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On being a girl in computer science - a confession (zanytomato.tumblr.com)
212 points by andreipop 1068 days ago | past | web | 292 comments



I think these sorts of articles are asking the wrong question when they ask "why aren't there more women in CS?" or "how can we get more women in CS?"

Instead the question should be (IMHO) "are there any barriers to entry for women in CS?"

I suspect the opinion people have on this issue largely mirrors their view on affirmative action. Some believe in a meritocracy that is blind to race, age and gender. They believe that any discrimination for one group is discrimination against another (which, incidentally, is axiomatically true). Many in this camp believe that lowering standards for one group encourages a perception that any member of that group did less to get where they are (correct or not).

The other side believe that an artificial environment needs to be created to correct an imbalance. Rooted in this principle there is often a belief that this situation only exists because of artificially created and perpetuated gender roles.

Personally I believe that gender imbalance in this (and other) professions is only indirectly related to gender.

In this post as one data point, the author notes that she felt socially isolated from other girls. The question then is: is this because she didn't share the same interests as her peers or did she develop separate interests because of this social isolation? I suspect the answer is a little of both.

The stereotype of an engineer is that of a judgmental introvert, two traits that tend to negatively correlate with having many social connections. Of course this stereotype isn't universal but we're talking about patterns in a large group, not specific individuals. If such personality traits are causative (rather than simply being correlated) in choosing CS as a career, you then need to ask if there is a gender basis for these traits? Males and females form very different social structures when left to their own devices.

For me, I'm not sure how productive all this gender hand-wringing really is.

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> The other side believe that an artificial environment needs to be created to correct an imbalance. Rooted in this principle there is often a belief that this situation only exists because of artificially created and perpetuated gender roles.

If you're referring to affirmative action, the other side is more akin to the belief that without corrective action of some sort, that there will never be a fair environment in which to have a true meritocracy.

This is due to nothing more than competition theory; if you have two evenly matched teams, and one has a substantial lead on the other at the halfway mark of a game, you wouldn't expect the losing team to come from behind except in rare cases.

Given that Real Life is very much a Winner-Takes-All type of game that has sharp implications for later generations of each team.

Now it may be that there are other reasons for a gender imbalance in this case and so your revised question is probably as simple as it can feasibly get. But affirmative action, while being one of many distasteful choices for a distasteful situation, isn't necessarily just a bunch of do-gooders trying to force things into balance. It's an attempt to ensure a meritocracy is even possible at all.

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When people talk about meritocracy, they are thinking of a competition between individuals. When you assert that it's a competition between races, or between sexes, or between other social groups, the concept of meritocracy doesn't even apply any more.

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Not to put too fine a point on it, but in America WASPy types of persons enslaved black and "mixed" types of persons, and even after that was theoretically eliminated post-Civil War, Jim Crow laws ensured that racial equality was not even possible until near the end of the 1960's.

So certainly at a socio-political regional and national level it was very much a "competition between races".

At an individual level then sure, it's not like you could point a finger as a black man at one particular white oppressor, but that still didn't make it any better for you (statistically speaking) to have been born black.

That's the whole point about the discussion about a meritocracy: How can you say that the alpha nerd on this side and the failed athlete struggling with math on the other were ever engaged in a fair competition for that one programming job? Alpha nerd had a two-parent home (probably a two-income home as well), with computers to practice on since he was a teenager (or earlier), didn't have to worry about being stabbed at school or shot at the public park, went to a public school with a stable and well-established tax base, etc. etc. Whereas Super Jock came from the slums, had to step over the passed-out crackheads on his way to walking miles to school in the morning, his dad was floating along from prison cell to prison cell and it would be even odds if his mother was drunk or not when he got home that evening from his hours of practice for the sport that represented his only effective chance at a stable life as an adult. Math homework? He don't have time for that shit!

Now obviously both of those are highly contrived, but the issue is that it doesn't even have to be that severe in practice to go from little individual effects to a noticeable high-level socio-economic effect.

Is affirmative action the answer to that? Hell man, I don't know. The underlying issues certainly go much deeper than just "we should give more scholarships to poor minority candidates", for all we know that's 10 years too late to even get minorities interested in STEM, let alone struggling to catch up with it.

But HELL YES the concept of "competition" applies to meritocracy. I'm not saying race should have something to do with a meritocracy, I'm saying that it shouldn't, and so are people who actually argue for affirmative action for future equality.

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On somewhat of a tangential note affirmative action is an interesting issue.

Assuming the goal is to provide equal opportunity for those that were unlikely to have the same advantages as others through their childhood, I think making this distinction by race instead of socio-economic standing perpetuates a lot of racism. It suggests someone is disadvantaged simply because of their race. While it creates an ethnically diverse student body it doesn't create a class diverse student body (so it's a bit of a pseudo diversity).

Using a socio-economic standard you abstract away the race issue and give an advantage to those who have less money which has a stronger correlation to actually having less opportunity. This also creates a more diverse student body as well.

There is one very important reason it had to originally be done by race - the choosers in the original system were racist.

If admissions is racist then you can't do it by socio-economic standing because they'll just only pick whatever race they prefer. To make the switch you have to be able to determine that the choosers are no longer racist.

It's another hard problem, but I'm not entirely sure I understand the connection to this issue. If the comparison is that women should be given an advantage because they're disadvantaged technically I'd think that is exactly the sexism that's the core problem - and is unfair to the women who are really great.

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Using a socio-economic standard you abstract away the race issue and give an advantage to those who have less money which has a stronger correlation to actually having less opportunity.

The problem wrt to race and using a socio-economic standard is that there are almost as many whites in poverty as there are black people in total in the USA (~33 million vs ~38 million according to wiki). There is also the issue that even when accounting for socio-economic status, there is still real discrimination (Pager's Discrimination in a Low-Wage Labor Market points out that a white job applicant with a criminal record is more likely to get a job call back than a black job applicant without a criminal record even when qualifications are normalized).

Just looking at socio-economic characteristics doesn't solve the problem.

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I think it only solves the problem if people are no longer racist (which is a big issue with it).

In the current system white people in poverty are arguably the most disadvantaged, but even other minorities in poverty lose out to those of the same race that are more affluent and have more opportunities anyway.

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> Personally I believe that gender imbalance in this (and other) professions is only indirectly related to gender.

History disagrees with you. In the 1960s, programming was considered to be "women's work", like typing, filing and other clerical duties, while men did the engineering bit of actually building the machines. But people began to realize that software was difficult and important, so they decided women had to go.

Women were eliminated from the professional by the creation of personality and aptitude tests that were supposed to evaluate whether someone would be good at programming. They invented the idea that being anti-social was associated with programming skill, which is where today's stereotype of the loner computer geek comes from.

They also distributed the answers to the aptitude tests within all-male fraternities and clubs.

If you believe in a meritocracy that is blind to gender, then you should be in favor of increasing women in the profession. All men who have any pride in their skills should be embarrassed by the lying and cheating that made us the dominant gender in the field.

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> They also distributed the answers to the aptitude tests within all-male fraternities and clubs.

Do you have any source for this?

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That's from the book "The Computer Boys Take Over" - you can find a summary here: http://stanford.io/x6Pk35

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Fraternity boys yearning to become programmers, and socially inept nerds?

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It's not as crazy as it sounds. Once "socially inept" becomes cool, well, people will do almost anything to be cool. I don't know how much of that was in play at the time.

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I never heard of the judgmental stereotype. Anyway, I notice that you seem to also tend to believe that CS is somehow hostile to women because the people in it are not social enough or whatever.

I just want to put forward another idea: what if CS isn't attractive to women because it is not really an attractive job and women have better options? Think about it, really! Is CS attractive? It is cool to create cool things with computers, but the job reality is usually vastly different. Watch "Office Space" (everybody in IT should). Think about cubicles, or offices in the basement. Think about being glued to a computer screen all day, with little physical exercise. Think about inane specifications, hundreds and hundreds of pages long. Think about Dilbert.

Perhaps being a nanny or a nurse is more fun after all, at least if you care a lot about social interactions (and I don't men because men in CS are not sociable, but because being glued to a screen isn't sociable). Where do the "better options" come in? Nurses and nannies don't earn as much money as IT specialists, but women don't need so much money. They tend to be the supplemental earners in a family, not the main breadwinners. Simple as that.

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>Nurses and nannies don't earn as much money as IT specialists, but women don't need so much money. They tend to be the supplemental earners in a family, not the main breadwinners. Simple as that.

oof, really? That's what you think about women? wow.

Reverse the gendered nouns about that. How would you feel, as a man, if someone said something like that about your entire gender?

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What did I say about women that you disagree with? If I said that men tend to be just the supplemental earners in a family it would be false. At least for the present time. I don't understand what you might find offensive about that - I didn't say that women are incapable of earning a lot of money, just that they often voluntarily choose to not do so.

And I don't think it is going to change, because women get pregnant and breast-feed their children, which impedes their flexibility in making money. Don't blame me (or society) for biology.

Edit: if you are at all interested, I started reading a book yesterday that sounds very promising - "Why Men Earn More" http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000TE6BDW?ie=UTF8&camp... I only read the free kindle intro so far, but it is supposed to help both men and women to make better choices, and it explains the pay gap. The intro was already a very interesting read - it's short, and it's free, highly recommended.

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I am not offended. I am just surprised at the level of stupidity on display here. The same level of stupidity that exists for generalising /anything/ about 50% out of a collection of things.

Let's try it with men.

Men are tend towards being incapable of feeling emotions. Men are very violent, and drunk. Men are afraid of commitment. Men hate talking about things. Men are very impersonal toward children. Men enjoy sports. Men only care about money.

How useless are these sorts of statements? How does it help anyone to pigeonhole a class of people as having certain stereotypical attributes? It's not science, it's bigotry.

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If you read carefully, I never made any claims like the ones you listed. I never said men and women have different mental capabilities or emotional preferences. To assume such things is unnecessary for understanding the difference.

I claim there is one relevant difference between men and women: women can get children, men can't. That is sufficient to explain everything because it gives women more options. Therefore they can be more laid back in life, because they can have children even if they are not economically successful (women just have to get pregnant, men have to convince women to carry their babies, usually by offering economic stability). (The "laid back" part is of course very simplified, of course women work and try hard, but with focus on other things than earning a lot of money).

If you bother to read that book I linked to, you may be shocked to find that unmarried women actually earn more than unmarried men. So of course women can choose whatever they want to, including to earn more than men. It's just that very often they chose not to.

Honestly, this conversation makes me a bit desperate, because it is always the same in politics: people only see what they want to see, jump to conclusions and never question anything, and arrive at completely detrimental policies. I bet you will not read that book, not even the short kindle sample, because your opinion is already fixed.

I was just thinking that the only hope might again be more education, education, education, teaching people to think critical in school (and especially maths, which is about finding truth and being a skeptic). But my hopes are not high.

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>Nurses and nannies don't earn as much money as IT specialists, but women don't need so much money. They tend to be the supplemental earners in a family, not the main breadwinners. Simple as that.

Really, honestly. Think about what you are saying here.

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Explain it? You take offense by the "don't need so much money" or the "supplemental earners" thing? The latter is presumably simply a current statistical fact? Don't need so much money - well I explained it. And as I said, any women who feels she needs more money is free to earn it, even today, and even in IT.

Earning more money usually comes at a price. I don't understand why you find it offensive to assume that some people have different priorities?

Women in IT: why do you think the recent "geekettes Hackathon" in Berlin felt it necessary to offer Yoga classes alongside the Hackathon? Is it a bad thing?

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It's problematic that you are using dubious uncited statistics to make broad statements about the status and desires of over 50% of the human population. You may as well say "Jews make plenty of money" or "Negros are happy to work for free", for how intelligent it makes you sound.

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Contrary to you I actually provided a citation, you just refused to look at it. Or have you? So I am curious about your definition of "dubious uncited statistics". Do you believe my statistics are wrong, and what makes you think so (citations?)?.

The only thing that's dumb is arguing with a psycho. I guess we are done, unless you can provide any substantial arguments at all.

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You provided a link to a shitty looking book on amazon. That doesn't make you credible.

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Most research papers look pretty shitty. So you dismiss the argument because it isn't a fancy infographic? What exactly do you want, or what would be a credible source for you? The book provides more citations, in case you don't want to take the author for his word.

In any case I take it you didn't read it (the free Kindle intro).

I found another link today that could be relevant to you: http://lesswrong.com/lw/72d/strategic_ignorance_and_plausibl... (Less Wrong on Strategic Ignorance). I guess it's easier to just cling to feminist ideology than to check facts...

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>How useless are these sorts of statements?

they are useful.

>How does it help anyone to pigeonhole a class of people as having certain stereotypical attributes?

we understand the world better and can make better predictions and decisions.

>It's not science

sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't.

>it's bigotry.

that word doesn't even mean anything except that you disagree.

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> Personally I believe that gender imbalance in this (and other) professions is only indirectly related to gender.

At the risk of being downvoted into oblivion, I'll ask the question that nobody seems to want to ask: is it possible that females are genetically programmed to be less interested or less skilled than males for computer science?

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it is "possible" in the sense that anything is possible. It is just as possible that the opposite is true: that women are genetically programmed to be more interested in computer science than men. Either proposal is a red herring though. This is not a worthy line of argument or thought to pursue, and is not backed up by any evidence. More likely is that these are cultural issues.

Why is it not worthy? Because the number and proportion of women in computer science is declining. If you really believe this is due to genetic factors, then what we should really be thinking about is what factors are at work here to cause such rapid evolution! But clearly this is absurd, isn't it?

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It doesn't matter actually. On average men are stronger and taller than women. But I'm pretty sure you met a woman taller than you at least once, and a woman trained in, say, 400 meter run can ridicule you any day on a track. Same for CS, if ever a scientific study shows that women are "genetically" less fitted for CS, it doesn't mean that you can't find a woman that performs better in the field. I think employers are smart enough to get that. More problematic are some disadvantages of hiring a woman like birth vacations. My country made I think a smart legal move by making such a vacations available to men as well, in order to make both genders equal in that respect.

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If males and females think differently, CS is missing out on some unique perspectives by not having more females involved in the field. Barriers or not, less gender imbalance could enrich the the field.

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I've seen some women in CS, maths and software dev. Those who were doing their jobs well were hardly doing anything differently than men who were doing their jobs well. The only women or men "thinking differently" were clowns trying to show off.

I don't care if I work with women as long as they are doing their job instead of talking how their presence enriches the team and whole Universe. Unfortunately, the letter are the kind attracted by "gender equility" propaganda.

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Exactly, and that's the key, and why I'm always excited for initiatives to create more gender balance in the field. We sure are missing out on half of humanity's perspective by having women so dramatically under represented.

And if engineers tend to be judgmental introverts, I think that's a pattern that developed from being statistically more representative of the reasoning and frame of mind needed for the profession, to being a vastly socially constructed barrier. By which I mean, yes, it's statistically easier to find good engineers who don't mingle well with society at large, but you can find extroverts and people on the grey areas as well. The thing is they tend to repelled by the current status quo. Which affects a lot of women.

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> For me, I'm not sure how productive all this gender hand-wringing really is.

It's potentially very productive. The culture of CS, "judgmental introversion" as you put it, is not anything intrinsic to CS. Indeed, software engineering is a profession that demands a high level of communication and cooperation. The "lone hacker" stereotype is in my opinion quite the opposite of the kind of people you want in software engineering (or engineering generally).

One of the things the whole "affirmative action" debate ignores, on both sides, is that cultures are self-perpetuating, but affirmative action can move cultures to new, self-sustaining equillibria. The lack of women is by itself something that creates a barrier to entry for women, and once the ratio is corrected through affirmative means, the new equilibrium becomes self-perpetuating.

I'll use as an example the profession of accounting. Accounting, like CS, has a perception of being introverted and nerdy. Yet, 45-50% of the employees at Big 4 accounting firms are women. Across the field, 20% of all partners are women, and more importantly, 43% of new partners are women (http://suite101.com/article/accounting-is-becoming-a-womans-...). But there is no affirmative action for women in accountancy. It's not easier to get a job at PWC or E&Y as a woman. The affirmative action is no longer necessary--because women aren't self-selecting out of the profession, firms don't need to dip down to get equally qualified candidates.

The legal field saw a similar shift as a result of affirmative action for women. In a field that used to be an "old boy's club" half of new associates are women and 30% of new partners are women (http://www.bizjournals.com/triangle/blog/2012/01/report-30-o...). But at least at the associate level there is no affirmative action any longer--the new equilibrium is self-perpetuating. It's self-perpetuating because balancing the gender ratio changed the culture in a way that made the profession attractive to women. And you know what? The culture is better. It's modern and professional. There is nothing intrinsic about smoking and dirty jokes that made you better at the practice of law, and frankly there is nothing intrinsic about playing WoW in your spare time that makes you better at programming.

So your dichotomy about "meritocracy" is short-sighted. There is nothing "meritocratic" about indulging male culture to keep a field male-dominated. Indeed, that's anti-meritocratic. Affirmative action, ironically, by balancing gender ratios can move the culture in a direction where you can have true meritocracy--where women don't self-select out of a profession because they don't want to be the minority, and where in the long run you don't have to dip down to get qualified women because the qualified women aren't turned away by the male-dominated culture.

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>So your dichotomy about "meritocracy" is short-sighted. There is nothing "meritocratic" about indulging male culture to keep a field male-dominated. Indeed, that's anti-meritocratic

I don't see how a blind meritocracy is indulging male culture. Isn't the whole point of a meritocracy the idea that the only thing it cares about is performance?

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You are ignoring initial conditions. I understand rayiner's comment as:

  1. high male/female ratio + blind meritocracy => self-sustaining male culture
  2. affirmative action as a temporary kludge to shift male/female ratio
  3. lower male/female ratio + blind meritocracy => self-sustaining new equilibrium
That is after affirmative action stops; it is not necessary that the system returns to old high male/female state.

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> 1. high male/female ratio + blind meritocracy => self-sustaining male culture

Based on what, the assumption that women are self-selecting against wanting to be programmers due to it being a male dominated profession?

In that case, the action should be taken to promote CS education and inclusion at the preparatory level. Creating a bias away from the meritocracy at the hiring stage is still discriminatory and results in an overall lower skill level.

My personal problem with this is that you're looking at it on a generational scale.

You're basically telling multiple generations of men that it's okay for them to be discriminated against for their entire life due to something that their fathers or grandfathers did.

That's not 'equality' for them.

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"Creating a bias [...] results in an overall lower skill level"

Yes, but again, that is meant a only a temporary solution; as something that will correct the abnormal situation we have now and then will go away.

"You're basically telling multiple generations of men that it's okay for them to be discriminated against for their entire life due to something that their fathers or grandfathers did"

Isn't that ok? Every single time I think about this issue I feel guilty as hell just for being male. Every time I see a cultural norm that discriminates women I feel a bit responsible for it - and these bits accumulate quickly. I'm ready to be discriminated against to some extent if it's going to help; it's not because I want someone to make effort in my place but because I know that my effort alone is not sufficient.

Also, multiple generations is not that long a time. Twenty, maybe thirty years and it would be over - society evolves quite fast nowadays, we don't need to wait for centuries - like women had to.

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>Isn't that ok?

No, why in the hell would that be okay? What makes one act of discrimination better than the other?

>Every single time I think about this issue I feel guilty as hell just for being male. Every time I see a cultural norm that discriminates women I feel a bit responsible for it - and these bits accumulate quickly. I'm ready to be discriminated against to some extent if it's going to help; it's not because I want someone to make effort in my place but because I know that my effort alone is not sufficient.

Congratulations, your internalization of guilt and willingness to be discriminated against does not extend to me, and you have no right to tell me that it should.

I'm not responsible for the crap that happened in the past, and I'm not okay with being told that I should bear the consequences of poor decisions made before my time.

>Also, multiple generations is not that long a time. Twenty, maybe thirty years and it would be over - society evolves quite fast nowadays, we don't need to wait for centuries - like women had to.

Twenty or thirty years is the prime working window of my life. It's difficult enough, thanks.

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> What makes one act of discrimination better than the other?

Discrimination is bad for some and good for others, always. It's better if it's good for those oppressed and worse if it's making that oppression grow. It's still bad, though, and so it should be only temporary.

> Congratulations, your internalization of guilt and willingness to be discriminated against does not extend to me, and you have no right to tell me that it should.

Hey, relax! I'm not telling you that you should feel in any particular way, am I? I was saying how I feel personally, nothing more.

> I'm not responsible for the crap that happened in the past, and I'm not okay with being told that I should bear the consequences of poor decisions made before my time.

Um, the problem here is that - if you are a white male - you are still benefiting from those decisions. You may say that you have never actively did anything against any woman or against an idea of equality - and I believe you - but you still got a job because of inequalities created in the past. I'm not telling you that you're abilities alone weren't sufficient! But they might have been insufficient if you just happened to be a woman...

> Twenty or thirty years is the prime working window of my life. It's difficult enough, thanks.

I understand what you feel and I'm too scared that it will hit me. I'm not happy about it in the least.

But then I think that, hey, there are women out there that are doing really well, despite all the problems they have. I also believe that I'm in every way as capable as these women and so I believe that I would still be alright. I might not, of course, that's a risk, but there are many risky things in life and I think that probability of me or you being personally hit by some pro-equality solutions is much lower than us being hit by global recession... or by a meteorite tomorrow.

And if the risk is higher and you don't like it - we can negotiate. We can think of a way of reducing this risk for you while still doing some good. But the risk will be there, I can't deny this, and I have no other answer for this other that that I believe it needs to be done. Something needs to be done.

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>Hey, relax!

You are trying to oppress me. I will not relax.

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Axiom 1 is very debatable. Other fields, for example veterinary science, have switched from male dominated to female dominated in a generation with no affirmative action involved.

https://hardnewscafe.usu.edu/?p=6581

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Whilst I'm no expert in the field, I think the culture of veterinary science is significantly different. So different that it's not a useful analogy. Here are my reasons:

Vets need qualifications; there are very few vets who just kind of taught themselves by cutting up animals and experiementing with giving them different drugs. Whilst experience counts for a lot, I really don't see experienced vets looking at a new vets work and saying "Hur! Fuckin Noob!". Contrast this with the common perception amongst (some, by no means all) programmers that a degree really doesn't mean a lot when it comes to ability to actually solve problems, write good code, work well in a team etc etc.

Vets (often) work in small groups. Small groups foster much less secure mob mentalities and all the other gang characteristics that we see in large groups. In some companies, a programmer pen can hold fifty or more programmers.

(Many) vets work with people. They work ON animals, but the animal has an owner who is worried and needs to be dealt with as well. Vets have people skills and comport themselves as professionals. If my livelihood depended on the vet to properly examine my herd of cows, and the vet carried the attitude I see many programmers carry, I'd fire them on the spot and find someone else. Many programmers rarely have to actually work with customers, and that becomes more and more true the larger the programming team (which is exactly the kind of situation where unfortunate attitudes can take hold and/or immature behaviour run without being confronted).

There are more reasons; essentially, I'm saying that I believe this analogy is flawed and that any other such analogies need to be similarly examined for applicability. Just because one profession got its act together without special measures needing to be taken doesn't mean they all can.

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Vets need qualifications; there are very few vets who just kind of taught themselves by cutting up animals and experiementing with giving them different drugs. Whilst experience counts for a lot, I really don't see experienced vets looking at a new vets work and saying "Hur! Fuckin Noob!". Contrast this with the common perception amongst (some, by no means all) programmers that a degree really doesn't mean a lot when it comes to ability to actually solve problems, write good code, work well in a team etc etc.

The male/female divide in CS is often identified as occurring before college, so I'm not sure I'd accept this argument. For it to be true, it would mean that women are abandoning CS after college which I haven't seen any evidence for.

Vets (often) work in small groups. Small groups foster much less secure mob mentalities and all the other gang characteristics that we see in large groups. In some companies, a programmer pen can hold fifty or more programmers.

In some companies, yes. None of the ones I've worked for though. Also, again I don't see how this would deter women from studying CS at college.

(Many) vets work with people. They work ON animals, but the animal has an owner who is worried and needs to be dealt with as well. Vets have people skills and comport themselves as professionals. If my livelihood depended on the vet to properly examine my herd of cows, and the vet carried the attitude I see many programmers carry, I'd fire them on the spot and find someone else. Many programmers rarely have to actually work with customers, and that becomes more and more true the larger the programming team (which is exactly the kind of situation where unfortunate attitudes can take hold and/or immature behaviour run without being confronted).

I'm not really sure what you're saying here. Are you saying that a stereotypical software developer wouldn't make a good vet? If so, I wouldn't disagree though I don't see what that says about women not going into CS.

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I'm saying that one of the things that may be keeping women from going into CS is that (compared to veterinary science) programmers come across as unprofessional immature dickheads far more than vets do (and, in my experience, ARE unprofessional immature dickheads far more frequently than vets). Men seem to be more willing to put up with this (and indeed, in some cases seem to embrace it).

Vets had a much easier ride in making their profession appear to be a sensible choice for the young lady deciding on a career.

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So what's meritocratic in abandoning (even temporarily) meritocracy to move from a meritocratic equilibrium to a meritocratic equilibrium?

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Young coined that term 'meritocracy' in satire; I feel it remains a ridiculous concept.

Who judges what is meritorious? The entrenched majority? Won't they tend to think along similar lines and discount dissenting opinions as lacking merit?

I suggest that there is no meritocracy in existence to begin with.

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What you have in CS now isn't "blind meritocracy." If the male culture is turning away qualified women, you don't have a meritocracy.

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> If the male culture is turning away qualified women

Is there any evidence that this is happening?

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Dunno. But OTOH, I've sure seen unqualified women being hired "to counter gender inequality".

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I have never once seen this happen at any place I've worked. I counter your anecdotal evidence with my own anecdotal evidence and we all have to go away and get some real data!

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I don't know any women in CS. But analogizing from my experience in the legal profession, I think it's a huge practical concern for women. When my female friends were looking at what firms to take jobs at, they very heavily weighed statistics like the percentage of female partners. My wife accepted at her firm partly because one of the departments she was interested in was female-dominated--had a large number of female associates and a "critical mass" of female partners that brought in their own business and had pull within the firm.

Being a minority sucks, and ambitious people realize that in any organization getting to the top is as much about social ability and politick-ing as it is about ability. Working as a woman in a male-dominated culture may have zero impact on your work, but it's sure as hell going to have an impact on how easy it is for someone to form work relationships and leverage them to get ahead in the organization.

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None of that is hard evidence, though. We could play the anecdote game endlessly.

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Except that doesn't make sense.

Given the assumption that it's a meritocracy, then qualified women won't be turned away.

If women are being turned away, then they should be being turned away at a rate equal to men, relative to their applicant pool.

If there are less women applying in the first place, then the problem exists in the educational\ preparatory stages of one's career. The solution should be directed there, not trying to correct for the problem afterwards.

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> Given the assumption that it's a meritocracy, then qualified women won't be turned away.

I'm saying that the assumption that it's a meritocracy is incorrect.

> If there are less women applying in the first place, then the problem exists in the educational\ preparatory stages of one's career.

Education doesn't change the fact that ambitious women don't want to be in the 10-20% minority in an engineering company. Hell, it doesn't change the fact that they don't want to be the 10-20% minority in computer science programs. Careers are up-hill battles as it is, and who wants to add the additional challenge of being a minority? People who want to maximize their potential success are going to go into professions where they don't have to deal with these headwinds.

And that phenomenon undermines your meritocracy.

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>ambitious women don't want to be in the 10-20% minority in an engineering company //

Because they're sexist. If you don't discriminate on sex then entering an engineering company you're in the 100% majority of people.

So are women saying "I'm not going in that company it's got people in it". That would be silly. So, they must be discriminating against the companies simply because of the sex of the workers.

That leaves you with the point that you have to alter your hiring process because women want to be sexist ...

So ignore meritocracy and kowtow to sexism?

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"The culture of CS, "judgmental introversion" as you put it, is not anything intrinsic to CS. Indeed, software engineering is a profession that demands a high level of communication and cooperation."

Except that 1) CS has nothing to do with software engineering, 2) a cursory review of the current field of software reveals all too easily that the current breed of "software engineers" haven't learned their lesson from the 1970s and 1980s. Why do you ascribe the ability to communicate and cooperate to people who perpetually reinvent the same stuff all over again and aren't bothered by it in the least is beyond me.

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Is there any evidence that the shifts you cite were actually caused by affirmative action? From your own source, a female accountant attributes the shift to a change in the content of accounting programs (from less to more personal interaction):

> "The analytical aspect of the accounting profession over the last 20 years has been more attractive to women," she says. "It's not, 'Crunch this number here,' or, 'Prepare this report there.' There's a lot more personal interaction."

Not affirmative action.

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So we should force women to become engineers because they are afraid to enter engineering because they fear that they will be in the minority? I don't think you give women enough credit - they are tougher than that and have fought way harder battles as far as sexism is concerned.

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No one is forcing anyone to do anything. They are providing more opportunities for women to discover that they might like engineering -- more reasons not to write it off before they realize that it's worth fighting for.

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> I think these sorts of articles are asking the wrong question when they ask "why aren't there more women in CS?" or "how can we get more women in CS?"

Agreed. But I think the right question to ask is "how can we stop driving women out of CS?" Many of my friends left the field due to sexism, and I have personally witnessed a lot of sexism in the field. Add to that the scientific studies showing that everyone is subconsiously biased against hiring women and it's clear to me that we have a very real problem.

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Ok, I just want to speak the hell up right now.

I have seen misogyny in the workplace. It really does exist, and there really is an Old Boys Club culture in some workplaces.

So step one to lowering the barriers of entry to women is to stop speaking of or treating women like negligible trivialities.

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> So step one to lowering the barriers of entry to women is to stop speaking of or treating women like negligible trivialities.

The point you're trying to make is lost on me. You come here to "speak the hell up" but you didn't really manage to /say/ anything except to point out that women aren't "negligible trivialities" whatever the heck that even means.

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"Negligible" is an adjective meaning "such a small amount that it has no significance", and a "triviality" is something of no serious concern.

Is English not your first language, or do you have the reading skills of an eight year old?

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English is in fact my first language. Cannot comment on my read age (since I don't know).

In general I am well aware of the word's definitions, but what I wanted to get at was what the OP meant by them or what they were getting at in general.

Seems they were very angry but weren't able to really clarify what about. Their point wasn't fleshed out even enough to convey to others.

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Perfect. That is SO much better than your previous comment and my comment in response. Clear, to the point, adding to the conversation and inviting the OP to more clearly state their case. More please!

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Speak up in the workplace, then. That's not "gender hand-wringing", that's taking action to correct specific injustices, and it's a good thing. It's also much harder than handwringing or making comments on HN (like this one).

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I have many past workplaces <_<.

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> For me, I'm not sure how productive all this gender hand-wringing really is.

Demographic dramatically over-represented in government, corporate boards, startup founders, growth industries, etc unconcerned about status quo.

And there's the problem.

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So the GP's argument is wrong because you assume the poster is part of a over-represented demographic?

If I've understood your implication correctly, then it's an ad hominem of the genetic fallacy variety.

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die younger, less socially connected, more likely to go bankrupt, more likely to be the victim of a violent crime, more likely to commit suicide, less likely to finish all levels of education, more likely to be incarcerated.

And there's the problem.

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All the examples you cite are relevant to an individual; they do not stop the gender as a whole exerting their voice in halls of power.

(You also end up mixing a lot of other weird demographic data in there that could be caused by existing entrenched gender roles, e.g. women on the whole tend to live longer because most militaries in the world don't have women soldiers!)

Women, as a gender, don't get as much of a say in how things are run as men. That's something that we all suffer for.

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So you choose to ignore the nuances of the poster's argument, instead criticizing it based on the fact that the author is (you think) part of an over-represented demographic? The points can't possibly be valid, since they were written by a middle-class white male?

Is your own bigotry bleeding through, or have I misread you?

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I read it as, "I'm not sure this is the best way to solve the problem," which is a very different thing to "there isn't a problem," or "the problem isn't all that important."

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[deleted]

With regards to affirmative action, the GP said:

> I suspect the opinion people have on this issue largely mirrors their view on affirmative action.

Which merely suggests that one's view of affirmative action tends to predict one's view of these gender bias issues.

> The problem is that you a have bunch of horny teenage boys with underdeveloped social skills

And females just aren't cut out for hard technical work. /s

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"are there any barriers to entry for women in CS?" is a subset of "why aren't there more women in CS?"; they're asking the same thing.

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If you look at the real pioneers of computer science, people like Turing and Babbage, two women jump right off the page: Ada Byron and Grace Hopper. Women belong in CS, because it belongs to them. They were there at the start, just as much as the men.

As a 55-year-old man, I'm pretty sure I've experienced discrimination because of my age. Situations where people couldn't see beyond the wrinkles and gray hair and see the experience and skills. I know the same thing happens to women too, because they are different from the vision of an ideal employee the employer had in mind. I don't think women managers are immune to this either. I've worked in two departments headed by a woman who made all the hiring decisions and the entire team they hired was men. There are definitely barriers.

But I agree with the author that 'women in CS' programs aren't the answer. Success is. Each generation of CS pioneers includes a few more women with passion and intellect like Hopper or Bryon that cannot be ignored, and they will make it a lot easier for equally qualified women in subsequent generations, because when all is said and done, what you can do ultimately beats who you are in this field.

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>Each generation of CS pioneers includes a few more women with passion and intellect like Hopper or Bryon that cannot be ignored,

So your message to, say, young women who are facing barriers to success in CS is "Be one of the most exceptional women in the field, or wait a few generations until successful women in CS are no longer exceptions?"

When someone with a desire to become a programmer can say to themself "I can achieve some level of success _even if I'm not the greatest programmer of my generation_", that's a good thing. Exceptional role models are nice to have, but so are "average" role models. "Women in CS" programs might increase the latter, and I don't see how they could decrease the former, so I don't think such programs can just be written off as "not the answer".

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CS should belong to women as much as men and in an ideal world it would. But you're 55, how much has the percentage of women in CS increased since you were 21?

That is a slightly disingenuous question because I know the answer which is that it hasn't, it has in fact fallen. While I wish your argument were true it is clearly not.

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> I've worked in two departments headed by a woman who made all the hiring decisions and the entire team they hired was men.

Given the lack of women in the field, this isn't all that surprising and cannot be unilaterally blamed on gender biases.

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what if "woman in CS" programs can help to get woman with intellect and passion into CS?

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I've been in the software industry for a several decades (I have a grey beard if that helps). I have never encountered any man that I felt had a gender bias against women in computing, other than if he was an ass in real life. My wife is also a software engineer - and she has never had an issue (to the best of my knowledge). What I find frustrating is that some people choose to identify themselves as a gender. Gender becomes a convenient excuse. I can't tell you how strongly I oppose this "I define myself by my gender" view. Feminism, chauvinism, the works - I strongly oppose the lot of them. I'll say it simply ... you either see yourself as a person or a gender. If you don't see yourself as a gender, then you'll let equity (ie. NOT equality) drive your view of yourself and others.

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I think it makes perfect sense to use any of your identifying properties to identify yourself, including gender. I think that disassociating with your gender in a society that obviously doesn't can probably be downright detrimental.

Do you apply this logic to other social groups as well? Any noun? Perhaps being a "software engineer" doesn't make sense if you are already a person.

Women are underrepresented in computer science for a fact, and I have personally experienced little to support either that it is the result of systemic exclusion, a bias against women or otherwise. I don't need several decades of experience in the industry, though, to say that, hey, I will never know the cause by simply evaluating my personal experience. Humble up and don't form a view on a subject if all you have to go by is any kind of anecdotal experience.

As for opposing feminism, do you have any ideas of the implications that movement has on women's rights worldwide? I have no idea what your position on things like birth control, women's suffrage and genital mutilation, or whether you think this is an ongoing battle or not, but I hope you'll agree that at least some good has come out of it.

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People who work in CS are known to work with scientific methods. "What if" is simply not enough.

To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning.

We, that is people who work in the field of computer science, need to demand more than guesses and beliefs when dealing with "solutions" to gender inequality. If someone has an ideas on how to improve the community and industry, those ideas need to be first tested and validated using the scientific method. Testing in Social studies are not a new concept, so we already got the tools we need.

If "woman in CS" programs can help to get women with intellect and passion into CS, it should be testable. Do that first, and then argue for it use when there is data backing it up.

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"People who work in CS are known to work with scientific methods. "What if" is simply not enough."

That's hilarious. Try to remember this next time you put a print statement in the code or adjust some constant until it's right.

The problem here is that we have no way of either experimenting meaningfully or testing most of the things we'd like to know. We can describe tiny parts of reality and assume that some correlation is in fact causation, but without actually doing something it's impossible to conclusively prove what effect will any one action have.

That's nothing new - and it's not that unseen in programming, either. I think that "waiting for a proof" in this case is just an excuse; we need to get the best approximations, of course, but in the end we just need to find the courage to go and implement a solution without a certainty that it will be the best or even good.

In other words, when your service is on fire because thousands of users want to access it simultaneously (good for you) the first thing to do is to bring it back by any means necessary, including tools like intuition and wild guesses, and formalize the process afterwards.

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In order to be testable there need to be a statistically significant number of women in CS programs so I assume from your comment that you arguing for them.

Or are you saying that these programs need to scientifically prove their value before existing in order to exist?

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>Or are you saying that these programs need to scientifically prove their value before existing in order to exist?

Your wording is disingenuous. It is possible to run a case study and study on a limited scale a program that would be deployed at a much larger scale.

Your statement implies the idea is tautologically false, which it is not.

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The problem with this type of the thinking is the same thing you see when it comes to racism in general: "If we just stop mentioning it, it will go away", "programs to counter racism are racist", etc. Not talking about racism/sexism etc will not make it go away. Kids are very perceptive, they notice the apparent differences in acceptable behavior very early on; they are internalizing it subconsciously whether we bring it up or not. The only way to compensate is to tackle it head-on. This means defining it, explaining why its wrong, and taking steps to mitigate its effects. Girl-centric CS activities are an appropriate way of counteracting these pervasive gender stereotypes. Ignoring it will not make it go away.

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>Girl-centric CS activities are an appropriate way of counteracting these pervasive gender stereotypes.

This is pretty much the exact opposite of what needs to happen. We want to eliminate gender discrimination, so let's single out people of a single gender, tell them they're different and that they need CS events just for them, and watch the problem disappear. And while we're at it let's also disparage The Other gender (because surely, there are only two) by implicitly discouraging them from attending the event. Then when it comes time to enter the workforce these two strata we've created will surely integrate seamlessly, creating a more livable and productive world for all of us. Yes, that is how it will happen.

What we need are gender-neutral CS events that we encourage all people to attend. Recruit women aggressively to attend, fine -- but not on the basis that they are women. Rather, on the basis that they might like CS and the things that happen at said event.

I fail to see how we are going to combat gender discrimination by reinforcing gender stereotypes.

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It's not a choice between ignoring or "tackling it head on". In the early days of tackling some kind of systemic bias, it makes sense to talk about it all the time. Now that most everyone agrees it's a problem, it seems (to me) like the most productive way to move forward is to only point out sexism in specific instances where it occurs, providing reinforcement to help change our mental habits, making pariahs of persistent offenders. But if you continue to "tackle" the problem, you're just badgering people about things you've already convinced them on, which leads to annoyance and backlash, as we've seen.

I'm not sure about girl-centric CS activities. Sometimes guys and girls just want to hang out and do ${activity} with members of the same sex. We can have guy-only or girl-only camping trips without any problem. Camping is pretty well-established to be a unisex activity. You'd think the same would be true for CS or any other field, in an unbiased world. But who could get away with an explicitly guy-only CS event? It would be politically difficult to say the least. Something is clearly wrong here.

Maybe girl-only gatherings, as the next step past mixed gatherings, help further the subconscious idea that women have a natural place in ${activity}. How's that for compensating? But this sort of falls flat when it's hard for guys to do the same. And as a blunt weapon against sexism, well, it still doesn't make sense to me, because if it's wielded that way it's inherently polarizing.

Humans are so complicated.

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I think you're conflating issues here. There is a point where continually beating the drum about overt sexism in the field becomes counter productive. But this is a different issue. Having women-centric CS events arent necessarily about shielding women from male sexism, but about creating environments where they won't feel intimidated and can commiserate with others who are experiencing or have experienced the same issues. Like I said in another comment, countering the gender stereotypes against women in hard science and engineering fields isn't about banning certain types of humor. The problem goes much deeper than that.

>But who could get away with an explicitly guy-only CS event? It would be politically difficult to say the least. Something is clearly wrong here.

I really wish people would stop trotting out this shallow argument when discussing inequality in various spheres. The contexts for the two groups are completely different, thus a simple "swapping the two labels and seeing what results" gives absolutely no insight.

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>The contexts for the two groups are completely different, thus a simple "swapping the two labels and seeing what results" gives absolutely no insight.

This is an argument that has been used by most proponents of discriminatory practices.

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Is this not true?

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Have you never been in a minority status in anything you've done? I'm not talking about race, just situations where your background/traits/etc. are much different than those of the majority of your peers.

I started as an "odd man out" for practically every major peer group I've ever been involved in and I can tell you, it sucks. The way I've successfully acclimated is usually with highly informal "incubator" groups that help with the integration process by breaking it up into steps. These groups were so informal that we didn't even think of it as such, but in retrospect that's what had happened.

But an actual majority wouldn't need this exact type of support, they already have been acclimated to it and can easily integrate into similar peer groups, so it's not even an exact comparison.

But to the extent that this GitHub project is focused on ensuring that this particular minority of this particular peer group has a place to go for support and successfully working their way into the larger peer group I think it's a wonderful thing. Hopefully someday we can discard it as redundant and unnecessary, but today it can be very helpful.

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It's just irrelevant. If the argument is wrong, then explain why its wrong. Trying to shut it down because someone has misused a similar-sounding argument in the past is not a refutation.

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What do you mean "the contexts are different"? I mean, I know they feel different, which is partly why I tried to compare it to camping, where no one cares. I don't think I see how switching labels is "shallow" except that it's easy to think of, and even if all it brings to light is another inequality, it's worth keeping in mind.

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Let me take the more extreme example of racism as an illustrative point. "If we had a 'white entertainment television' that would be racist, therefore BET is racist". This is the sort of argument you made and hopefully its obvious how ridiculous it is to you. The contexts for whites and blacks in this country are completely different (dominant culture, etc). Thus something being racist when it re-enforces the dominant culture is not the same when its supporting a marginalized culture.

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BET is racist in exactly the same way "WET" would be, which is to say not much, because no one is actually locked out of anything (plus WET is a terrible name). Whatever else you think of me, don't just assume I'm inconsistent.

Now you're saying that racism is "not the same" (I'm assuming that means "not bad"?) if it's in favor of people who are normally discriminated against by the "dominant" culture. It amounts to justifying one person's bad behavior by pointing out someone else's, which simply doesn't qualify as a moral argument. If this is the only reason BET is okay and WET is not, I think it's a lame one.

In the case of television networks, it doesn't really matter. But I refuse to accept this mushy "different contexts" argument to justify anyone's wrong or stupid behavior. The whole point of striving for equality is to get rid of these different contexts, not perpetuate them. Be the change you want to see.

There is a certain sense in which BET may be less stupid than WET, which is if being black was a strong selector for liking some content over others. This is, AFAICT, less the case with "white" people, so WET makes less sense. This kind of goes back to what I was saying earlier about girls' CS events because, hey, the girls want to get together and hack. They can do their own thing if they want. That's the key, that's what needs to get into people's psyches: "You can do your own thing if you want."

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Sure, you're consistent. But that isn't saying much. You really should expand your understanding of the word racism, along with the history of racism in the US (assuming you're from the US). If you think a supposed WET is analogous to a BET then you are tragically under or misinformed regarding the issue of race.

Your rather narrow and closed minded misunderstanding of race likely mirrors your misunderstanding of issues regarding gender. This isn't the place for an in-depth discussion about these issues, nor am I the right person to offer it. So we can leave it at that if you prefer.

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Now you're just being condescending. If you don't think the conversation is productive, you can say that. Assigning me a research project and pretending to graciously let me walk away is a cop-out.

I'm only interested in the meanings of words to the extent they illuminate real objects and concepts, and inform real actions. I'm not interested in cultural baggage except as a stumbling block to understanding to be removed. I understand, to some extent, that people have complicated motives from a wide range of sources, mostly irrational, which makes them hard to get a logical handle on. I don't believe morality is that complicated. I can't shake the feeling that "WET" is morally stupider, but I don't have a good reason, and I try to ignore feelings like that. If that makes me "narrow and closed minded" in your mind, I can handle that. In that case, it is indeed unlikely that our conversation will be productive.

If I'm closed-minded, do you see how your comments look to me, pushing against my idea of literal equality for some abstract form of "corrected" equality? Then turning to diversionary tactics when you can't answer my argument (and a peripheral one at that)?

I guess the point was, girl-only gatherings seem more like a part of the end-game of equalization, except to the extent pretending the game is over makes it get over faster. Point mostly taken about "creating environments...".

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>I'm only interested in the meanings of words to the extent they illuminate real objects and concepts, and inform real actions. I'm not interested in cultural baggage except as a stumbling block to understanding to be removed

This is intentionally putting blinders on yourself. Words are elucidated through their "cultural baggage", not inhibited by it. You cannot understand true meaning without all the associated context, connotations, emotions, etc, however irrational they may seem. This is precisely what makes language such a rich communications medium. You cannot divorce meaning from the messy soup of associated contexts.

I'm sorry if I come off as condescending, but I see this type of argument frequently online. People promote degenerate meanings of certain words (racism and sexism are prime examples) and then want to use those degenerate definitions to "prove" some self-serving result (e.g. "race-aware college admissions are racist"--sure if you use the most watered down and useless definition of racist you can muster). I'm sorry but I can't see this tactic as anything but purely self-serving, thus it is met with a condescending response.

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I've heard that view on language. It has it's place. It's no good for philosophy, or anything requiring rigorous reasoning. It is precisely this kind of reasoning that is desperately needed in discussions of sexism and racism, so we can try to get past the emotional issues that are clearly, I'm sure we can agree on this, clouding people's judgment. To some degree, we have to understand or at least notice the baggage to neutralize it. But overall richness is not desired as much as precision. If we don't try to be precise, we've already failed at communication. This is the opposite of putting blinders on myself.

If you want to talk about something more complicated than just "discrimination based on race", I think you need to describe that in terms of simpler things we agree on before we can decide whether it's happening and whether it's good or bad. Otherwise we don't know what we're talking about. This conversation is a perfect example. While I'm using the strict definition, you seem to think that "racism" means when the underdog is discriminated against but not the "dominant" culture, I still don't understand it. I think your definition is broken and deceptive (at least it's possible to prove something from a "degenerate" definition), and you think the same of mine. Would have been nice to know that at the start.

On the subject of pure logic, pointing out that someone's argument benefits them is strictly a logical fallacy. I'm tempted to whine that your arguments are self-serving, but tu quoque is a fallacy too. Both are usually counter-productive, except possibly as an explanation after you've explained logically why someone is wrong, which you have still not done.

This is how I try to approach any sort of philosophical or moral question, especially in writing. If you don't agree on this basic approach to finding truth, we really have nothing at all to say to each other.

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>But overall richness is not desired as much as precision.

Richness and precision are not at odds with one another. Attempts at understanding language through precision is precisely why AI has failed miserably when it comes to actual understanding of language. I promise you that figuring out how to model all the various contexts and connotations that are associated with language is the big breakthrough that natural language processing has been waiting for.

That being said, one can have a precise discussion regarding these admittedly emotional topics if we clearly define all of the relevant contexts that are involved. But anyways, this has suddenly turned into a discussion about race unintentionally. So instead of going into great depth, I will cut to the point which will hopefully clarify my problem with your type of reasoning.

Words like racist and sexist have a certain power in our culture. If you call someone a racist, they immediately become defensive because it has become one of the worst things you can call someone. This is precisely because of the connotations involving hate, inferiority, violence, etc. Now when you attempt to prune all of that cultural context from that word (by defining it as generic discrimination based on race), and then label programs geared towards minorities "racist", you are intentionally wielding that cultural context to stigmatize something that would not otherwise receive that negative connotation. You are changing the definition without simultaneously changing the cultural connotations that give the word its power. This is what is so despicable about altering the meaning of these words: you are using unconscious associations between racism and evil things to stigmatize things you simply don't like by forcing a new association in the minds of your audience by way of the old label. The "evil" connotation is then unconsciously transferred to the thing you don't like.

A clear example of how the degenerate definition is useless, and frankly absurd, is the case of doctors that check black patients for high blood pressure, heart disease, hypertension, etc. This is your "technical" definition of racial discrimination, ie "racism". But it is absurd that this should carry a negative stigma by falling under such a label.

Without proper context, words lose all meaning.

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>Kids are very perceptive, they notice the apparent differences in acceptable behavior very early on

Yes and if young girls' early exposure to the industry consists largely of "Girl-centric CS activities" then they will immediately wonder why they need such special treatment. People do not want want to be segregated, even if it is, supposedly, for a good cause.

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Can we please let the women speak for themselves? I absolutely abhor when white people tell me that as a black person I should not want scholarships/education programs/tutoring/etc geared specifically towards people of my background.

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Are you suggesting that we cannot debate this issue unless we are female? Because, if so, then you need to copy and paste your comment on 90% of the comments in this thread including your own. (I assume you are not a women because you said "Can WE please let the women speak for themselves?")

Or are you suggesting that us males are only not allowed to debate when we believe that special treatment of women is actually detrimental to them and everyone else?

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I am suggesting we not make self-serving assertions about how women should feel. There is debating and then there is putting words in other people's mouths that are perfectly capable of speaking for themselves. If women themselves are not making this type of argument, men have no place in making it on their behalf.

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Please explain to me where I made an assertion about how women should feel. I said that girls will wonder why they are being treated differently and I said that people do not like being segregated. What words am I putting in whose mouths? What type of argument?

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Let's not devolve this discussion into a language-parsing exercise. Take your comment as a whole, its clear you are saying "this is how women will/should feel". I'm saying there is no reason to suppose how women will feel: they can tell us themselves if they feel this way.

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No, I am saying that people don't like being segregated (not that they should not like, do not try to put a different spin on it) and as a person who has interacted with other people my whole life I do have a right to say that. Yes, women are people so I believe this includes women. Maybe there are people that like being singled out based on their gender in this context but I have definitely not met any.

>they can tell us themselves if they feel this way

Yes and they do. I am not sure if you realise this but this actually what the female author of the article says:

"I also have grave concerns regarding activities and events that are for “girls only”. These events instead enforce the stereotype, segregating girls and giving them (and everyone) a message that they are different. It is a band-aid attempt at a solution to a problem that starts at a much younger age, and seriously neglects those girls (and women) who don’t want to be segregated (many of whom never even come out to such events, and whose voices are sadly never heard). Children do not grow up into a segregated world, so why are we reinforcing that message? Why are we not just creating a variety of activities that may appeal to boys or girls or both? I can see taking issue with creating explicitly sexist activities, but there is nothing inherently sexist about having activities that may attract more of one gender than the other, especially when we make the available to everyone. "

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> Maybe there are people that like being singled out based on their gender in this context but I have definitely not met any.

The fact that women participate in these events is an obvious counter-example.

And yes, the author is essentially making your point. But she is also speaking from a position of privilege, as someone who was never intimidated by "boy stuff" and who admittedly got along better with boys rather than girls. I'm not sure her point is representative of the target audience of these kinds of gatherings, so it should be weighed with that in mind. Also its interesting to note that her comment was not in the first person, as in "this is how I feel about these events". It seems like she's doing what you are doing, projecting her ideas about how these girls will/should feel onto them.

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haha, okay.

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How about we argue instead that discriminating is wrong, and we shouldn't actively promote it.

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Racism, sexism, etc are necessarily wrong. However, discrimination is not necessarily wrong. Whether its wrong depends on the context and the motivations. I submit that this is a valid form of "discrimination".

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First, nothing is necessarily wrong, as that would imply an absolute rather than relative morality. All morality is relativistic.

Secondly, I would argue that your list, from my point of view, denoted 'racism, sexism, etc' is more rigorously defined as 'discriminating based on anything other than merit'.

Given that assumption, discrimination by race or sex for any reason would be wrong.

With those premises, I stand by my original conclusion that discrimination on the whole is wrong.

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And I would have to reject those premises.

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On what basis?

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>I would argue that your list, from my point of view, denoted 'racism, sexism, etc' is more rigorously defined as 'discriminating based on anything other than merit'.

My comment nextdoor describes my problem with these sorts of degenerate defintions: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5350842

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Sexism is discrimination based on sex. Please look up the definition of sexism. No, it does not depend on the motivation or context, everyone who discriminates believes that their motives justify it but they don't. Your sexism is no different from anyone else's.

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Sure, under the most simplistic definition devoid of any cultural context or connotation. But if you have to prune all meaning from the word to prove your point then perhaps your point is rather weak to begin with.

To put it another way: if your definition of sexism means that women-centric events designed to foster interest in an otherwise underrepresented field is considered sexist, then its your definition that is faulty.

Here's a definition that doesn't strip the salient context from it (dictionary.com)

1.attitudes or behavior based on traditional stereotypes of sexual roles.

2.discrimination or devaluation based on a person's sex, as in restricted job opportunities; especially, such discrimination directed against women.

It's amazing how these discussions always devolve into cherry-picking definitions and parsing language like a machine to prove respective points. If you have to resort to that, then just bow out gracefully as you are missing the point of the discussion altogether.

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Whether its wrong depends on the context and the motivations.

To put it another way, the ends justifies the means. And I think you'll find plenty who would disagree with that statement.

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"Ends justifies the means" is not analogous to this situation.

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Could you elaborate?

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I'm a woman and when I say such things, women either A) (subtly) turn away from me and act like I'm the Crazy Racist Uncle that everybody pretends doesn't exist, or B) tell me to shut up.

But the fact is, there's no evidence that these endeavors help. None at all. There's plenty of evidence that they hurt -- stereotype threat and the implication that the OP gave, which is that special treatment indicates a special lack.

Note that we're not talking about scholarships here.

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Show me the evidence that they hurt. And extrapolating or supposing stereotype threat is not evidence. The fact is these are mostly private people or private groups that put on these efforts. They need no "proof" that they work. The fact that women show up to these things is enough proof as far as they are concerned. If you want to completely eliminate these events then its up to you to show that they are actively harmful.

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If you're right, what is the worst that could happen? That girls might opt out of pursuing CS? Well that is already the situation now.

It's easy to poke theoretical holes in any proposed change...but the status quo should not get a pass just because we're used to it.

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The problem is that it is using discrimination to fight discrimination.

What about the boy who can't afford the tuition for the computer science course, his best friend, a girl who he has just introduced to programming, gets a bursary to the course just because she is female? The boy feels that he is not wanted in the cs community because of this discrimination so he begins to pursue something different and the girl feels that she was given an unfair advantage over her friend and does not want to ruin the relationship so she pulls out of the course.

Anything like this that isn't based on merit or interest can be pretty devastating.

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People do not want want to be segregated, even if it is, supposedly, for a good cause.

Really? Because self-segregation is pretty obvious in any number of contexts.

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Yes but there is a difference between forced segregation and self-segregation.

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And who is forcing women to go to events like the Berlin Geekettes Hackathon?

http://berlingeekettes.github.com/hackathon/

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But you can't force an interest in CS down people's throats. Holding "women for CS" events only makes the women in CS feel even more isolated from their male peers and does nothing to promote CS to women who do not know about it.

Like you say, kids are very perceptive. The only way to truly eradicate the stereotype is to create a world in which the stereotype doesn't exist.

And that is done by giving all kids, regardless of gender or race, the __opportunity__ to learn about the value of computer science. The ones that like it will participate, those that don't, won't. And gender will be irrelevant.

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>Holding "women for CS" events only makes the women in CS feel even more isolated from their male peers

I don't think this is true at all (and usually you never see women say this, just males rationalizing their position). Women centric CS events are to encourage those who have an interest but may have been hesitant for some reason to seek it out. Or to encourage those who are students to seek help and find comraderie/validation.

A common theme from women is that they often feel like imposters in intro CS classes because its always guys who seem to be so much further ahead. Of course, guys will chime in that they experience impostor-syndrome just as much. The difference is that girls have an immediate re-enforcing explanation for that sense of being out of place: you don't belong because you're a woman. This is the curse of being a minority in a field that you aren't well represented in. This is why these CS-centric events are important.

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>The difference is that girls have an immediate re-enforcing explanation for that sense of being out of place: you don't belong because you're a woman

How is this different from guys who go, "They're so ahead of me. I'm out of place, because they are all smarter than me"?

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It's different because people around them are more likely to react as though not being good at CS is an expected outcome of their identity: http://xkcd.com/385/

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Exactly my thoughts. Most of the people I've spoken with honestly in my CS classes have expressed these feelings of inadequacy. Often it's accompanied by things like "oh, I didn't take CS in high school and it seems like everyone else did." If they're a certain gender or race they may feel this has hindered them, even though many others in the class secretly have the same feelings of inadequacy.

I'm not sure whether it'd be comforting to feel (correctly or not) that your background is partially to blame for your lack of confidence or success. On the one hand you may discourage yourself and set yourself up for failure because you believe you have a good reason to fail. On the other hand it may prevent you from beating yourself up as much since there are some external factors at play that are out of your control.

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Beginning guys who find themselves in classrooms full of people that started programming in their teens do what they always do - suck it up or fail. Such is the life of a member of the majority.

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It's perhaps also worth noting that sexism and discrimination are usually just as bad for members of the dominant class as they are for members of the discriminated.

Programs which would help more women be involved and included in CS will end up helping men who would find themselves in similar situations. Discrimination is harmful to just about everyone.

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Are you saying that that's a good thing? I'm not quite sure of the intent of this post, so I'm not sure with what tone to read it.

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Subculture is relevant. Sometimes the borders of subcultures can follow gender lines. Sometimes such borders are arbitrarily hostile.

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I agree that ignoring it isn't the solution.

I don't really think exclusive events are the solution either and I'm not convinced they don't make things worse. Tech events shouldn't exclude either gender and when they do (or have events/do things that make one group uncomfortable) they should be called out on it.

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The problem is there isn't anything we can do to change your typical tech gathering/event to not be intimidating or uncomfortable for a large number of girls. It's known that girls are more vocal and proactive in a classroom full of just girls. The intimidation factor is something that cannot be fixed at this level. It's not just a matter of banning certain types of humor.

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> It's known that girls are more vocal and proactive in a classroom full of just girls.

Isn't that an argument that all schools should then be boy/girl schools, always separating kids based on their sex? After all, this is the most effective model right?

If schools has gone away from this model, I assume they had a good reason. We also used to separate women from men in the work place. That too was changed in the last 100 years. Business somehow decided that productivity went up if did not separate people based on their sex.

If we moved away from this in both schools and work, why are we then trying to reintroduce it again with the same argument they had a hundred years ago? Is there any exceptional detail that only computer science has?

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>Isn't that an argument that all schools should then be boy/girl schools, always separating kids based on their sex? After all, this is the most effective model right?

It might be, and I'm not completely sure it isn't the best model.

But work environments are totally different situation. School is an exception because it is at a time where kids are in their formative years, thus creating artificial environments that are maximally conductive to learning is appropriate (which is what "school" is to begin with).

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I think that ignores the fact that socialization is one of the most important things you learn at school. I'd imagine separating sexes would just create even more stereotypes/generalizations from both sides.

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Separate classes, then throw them together for breaks?

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Sure--hence groups like LinuxChix.

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I don't think that translates. Racism is hatred based on race. Hatred is something that needs to be addressed more directly because it won't go away on its own. Isn't the gender imbalance in tech something that is self-perpetuating the more visible it is? If it were closed, would it stay closed?

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Racism is not about hate. That is only the most extreme form and hardly the most damaging kind (in our society; there's always genocide). Racism is the differentiation (discrimination) of people by race: assuming a black guy will not be into d&d. Even if it is statistically true, such stereotypes are damaging in two ways: (1) we wont invite him for a dnd session even if he would've loved it; and (2) the same person would probably have declined anyway even though he would've liked it.

Discrimination impedes freedom in many ways. Legally, most obstacles have been removed. We need to change peoples/our preconceptions of others as well as ourselves.

Emancipation requires changing our habits. Learning something new, especially when it goes against established patterns, is achieved most effectively when the new is made explitit and even exaggerated.

I think GP is spot on. The gender imbalance is visible even if we pretend it doesn't exist. The only way to change it, is to force it. That will be damn hard and totally worth it.

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I would say that racism is about hate, ignorance, and creating systematic barriers to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Women are considered a minority group; yet, white women still retain the privilege of being white. It sounds like the essay echoes the sentiment of being privileged and not wanting to be sub-grouped. I've noticed that some white friends didn't consider themselves to belong to any special "ethnic group" - they considered themselves to be "normal".

The point of the Civil Rights movement, the Voting Rights Act, and implementation of affirmative action policies was that hatred and bigotry gave way to the people creating barriers that prevented minorities from pursuing life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Affirmative action is needed because the impact of centuries of systemic discrimination cannot be undone in just one generation.

The solution to ending racism, homophobia, and sexism cannot be to ignore these evils. Shine a light on them.

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Is racism just about white privilege, though? In America, ethnic Indians and east Asians outperform all other ethnic groups on a host of metrics - income, criminality, education, and etc. Isn't there a huge Asian privilege in America that nobody is talking about? Why don't we talk about the Asian/White achievement gap?

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This isn't an apples to apples comparison. Asian Americans have never systematically disenfranchised white Americans.

However, you bring up some interesting points but that I have a couple of issues with including probationary whiteness, survivor-ship bias, and performance vs. access. I don't think Asian Americans had to drink from the "colored" fountain. It's easier to win the game if you are allowed to play. In many cases, Asians are considered probationary white so should we be talking about a White/White achievement gap?

Children of immigrants are highly motivated to achieve by parents who selected to come to the US. The folks that immigrate were motivated enough to come here and be successful. This is the essence of survivor-ship bias.

There was a study a couple years ago that showed that having an black-sounding name on your resume lead to fewer callbacks. You have a better shot at batting .300 if you are allowed to pick up a bat.

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Japanese and Chinese Americans have faced lots of historical obstacles, from anti-miscegenation laws to internment camps. Ever hear of the Chinese Exclusion Act? They still face a lot of stereotypes. There's a big culture and language divide between the cultures of South/East Asia and those of Europeans. I don't buy the idea that they are "probationary whites".

They just happen to be really, really good at what they do, on average, to the point where they outperform whites in majority-white nations. And in doing so, they falsify the hypothesis that achievement gaps are caused solely by majority-group racism.

Asians blow whites out of the water on SAT, MCAT, IQ, and other tests of achievement, aptitude, and ability. Even if there was a bias against asian names in the market place, Asians would probably overcome it just by being too good to ignore.

It's really hard for me to square leftist theories of racism with the data. To be successful in America, the best thing you can do is be born to Indian parents[1].

It is interesting that you mention immigrants. African immigrants to America are a high-achieving group, outperforming whites in income. So they manage to beat the stereotypes while African-Americans do not.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ethnic_groups_in_the_Un...

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>African immigrants to America are a high-achieving group, outperforming whites in income. So they manage to beat the stereotypes while African-Americans do not.

Isn't that an argument FOR survivor-ship bias?

How do the ethnic asians that immigrated a century ago stack up against the newly immigrated ones?

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hmmm, so would you suppose that children of African immigrants (the Obamas of the world) run into the negative stereotypes of our society and start to fall in socioeconomic standing towards the level of African Americans?

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Suppose is too strong a word. I find the hypothesis worthy of serious consideration though.

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I can agree that its less self-perpetuating than racism is. But the root cause of imbalances in tech is also very pervasive, as it is a product of gender stereotypes in the wider culture. Gender stereotypes are certainly self-perpetuating: young kids internalize what they learn and then perpetuate that behavior as they become older. So to break that cycle requires direct intervention to prevent shaming for girls who don't like stereotypical activities, and to allow other girls to sample things that they otherwise would not have thought open to them. A part of this intervention is to get more positive female role-models in tech and hard science fields. Direct outreach to older girls by creating (admittedly artificial) learning environments that they will be more comfortable in will help with this. These artificial environments aren't a solution, but they can be a stepping stone for girls who would otherwise be too intimidated to give it a try otherwise.

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I wouldn't characterize racism as hatred only. There are many more subtle (even sometimes unconscious) forms of racism. Racism runs the whole spectrum from ignorant misconceptions all the way up to irrational hatred.

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People on their couch at home will still laugh at a blatantly racist joke and not think much of it depending on the target.

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Racism is quite simply prejudice based on race, and prejudice does not mean hatred.

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>I liked it because it was hard, and considered hard. >And I didn’t even notice that I was the only female in the >class— a lack of awareness that persisted well into >university.

I took programming classes in high school, and assumed that the hugely skewed gender ratio was just my school being weird. It wasn't until people were surprised/impressed that I was planning to major in CS that I started googling, and discovered that the gender ratio is a thing.

> I simple never fit in with “the girls”. > Because girls don’t do things that I like.

I often feel more uncomfortable at women in CS events than just plain CS ones. Partially, it's because the actual activities are less interesting; I'm there because it's "for women", despite the less interesting/ less technical content. Partially, it's because, after 4 years of CS courses, I feel like I'm in the wrong place when more than 35%-ish of the people in a room are female. Partially, it's because I tend to feel more out of place among women. I don't dress like they do - no makeup, unisex tshirts, more interested in coding than parties - and when I'm in a room full of normal women who happen to do CS, I feel more alone than in a group of CS people. If I'm in the group of people who are supposed to be my minority demographic or whatever, and I feel like I _really_ don't fit in with them, then doesn't that mean I don't fit at all?

I tend to like unpopular/strange pieces of programming (sometimes partially because "it [i]s hard, and considered hard"). I'm used to having different technical interests than the CS/tech people I hang out with. I just feel that a lot more when I'm at a women-in-tech event. Either there's a bigger disconnect or I care more deeply that I don't fit. I view it mostly as a personal insecurity, but I really long for the emotional validation of meeting someone who's female, doesn't care about clothes, and has vaguely similar technical/programming interests. Normal CS groups of sufficient size include people who fit on everything but gender; in my experience, women-in-cs groups provide examples that match only on gender.

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I don't wear unisex t-shirts. They tend to "gap" and just hang all wrong on me. Makeup? Eh. It depends. More interested in coding than parties? Nope. I'd much rather be at a party, assuming party means "a group of friends having food and drinks, talking and laughing late into the night". People are far more interesting than these computers.

I don't like "because it's there" as a reason to do something. You expressed it as "it is hard and considered hard", but I think it's the same basic idea. I build things because I need the result to solve a problem of mine, or a problem for someone I care about.

Where does that leave me? I don't know. I hope these things wouldn't exclude me from a conversation you were having at a conference.

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I'm kind of confused by your last sentence about being excluded from a conversation.

My points of similarity were about wanting to find someone with this arbitrary, absurd set of surface-level similarities because it would make me feel less different/unique. You don't fit them, which is totally cool, and really doesn't mean anything. Your post sounded a little bit defensive (as I read it), and I'm sorry if I made you feel excluded or anything by listing properties that we happen to differ on.

I guess we just disagree on reasons to do things. The process of solving problems tends to be what interests me, more than the final product. Needing the solution is a good way to make sure a project actually gets finished, but its the process of solving/building that is more interesting to me. If a tool/language/etc is considered hard, then I want to use it because that might mean it's more powerful or it's mind-expanding in some way (for the right kind of hard). I wouldn't phrase it as "because it's there", but I guess that's also reasonable.

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> but its the process of solving/building that is more interesting to me.

I'm with you on that one. I got into programming because I saw it as solving problems distilled down to its purest form. Whether the result of what I'm working on is interesting or useful in its own right was a distant concern. Its the process of exercising your creative capacity and coming up with fresh insights that motivates me (coming up with a novel elegant solution is better than any drug).

I often feel out of place on HN because of the huge focus on thing that's being built, rather than the process itself. It's completely foreign to me to think of the programming aspect as a means to an end. But I see that sentiment around here all the time. Just goes to show that there are many reasons to get into CS. Unfortunately those that do it for the sheer enjoyment of solving problems (whether useful or the project euler variety) seem to be a dying breed.

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Similarly, I have to confess I am a little worried about this with my daughter. It is ridiculously clear that she does not do your stereotypical girl activities already at the age of 3. To the point that some of the boys in her "pre-k" class have actually thought that spiderman was a girl's thing. For the most part, my wife and I both think this is hilarious. And we are fine letting her do whatever she wants.

However, we have been worried that it is obvious she does not fit in with some other girls her age. To the point where it almost seems to bother her. Luckily, it is not a 100% thing. Still a little worrisome to see, though.

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Sure it will bother her some at some point, but be supportive and give her good options, that's the best you can do! Cannot fix society all the way immediately... but you can give her confidence and courage.

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:) Thanks! I just do not know how to specifically address that there is nothing wrong with her or the other girls. Basically, it is fairly natural (I think, am I wrong?) to not get along with everyone. It is not a fault on either side, necessarily.

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I think the best thing you can do for your daughter is help her learn not to be bothered whenever she thinks and acts outside the norms. Teach her to be comfortable with who and what she is. Of course, mom and dad will have to feel that way, too. :-) It seems that you do feel that way, - you just need to pass that strength on to her.

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This is pretty much exactly what is tough. I know you can not get someone to be ok with something by saying "be ok." At this age, not that big of a deal, as we just make sure she is comfortable in everything else. When she is older and wants to get along with more folks, how do we get her comfortable then? (That make sense?)

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I'll admit I only skim-read the article but... why is your daughter's behaviour worrisome? Kids fit in in different ways, or don't.

Are you worried she's going to turn into a software engineer? Because I'll agree that is a fate worse than death :)

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It is worrisome to see her upset with the way she is treated. Apologies for wording that poorly. At the age of three, I can not exactly bring myself to give any concern with whatever career choices she may make. :)

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This closely aligns with my thoughts on the issue.

While I understand the good intentions behind girl only events, women in CS meetups and girl geek dinners/mentors something about it feels wrong to me. It's like fighting an exclusion problem with just a different type of exclusion and simultaneously reinforcing the divisions they're rallying against.

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"It's like fighting an exclusion problem with just a different type of exclusion and simultaneously reinforcing the divisions they're rallying against."

In numerous tech offices/companies I've visited in the Bay Area and New York, I've met more foreign born white male programmers than African American male and Hispanic American male programmers put together. And despite the so-called high number of Asian males in CS in the US, I rarely see them in C-level positions in tech companies (say as CTOs) even compared to females. Yet I don't see or read nearly as many articles about initiatives in the tech industry to help any of those minorities increase their participation or break glass ceilings.

And so as a minority, it kind of annoys me that I just get grouped with the so-called dominant segment of 'men' when I feel my and other races are under-represented in different ways. This especially comes out whenever there are tech meetups that are exclusive to women.

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"And despite the so-called high number of Asian males in CS in the US, I rarely see them in C-level positions in tech companies (say as CTOs) even compared to females."

Seeing as Asian-Americans are about 5% of the population while women are roughly 50%, all things being equal you would expect to see far more women than Asian men in any given position.

But I agree with the sentiment that these events are fighting exclusion with more exclusion. I would even go so far as to say that some companies seem to have a policy of positive discrimination in favour of women when it comes to hiring. And that is just unfair.

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Anecdote alert: at the first place to give me an internship, about half the engineering staff were "Asian", especially if you count the Indian guy (Indians are Asians too, by any rational definition ;)). The CTO was Chinese and at least one of the major founders. The company was a spinoff of research at CaltTech, FWIW. Maybe it's different down here.

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Start an Asian outreach effort. Get in touch with some Asian CxOs. (I worked for an Asian CxO once. So did everyone at Zappos.)

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"Binders full of asians"

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Is it worse than nothing? The logic seems to be: have imbalance partially caused by stereotypes -> encourage minority to lessen imbalance -> hope stereotypes change and balance becomes self-sustaining.

Shifting cultures is hard. Lacking perfect solutions, maybe plausible ones will suffice?

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It's a difficult problem and I don't pretend to know the answer. I do think that these kind of separate events may do more harm than good.

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Do you think they will result in fewer women in CS? Or is it some other kind of harm?

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I think it's a little more insidious than that. It refocuses the issue to gender and suggests you're special in tech not because of what you've done or want to do, but simply because of what you are. I think this devalues the accomplishments by focusing on an unimportant aspect.

It subtly suggests (unintentionally) that girls can't make it on their own and require this extra help - which I think reinforces the sexist stereotypes that are the core problem. Intimidation, feelings of inferiority and difficulty with work are universal issues, I don't think excluding people by sex is necessary.

There's also the very non-zero chance that I'm underestimating the value women get out of these events, but exclusion based on gender just does seem like the best way to go about it. Maybe it's just that nobody likes to feel left out.

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>It refocuses the issue to gender and suggests you're special in tech...

I think one of the purposes of these kinds of separate events is to make it so that women in tech are not "special".

>I think this devalues the accomplishments by focusing on an unimportant aspect.

Unimportant to you, maybe, but not to the people who face barriers because of their gender. To make an analogy, is the success of some African-Americans today "devalued" because they didn't have to work as hard for it as the "exceptional blacks" of previous generations?

>It subtly suggests (unintentionally) that girls can't make it on their own and require this extra help...

One of the benefits of living in society instead of striking out for the frontier is that, when the deck is stacked against you, you can band together to solve problems that might be too hard to face on your own. Yes, there are always "exceptional" people who can go it alone, but the fact that _somebody_ didn't need extra help doesn't mean that _nobody_ needs extra help.

>I don't think excluding people by sex is necessary.

Necessary for what? In an ideal world, you wouldn't have to take gender into account, but (imperfect as it may be), I think women-only events are a way to create environments where gender issues don't come into play.

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So the idea is to create special events for women in tech so that they are not special any more? Honestly I see that argument as flawed.

Gender issues do come into play when you segregate people like this. Some women like to go to these events, some don't. Have you ever thought about how do men feel? Or just because they are generally in a different position it doesn't matter if they're discriminated against?

This thing sounds to me like trying to justify robbing a thief, one automatically becomes a thief after doing it no matter how much sugar you want to use to coat the action.

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>So the idea is to create special events for women in tech so that they are not special any more?

In the sense that once there are more women in tech, being a woman in tech will be normal, instead of noteworthy or "special".

>Gender issues do come into play when you segregate people like this.

Not for the attendees, who don't have to worry about other people at the event treating them differently based on their gender.

>Have you ever thought about how do men feel? Or just because they are generally in a different position it doesn't matter if they're discriminated against?

What discrimination? Are there men whose careers will suffer, or who will be looked down upon, because they weren't able to attend one of these events?

To make an analogy: suppose food banks or soup kitchens only provided help to people below a certain income level. Is that "discrimination" against all the people who want to eat there but can't because they have too much money? Is it unfair that someone who gets food from a food bank is also allowed to shop at regular grocery stores with everyone else?

>This thing sounds to me like trying to justify robbing a thief...

No one is being robbed. This is not about trying to make things worse for men, but about making them better for women.

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I guess i disagree to a bit. I understand where you're coming from there, but I think "girl only" cs meetups help eliminate a possible burden to get into the computer world.

I think for that reason alone they're a good thing. Could it be taken too far? Sure but I don't see that happening right now, and at the moment given how few women are in our field I think more such things are needed to at least reduce the sharp edges people view from our world.

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> Could it be taken too far?

But I'm under the impression that today we offer women-only CS courses and the norm has become women get hired over equally or more qualified men in the name of eradicating sexism.

I humbly suggest this is taking it too far. I don't want to automatically get turned down for a job because a woman applied. I don't want to automatically get turned down for CS help because I am the wrong gender.

Every time I hear about a company spending money on CS help for women or "prioritizing hiring women" I cringe, but the HN community seems to readily accept and celebrate those posts.

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> I don't want to automatically get turned down for a job because a woman applied. I don't want to automatically get turned down for CS help because I am the wrong gender.

Certainly! Nobody's goal is to reverse the historical situation so that men are systematically shut out of the field in some sort of vengeance for women being shut out for so long. A level playing field is absolutely the goal.

But despite all the progress we've made, there are still many, many places where women have to deal with negative biases as students, as job applicants, and as employees. Women still routinely face exactly the sort of bias that you're concerned about, except that it's no longer socially acceptable for people to admit (even to themselves) that they're doing it. (Different industry, but there was a study not long ago that conclusively demonstrated subtle but meaningful bias against women when hiring science lab techs: fake applications with female names were rated lower than identical applications with male names, by men and women alike.)

So my understanding is that when a company or college explicitly states a policy prioritizing women for help or hiring, they usually hope that this overt boost to female applicants will just cancel out the invisible but just as real biases against them.

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Your tone suggests to inform rather than speculate and I would like to respectfully point out you might not be right: my fears are really happening, and we have actually got to the reverse of the historical situation.

Here is an article that was posted on hacker news saying just that, and notice the very positive reaction it got from the community here.

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4730673

EDIT: I know this is anecdotal evidence, and it's from Europe not the US. But notice what a positive reaction this had from HN. To me it shows that we don't mind this reverse historical situation.

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So I understand what you're saying about the "women only or prioritization". But, and note I'm obviously a guy, you're assuming the worst possible reasoning for this.

Lets say the whole thing is trying to reverse the course direction of CS to help get more women in the field. We know that having equal amounts of both genders helps and strengthens teams. So while the preferential hiring of women might at first glance appear to be discriminatory, and it may very well be that. The intent might be completely different and the goal of the exercise is to improve the company or teams performance.

Speaking from experience, I prefer more balanced teams. I absolutely hate men only teams because what eventually always seems to happen is alpha/beta male monkey behavior. It is unproductive and I notice a distinct lack of it when there are women around.

Basically I think this is a non-issue to worry about until we get close to 50% of women in CS in general. Given how far behind we are, I'm not even concerned right now. In fact I'd love to join things like rails bridge or whatever just to get things moving forward.

Also note "the HN community" doesn't exist, we're all individuals. This is my own viewpoint and biases. "we" celebrate these things because CS is far too white male centric and that needs to change. We need more viewpoints.

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I believe what's morally wrong is morally wrong and should not be done. Someone could speculate that the US would be better off with the cheap labour of slaves but that's morally wrong so we'll stop doing it period. I don't care why you're hiring a gender over another. In my humble opinion it's wrong and should stop.

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That is a bit too one sided for my tastes. Concerte example time:

If you're a hiring manager and have 4 white males on a team, do you really need another white male? Probably not, is it morally wrong to want a female on the team or say a non white male? I cannot see why it would be. Especially when we now know based on current research that even if the candidate is technically worse than another, the overall team benefits from the different viewpoints more than a "star" developer.

Again, I am not in agreement this is at all a moral decision from a hiring point of view or overall as a community/CS viewpoint. Why is it wrong to hire for better performance? Why is it wrong to want more females in CS? Most importantly, how does that conflate to being a morality tale? The latter question would be aided here in you explaining your philosophical underpinnings of why a single gender meetup to get more of that underrepresented gender in the community as being morally wrong.

The slave analogy is off base for this particular situation.

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Sexism is wrong because this kind of discrimination is immoral. Women should be able to do whatever they want and are capable of doing for a career, not just what the men around them want them to do. This is a moral debate before it is a debate about maximizing performance. Sexism is as wrong as religious discrimination and racism (hence the analogy with slavery).

Suppose a case where a men-only field led to better performance, would you not think that it is morally correct to exclude women in this case? And that's besides the point: I don't think we should encourage women to go into CS because it makes CS better, I think we should encourage women to go into CS to let them know if that's what they want to do they can and they'll be welcome and they'll have a better life like that.

If I was a hiring manager I would want to have more women on my team, but I would not feel very good about myself turning down a man more qualified for a woman for no reason other than his gender. What if I'm Apple and I just destroyed this man's lifelong dream of working for Apple? Hiring should be based on merit, and nothing else. What's next? Hiring people from different religions because the team will benefit from the different viewpoints? So if you followed a religion you'd be more likely to get hired. I don't agree with that.

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Completely fictitious example: Assume science showed that homogeneous teams worked best in industry X. Would it be okay to enforce that?

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Sure, but it is a completely pointless example in this case because it is a bit of a tautology.

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I don't think that hiring women over equally or more qualified men is truly the norm, though it did certainly occur in some companies and with some individuals - and I'm sure it still does, to some degree. But I think it's a real stretch to call it the norm. And even if you accept the argument that it's the norm, the practice is certainly failing, isn't it, since men still dominate the ranks of programmers. They are no longer 100%, but they still are a huge majority.

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Men dominating the ranks of programmers, I believe, is due to women being less interested in programming. You could easily see this if you look at CS class. There is no discriminating employer there, and yet still the classes are men dominated. I believe in getting women interested in CS, not discriminating against men in hiring and access to learning resources.

As for whether it's the norm or not, here is the article that gave me that impression: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4730673

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There are already other responses to your assertion that prioritizing for female employees is morally wrong. But how often do you hear startups talking about "culture fit" playing a role in hiring decisions? Is it morally wrong to prioritize culture fit over competency? If your answer is "no", it may surprise you to find that this is considered acceptable practice in many companies.

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> I don't want to automatically get turned down for a job because a woman applied.

If that were a real policy (which I don't think it is), I suppose the point is that even then the odds would be against it impacting you as there are so few women applicants.

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But still morally wrong.

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There are good and bad qualities to the CS events catered towards women. I think they are good for women of certain age groups (maybe 18 and older?) who might have been discouraged from or misinformed about the field. For young girls, these events are probably unnecessary and reinforce the stereotypes.

The events and boot camps made specifically for women to learn to code/learn about various opportunities are great, but I would hate for young girls to attend these events and learn about the gender inequality in case they weren't even aware of it.

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I'm not sure that going to a programming workshop for girls as a kid would have made me think what programming wasn't for girls. Coming to a "not for girls" signal involves realizing that they're having the event to increase female participation, rather than just because they want an all-girls event -- like girls scouts being just for girls.

The "for girls" labeling is also for the parents at that age. If you want to have girls signed up, you need their parents to think it's a good idea. Their parents are more likely (I'd think) to be biased that girls probably won't like programming/tech. So they wouldn't think about it as something their daughter would like, except that it's especially for girls. I'm not saying it's great logic, but it seems like it might be a benefit to "for girls" labeling on programming events for kids.

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There is a male equivalent to girl scouts- boy scouts/eagle scouts. There isn't a male equivalent to these events, and middle-school aged kids and above could definitely figure this out.

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As I'm told, female-only events can work well, because males tend to actively reinforce patriarchy. We are trained to, and often need to be deprogrammed to simply be aware of it. (Just consider our gendered dress codes. Many men would actually consider suicide rather than publicly wear "female" clothes. Most would be kicked out of their workplaces if they showed up in such dress.)

So, it is only logical to consider voluntarily meeting in a space free of such disruptive people. (I'm not talking about the over-the-top Ruby brogrammers I know, whose talks feature sexual images of females who fit a narrow range of appearance. It's more mundane and everyday than that.)

It's obviously not a perfect solution, but males are free to educate themselves and undermine their gender roles. Then we wouldn't need to resort to such measures.

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I can't tell if you're joking or not. Or maybe I'm just reinforcing the patriarchy.

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If you think that's strange, I personally consider CoffeeScript preferable to JavaScript, and some Lisps easier to think in than all the other programming languages. No stranger to ridicule and disbelief. :)

(Which reminds me a bit about how the author is alienated from fellow females. How many of us feel alienated from our fellow programmers? Or fellow males, if you're male? Ever look at world events, and see humanity as a bit... strange? Realizing that, statistically speaking, you yourself almost certainly have many strange beliefs too, for being a member of such groups?)

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If the balance were more even, sure, I'd agree with you. But until there's a head of steam for things to progress naturally, it does need an artificial poke. The problem wasn't solving itself before these kind of events.

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I understand and even agree. The problem is that while you continue to not fight exclusion with exclusion, the original exclusion tends to strengthen and grow - not always deliberately, but the lack of intent doesn't change the net result. The original exclusion continues.

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The attitudes in this thread seem a little disturbing to me. Let me illustrate with a different example:

There are a number of other fields that are consistently dominated by women in the way that programming and CS are by men. Teaching, especially at the elementary-school level and younger, nursing, HR, administrative assistants, and others. Why is there no effort to bring more men into these fields? Is there some "old-girls club" that's keeping the men out? Do we need to set up some affirmative action programs at employers, outreach programs to men in high school and college, men-only nurse clubs, etc? It doesn't happen, because nobody seems to care. Just try and see how much googling it takes to even find out what the actual gender ratios in those professions are. After a little looking around, I found that, according to one article, teaching is 67-86% female, and according to Wikipedia, nursing in the US is 94.6% female (!).

There are a lot of other fields where men are heavily dominant. Firefighters, soldiers, police, etc. I don't see anywhere near the level of pressure to bring women into these fields as there is for CS/Programming.

The whole CS/Programming field is just another field heavily dominated by a particular gender. Why is it different or more special than any of these other fields? Why does this field need specific efforts to address the gender ratio? Why is this a Problem that demands all sorts of high-level money and attention to address?

I have nothing against any person trying to get into any field they care to. Programming can be a tough field, but if a woman, or anybody else, has the interest, brains, and drive, then more power to 'em. Anyone who tells a girl that they shouldn't get into the field because girls can't do it or it isn't feminine is a jerk and should be ignored, and should be sacked if they take action to block her progress.

So the gender ratio in CS/Programming is heavily male-biased. So what? Maybe women just don't tend to be interested in it. I don't see this as a problem that we need to work on solving. Let people do what they want to do, and if that leads to a gender imbalance in some fields, that's okay.

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> Teaching, especially at the elementary-school level and younger, nursing

Have you stopped to consider that these two (in particular) might be true but you're not in the circles that talk about it? There's significant demand for male elementary school teachers[1] and while I can't find with a couple of quick Google searches, friends of mine who work in the medical field say that there's a drive to get more male nurses because male patients generally seem more comfortable around male nurses.

> Firefighters, soldiers, police, etc. I don't see anywhere near the level of pressure to bring women into these fields as there is for CS/Programming.

I can't speak to firefighters or police (though cursory Googling for the latter seems to indicate nontrivial demand), but the goal of more female enlistment in the military has been ongoing for quite some time.

And in any case, that there may not be such a push for more women in field X does not imply that that is the desired state of affairs in that field--it states only that it's not happening right now. It is happening in software development. And you're on Hacker News: it trends toward software developers. There's going to be more bits perturbed on the topic than regarding firefighters or police.

[1] - http://www.edutopia.org/male-teacher-shortage

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* Teaching, especially at the elementary-school level and younger, nursing, HR, administrative assistants, and others. Why is there no effort to bring more men into these fields?*

There are efforts: http://www.menteach.org/ http://www.malenursemagazine.com/ http://www.minoritynurse.com/men-nursing/recruiting-men-nurs...

You're not looking hard enough.

(this was by no means a comprehensive search, the above links were found with ~45 secs of Googling).

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Being a male elementary school teacher can be a very dangerous career choice in the era of "stranger danger" and the like.

And I think that the conversation focuses on programming here, but there is a genuine issue with girls being disinterested in STEM careers.

There's a chance that the world is missing out on the next female einstein, because she became a nurse instead of being encouraged to follow her dreams.

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1. The topic isn't about men's participation in other fields; it's about women's participation in this field. The 'what about men?' argument is something that you see a lot in many spaces where women's rights and inclusion is discussed, and it's a derailment from the point. We're not discussing men's non-traditional career choices, and if we were, the barriers and issues to be discussed would be very different. That's not to say that isn't an interesting topic, but the discussion turning to be about men happens in so many discussions about women and equality that it's become a cliche (queue larger point about society in general). What you can do is ask what men, who share an interest in an egalitarian society, can do to help women in this instance.

2. You probably don't mean to, but you're displaying a lot of privilege here (in the technical sense, not pejorative): by that I mean you're making an unstated assumption that the barriers that women face getting into the field are the same as what you faced, and therefore that, given those small and inconsequential barriers, they just must not be interested -- if they were it would be as easy for them as it was for you! Sorry to say that it's not that simple, and men's and women's experiences of tech and education and society just aren't the same, for the most part, and for the most part it's women who have the lower-quality experience.

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My daughter has told me a few times that she might like to program like me but was worried that it was a "boy thing".

I tell her that the computer can't tell you're a girl.

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So here's the question: How old is your daughter? And where do you suppose she got the idea that programming is "a boy thing"? I suspect that the answers to these questions is a good lead to understanding why women are under-represented among programmers / techies.

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That actually is the question I've been struggling with. She's only 7 and I've tried to keep her quite insulated from that kind of idea but it seems to just bleed in from all over the place.

Since I've tuned out powerless to stop the bias from getting in, I've started to really think about the best way to help her rise above it.

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I would answer pop culture, if she's watched any Disney show or movie ever, it immediately shows her exactly what is "acceptable" for a girl to do (Grrr, I hate Disney and that is gonna be the one channel I will never let my children watch, not to say there aren't worse channels but Disney is consistently bad).

Someone (in the HN community) should do an in-depth blog post about how pop culture screws up our children's perceptions of what is appropriate and acceptable for them to reach for.

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You should watch Disney movies with your kid and discuss them. Ignorance won't stop anything.

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Why call out Disney for such special treatment. Should he do similar with the Rambo series?

Not watching Disney movies seems like a perfectly reasonable response to the content of Disney movies. There is no shortage of other things to watch.

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Not watching Disney movies is cultural/social death. Don't do that to your kid.

I'm all for good role models. But bad models are useful to, so the kid knows it's bad behavior, especially when they are likely to run into that culture anyway (as is the case with role models). All the kid will see is that you won't allow them to see what the rest of America has. Any moral message will be secondary. So you might as well ensure that they learn the lessons correctly the first time.

And no, they don't need to see Rambo, but Rambo isn't likely to be relevant to their lives if we're discussing Disney movies. I strongly believe things like Disney are crucial for kids.

-I'm barely recovering from a childhood of only PBS allowed and I feel entirely disconnected from my generation whenever we talk about culture before 2003. All I remember is from watching The News Hour about Bill Clinton having sex and bombing places and reading about nsync on the back of juice boxes. Don't do that, it's not healthy.

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Much like the discussion about sex/abstinence, there's really no way to avoid Disney (or violent media) completely as a parent. Even if you don't show it to your kid they'll see it at school or somewhere else.

So if you want your kid to get something specific out of a Disney movie other than the intended message, it's probably better to ensure they see it with you while you're there to explain it appropriately.

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Even if pop culture seems to plant these expectations in the heads of children, that in itself is not a problem. Individuals can exercise their will power and act in contradiction of any expectations they're aware of.

The real problem is that children fear negative reactions from their peers and therefore abstain from many activities that would benefit them. Even boys are discouraged from doing anything remotely 'nerdy.' Most children are too scared to face the ridicule and ostracision that comes with embracing uncool activities. People will talk about you. I think it's particularly bad for girls.

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If I had to take a stab in the dark, I would guess she is:

1) Familiar with the image of a "geek" (how could you possibly not be?)

2) Intelligent enough to notice that the image of a geek is always of a male

3) Also intelligent enough to connect the dots between "programming" and "geek" based on what she knows of geeks.

Children are often a lot sharper than we give them credit. It doesn't need to be explicit; they will pick up on subtle things like omissions, and they will connect the dots.

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Are you her father? (As opposed to mother? Can't tell from the comment). If so, does her mother not program (and maybe find it boring?) Could it be as simple as "programming is a boys thing because that's what daddy does"?

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I think that's the solution. . .helping her rise above the bias. The bias will always be there - or at least for the next few generations. At 7, I wouldn't necessarily address the biases and where they come from - just teach her to rise above them. It's a good life lesson, anyway. . .not to worry about what others think, just do what you want (as long as there is nothing unethical or illegal about it, obviously.) When she's older, you can acknowledge that the biase exists and give her more concrete examples of how to handle it going forward.

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Why immediately assume that the idea comes from environmental factors?

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Where else do ideas come from?

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Well perhaps, at the moment, she is only interested in it because it is what you do and is using the argument that it is a boy's thing to convey that to you.

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Do what cultural dissidents have been doing for decades - home school.

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I see it as a systemic problem. There isn't one root cause, but a lot of factors.

For example, the "hacker" archetype really rooted in people's minds is mostly a product of movies, TV and books. At the same time, those movies, TVs and books draw inspiration from each other, and new ones are made by people influenced by them. Its a mess of feedback loops.

In the same messy feedback-loopy kind of way, they afect how ALL software engineers are represented in media, how other characters react and interact with them, and all the conclusions people might get from them (most classic e.g.: programmer = awkward nerd, so If i'm neither awkward nor a "nerd" then I shouldn't be a programmer)

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I was saddened when LEGO started branding their toy blocks for girls (big, dumb pink blocks) and for boys (all the cool blocks and kits). The gender division is introduced to kids very young.

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Hedy Lamarr (for those not familiar, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hedy_Lamarr) stands out as a woman who excelled in the "nerdy" aspects as well as the more "feminine" aspects. And she was involved long before it was treated as more mainstream, when her environment was more adherent to social norms than the world of 2013.

How did she break the norms, and why don't we see more women following her example?

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Not everyone has a strong force of will to go against societal norms. Any recipe for the everyday person is going to be spoiled by "you just need the personality of extraordinary person X"

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There were several women, along with Hedy Lamarr, that stood out, see my comment below. You only hear about her because she was also a movie star.

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Norms don't necessarily get weaker over time. Some, like computers being for men, have gotten stronger.

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> I grew up in a household where there was no particular attention (that I can recall) given to the fact that as a young woman I could attain whatever career I wanted—it was just a given.

> I fear that when you say, for example, that “yes, girls can do anything”, it first plants the idea that there is an inequality, before it attempts to combat this idea.

From your post it looks like you had lots of encouragement from an early age (or at least no great signs of discouragement).

I believe the reason we have women in CS events is to encourage those who have been discouraged already. Women that have been told though movie stereotypes, guidance counselors, and parents that programming is a nerdy boys thing to do need to hear it from us that CS is open to everyone.

IMHO those events are a good idea.

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She was encouraged to be anything she wanted, not only a "Woman in CS".

It seems like there is more interest in "leveling the playing field" and "balancing the gender ratio" for its own sake than in helping anyone of any gender pursue the career they want.

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Well, I can't speak from a girl's perspective, but I can tell you about my great aunt, Betty Jennings Bartik, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Bartik) one of the first female "computers," and original programmers on ENIAC. She passed away a couple of years ago, but she'd be the first to tell OP to suck it up and forge her own path in the world. Aunt Betty didn't take shit from anyone and she made that clear, by her intellect and attitude. And if a smart woman in WW2 can earn the respect of male colleagues, then I'm sure the same can be said of women today. Quit waiting for the red carpet treatment because it ain't coming.

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Wanting to be treated equally is hardly asking for red carpet treatment.

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I'm sure my aunt had her own stories about chauvinism, etc. But that didn't stop her from what she wanted to do. And during her time, it was much worse for women. I'm not implying that it's good today, but if she could do it then I'm sure other women can--and I want to see them do it. My point is that she didn't care what other people thought, she forged her own path and became a success. Not so different than anyone else trying to succeed in the world, regardless of their sex.

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Arguing that one person was able to do it is a slap in the face to those that have tried and failed and did nothing differently. Like anyone's success, it is highly dependent on luck (and this luck is partially someone determining your worth). As it stands, there are still many barriers that need to be broken.

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"What if we just taught our kids about what computers can do, and worked toward a healthy appreciation for how vital computer science is to society and to a successful career, and then left them to decide on their own careers?"

I completely agree. My proposed solution (that would probably work): teach basic cs in middle schools so it becomes as normal as chemistry, biology, physics, math, social studies, and english- that way, kids wouldn't denote the subject as a particularly male or female oriented path and would simply see it as a stepping stone to another possible career. But we would need more knowledgeable teachers...and more teachers in general.

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I'm not sure your logic follows through - just because something is taught in middle school doesn't make it gender neutral. Most of the subjects you mention have similar gender issues to what is presented here, with similar discussions taking place in related communities.

The problem goes deeper than just introducing the material at an appropriate age.

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Teaching something to kids at a young age certainly does not make the whole industry gender neutral, but it allows girls and boys to learn something together, lessening the bias that they will learn when older and logically able to understand the gender inequality in any specific industry (and hopefully by the time they are actually that old, the ratio will have lessened). And yes, other industries might be facing the same issues, but the numbers are certainly not as depressing as the ones in CS and CS related fields.

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I keep returning to the time Etsy decided that they wanted female engineers (http://www.themarysue.com/etsy-female-engineers) and tried to figure out how to find them (http://firstround.com/article/How-Etsy-Grew-their-Number-of-... - good summary of their presentation points).

Interesting results; it worked. They did find that women had less industry experience, which made them riskier hires; a self-perpetuating problem, as we all know with the cliched need-experience-to-get-jobs-to-get-experience cycle.

The company was rewarded by taking the risk. The key take-aways are that they not only created an event that targetted women, but they also overcame several other barriers like women not wanting to leave already-safe workplaces (because it's more of a risk if you don't fit in as a woman than as a man) and women not asking for help as much (because if you ask for help, you're more likely to be seen as a failure/fraud) by creating a mentoring, learning environment that catered to women.

This sort of effort appears to be what's needed, even at the post-graduate level, to achieve gender parity in programming work.

I suspect that OP is one of a lucky set of gifted natural engineers who would have found her place in tech (and did) anyway. But, most people aren't natural engineers, and the deck is simply societally stacked against exploring the field as a woman if you don't have a burning innate interest already.

NB: I'm female, and I ended up in programming for mostly mercenary reasons (jerbs! My arts degree wasn't panning out); I never had any "Women in CS" events to point the way, but I did have work experience as an adult with female scientists and engineers, so it felt totally plausible that I could go into engineering myself. That exposure was key. The subfield I'm in now - web - is one of the few with a lot of female devs, and a community that actively supports us. I've heard a few coworkers express similar misgivings to OP and yet the evidence seems to be that the more we are encouraged to participate, the more we do.

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Ditto this. I've written about this every time one of these "Oh no, not women-centric events!" threads comes up, but when I was at RailsGirls PDX (aged 21+), the question came up as to if they preferred the girls-only aspect or if they thought it was exclusionary.

Many had faced discrimination in classrooms or at events and felt like they didn't belong. They were much more excited and eager to participate in something where they knew they wouldn't be judged by something as petty as their gender, and many were encouraged by male peers to be there. I went because I knew it would be friendlier, both socially and in approach, than other events I'd been to. I don't know what the total was, but not everyone that applied was even able to attend. From what I've read, this is the case across all of their events, so if the interest is continually there, how can we possibly say it doesn't work or that it's wrong?

The blog title itself is unhelpful to the debate; each woman has their own individual experiences as a girl in this industry. Using one's singular experience to downplay a movement that could become much bigger than itself is irresponsible. Unfortunately, those who believe these types of events are active segregation/unfair encouragement are feeling even more validated by this post because it was written by a woman, despite the fact that she cannot speak on behalf of an entire gender and the personal experiences therein.

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Female-only programming events and CS groups are like female-only gyms, they provide a more low-pressure environment to gain confidence and skills. It's a great place for a beginner to be turned on to a rewarding and fun activity/profession and receive mentorship from more experienced women. It's fairly natural for people that share similar characteristics and experiences to band together to form support groups.

The author is an atypical female, so she doesn't see the need for such groups. She would be a techie regardless. But I expect that the gender ratio in CS would be worse than it is if these groups did not exist.

Software is only growing in importance. I would guess that these groups do a good job at drawing highly talented people into the industry. That's important for the future of software. If these efforts at outreach are effective, then I am grateful for all the talented future coworkers that I gain from them.

As a member of the majority, it is easy to feel devalued by special events for every subgroup who is not like us. And when members of the majority speak up about it, their concerns are considered illegitimate and even evil. I think it would benefit everybody if we were all a little more open and less judgmental.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g032MPrSjFA I think this video, even though referring to the general sciences instead of CS alone demonstrates the issue as clearly as it is cringe worthy.

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Today I learned it is possible to do fan service badly.

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At my university, the drop-out rate was high enough for everyone as it was. The CS department held a few couple of social gatherings for the women there - dinners and such - and it really boosted morale amongst the people there, some of whom were thinking about dropping out.

It's also worth keeping in mind that there are universities that don't have a dorm culture, which makes it even more important to create a social support system.

Please consider what there is to gain - and feel free to weigh it against whatever there may be to lose - before discounting the idea of such a concept.

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I wonder what Grace Hopper would say about this gender issue? Oh wait, she was too busy BEING an example of female computer science excellence rather than talking about it over and over. She apparently didn't need a "women's" group or having the barrier of entry lowered for her to succeed. As a result, she has the respect of pretty much any man in computer science, including me. I'll never respect anyone who carves out gender clubs and makes special rules for themselves. It's disgusting when men do it, but just as bad when women do it.

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>> If we start young, really young, and simply presented all careers as gender/race/etc-neutral, and didn’t spend any energy defining special groups, what would happen?

What would happen is that even though you were no longer consciously creating the groups, they already exist in reality because of consciously or unconsciously sexist people. What would happen is that everything would remain the same, or get worse.

That said, I enjoyed the article. I think I would teach people to learn to stand to be different, and I would teach groups of people to be accepting of those that are different.

The problem isn't that groups are separated, it is that people don't feel safe being the only female individual in a male-dominated group, and that in many cases they are right to feel like this as they do not pass all of the in-group tests [0]. This is just human nature and it probably can't be changed - so just be what feels right for you, and try to respect other people's right to be what they want to be.

Reality is, this is probably the only possible solution: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_ingroup_identity

[0] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In-group_favoritism

edit; I realise I've just synced with your view, but a little more depth here. Things won't just fix themselves because you choose to ignore them.

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This is an excellent viewpoint. I am curious how the youngest generations of today are being introduced to computer science as technology becomes more and more ubiquitous. Clearly there are tons of "Women in CS" programs and, generally, I think they are making a good impact for those who may already feel alienated. But a lot more study needs to go into why gender ratios are really so skewed and what root causes can be properly addressed.

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Thanks for writing this article!

There's a lot here that seems to apply to equality in general, not just gender equality.

I have two daughters, bi-racial. I struggle with what I think the ideal world should look like and what our actual world needs to look like, today. For example, if there were not a historic misbelief that women are not good at math, there would be no reason to go out of our way to make women only events. But it happened, and it lingers. So I wonder -- how many women have a story about how these women-targeted events helped to open some doors? Def seems like we've swung too far sometimes, but what's the right middle ground?

At home I go for the ideal. My wife and I don't bring up race and gender. We don't attach it to things. My daughters are still under 4, so this is easy. I wouldn't want to say, "girls can do it, too" because I agree with the author -- the effect would be opposite of the intended one. But some day, there eyes will be opened to all those ignorant ideas, and the imperfect "bandaids" that we have. I mean, hell, they already get party bags that are "for girls, not the boy ones." They are already being influenced in ways they can't comprehend.

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Excelent content, horrible typography. To better read it : http://www.readability.com/apps

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My initial reaction to these types of observations about sexism/racism is to agree with the underlying sentiment of the post: give a completely blank stare and say in all seriousness "why wouldn't it be okay for a girl to be a programmer? What does that have to do with anything? Do what you love, and screw everyone else"

Then, I remember that for centuries people have been actively attempting to be dicks to other people that aren't "like them" and exclude, harass, and demean other people for no other reason than they are afraid that giving dignity to someone else somehow takes it from themselves. It's a thing, and it happens – way more than you might think. And ignoring that it ever happens will not make it go away. In fact ignoring it will only continue to empower those that have the power to abuse it.

So, as much as my gut wants to say that stuff like "women in cs" meetings are unnecessary, I know that they are very necessary. If only as a reminder to everyone else "there is still a problem, so remember: don't be a dick"

If only it were that simple of a problem to solve.

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I've been thinking that I am very much contributing to the divide as well, and was too ashamed to say it out loud. So, thanks for the post.

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I'll be more interested in hearing the opinions of women who didn't have access to a TI99/4A at age five on the need for "women in CS" programs. The questions are: Are there women who, under different circumstances when growing up, would have pursued a career in CS and would like to do so now that they're adults? How do you make it possible for these women to achieve their goals and in the process improve gender balance in the software industry?

Tech blog posts/comments and Hacker News being what they are, the opinions I've read have been from the tech-privileged - men and women. I would really like to hear from the tech-unprivileged, particularly those women that discovered computer programming too late in life to make a career of it without access to some sort of special program.

We should not pretend that all individuals are born with equal access to technology - or really equal access to anything. I also have a problem with this idea that writing computer programs is some highly technical process that only a small fraction of the world's population is capable of. Yes, it comes more naturally to some of us. But many computer programmers are programmers today because they had access to a computer programming course in high school, or they had parents or mentors or peers who encouraged them to start programming. It all starts with access - interest, focus, ambition, motivation, intellect etc are determining factors on career trajectories but these all come later, after access has been granted.

If Formula 1 teams started signing female drivers en masse, the likelihood of one of them being a Saudi would be effectively zero. I apologize, that's hardly a fair analogy, but it underscores my point that it all boils down to access. If one of those hypothetical female drivers happened to be a Saudi princess, raised in Belgium with access to Spa in the off-season and Michael Schumacher's 1994 championship-winning Benetton, and she couldn't see why other women needed special training programs, why I wouldn't know what to make of that. Again, I agree, not a fair analogy.

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One thing I found as an educator of technology in higher education was that many girls/women didn't know they would like it. During the first week of the academic year I had the unusual opportunity to teach an introduction class to a mixed group of arts and technology majors. After a couple of hours I actually converted a few young ladies to the technology course. It seemed to be about re-enforcing that the technology was there, it was cool and it would give you a secure future.

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Women are naturally going to be more attracted to software development as a career as time goes on, because everyone is realizing it's a lucrative career that's becoming more and more mainstream and even--dare I say--cool. It's one of the few career options left with high pay and low unemployment. It used to be assumed that only geeks could understand how to do it, but that isn't the case anymore. Things are changing.

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Programming/Computer Science is a boy's club. This boy's club will perpetuate itself just like other boy's clubs historically. It will be integrated just like other boy's clubs have been: by a few talented and determined women who pave the way for others to follow. I agree with the author, in that the model to follow is closer to piloting than it is to sports.

EDIT: To its credit CS is much further along than NASCAR.

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Except that it is a "club" with absolutely zero obligatory social interaction. I'm self-taught via the internet. On many remote projects, I see neither my clients nor any coworkers for months. I don't care about meet-ups or conferences. It is really hard to understand what is making it harder for women to do a job like mine. (My guess is that the education <15y/o makes all the difference, because that's when my male programmer friends started being interested in it.)

Now if you are talking about programming communities, then I guess I agree. But the bigger question is why so few women are interested in programming in the first place.

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> Except that it is a "club" with absolutely zero obligatory social interaction.

That might be a strike against it. If there's only contexts where you're a faceless entity on the other side of the Internet, or you stick out like a sore thumb when you are present in the boy's club, then I could see why some would feel it daunting to get involved.

> It is really hard to understand what is making it harder for women to do a job like mine. (My guess is that the education <15y/o makes all the difference, because that's when my male programmer friends started being interested in it.)

I've met three different women who started programming in grade school, but who didn't become programmers because they didn't want to.

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"U a gurl on ze interwebs? I call le fake". Maybe it's that kind of attitude. I find it intresting that "No girls on the internet" originally meant "No gender bias on the internet", but the meaning was perverted. But statements like that (I sometimes make them myself in jest, but you never know how the opposite side will interpret it),they just add to the exclusion of girls in programming.

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That attitude/meme exists because a large portion of people who go out of their way to appear female on the internet are actually male.

5 years ago it was an extremely easy way to get free stuff in games.

If you're representing yourself as a girl online, people will assume you're doing that specifically to get preferential treatment - of course stereotypes like that aren't universally true, but enough people do that to reflect negatively on anyone else.

edit: this is mostly about gamers.

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But then gaming is one of the main ways kids get hooked on computers, and then decide they might want to try out Computer Science. I remember how I was playing Anno 1602 on my Windows 95 machine when I was 8, and how that sooner or later influenced me to start programming.

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My sense is that most of the time people say those things ironically, as well as certain harsher catchphrases. But new people to the "internet culture", or those with less self-confidence, are likely to take it more personally than it's intended.

It's a shame that such "silly" things can push people out of good industries, but there you have it. It's not the first or the tenth time someone says something like that, but if a girl gets a "no girls allowed" vibe all the time (implicit or explicit), it takes a will of iron to really resist that kind of environment.

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This boy's club will perpetuate itself just like other boy's clubs historically.

I'm not sure that's true, or - if it is true - that it's relevant. For one, because programming was very female centric in the past. There was already a time when most programmers were women, and we've heard very little - if any - argument presented to support the idea that women were systematically weeded out of the CS world. There also doesn't seem to be a lot of support for the idea that there are all these women out there, desperately jonesing to break into this world, but being denied the opportunity, thanks to the "old boys club" putting up a wall.

OBC's are certainly problematic, and there may be an element of that at work here, but I suspect that the reason women are under-represented in this world is something different. If I had to guess (which is all I can really do), I'd guess that it's more about cultural stereotyping, peer pressure, etc., than anything.

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> I'm not sure that's true, or - if it is true - that it's relevant. For one, because programming was very female centric in the past.

I'm not sure that's relevant. It wouldn't be the first time a bunch of women were in a field, then that field got taken over by men. Society was very different in the 50's and 60's.

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This line of thinking is well documented. It is referred to as stereotype threat. There have been some excellent studies done with the most profound being around the female math stereotype and the GRE.

http://www.reducingstereotypethreat.org/definition.html

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There are no girls in computer science, just like there are no boys in computer science.

There are however, women in computer science.

This is part of the problem, women are not children, girls are and society sadly enforces this.

Think of how strange a title would be if someone talked about "being a boy in computer science".

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Bad boy. Playboy. Home boy. "Give em hell boys"

I agree that using girl in place of woman is more common though.

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@PLT_Zizek the platitude that male sexism is keeping women from entering CS only reinforces the notion that the field belongs to men by default

https://twitter.com/PLT_Zizek/status/212662401525481472

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So what's a good solution? Sounds like a snappy idea with no meat.

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It's a parody Twitter account.

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Humor, not parody.

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No, it's pretty clearly a parody of Slavoj Zizek with a PLT focus.

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Of course PLT_Zizek is a joke account, but: "default" isn't the right word. CS of course doesn't belong to men by default, but it does de-facto "belong" to men as things stand now.

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Zizek is a humorous commentator, not a joke account. You may disagree with him, but he isn't writing sarcastically.

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My mistake; I only skimmed and judged too quickly.

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Maybe someone mentioned this but what if the reason more women don't go into CS/programming is more to do with discrimination from other women and not men? Perhaps women feel they won't be considered 'womanly' as defined by females?

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This was a very refreshing change to read from the normal articles which all concentrate on "how to get more women into CS". I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that all these events and questions are just so backwards.

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This question is important but apparently quite challenging. For an answer, we can pick from three -- yes, no, and maybe. After too much contact with that question, I fervently urge nearly everyone for now to settle on the third answer, maybe.

Why? Apparently what we are dealing with is not simple. And, I can assure you with no doubt at all, if we try solutions that are wrong, then we can do some harm. We should keep in mind the rule, "First, do no harm.".

Why not simple? Boys and girls, men and women, via nature and/or nurture "deserve equal respect as persons but are not the same" (E. Fromm, 'The Art of Loving'). My experience is that he was correct and made if anything an understatement. I fervently urge nearly everyone to keep in front of their mind the point "not the same" and add to that that we don't know nearly enough to be clear on the differences or even if they are due to nature, nurture, socialization, discrimination, stereotypes, ingrained traditions, or what. We just do not know.

For a short, interim answer, may I suggest that we work hard to ensure the same opportunities but not to count on the same outcomes.

Did I mention, boys and girls, men and women, are different and we don't how different or the causes. We just don't know. Moreover, finding the causes and being clear on the differences takes us into fields of social science. Gotta tell you, those fields are super tough places to do solid science. There's no Newton's second law, Newton's law of gravity, conservation of energy, Maxwell's equations, E = mc^2, quantum mechanics, standard model, etc. There's nothing like engineering, etc. Some bright people have worked hard in social science, and we are still waiting for Newton like results.

Did I mention, "First do no harm"? Maybe I should also mention, "It's not nice to try to fool Mother Nature.".

Now, don't let any young girls read this because it might cause them to give up trying to be a small version of Daddy and send them back to trying to be a small version of Mommy and sugar and spice and everything nice good at eliciting protective emotions from Daddy with fantastic verbal and social skills, with unbelievable ability to perceive and manipulate the emotions of others.

I will flip this over: How many of you male nerds believe it was just socialization or tradition that kept you from being as good as the little goody goody girls in the fourth grade at spelling, languages, clerical accuracy in arithmetic, neatness in your handwriting, playground gymnastics, reading comprehension, especially of fiction, drawing and painting, rote memorization, social skills in groups, understanding what the teacher wanted and pleasing the teacher, etc.?

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I’ll just jump the shark. I feel sick and irritated today, so I won’t pretend political correctness.

Fuck this feminist, sexist shit.

First, I am the most orderly developer you could ever meet. My desk is absolutely clean. Everything has a well defined technical purpose there. Whenever I leave, those purposes cease to exist so I eagerly remove or put away those objects. I could walk in any day, pick up my desktop and get seated anywhere else.

“computer games, science-fiction memorabilia and junk food”?! Fuck that, who cares about that shit anyway? I might have a clean mug, but I ain’t never have no fucking plant. How could I be the nit-picking detail-obsessing code freak I am if I was careless with my physical environment in the functional domain? (I don’t give a shit about aesthetics, most of the time.) Some of my colleagues' desks seem to be covered with pig shit, and I don’t cease chiding them for it.

I treat my female coworkers with respect, I politely discuss technical stuff with them if they feel like. I do make sexist jokes if I was able to get to know them sufficiently before, like any healthy male. They mostly laugh and if they don’t, I apologize and tune it down. They don’t refrain from spicy topics, we even discuss that kind. My wife’s male coworkers behave the same way and I have no problem with that. American overdriven political correctness shall get the fuck off my lawn.

“Missing out on best career opportunities?” Well, concentrate on the fucking task at hand, not irrelevant details. Suppose I’d like to work in a fuckin' bakery but hate that the clothes are white (which doesn’t mean in the least that they are clean). So who will start a crusade for me? If the circumstances of your otherwise coveted dream-job are accidental, try to change them. If they are intrinsic, live with them or leave.

I was never hostile towards women in IT. Women consider sexist jokes repugnant in conference presentations? Well, I don’t go to no fucking conference, because I hate to travel, I hate to spend money, I hate the crowd. Networking is a lie if you don’t work with your peers on actual projects for longer times. Presentations are slow, linear, non-searchable. Give me a fucking transcript, post it to reddit, and I’m happy. Can’t recommend anything else to women either.

In my college class we had this beautiful girl with huge boobs. She was smarter than any guy in the whole class. Did we envy her? Did we hate her? Hell no. We respected her and we constantly tried to bring her in discussions for her insights. Did we talk about her body among ourselves? Hell yes, we’re no monks!

The fact is, most girls cannot not care about stuff that’s irrelevant in computer science / software engineering, and also lack the necessary attention to detail. They are simply not interested in it. Guess what, they have no place here, just like I could never be a historian or translator or lawyer or doctor, because I hate meeting new people. I’m not “enforcing” this or some shit like that, I simply accept that most girls are like this for whatever reason and I’m not trying to force them into IT. I’d rather be happy if some guys left software development. (Yeah, yeah, I’m conflating IT with compsci / sweng, who cares now.)

I practically don’t shave, but I’m clean. I never ever stink. I’m not attractive to women I guess, but I don’t give a flying fuck. I’ve got a beautiful, intelligent, loving wife; I don’t need to pretend. I wear sandals with socks because shoes are much too warm in the summer, and without socks I sweat like a pig. Don’t like it? Have a good laugh; I don’t care. I put on (clean) clothing items that are on the top of the respective stacks in my wardrobe. Are you a female who’d like to work as a software developer but you feel you cannot work with me because of my inconsistent clothing? Be a fucking fashion model, then. I never treat, I never even feel an urge to treat female colleagues negatively because they aren’t slender, young, or clothe “gray”.

There is no problem with girls in IT. They’re mostly not here because they don’t want to. Pick any female-dominated non-sex-worker job. Yay, who is protecting the poor shunned males? American media is blowing this shit out of proportion again. (Or if the surveys are right, then american girls are out of their minds, which might be true anyways, with requiring an expensive as hell diamond ring for wedding, or so I read. WHAT THE FUCK?!)

The whole issue is being overcompensated now. On some technical forum I’ve seen somebody ask for advice on whatever. Another user replied with a link to women.debian.org. What the fuck? Do we have “men.debian.org”? If you’re no different wrt. technical matters, then you need no different website. If you need different treatment, then don’t be surprised if you’re treated differently.

I’m tired of this shit.

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Defensive much? You might want to actually read the article before you write a post.

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It's not about you.

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I agree with everything she had to say.

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This is the standard argument against affirmative action as well. Of course affirmative action is more about addressing pay inequality and discriminatory hiring practices, while the focus of this post is more around changing cultural attitudes toward certain activities. Is it possible to separate the two? That is, to have laws in place which will address the historical wrongs while simultaneously building a culture of inclusion?

And of course, the argument for continuing to do this inclusive workshop bullshit (you can tell I'm sympathetic to the author's point), is that while the gender bias persists active effort must be taken against it. So, how do you know when you're done? And, how do you measure your progress? No one answers these questions.

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Affirmative action carries the connotation of something happening at the expense of someone else (positive discrimination in a zero-sum system), so I think it does a disservice to the side in favour of women-only events to use that analogy.

The article makes it sound like there's some terrible cost to doing these events, and I just these factors are exaggerated and the positive aspects ignored entirely.

Everything has trade-offs, and to discount women-only events without mentioning any of the advantages makes it sound more like an excuse to avoid events than an argument.

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I agree with the author about the questionable nature of women-focused events.

Here's why:

Do girl-only schools produce more scientists, mathematicians, or programmers? That's the vital bit of research people need to know. Some research suggests that they boost test scores in those subjects, but do they change career outcomes?

It doesn't look like it:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single-sex_education#Effects_of...

The effects of all-girls schooling only seems to improve schooling-related effects, e.g. "More homework completed" and "More enjoyment of school."

And then there is the very problem of stereotype threat:

https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&client=safari&rl...

Far be it from me to tell people not to get together in whatever clique-y group they like, but what gets me is that women and men assume that because I have breasts, I agree with their viewpoints.

Like the OP, I never really connected with girls when I was young and I was anti-girly stuff. This, I got over. I learned that it's just as idiotic to (de)value somebody for hating makeup as it is to (de)value somebody for loving it. I have friends of all kinds now and respect that everybody is different.

But my worldviews are not shared by most women (or vice versa). And the most sexist things that have happened to me have been originated by other women who assumed I was like them. I have been cited for other people's agendas (which I disagree with), had my opinions devalued, I've been called sexist, I have been attacked, I have been told my experiences and viewpoint are "wrong," etc. etc.

This doesn't do anything worse to me than annoy me, but I've seen it really hurt women and men who "give more fucks" than I do.

I understand that people are (mostly) trying to do good things with the women-only and women-focused stuff. But they are creating stereotypes of their own, sexism of a different flavor. Any kind of division based on demographics is going to create antagonism.

This is human nature. It can't be helped. But if they can't bear to discuss it, and admit it, they are no better than the men they claim are sexist.

And I know some troglodytes are going to take this as an attack (it's not), or a reason to ignore women (it's not), but blah blah blah it's not for them and it's not as if they need more ammunition because they invent their own reality anyway.

This post is for you reasonable people who are organizing or thinking about organizing women-focused events. Question whether the research supports your beliefs. Spot the bias in yourselves and be respectful.

PS — if I have a daughter, I will tell her "YOU can do anything… if you are willing to be smart, and work your tail off when other people slack." And if I have a son, I will tell him "YOU can do anything… if you are willing to be smart, and work your tail off when other people slack." Because why would you use a label based on an accident of birth -- "boys" can, "girls" can -- instead of the most personal word in anyone's life -- you? How weird is it to teach kids to identify with their label, how weird is it that importance advice isn't aimed at them directly but instead at 51% of the world population?

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IMHO Women are doing great in CS. They are not doing great in 20 hs/day crazy devops/IT work that nowadays passes for CS, that only men from 20-30 can endure. Edit: Right, women also can physically endure the developer death march, it's just they don't want to. And I don't blame them.

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s/can/want to/;

When it comes to "going to war" for some cause, men are very programmable, especially when we're young.

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   1. What's the CS gender ratio? Assuming it's bad...
   2. Is it bad because anyone is actively discouraging girls?
   3. Is it bad because girls just tend not to like it?
This post assumes #1, undermines those who claim #2 (anecdotally), and reenforces #3.

And I find this very, very easy to believe.

Computer science is an unusually unforgiving discipline, and it takes an odd combination of arrogance and masochism to get through it. The arrogance is a craving for the kind of exceptionalism that any wannabe astronaut (the author and myself included, of course) understands quite well. By being a girl in CS the OP got a double-dose of exceptionalism: she was mastering something hard, and she was unique. (That other girl in CS class...grrr!)

Anyway, the punchline is that we should be aware of #2 and keep a lid on that, but recognize at least the possibility that we're fighting nature here, and that #3 may have a grain of truth. We are all arrogant masochists together, no matter our race, creed, or gender!

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"Computer science is an unusually unforgiving discipline, and it takes an odd combination of arrogance and masochism to get through it."

That's just a gigantic load of horseshit, and the inference that women don't go into CS because it's hard is insulting to women.

There are more women in physics than in CS. Is that a more forgiving discipline? How about biochemistry, or cell biology? Both are getting near parity, even at the graduate level. And hey, let's not worry about medicine, or law...both of which are insanely "masochistic", but attract females in droves. (Two seconds of googling tells me that medicine is basically 50/50, and law is close to it, with some schools having more women than men).

Women are just as desirous and capable as men when it comes to pursuing "unforgiving" careers. And there's no way that CS is more demanding or masochistic than, say, medicine (get back to me when every CS grad has to pull 48-hour residency shifts, and is entrusted with responsibilities that can kill people).

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Physics solutions can be get partial credit, according to the proclivities of the grader. So yes, it's more forgiving (and I say this as a person with a BS in physics.) I would argue that even medicine is more forgiving, since a) most mistakes do not result in immediate death, and b) malpractice insurance. Get back to me when CS gets malpractice insurance!

You also missed entirely the self-deprecating irony. I don't blame you though because, assuming your a programmer, you've taken on the too-literal qualities of that infernal machine you spend all day trying to please. I'm sorry.

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How often do software engineers get sued for bugs in their code?

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> The arrogance is a craving for the kind of exceptionalism that any wannabe astronaut (the author and myself included, of course) understands quite well.

I think those attitudes are now harmful at least as often as they are helpful. Even better than the type of person stuck in one mode or the other would be someone who can switch depending on the situation.

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