerks will be jerks?

The fact is that accusing the whistleblower of being impolite is just another barrier thrown up by thin-skinned people who cannot admit they've been wrong. The objective of calling it "bad style" or a "label used to suppress ideas" is itself to suppress the idea that something wrong has happened and must be addressed.

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So writing a rant now is "whistleblowing"? Can I add that to my resumee?

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Nobody is suppressing ideas in this scenario. You are free to be a sexist jerk if you want to. However, people absolutely have the right to call you out on that behavior and statements made to that effect. If you are implying that calling out shitty behavior is itself a shitty behavior, then you might want to reexamine why you are supporting the behavior of sexists and chauvinists.

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Nobody is? Huh? GP implies pretty heavily that anyone who disagrees with the article is sexist. That is suppressing opposing ideas by using unfounded accusations like sexism.

Calling out shitty behaviour is OK, and should be done, so hopefully people will change their behaviour or other come to realise such behaviour is not acceptable. However, taking the stance that everyone, who disagrees even on exactly how or why the behaviour is unacceptable, is sexist, is shitty behaviour in itself.

We're not supporting the behaviour in the article (at least, I hope so). What is happening here is that people disagree with the article exactly why it's not OK. And that this behaviour is not a symptom of endemic sexism in software. So in se, I don't even think the article (and GP) are completely wrong, only that I disagree that this is sexist.

Your style of reasoning and arguing is very familiar to me, and it's not unique to feminists. If you're unable to make compromises, or look at an issue from another point of view, you will stand alone soon enough. Nobody is asking you to give up your ideals, only that you do not call people, who in essence agree with you but maybe for the wrong reasons, sexists and chauvinists.

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>I see the usual grab bag of men making excuses for misogyny in software is out in force on Hacker News:

Recurring points of view in a certain discussion? Who would've thought about that?

>* Insisting sexism is not endemic to software, it's just idiots being idiots.

Thats not an excuse. How is that justifying anything? Why do you insist otherwise? Do you have empirical evidence?

>* Insisting sexism is not endemic to software, it's just jerks being jerks.

Same as above. What are you talking about? Nobody "excuses" anything.

>* Dismissive pedantry over the claim that women are deterred from software by incidents of sexism.

A discussion? We're having a discussion? What do you mean not everybody agrees? Oh no!

>* Blaming women themselves for not going into software. "Blaming"? Seriously?

There we go again.It's neither "blaming", nor "excusing". Obviously there might be other factors which doesn't make IT as attractive for women than other fields.

>The reason more women aren't in software is staring us right in the face but we're too busy being dismissively sexist to see it.

Are you serious? There is ONE (1) reason for that? Oh, if reality was that simple of a system!

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This is one of the best comments I have ever read on here. Seriously great work - thanks for writing this!

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Sexism is not endemic to software. As far as I've seen, there's no compiler flag that declares your gender (or race, or cultural background). That's actually one of the great things about it - it's objective. Your code isn't female or Asian or Black or gay or whatever - it compiles or it doesn't, solves the problem or it doesn't.

Of course, sexism is present in software communities. It's spearheaded by the boneheads, condoned by the silent, and condemned by those who would like to see it change. And that's a fine thing.

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>>I see the usual grab bag of men making excuses for misogyny in software

You don't see the usual grab bag of anybody making excuses for their failures. Which is to basically blame everybody apart from themselves for their problems.

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