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I knew exactly how she felt (trishkhoo.com)
521 points by joshguthrie on Apr 26, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 285 comments



I will offer an experience which is the inverse of this!

I am a male software engineer who works in fashion (and before this I worked in wine.) I knew nothing about wine when I started, and my fashion sense is prototypically, well, male-software-centric.

People in the wine industry are palpably aware that people view it as "hoity-toity". Professionals I've worked with are usually very gracious in explaining what it means when you say a wine is "dark" or "buttery" because that pretentious image is something we want to overcome.

Fashion is a bit different. "I like that chambray shirt!" What? "Erm, that's, uh, that denim material you're wearing." Oh.

Or "I saw someone next door with an Hermes bag; it was gorgeous." Everyone had quite a laugh when I asked who Hermes was. Or expressed surprise that the Vogue Spring edition is the one where they show off new styles, which is why it's so thick and has so few ads. Or the difference between hair paste and hair gel.

I feel like there is a bigger lesson in this story: I've got to stop making people feel silly for not getting my Star Wars references, and they've got to understand that there's no logical reason I'd know anything about the big names in fashion. I occasionally meet people who get this - you know your domain and I know mine, and we can still talk to each other without othering.

And that skill - of being able to get along with your PM even though they "clearly don't know anything about code" - is one worth developing.


> I occasionally meet people who get this - you know your domain and I know mine, and we can still talk to each other without othering.

This is so true. Many people are all too quick to show off their knowledge at someone else's expense, when instead it could be so much more: an opportunity to share something that will be completely new to that person; to share a passion and give someone a new perspective or idea or experience or whatever and give that person an insight into your domain. That's a wonderful thing and a privilege, and to waste it by instead using the opportunity to "one-up" someone else ("you've never heard of x?! [how stupid can you be?!]") is such a shame.

Relevant xkcd: http://xkcd.com/1053/


Reminds me of Mike Rowe's Dirty Jobs. It's not a show about "getting dirty", really--it's a show about being willing to learn from people who we don't traditionally think of as having much to teach.


This. I used to attribute it to douchiness, and sometimes it can be. Some people seem to feel the need to flaunt some kind of (mostly imaginary) superiority over others. That said, the curse of knowledge is also a good explanation. Some people just assume it is common knowledge because for them and others they talk with it is, so when they encounter someone that doesn't know it, it is easy to think "they must be an idiot". I have heard countless people express this exact sentiment (privately) when so and so doesn't know X, which is odd, since the set of all things one is not an expert in / knowledgeable about generally contains many different Xs.


It's laziness. Instead of recognizing that everyone got where they are now by a different path where they learned different things and appreciating the diversity of knowledge that creates, it's so much easier to say, you should have known that.


It's laziness, and it's also lack of empathy.


Nevertheless, it's natural. People expect short inferential distances[1]. In plain speak, we tend to intuitively assume that a piece of knowledge is either common knowledge, or easily explainable from common knowledge.

Like: "there's a tiger behind the bushes!". Not everyone knows that, since the tiger is difficult to spot. Everyone however knows what a tiger looks like, and what danger or source of food it represents. So, anyone who doesn't understand that sentence is an idiot.

Conversely, if someone who tells you that stars are Balls of Gas Burning Billions Miles away[2] is plain crazy… unless it's your which doctor, of course. That one knows ways you don't.

Except that the last two paragraphs are now bullshit. A few centuries ago (very recently, by evolutionary standards), our world became more complicated, and our instincts haven't quite caught up yet.

Laziness? Lack of empathy? Yeah, sure. But the effort required to expect the inferential distances we actually have to deal with is very real. Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if that last paragraph fell short for anyone who isn't familiar with the LessWrong Sequences[3]. Sorry.

[1]: http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Inferential_distance

[2]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZDk1cbKp7s

[3]: http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Sequences


It's not really either of these things. The curse of expertise in a field is you live and breathe stuff so deeply for so long that you forget what it's like to not be an expert in your field. You forget what non-experts, or bystanders, don't know, because it's hard to remember a time when you didn't know these things.

Computer people are notorious for having trouble explaining technical issues to computer-illiterates for this exact reason. It's not that their unempathetic - they are trying to explain so that the conversant understands, after all - but rather, they've been experts for so long, they forget which technical terms the conversant should or shouldn't know, or what does and doesn't need to be turned into an analogy. Overcoming this is a difficult skill.


Was it Einstein who said: "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"?

In any case, I agree that it's hard to explain computer stuff to non-computer people. That does not mean one can then be arrogant toward others.


I have observed that it is far easier to naturally empathise with one who has many similarities to you rather than empathise with another who is radically different from you.

The latter actually requires conscious effort.


As you note, it's not easy. Nevertheless I believe it is effort well spent.


I used to have that problem about half the time, and the other half of the time, the opposite-- where I'd assume they knew nothing about my field, and elide details they were actually interested in. So now I tend to ask lots of probing questions when explaining things, which seems to annoy people who just want me to get to the point! Surely there is another middle ground; the one I'm trying seems to not work.


> I feel like there is a bigger lesson in this story: I've got to stop making people feel silly for not getting my Star Wars references, and they've got to understand that there's no logical reason I'd know anything about the big names in fashion. I occasionally meet people who get this - you know your domain and I know mine, and we can still talk to each other without othering.

> And that skill - of being able to get along with your PM even though they "clearly don't know anything about code" - is one worth developing.

For anyone reading this looking into a career in software development, this is incredibly important. You might speak in code, but the people who you write code for will speak in their business. Odds are they're not going to look at your functioning code, but you're always going to need to understand their business if you want to both help it now and prepare for the future.


Absolutely this! I believe lacking the ability to communicate clearly and easily with "non-tech folk" is a significant barrier to many people trying to advance in their careers. Although this is more applicable to some paths than others, it's still an important skill.


An anecdote this brings to mind: I use to work with a lovely lady who managed the running of a large number of training courses. Whenever we were discussing software needs she was always apologising for not knowing or always understanding some of the things we were talking about.

It took me a few weeks of this to notice the pattern, but one day I just said, "You know what? I couldn't do you're job if my life depended on it. Please don't apologise for not knowing every little arcane thing about software development, it's a whole other skill set and expertise. That's why you hired me. I couldn't do what you do either."

She was so chuffed that I don't think her feed touched the ground for several days, and things proceeded apace with a lot less anxiety on her part.


I don't know, I also sometimes work as a programmer with fashion people and I just made some time to learn all the references. These days I work as a sort of fashion person for a chip manufacturer. I can hold a conversation about Haskell and I wear designer clothes to the office.

Do both. When you're being Othered, ask questions, listen, and adapt.


I think his point is that you should avoid mocking people who don't happen to know about your sub-culture.


What I like is when I tell people what I do and they realize it has a direct impact on the economic recovery of the United States, and then suddenly they feel silly for making fun of me for not using decorators in python. At that moment, they realize that their sub-culture, while enjoyable in itself, is not 42.

I liken it to this (perhaps badly translated, perhaps misappropriated) Chinese saying: "If your philosophy does not wash rice, I'm not interested."

In 2003, ESR wrote of this in "The Art of UNIX Programming" (which I have on my desk): http://catb.org/esr/writings/unix-koans/end-user.html


Maybe I missed this somewhere else in the thread but ... what do you do? I feel like I can't quite grok your comment without that context.


I write software automation for the team at a very large bank that processes repurchase requests for mortgage loans issued prior to 2008, aka toxic assets. Our work allows for clarity and resolution of the aftermath of the mortgage crisis. This has a direct impact in the ability of lenders to establish more accurate risk models and re-enter the mortgage lending business. This allows more funds to be available to mortgage-seekers, which theoretically lowers lending rates, allowing more people to refinance and purchase homes, which, arguably, is a major factor in the current economic recovery in the United States.

Does that help?


"allowing more people to refinance and purchase homes" is a big part of what got us into this mess.


That's an oversimplistic evaluation of the situation. We didn't get into the financial crisis simply because people bought homes, we got into it because banks found clever ways to issue mortgages to unqualified borrowers and pass the risk off on someone else.


They didn't find "clever ways to issue mortgages to unqualified borrowers". Simply put the US government guaranteed all the mortgages via Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac by law. The law passed by Congress in 1990s to increase number of homeowners among minorities was to guarantee all the bad loans by the Government. So from a banker perspective it didn't matter if a borrower will repay. Because if he doesn't than the tax payer will by the law. So, ultimately, it's government fault. And democracy fallacy that voters vote for idiotisms like this and then complain that "banks are greedy".


What he's referring to often is not quite mocking. "What, you don't know about ____?" It's more of a slight lack of empathy. I guess what I mean is get over yourself. When I'm in such situations, I get a little embarrassed, research whatever it was when I get home (or even right there with my phone), and try not to make the same mistake again. After a couple of months of exposure, you can be convincingly fluent in any sub-culture.

I'll agree though, people could always be more empathetic.


That's a good insight, and Star Wars is a good parallel. Not knowing a Hermes bag is probably akin to not knowing who George Lucas is. You're aware there are big name designer handbags out there, but never cared about the details. They're entry level bits of geekery, just in different fields.


George Lucas is a household name, you would have to be pretty cut off from pop culture to not know who he is. I don't think that's quite an equal comparison to a brand of personal accessories.


Hermes is also a household name, believe it or not.


it's not quite a good analogy. Hermes bag is related to fashion. Starwars in unrelated to computer science.


What you say logically makes sense, but I still don't believe it.


> because that pretentious image is something we want to overcome

If this is true, you're very subtle about it.


Hah.

Realize that wine is made, literally, by farm boys who spend the year picking and crushing grapes from the field. When you visit a winery you realize how far-removed the winemaking process, which is as down-and-dirty as any other farm work, is from its cultural air.

This is my experience with many wine professionals - people who procure, ship, or teach about wine for a living. There is a valid criticism of sommolier culture (which is only one facet of the industry) of propagating pretentiousness. But perhaps you need that air when selling a $300 bottle of wine, but you want to market yourself as "just a beverage" when selling a $10 bottle.

This reinforces my original point! There's more to $topic than your perception of it. There is more to fashion than "pretty people who are arrogant." There is more to IT than "Star Wars references." There is more to wine than "pretentious people with their cellars."


I found wine-types much easier to deal with once I learnt that there's a bunch of chemicals which cause tastes in wine, and there's a list of recognized names that people use to describe those tastes.

Still, I would strongly prefer any tasting sessions and reporting to be done double blind. With only a sub-editor knowing the name of the wine and putting that in at the last minute.


Wine-types are always much easier to deal with after your second glass.


The right approach to someone who says they have a particularly delicious bottle of wine is always "let's talk about it after I've had a couple glasses".


I think there may be some overexposure issues in some parts of wine as well: if you work in a popular place like the Napa Valley, it's easy to slip into the equivalent of the jaded tech-support worker who assumes everyone they talk to is going to be a total idiot, and isn't going to be very subtle about that assumption.

One way to avoid that is to go to places that aren't over-exposed. I did a short driving tour of Texas wineries a few years ago, and it was quite low-key and pleasant. People were pretty friendly and wanted to explain things. Some people were actual wine makers in the literal agricultural sense, but even those who weren't—mostly semi-retired people who decided to run a winery in their late-middle-age as kind of upper-middle-class dilettantes—were pretty friendly.


> I feel like there is a bigger lesson in this story: I've got to stop making people feel silly for not getting my Star Wars references, and they've got to understand that there's no logical reason I'd know anything about the big names in fashion

Not convinced by this: you work in the fashion industry. Sure, not knowing that in 2003 rustic/peasant chic was big (again!) would be acceptable, but not knowing the big names? Surely a certain amount of domain knowledge ought to be expected from you?


Okay, but I've met people who don't know anything that I don't apart from private gossip (and I'm not what you would call very intelligent) so I guess part of what she was trying to say is that people sometimes feel that they can't share anything with anyone around them because they're just not interested in anything meaningful or interesting. (all of that sounded pretentious and wrong)


I'm interested in working for a fashion company in tech, do you happen to work for one of the really great ones like Warby Parker? Any tips?


Hahaha, I am the lead engineer at a Brooklyn startup called Classic Specs. We do vintage-inspired eyewear, but our real business is that we work with other fashion brands who want to get into eyewear and design the frames, build their website, etc. We just launched eyewear for our first brand a few weeks ago, and we have several more in the pipeline for the rest of this year!

Send me a note if you are interesting in writing Python!


Please consider pivoting into time travel.

Then can I tell my past self to buy three spare Big Bodhi frames (from LA Eyeworks), which are now discontinued. I can't even get spare/repair parts any more.

More seriously, I wish there was a better way to find glasses that work. I've got a big head with a big nose. Very few options. And the manufacturer dimensions (specs) aren't helpful. The bridge size should be pad to pad, not frame to frame.

My one great hope is to have a 3D head scanner coupled with custom built glasses, just for me.


YHBT HAND

See you at Grey Bar.


http://pict.com/

These guys have recently pivoted into something a bit less fashion-specific but are still oriented on that industry. Drop me a line if you're interested, email is in my profile


The problem isn't PM's know jack about code. The problem is the set where a PM would even be required. That means there's a structural flaw in your process.

The idea of having a project manager is ridiculous. People _should_ manage themselves and take ownership of the project. Making the PM useless.


That's probably why, when building a skyscraper, modern construction practices dictate that all the subcontractors just "do their own thing" and sort out with each other when it's OK to put in walls, pipes, wiring and structural alterations.

The N^2 communication overhead is OK, because PMs are just useless overhead anyway.

I heard sometimes building projects fail because the PM only understood what was supposed to be happening and who was responsible for what, as opposed to having advanced plumbing, HVAC, electrical and structural engineering knowledge.

</sarcasm> (I don't usually resort to it... promise...)


That would be great if software were exactly analogous to building skyscrapers, and developers were idiot construction workers who do nothing but put the sheetrock and nails where they are asked.

(Note: I am not saying that construction workers are idiots, I am saying that programmers are not idiot-construction-workers.)

There is not just one way to organize a project.


Construction workers and programmers are both tradesmen, for most values of the word. I know you added a disclaimer already but I figured I'd just emphasize the point.


PM is a team function, that of (in a nutshell) managing and tracking resources and tasks. It's also a field of study, and optionally a job title.

At the level of abstraction of PM, software is exactly analogous to building skyscrapers, building a rocket, producing a theatre production or capping deepwater horizon.

You are right that there is not just one way to organise a project. However, if the project is being organised at all, at least one person is doing project management.

It's just that the acting PM(s) may not be formally trained it in, or have "PM" as their job title. That's fine.


Code is the sheetrock and nails of software business.


Programming is a lot closer to drafting a design for a building than actually constructing it, which is more akin to compiling.


Works great on small projects, does not scale to very large projects. There is a non-zero amount of communication, scheduling and cross-team coordination that needs to happen. If you want developers to do it, that is fine, it just means less development time. If you have never met a good PM it is easy (but intellectually lazy) to write off the discipline. Once you have worked with a good PM you realize by off-loading that drudgery (well, drudgery from a dev perspective) everyone wins.


Agreed. However, I think a lot of the PM hating arises due to PMs who think that just because work flows through them to the customer, it's ok for them to take credit for it. I've dealt with inefficient PMs, and I can live with such people, but PMs who use their job as an expression of their inner narcissism are a different story. I think the latter motivates people to take up torches and pitchforks more than the former.


Speaking as a technical lead with a decade and a half of experience shipping web products solo and with small teams never exceeding 10 people, I can assure you that there very much is a place for a product manager in a great many products. In fact we just hired a product manager and it's a huge weight off my shoulders. Requiring all developers to be responsible for strategic thinking at all times is at odds with low-level focus needed to ship great software. A good PM is someone developers can trust to have the high level picture in mind at all times so the devs can focus on the necessary details.


I believe he's referring to project managers, not product managers. The latter certainly have a crucial role in understanding how the product fits into the market, and undertaking the kind of strategic thinking you're talking about. The role of the former, however, is usually to manage work scheduling and intra-team coordination, which, the OP is arguing, is something that programmers can generally handle on their own.


There's a place for PMs. If you're willing to step into shoes other than your own, start by reading PeopleWare [1]. And then dig into the origins of self-managing Scrum and have a read through Takeuchi and Nonaka's paper[2].

When you're done, I'd love to hear your thoughts on PMs, and why we're still making the same mistakes we made, and wrote books about, 30 years ago.

[1] http://www.amazon.com/dp/0932633439/

[2] http://hbr.org/product/new-new-product-development-game/an/8...


Perhaps he's referring to a product manager - who if he's doing his job right is the guy with the deep domain expertise who spends his time talking to customers instead of dealing with project-management administrivia.

I do know lots of developers who don't think there should be product managers either - but in my experience they either have incompetent product managers or are working on a developer-centric product where they themselves have the domain expertise they need.


That might work if the "project" is full spec'ed and defined as if it were the output of a Waterfall design process. I can't imagine that most projects are actually like that, though.

Having a good PM ensures that when ambiguities arise, they can be solved in a single way to allow those doing the coding to continue on unaffected.

Having 10 different people "take ownership" of a single project is itself a recipe for a different type of disaster.


How the project outputs will be produced (the supplier in PM lingo) is only one aspect of the project. Projects typically have an associated business interest, and users who will use the products produced by the product.

Certain resource roles (e.g. business analysts, UX specialists) can provide advice on the impact of decisions on the business case and the users, while others provide technical input, but project decisions typically cut across more than one of supplier / business / user interests, and it is in the interests of the business to ensure that someone can integrate the requirements of all three.

Having a project manager (or equivalent role such as an agile 'Scrum Master') is not incompatible with employees taking ownership of the project - decisions that only affect the supplier, or fall within ranges that the business / user is happy with can be taken by the suppliers. Often, the PM's role is to facilitate agreement between the different stakeholders.

It is possible for the PM role to be shared amongst the suppliers, but it is not usually a good idea for a big project, because being a PM is a specialist area in its own right hat developers have to learn separately from their specialist technical skills, and spreading the role across too many people can mean that context switch inefficiencies mean the PM role doesn't get carried out.


I used to have this attitude and then I realized that the vast majority of people cannot manage themselves.

If you have a small startup you can probably only hire people who can manage themselves. But as soon as you want to grow big, that becomes very very difficult.

Unless you're Valve, who apparently has been able to do it =)


I see plenty of insightful comments here but no one acknowledging the conclusion.

>It’s funny because the evening started out with a lady giving a speech about how the IT industry is alienating women. But for some girls, it feels like women are alienating the girls who want to be in IT.

How many of these articles/talks put the impetus on changing women alienating women from tech? How likely are you to see some twitter post about girls like this acting "not cool" even though it's a widespread problem? Feminist discourse is usually 1 dimensional. More often than not it's only interested in black and white narratives where women are victims and men are perpetrators. In the few cases where other women are shown as the problem they are framed as victims of patriarchal socialization not responsible for their behavior.


Absolutely - women sometimes internalize and participate in misogynistic and cruel behavior, and it can be hard to talk about.

I've seen this happen with the "fake geek girl" phenomenon - some women who feel that they are legitimate parts of the community participate in this kind of destructive policing because they've bought into the cultural misogyny and are often rewarded and have their status reinforced in their community.

On a much more damaging level, this happens with slut-shaming and sexual policing. One of the major factors in the recent suicides of teen rape victims was the rejection and shaming by their female peers.


Do you realize how ridiculous that sounds? When women bully other women, it's because they're agents of the patriarchy?


'patriarchy' doesn't mean 'an active conspiracy of men; they meet on Tuesdays, bagels will be provided', it means something more along the lines of 'social structures designed/evolved to keep men on top'. Anyone can contribute to the structures, usually unwittingly.


And that's bollocks, because social structures - including all the "Kinder, Küche, Kirche" stuff - evolved to keep the selfish gene on top.

They had the same sort of social structures in the middle ages, but if you were one of Queen Brunhilde's knights, how exactly were you on top? You were utterly expendable, Brunhilde was on top.


It doesn't sound ridiculous to me; perhaps you have a different conception about what the word patriarchy means in this context?


I'm honestly not sure what seems ridiculous to you. In these instances, the female bullies are acting out misogynistic discourses. Can you clarify what your sticking point is?


And what do you call it when boys bully each other to enforce arbitrary social norms? Because I don't see a substantial difference between the two cases.


If you accept that our society suppresses women, it's pretty obvious what the difference is. One type of behavior directly reinforces the status quo, the other doesn't.[1]

And if you want to talk about societal problems, that's pretty bloody important! Yeah, both types of bullying feel just as shitty to the individual, but the broader ramifications are definitely different. Nothing is isolated.

If you disagree with the fundamental premise (society is sexist) that's a whole other issue, but you should be at least able to see why others see a distinction.

1. Keeping in mind that you seem to want to compare arbitrary bullying to the more specific type persimmons references.


It still doesn't follow from the premise that "society suppresses women to the benefit of men" that "any time an individual woman is suppressed, it is to the benefit of men". How do men even benefit from social taboos enforced my women against other women being geeky, or for that matter, slutty? That's probably the opposite of what would benefit men.

Society is more complicated than that. There are more forces swirling around than patriarchy. Any insular group will eventually enforce arbitrary social norms on each other, and since people tend to socialize with those of the same sex, both genders form insular groups in our society.


There is no difference. Both are patriarchal discourses if that's the lense you choose to use.


No, they are not "acting out misogynistic discourses", they are being horrible people. And let's be clear that it is no fault at all of men.

By the way, "sexual policing" comes from sexual competition and evolutionary psychology, which comes from thinking with your ovaries instead of your brain. In much the same way idiot men's one-upmanship comes from thinking with the testicles.


The fact that people act out larger, structural systems of misogyny doesn't exonerate them. A person still has agency, and to say that they are acting out something that is part of a larger discourse doesn't mean that they are helpless puppets. Another thing to realize when talking about misogyny and structural injustice is that it isn't blaming any given individual - that's what makes it structural. It isn't a cabal of evil men with a maniacal plan forcing women down or a statement that all men are bad and oppressive, it's a deeply rooted system of oppression that lots of people propagate, knowingly or not, through stereotypes, legal injustice, inactivity, social policing, et cetera.

And I think you are too quick to write off people's actions as evolutionarily programmed - it's a somewhat ironic response, given your first complaint. Whether or not there is a biological instinct to compete sexually, the expression of that instinct is a product of social norms. Arguments for evolutionary psychology have a troublesome and pretty untenable tendency to ascribe a complex, culturally-specific, and socially enforced behavior to some magical mystery determinism gene. It's kind of a pet peeve of mine.


Does it always bother you when people give uselessly reductive, empirically unsubstantiated pat explanations for incredibly complicated social behaviors, or only when they conflict with your own?


>Absolutely - women sometimes internalize and participate in misogynistic and cruel behavior, and it can be hard to talk about.

I think that's an understatement to say it only sometimes happens. From what I gather it's a part of almost every woman's life. Based on anecdotal data, while men are often a source of unintentional systematic sexism women are the more likely source of intentional malicious misogyny.


Feminist discourse is usually 1 dimensional.

No, it's not. It really, really isn't. You only notice the stuff that mentions female-victim/male-perp because you don't really care enough about the issue to notice anything further. There is heaps of feminist discourse on women judging women and limiting their options by doing so, the topic of this article. And there are plenty of complex narratives rather than black and white reasoning.


A) Those edge cases you speak of are not part of the dominant discourse. When woman on woman sexism is approached in the dominant discourse it's in the form of...

>In the few cases where other women are shown as the problem they are framed as victims of patriarchal socialization not responsible for their behavior.

B) You're making some big assumptions about my awareness of sociology.


A) Dominant discourse as in the occasional Jezebel article you see shared on FB or actual gender and sexuality studies? What is your experience with the latter?

B) You're not giving much to address those assumptions.


A1) I meant both independently though you can't really separate the two. Academic feminism is just as involved in creating a public discourse as they are an academic one.

B) Why would I? The question was obviously a red herring just like the "mouth frothing" ad-hom.

My competence in the matter is sufficient. I switched my major from sociology to CS with a focus on machine learning/data. I've dated several feminists and have been tangentially involved at various points in my life. Not that any of this matters. It's a completely irrelevant question.


B) Why would I?

Because at the time this comment was made, the 'mouth-frothing' ad-hom hadn't yet been made, which is a bit of revisionism on your part. You also speak of 'the question obviously being a red herring'... but there was no such question posed - you were the one that brought up the significance of your background. How can a non-existent thing be an obvious red herring?


A) 'Edge cases'? 'Few cases'? Ha.

B) I like how you elect to stay mysterious on this point. Since you didn't bother to actually clear anything up and explain where you're coming from, you sound just like yet another pride-wounded MRA mouth-frother.


Why would I waste my time proving myself to someone so rude and bigoted?

If you're as familiar with gender studies as you say you are and these "complex narratives" are as ubiquitous as you claim you should easily be able to show us several counter examples. You can't because you've obviously never seen this literature.


I have done exactly the same thing you have - I thought that was obvious in the way I phrased it. Just declare "it's this" and moved on. You've provided nothing of substance in the way of rebuttal at all, just a defensive "you don't know about me", and even now, you continue to avoid supporting your statements.

And 'show us several examples'? Really? So I get to go and do more work, only for you to hand-wave them away with "yeah, but those are just edge-cases". How does one prove anything is not an 'edge case' with a couple of examples?

As for rudeness and bigotry, it's pretty much what I thought you were being by just dismissing my statement as 'edge cases' when they're not. 'Feminism is 1-dimensional' is as bigoted as anything I've said. And despite you being pride-wounded at how I assumed your background (which you still haven't fronted up with), you say I've 'never seen this literature', assuming my background. And now, interestingly, not even allowing for the existence of your 'edge cases', because that literature now 'doesn't exist'.


A very good comment that succinctly describes why so many of us unfairly dismiss feminism.


Because you don't bother engaging with anything other than strawmen?

Any time you think something is 1-dimensional, chances are good you are only seeing a few small pieces of the world. Often those pieces are the ones that people in the mainstream find easiest to mock. Ignorance isn't a problem, but making assumptions based on ignorance is.


>women are [..] framed as victims of patriarchal socialization not responsible for their behavior

What conclusion did you read into the OP that framed the judgmental girls as themselves responsible for the culture that they were brought up in? Saying that they play a role in perpetuating the culture isn't the same as saying that they are responsible for it.


This should be the top-voted comment. Well said!


i agree. the article is building up to the conclusion, not some stupid off-hand reference to star wars. Sometimes HN fills up with too many me-too comments.


How is "Those girls don't have interests like mine!" alienating anyone?


I'm not sure the author quite understood the seeing Star Wars thing was a super low bar fitness test. Once long ago my new wife asked me why geeks always wear tshirts with obscure references that no one gets. I was slightly put out by the question until I figured it out. They're a uniform. It's how we id the friendlies on the battlefield.


I think the _author_ understood that, which is why she was so surprised to get the question. The high school student may not have, but that was kind of the point: even this low, low bar was still too high for her female friends.


I actually didn't understand the question when that came up. I kinda got the wrong impression of the young girls demeanor.



Thanks for the light bulb. I honestly thought Randall Munroe made that term up in http://xkcd.com/806/

Edit: just realized it was cleverly modified to include "leet". And edit 2: which I then realized is a shibboleth inside a shibboleth.


While it does produce leet, the "th" sound doesn't exist in the original hebrew, so it's kind of appropriate.


Irony: how do you pronounce that? IPA isn't exactly readable.


1) It's pronounced like a native English speaker would guess. SHIH buh leth.

2) IPA is tough, but in Wikipedia's case, if you mouse-over each IPA symbol, it'll give you a "/ʃ/ 'sh' in 'shy'" and so on.




Right, but it's unintuitive and takes a while to decrypt. Browser extension idea: hover over IPA to see only the relevant glyph pronunciations.


Hovering over it does reveal English approximations in the wikipedia article. Did you try? I'm running FF19 and the only addon is NoScript.


Well I'll be damned!! Wikipedia just keeps getting better :)


Several years ago I was linked to a thesis (Master's I think) discussing this exact topic. That they're a silent signal to others who might have similar interests to you. Especially obscure ones which look 'normal' to people who don't know the reference. I seem to remember that it was a little more in-depth than that but I can't find it now.


I am guilty of this (using the term "guilty" because, as we're discussing in this thread, this can really turn people off of being in our field.)

My HN name is "memset", and if you've ever written C, you are quite familiar with this function. So if this comes up in conversation with other tech people, and they don't "get it", it tells me something about them. "Hm, we don't have the same background."

It remains to be seen how useful this is as a way to decide what kinds of people I feel I could learn from or want to work with in the future.


My great mentor taught me that every time someone might have a blank face at what you say, look at it as an opportunity for learning. Most people love it when you get excited and say "yeah, memset is this awesome way of getting data ready to copy on a computer. You know when you watch a movie on Youtube it preloads while you watch? Memset is helping make sure your computer is prepared so you can watch it without annoying buffering". People start thinking it's pretty cool as they can relate to it.


I see your point, yet I have a really hard time associating something like memset() with "awesome". I think if anyone would actually respond "wow, cool!" to a story like that, the message to me is that this person finds everything (s)he doesn't understand cool.


Memset isn't aweseome. It's what you do with that's cool. Explain what you do, not that you use Python or Go or C#. People want to hear a narrative, a story. What gets you really interested in your work? Why do you do it? Tell that.


They're saying "Wow, cool!" to be nice. In their head, they're thinking "gawd what a dweeb"


I think this article can also help http://io9.com/5928739/the-secrets-of-geek-mating-rituals geeks really value smarts in both sexes. So we always try to outsmart all and are delighted when we don't succeed. I have had a few relationships break down just because my gf would never understand that I will argue for everything just for the sake of flexing my brain.


On the flipside, I've had relationships that break because both sides try to argue everything. A certain amount of testing and probing is good, but continually it creates a really hostile environment that (for me at least) is just too psychological tiring to try and live in.


> I have had a few relationships break down just because my gf would never understand that I will argue for everything just for the sake of flexing my brain.

...or perhaps because you just wouldn't stop arguing. Making a relationship work requires adaption from both partners.


> I figured it out. They're a uniform.

I think it's just a way of showing off. Case in point:

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/12532552/what-part-of-mil...

The guy has no idea what the notation means by still wants to wear the t-shirt.


You're both right. It's social signaling:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Signalling_theory

Your Star Wars or Hindley-Milner t-shirt tells people who see it that you're a particular kind of person. This encourages people who are like you to approach you, because it signals that you're safe -- you're "one of us." Likewise, it discourages those who are unlike you from doing the same, sparing you from having conversations with people you find boring.

If you work in a community where high intelligence is seen as socially valuable -- i.e., where a way the high-status individuals distinguish themselves from the rest is by highlighting their intelligence -- like tech, it's not surprising that you'd want clothing that would signal that you are a high-intelligence person, even if you aren't one. It's an attempt to get your foot in the door of social groups that would otherwise be closed to you, by camouflaging yourself as "one of us."


Let's say you started a company and named it after a technical concept from computer science (for example a higher order function that computes the fixed point of other functions in lambda calculus) would that be an example of this signalling?


I read the post and got the opposite. He saw the shirt and wanted to know the meaning. He even knew the context in which it should have that meaning. I'd say he's earning the right to wear the shirt with pride right there.


> The guy has no idea what the notation means by still wants to wear the t-shirt.

I'd read that SO post again, you seem to have misunderstood.


I saw a t-shirt once at a hacker conference that said 'I can read your email'. This was back 10 years ago now and I thought it was the best thing ever. Sadly they had run out of girls sizes and I never owned one, but I always wanted people to be just a bit afraid of me - not that I would read their email but that I could. Now I guess it was a good thing because people just might have been afraid of me, or thought I was bragging. But c'mon, email was pretty easy to hack into back then..

Oh and yeah. I wanted the t-shirt so other hackers would know I was part of their group. Because I was a girl I felt it wasn't obvious.


Thanks for this. I was sick the day they taught this notation in my PL class and I need to learn it before my final exam next week!!! :)


> They're a uniform. It's how we id the friendlies on the battlefield

I'm not sure about that. I think people tend to wear things they feel good about. Sport jerseys, political shirts, or funny t-shirts just make us feel good. Some people feel better when were the in-crowd things, some are our for themselves.

// this is my favorite http://www.openbsd.org/tshirts.html#30 the 4.4 t-shirt


> > They're a uniform. It's how we id the friendlies on the battlefield > I'm not sure about that. I think people tend to wear things they feel good about.

Both of these things can be true. There are deep-seated reasons that people seek to project their identity through personal appearance and other techniques... :)


I've not seen Star Wars. Well, I tried to but fell asleep 10 minutes in. Oddly, I'm not feeling like an odd one out here, even so :-)


I refused to watch Star Wars as a kid, because people kept telling me that if I was a nerd I had to watch it. I considered it a protest against their definition of "nerd".

I did finally watch the original trilogy after I was married. It's OK I guess...


I've decided to protest against protesting against definitions, on the grounds that they're words and protesting against them will redefine them to something that someone else will protest against, ad infinitum, and I don't want to die from a stack overflow ;)


I wasn't quite that clever when I was in elementary school.


Better luck next time! (Just try to remember having this conversation . . .)


Watching it as an adult was always going to be a recipe for failure, I think you really need to have grown up with swapping Star Wars cards, playing with the figures, etc.


Star Wars is not especially a "good" per se (BSG > Star Wars...heh). But to (a lot of) us, it's always fun to watch and became akin to a beacon of sorts and somehow this beacon is shared by (some) techies, (some) Trekkies, (some) browncoats, (some) Tolkien readers,... to the point where it's hard to take it seriously sometimes =)


Star Wars is really, really stupid. Also boring. People have an obsession with it because it hit them at the age when they were too young to realize how it's about as intellectually challenging as My Little Ponies in Space. They saw LASERS! and SPACE SHIPS! and EVIL PEOPLE! as 9-year-olds and it embedded in their minds as "cooler than cool." The same way that some adults have a huge nostalgia-on for He-Man or Gem and the Holograms. Or Dirty Dancing. Or JTT. Bleah!


Not really, really stupid.

Not quite as brilliant as the hype suggests after all this time, sure, but at the time all that stuff about the force and, yes, LASERS! and SPACE SHIPS! was pretty spectacular in its own right. But most of what keeps Star Wars going, I think (apart from, obviously, merchandising merchandising merchandising) is that thin vapor of pop-philosophy and Ralph McQuarrie's visual legacy. It looked like nothing anyone had ever seen.


You're absolutely right.

Read this: http://www.reddit.com/r/todayilearned/comments/1bp44q/til_ge....

Basically, Lucas did the funding on his second movie, which encouraged him to use clever marketing strategies (since the profit was all for him).

So he came up with this idea of selling his boring movie to nerds (even though it's entirely unrelated) and it worked! He simply spotted an under-exploited demographic, an age-old business strategy. He's comparable to Steve Jobs, who found the hipster design demographic, for fabulous marketing genius.


Three wordsL

L Ron Hubbard

As for Steve Jobs, people have always loved beautiful and desirable objects. As long as there have been objects to love. And designers were hipsters way before Jobs' return.


> "about as intellectually challenging as My Little Ponies in Space"

The modern incarnation of My Little Ponies is substantially more intellectually challenging than you might expect.


Haha! (Thanks for the real-life laugh :) I admit - I have only seen the late 80s/early 90s versions of MLP (when I was a little girl). Which were about as intellectual as Care Bears. Care Bears hasn't gotten more intellectual in a reissue, has it?


Star Wars is not really, really stupid - that end of the spectrum belongs to James Bond.


James Bond films are James Bond films, as long as you accept that fact they're great. They're only stupid if you try to impose reality on them.


One word: Ewoks.

Not defending Bond movies. I agree, they're pretty damn stupid. (Although at least the earlier ones were done with a sense of fun. I like stupid fun.) But... ewoks.


I've been a fan of Star Wars since practically the beginning but... I can't defend the Ewoks. That was just dumb.


This isn't limited to just geeky t-shirts with obscure references. Clothing is one of the easiest ways for a person to indirectly advertise their interests. This helps lower the 'awkward approach' barrier for strangers that might like to strike up a conversation. Instant conversation starter.

Even living in the PNW, I still get plenty of waves and cries of "Go Pack!" whenever I wear a hat or shirt supporting the Packers. I wear the memorabilia for myself, but the social benefits don't go unnoticed.


it's the movie equivalent of atoi()


It is the same reason why we insert random programming references into comments :P


Don't mind him rubyrescue, he's just trying to string you along. Oi.


I'm going to annoyingly meta on this one because I'm feeling really philosophical today.

There is a constant dissonance in the western world between assumptions about "ideal" or "moral" statistical probability distributions and actual statistical probability distributions over a large sample size when it comes to any politically sensitive topics like the one implied in the article (i.e women having an interest in science and technology).

This happens over and over again. There are thousands of articles a year on this kind of thing and millions of human years spent mulling why the ideal curve doesn't match the actual curve. It's the perfect topic for non-productive rambling because it's always dissonant and it never goes anywhere.

The dear reader probably already knows this, but to the idealist, the ideal always equals the actual in a just world and evidence of a mismatch is evidence of injustice. Those who accept or tolerate the actual not matching the ideal are presumed to support injustice.

These arguments are endlessly repeated. Nevertheless, seemingly endless repetition is a very effective means of political discourse. I realized this most profoundly when studying religious texts. Points that are intended to be remembered are mentioned over and over again to the point of mind-numbing boredom. Repetition is good for remembering and people only believe what they can remember. Thus the most effective strategy of any activist is to repeat their message over and over again and have the adherents do the same and approve the same and ostracise those who criticize and those who don't care, thus spreading the idea through the society via social psychological principles and the pure intellectual brute force of repetition.


What we are experiencing is a particular flavor of secular religion called "cultural Marxism". Marxists believe that social forces are best understood through a model of class conflict.

Economic Marxists explained the ills of society through the conflict between rich capitalists and the poor working proletariat. The rise of the middle class threw it a curve ball that it couldn't explain and it fell out of favor (outside of the Soviet union and American academia).

Cultural Marxism uses the same conflict between dominant class and under class to explain social pathologies in the under class. Thus, we all hear about statistics where under classes are not meeting the same performance as the upper class, with the implication that it is the upper class's fault. This is called "oppression".

So we know that women make less than men, but we don't hear much about how men are falling behind in college degrees and high-school education because this does not fit the Marxist narrative.

Furthermore, when there is an underrepresentation of an underclass in some desirable area, we take that to be de facto evidence of oppression (nobody cares that there are no female garbage collectors or miners). We all except the collective guilt for the sins of our class and nobody questions whether or not the Marxist narrative might just be fundamentally flawed.

Modern academic feminism and racial theories are based on Marxist models, which causes them to make many errors of reasoning IMO. There is also a lot of data that they can not explain. For example, racial Marxists have no problem explaining why some minority races do worse in school than white children (oppression!). But I've yet to hear an explanation from a Marxist as to how other minority groups (Asians) do way better than white children.


This is where I was a few years ago. You've found the enemy and it's Marxism.

However, Marxism is just an abstraction that is related to the underlying epistemological disease of the modern era which is that we use statistics to prove our assumptions regardless of an actual identified mechanism of the phenomenon. We discard the search for the theory because it's hard and we've become accustomed to believing hand-wavy explanations for fields or social phenomenon we are not experts in. Arguably, nobody is an expert here though because there is lots of murky data about these particular topics that is widely dispersed and subject to heavy confirmation bias by researchers.

Instead of looking for the "why" we cargo cult and focus on the other side. IMHO, it's better to understand the "why" whether it's the why of the "ideal curve activist" or the meta-why of the observer of the "ideal curve activist" or the meta-meta-why of me observing your understanding of the issue. However, figuring out the "why" and seeing through statistical "facts" is the only way to really improve our understanding.

In the natural sciences this is easy. We have the scientific method. In the social sciences there is endless opportunity for subtle errors or coming to conclusions that are incorrect occasionally due to error but usually due to sometimes carefully constructed but almost always omission filled perceptions of reality.


I actually think an honest reading of statistics undermines the Marxist worldview, as with the examples I mentioned.


I actually think social science is one area which got it right by, in most cases, recognizing it own imperfections. Some people tend to take things for truth when it's rely more of a concept or a foundation for discussion. The only person who seem to be sure is the one studying just enough to make up their mind.

Where I really see a problem is where social sciences interact with natural science and acts as a natural science in the eye of the beholder, which happens in macro economics and even sometimes in things like programming methodology.


Feminism split off from Marxism in the 2nd wave of the 60's/70's when it was decided that class based oppression is a derivative product of patriarchy. Gender took the center stage to class, race, and other forms of marginalization.

The discourse of modern day feminism is best characterized by writers like Michel Foucault. Where discourse is viewed as a postmodern power play. Where the logical validity of the discourse is secondary to the function it serves in power relations.


> Feminism split off from Marxism in the 2nd wave of the 60's/70's when it was decided that class based oppression is a derivative product of patriarchy. Gender took the center stage to class, race, and other forms of marginalization.

No, it didn't. Feminism predates Marxism ; certainly, some strands of feminism were informed by Marxism in some way, and certainly there is a school of Feminist criticism that largely follows the same dialectic model as Marxist criticism (with the same understanding of the label but replaces the central struggle of the classes with one of the sexes), which split off from Marxist criticism as you describe, and which suffers from the same problem as Marxist criticism in that it is essentially takes the preeminence of a certain struggle as revealed unquestioned truth and reinterprets the world in light of that revelation.



I'm not sure what the point of that was. It doesn't contradict my point that feminism predates Marxism and was never subsumed by it (and, as such, could never "break off" from it), or that the description of "feminism breaking off from Marxism" with the so-called "second wave" and taking the analytical approach described in the post my earlier post responded to was more accurately a description of a particular school of Feminist criticism that was influenced by Marxist criticism.


> nobody cares that there are no female garbage collectors or miners

Just like nobody cares that there are very-few/no male prostitutes or strippers.

The underclass you speak of is split along gender lines too - unfortunately.


>nobody cares that there are very-few/no male prostitutes

Prostitution is very common in the gay and especially trans-gendered community. It may just take a different flavour of prostitution and a different sense of power balance.


Prostitution and stripping can be very lucrative professions.


So can mining.


"Cultural Marxism" is an ahistorical term and suggesting deracinated American nerds whining about "sexism in tech" are in any way successors to the likes of Stalin is absurd. Marxists viewed this kind of thing as an effort by bourgeoisie money-driven "democracies" to neutralize and discredit revolutionary consciousness. Marxist-Leninism, as it actually existed, was masculine, authoritarian, implicitly violent, autocratic, militaristic, and overwhelmingly white. They considered people who act like American liberals to be mentally ill or criminals.

The American Left are Jacobin libertines - they owe nothing in their program to Marxism.


The point is that Marxism "as it actually existed" isn't what this term is referring to. It's referring to Marxist theory, applied to dialectical struggles beyond just the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.

And Marxist theory is definitely not "masculine" or "authoritarian". Marx was always critical of the family and stressed the fact that marriage was a form of exploitation, famously comparing it to prostitution. This is why many Marxists have called for the abolition of the family, and why Marxist-Feminism exists -- it's just an extension of dialectical materialism with primacy placed on gender relations.


The idea of a normal vs ideal probability distribution makes me think about coin flips following the normal curve. The coins flip distribution over a large sample size will form a normal curve. The "ideal curve activist" will attempt to attract evidence for and possibly find ways to undermine the conspiracy of injustice that flipped the coins after they landed to some non-random pattern making the coin flip distribution appear to correspond to the actual curve.

How are these coins flipped back becomes the topic of interest for the serious activist. Many leads are followed, the evidence and the picture is always murky so suspicions turn to those who deny or ignore the injustice of the actual distribution curve. An odd thing then happens. Denigrating and dis-empowering those who dispute or ignore the ideal curve becomes the mechanism of activism due to the activist's exhaustion of and the murkiness of the task of looking for the assumed malicious coin re-flippers. The coin re-flippers may exist but they may also possess impunity or obscurity such that the activists fail to act against them but it's usually much easier for the activists to direct their energy against assumed shills or fellow conspirators who's proof of membership is their disbelief or disinterest in the ideal curve.


This article wasn't "there isn't a 50% gender split in IT, therefore something is wrong!", which is what you're alluding to, it was "this person was shamed away from their interests by their peers". The article doesn't talk about distributions at all.


Keep in mind that the audience often changes with each repetition.


I said that’s what happens when we hold events for women in IT when there aren’t that many women in this industry – we tend to broaden the definition of women in IT.

I can't really speak to this point, but I am curious, when did computer science and software engineering get rolled into IT?

15 years ago, I would not have said software developers, software engineers, or test engineers were part of IT. IT was that department that kept the corporate computers working and worked for the CFO, not part of the department that shipped products and worked for the VP Engineering.

In the past 5 years, it's become much more inclusive (or so it seems to me.)


Outside of Silicon Valley anything that has to do with a computer has always been called IT.


I always tell people I'm a developer; and IT is "did ye try tairnin' it off and back on again?"


This is entirely wrong. I've always thought one of the peculiarities about the UK is that they refer to all things computer as "IT" while the rest of the english-speaking world differentiates.

I don't work in IT and I never will, it's a different job with a different skill set. I'm not tech support, a dba, or 'the network guy'. I'm a software engineer and I work in R&D.


I'm not sure it is - in the same way the battle for the word >hacker< has been lost, I know that in New Zealand >IT< is a catch all that means someone does computer stuff.


In the UK too. While I'm mainly a developer, most of the jobs I've worked have also involved being a defacto IT person.

Thing is , I work with unix 99% of the time so when it comes to fixing driver problems in Windows 7 or whatever I'm just as clueless as the next man most of the time.


Well, outside "Silicon Valley" - i.e. the software industry itself - most programmers really do work in IT . The code they write is usually for use in internal operations, and not itself a product they ship to customers.


I'm pretty far outside of silicon valley, and that hasn't been true here at all. IT has always meant help desk, sysadmins, network admins, etc. Developers could be in IT if they were developing internal tools for IT. But software development in the "make software to sell" was always separate. It has only been recently that people have started to call everything relating to computers IT.


> 15 years ago, I would not have said software developers, software engineers, or test engineers were part of IT. IT was that department that kept the corporate computers working and worked for the CFO, not part of the department that shipped products and worked for the VP Engineering.

When I worked for an enterprise software company close to 15 years ago, there was clear recognition of both IT-as-internal-organization and IT-as-industry, and both people who worked in IT-as-internal-organization and people who worked in the development and support of products in firms in IT-as-industry were widely recognized as working "in IT". AFAICT, that is exactly the same situation as now.

(This shouldn't be surprising, since IT-as-industry is effectively just the outsourced version of IT-as-internal-organization.)


> (This shouldn't be surprising, since IT-as-industry is effectively just the outsourced version of IT-as-internal-organization.)

You're right. I've never thought of writing the software for a self-driving car as the outsourced version of configuring Active Directory for IE7, but when you put it that way it seems so obvious!


> > (This shouldn't be surprising, since IT-as-industry is effectively just the outsourced version of IT-as-internal-organization.)

> You're right. I've never thought of writing the software for a self-driving car as the outsourced version of configuring Active Directory for IE7, but when you put it that way it seems so obvious!

"Configuring Active Directory for IE7" is only (in some organizations) what is left for the internal IT organization to handle because they've outsourced the rest (like "implementing operating systems, web browsers, etc.") to other firms in the IT industry, whether via purchasing COTS products to meet common requirements or by having custom development done by contractors to fill less-common requirements.


Yes, pushing bits around here to suit an external set of requirements is totally different to pushing bits around there to suit an external set of requirement. As different a skill as laying tile in the shower recess of a new house or inspecting a sheep for signs of a disease.


IT is the industry. Software companies are in the IT industry. However, the actual "IT Guy" sysadmin/tech-support job is a role within the IT industry. I work in IT, but IT is not my role personally, I'm a developer.


Outside of Companies who's core competency is related to technology 'IT' means everything that is computer related. Actually its even further, I cant 100% pin it down, but the feeling is its like, if you dont have a CTO or Chief Science Officer or something of that ilk, everyone who reports up to your CIO is considered IT. Try that on, its the closest to what I have seen in my career.


It probably varies depending on the industry. I first heard the term in 1985, and it referred to the computer programmers as well (or software engineers, if you prefer, but nobody I knew back then used such a pretentious-sounding title). I'm sure the term is older than that.


Well, in practice (at least some time ago) the vast majority of programmers/software engineers/whatever work on code that "keeps the corporate computers working" instead of "shipped products".

The ratio used to be that in the industry only 10-20% of code was written in organizations that ship software as the product or inside of a product; maybe now it's a bit different - but it can't be estimated by intuition, simply because in everyday life we see only the external part of the iceberg.


I'm one of the rare programmer-who's-not-IT guy.

My job title is 'software engineer', in the sense that I'm an engineer, whose primary duty is to write software for machines. I'm technically under a different department from IT, which manages infrastructure. It gets confusing sometimes.


I'm under the impression that this is a British/US thing. I've always associated use of IT to include software in general with British authors.


I understand the author as a fellow woman in I.T. (programmer). I never fit in with the gossipy fashionista crowd either. I was a total geek in the library. I don't wear the geeky t-shirts though. I like to wear pencil skirts and kick my high heels off under my desk. Only downside, like noonespecial mentioned, is that nobody just assumes I'm a programmer since I lack the "uniform". Anyways, that girl she spoke to in the article seems very smart and ambitious. I wish her the best of luck in her future career :) Be who you want to be


I read this about 2 hours ago and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. Growing up in a Latino/Black community and being of mixed heritage, it was never socially easy. My parents divorced, so I'd spend half the year with my dad - who was Jamaican - in Patterson, NJ, and I'd spend the other half with my mom - who was Italian - up in Canada.

I always found it interesting how I felt more comfortable in white-as-the-clouds Ontario, than in Patterson, where there weren't just more black people, but a lot more mixed race people. I didn't quite like Star Wars or Dr Who, but I did read a lot of Tolkien, and science, tech, philosophy, or anything, really, wasn't just something I learned in school so I could do homework; they were actual things that I engaged with - not that school was any less boring for me; believe me, it was. It wasn't enough to read Catcher in the Rye, I had to find out about Salinger, the times he lived in. I liked to talk about things. What was mostly just school stuff to people were things I actually liked to think about or talk about or even do. This never really fit very well into Hip-Hop and girls, and "looking cool" Patterson - though I did rock this sweet leather jacket once, but I drew some blanks when I channeled my inner James Dean. Brampton, OTOH, was interesting. It wasn't that people were any more like I was, or that people automatically liked me any better - though there was a weird fascination with my hair - but the fact that I liked the things I liked wasn't something I had to hide. It wasn't that they understood everything I said, or that they were even all that interested, but very rarely did anyone ever alienate me for dropping a Hume quote, no one ever told me to "shove that nerd shit up my ass" when I mentioned the possibility of planting a radio in someone's skull; no one ever tried to make me socially handicapped for being interested in any intellectual development.

Reading this, I felt like this girl had just touched my mind. If only I could touch hers. The feelings of isolation when people who are physically like you aren't just behaviorally unlike you, but very actively alienating to you. The feeling of shame when the teacher calls you to give the answer and you don't know what to do - give the right answer, contribute to the stigma; give the wrong answer and have others spitefully mock you for "not being as smart as you think". The absolute feeling of insecurity when innocently mentioning you don't know something, a privilege available to everyone else, is met with mocking comments about how they thought you knew everything. If only I could meet this girl and let her know that it gets better in the end. Hopefully she finds her own Brampton, ON - somewhere she can be herself with other people without the feeling of being an artificial limb, rather than a part of a fully functioning body.


I have quite a few female friends who have mostly male friends (just because of being interested in a particular technical field). And, to be honest, I have never got idea why someone _needs_ to have friends mostly of the same gender.

Once someone has interest beyond cliche "gossip, fashion, diet & nail painting" or "football, cars, sports, binge drinking", well, then why to lock contacts inside only one's own gender? And if it turns out that most of people interested in X are of the opposite gender, is it wrong? (Unless it is them who make a barrier.)

Especially as when there is a heated discussion between two people interested in (say) the respiratory system of Drosophila melanogaster (a fruit fly, not to intimidate anyone), then the simplest social characteristics (i.e. gender and, to some extent, age) very often go away.

And, in fact, what I like _the most_ about people being passionate about their interests, is that very, very often it goes beyond social status (sometimes even if one is talking with a professor, who is 50 older than a teenage geek).


Sorry, but you're arguing against no one. No one said she needed to make friends with girls because she's a girl. She clearly _wants_ to become friends with them. And it's unfortunate that she clearly wants to be friends with some people of her own gender, and yet has such a hard time of it because she's alienating the other girls and they're alienating her.


It wasn't an argument, it was a side comment, supporting her approach (similar to one of many of my friends) and to some extent mocking the (culturally implicit) premise that one should align with one's own gender[1], see in e.g. "[...] and how none of the other girls in her class understood anything she was talking about".

Would ever a tall person said "but none of tall people at my high-school can understand my jokes"?

[1] And to some extent supporting also:

"It’s funny because the evening started out with a lady giving a speech about how the IT industry is alienating women. But for some girls, it feels like women are alienating the girls who want to be in IT."


I fundamentally disagree with the idea that consuming cultural artifacts that happen to correlate with liking engineering has anything to do with liking engineering. If you think liking Star Wars is necessary for being an engineer, you're probably missing some pretty good people who just aren't that into Star Wars.


Perhaps you should find this high-school age person and inform them that the coping mechanisms they have found on their own are not suitable for the world at large. This isn't the CEO of a tech company outlining the hiring process we're talking about, it's a lonely teenager trying to find like-minded people.


Sure, you will miss people, and you will miss good people. But since there is (according to you) some correlation, it might act as a heuristic, employed when it is simply not feasible to implement better tests.


But what if it's a better heuristic for finding young men than engineers?


I would argue it is also a very good heuristic for finding Star Wars fans. Your point being?


My point being that if 80% of programmers are young men, and knowledge of Star Wars jokes (or whatever) can find young men at an 80% accuracy from a general list, but good programmers at only a 64% accuracy from a list of programmers, you should just cut out the rationalization and just hire based on sex and race. You haven't discovered a heuristic for hiring good programmers, you've discovered a heuristic for confirming your own preconceptions, and for reenforcing stereotypes.


Take false positives into account – you will find more young men who are not engineers than Star Wars fans who are not engineers (for suitable values of engineers and personal experience). Since such false positives are extremely annoying[0] when looking for interesting people in a party, you want to minimise them first, not the false negatives.

[0] A false positive takes you n minutes to discover and abandon, whereas a false negative ideally doesn’t concern you at all, assuming there are enough interesting people.


There seems to be a correlation between geek culture and liking engineering, but I'm not convinced there's correlation with being any good at it. I'd say there's negative correlation if any.


>She then talked to me about robotics and physics and programming and how none of the other girls in her class understood anything she was talking about. They thought she wanted to build the next Terminator or hack into Government systems, when she just wanted to build self-driving cars. All the other girls would talk about fashion labels and gossip and she would be bored out of her mind, wondering why nobody else watched Doctor Who. None of them understood the joke on her Darth Vader t-shirt. One of them listened to her podcast and asked her what “Marvel” was. One of them told her to stop making them feel stupid all the time.

She sounds very cool.

And it goes to show that "sexism is the barrier" is not the whole story.

Those girls in the school never had any encounters with such sexism in the tech workplace, but they still didn't like the thing even as a hobby.

Which reminds me of my university years (computer science). Those days (early to mid-nineties) we didn't even have internet at home or any outlet to know how a "tech workplace" even is. We expected to work in some bank, some big company IT department or teach CS ourselves. How that work environment would be, we had absolutely no idea.

Still, it was mostly men that preferred CompSci, whereas biology was mostly women. Math and applied math also had more women.

(In actual university CS nobody cared if you were a woman or a man. And we had the outmost respect for geek girls that were in the whole thing. There was just no sexism of the kind people complain about in the US. If you could do it, you could do it. And high school kids enrolling to the university had no idea either -- they were the typical high school kids, having typical high school relations).

That said, it was mostly boys who cared and nagged their parents to get them computer systems and game consoles. Girls, being more socially mature earlier, had a larger social life and could not care less about spending hours every day in front of a screen.

It's like girls give up the "dolls" phase much earlier, for a more serious and balanced social life, whereas boys extend the "toy guns/race cars" thing into puberty and early adulthood even, substituting their toys for FPS shooters, fantasy novels, superhero comics and RPGs. Which builds some ties to computers early on...


And it goes to show that "sexism is the barrier" is not the whole story

This is true but possibly not in the way that you think. I'm not sure that girls are choosing that different way of life quite so much as they're conditioned to do so, and this is discriminatory. I think it's possible to explain the phenomenon described in the OP via "intersectionality" - in other words, there are multiple forms of discrimination and they overlap in ways that sometimes confuse us and deflect us from the true course of treating people equally. About the best intro I've seen to it is here: http://miriamdobson.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/intersectionali...

In this case, both geeks and women suffer from discrimination in different contexts. Being a geek and a woman is doubly difficult because mainstream society (both men and women) say "you're a woman, you shouldn't be a geek".

This ends up producing some pretty weird conclusions like this: http://thesituationist.wordpress.com/2010/02/01/the-nerdy-ge... - which argues that women can only be encouraged into computer science if we make it less geeky, which basically discriminates against those who got into computer science because it's geeky and that's what they like. A properly intersectional understanding would argue for maximum freedom for both women and geeks and, especially, female geeks who suffer from multiple discrimination.


>In this case, both geeks and women suffer from discrimination in different contexts. Being a geek and a woman is doubly difficult because mainstream society (both men and women) say "you're a woman, you shouldn't be a geek".

Sure, but why should society like everything? In this case, geeks.

Now, I'm a geek myself. But I still find it OK that society can like some things (and professions) more than it does others.

Especially since part of the geek essence is being "antisocial" it makes ever more sense of the general population to not like geeks. So much sense, that it's actually more like a tautology ("anti-social people are not liked by society").

Not to mention that geeks themselves do the same distinctions all the time. Who would waste a second's thought to think a McJob guy or a city cleaner as somehow "inferior"? Or even people like "office drones" with their Excels and such?


why is it that being fans of a popular sport and wear you team s jersey is cool, while being fans of more niche interests like geeky movies or tech isn't, to such a degree that kid who like it gets teased? there is some thing inherent in being more intellectual that provoke those who aren't.


>why is it that being fans of a popular sport and wear you team s jersey is cool, while being fans of more niche interests like geeky movies or tech isn't, to such a degree that kid who like it gets teased?

Because one is "popular" (your words) and the other is "more niche" (also your words).

So if the many want to tease the few (which is how teasing goes anyway), it would be the people doing popular things to people doing more niche things.

>there is some thing inherent in being more intellectual that provoke those who aren't.

Yes, that's it's a niche endeavor. Nothing anti-intellectual only about it.

People would equally tease the sole guy who collects stamps or the sole girl who still listens to Milli Vanilli.


Lifelong geek here, and I can totally understand the appeal of this story. Reading some of the comments is kinda depressing though. There's no "us" and there's no "them". There are groups of people in the world with similar clusters of interests, and I guess that one of those clusters corresponds to traditionally geeky interests. But sometimes it seems like people internalize the whole us and them thing way too much. I guess it makes social navigation easier but it gets in the way of really understanding people (and yourself) if taken too far.


Thank you for pointing this out.

A bias toward viewing situations as "us vs. them" is part of humans' tribal nature.

Any time someone points out that something isn't an "us vs. them" situation (or that a particular position is predicated on a situation being "us vs. them"), you should really give weight to that criticism because it's a very easy mistake to make. Look hard at whether it really is an "us vs. them" situation, and if it isn't, what are the consequences that flow from that?

In this particular example, the case is pretty clear: The parent's spot-on.


I am a girl studying computer science. I never understood the whole geek girl mentality of "I don't get OTHER girls! They only like shopping! I like nerdy things!"

I like shopping and makeup. I also like nerdy things like Lord of the Rings and programming hackathons. I get along with girly girls AND geeks.

People are more complex than "I only like shopping" or "I only like Star Wars". It's not hard to make friends with people who have different hobbies than you - in fact it makes your social group more interesting, I find.

Why does there have to be a divide?


Like someone posted right below your, because everyone wants to belong to a Grandfalloon: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Granfalloon

It's easier to "belong to a club" by saying either "I like computers", "I like sports" or "I like my nails painted" than by saying "I like computers, sports and nails painted".

But didn't we learn that the world isn't binary? :)


> It's not hard to make friends with people who have different hobbies than $YOU

The above statement may be true when $YOU == "kobot", but it's not true for a nontrivial subset of the nerd population.


This was a great summary of what I have observed with some groups trying to inspire women in tech. Lots of marginally technical to non-technical women in events supposedly focused on women in tech. Instead of fostering the geek culture the cocktail and sex in the city culture takes over. Gender stereotypes are re-enforced and they inadvertently took the cause back a notch.

What we need are more Rails Bridge, Black Girls Code and that sort of thing to re-enforce feminist geekdom. When the critical mass of any group is slanted towards non technical people it is tough to convey a message of tech being cool and make it attractive for kids to want to enter. I would also love to see a meetup that had a similar makeup and mission as the systers list. I am a guy, but would actively do whatever I could to support that kind of effort because the members of that list are great role models for women in tech.


This actually explains why more women do not get into tech careers. In the same way that this young woman felt alienated from her schoolmates, many women who are not into geek culture would feel alienated by CS classmates and the tech industry.

There's been a lot of talk about getting more women into this industry, and it's often looked at as a failing of the industry itself. What's plainly obvious to me is that many (most?) women just aren't interested in the field.


I agree with the first part of your comment, but am confused by your conclusion.

As a woman in technology (yes, one who codes, not a marketer or lawyer), I have my own views on this. I am a nerd when it comes to technology. I have a passion for it and could talk about it all day. I don't however, have a significant interest in sci-fi or fantasy films. From first glance, I appear to be stereotypically female: I'd rather talk about make-up than Tolkien--but that has no bearing on my interest in technology.

I can understand why someone might think being interested in science fiction would be correlated with an interest in technology. But technology has become an important part of an individual's world. With women being huge consumers of modern technology, it's not difficult to see how some would be interested in the creation of it too.

I don't have the issue this article discusses--feeling alienated from other women. I don't feel alienated from most men either. It comes from people who believe these interests to be important qualifiers for being a "nerd." I think the article is somewhat interesting, but it's difficult for me to see how her fellow women not being interested in her "geeky" activities is a barrier from entering engineering. In fact, it seems as if she is drawn there because she feels she'll be more accepted, and that her issue is with too many marketers at an IT event. Perhaps some of those women would actually be interested on the side of creating technology, but felt there would be more acceptance of their interests in marketing? It appears to me that these associations (that engineers and programmers love Star Wars) may be its own barrier.


> I appear to be stereotypically female: I'd rather talk about make-up than Tolkien

What's interesting is the majority of fantasy readers are women (in fact, the majority of fiction readers in general). I know a quite a few female lit geeks who care about Tolkien (or Harry Potter) but not particularly about technology.

The definition of geek is pretty vague at times. I've met socially awkward geeks who are obsessed about one thing and incapable of talking about anything else; and then I've met socially awesome geeks who have a burning curiosity about everything and just talking to them makes you feel amazed at the sheer wonder and variety of life.


This is how I feel. I love my job, and find computer science interesting. Why does that mean that I have to also be knowledgeable about the nuances of magic cards, star trek, or Dr. Who?

The idea that every software developer must also identify as a geek is rather immature.


I agree. I don't read comic books, barely watch sci-fi, play board games. I play sports and do stuff outside. I often feel like an outcast when I'm talking to a bunch of programmers and they veer off into sci-fi talk.


> What's plainly obvious to me is that many (most?) women just aren't interested in the field.

Which is exactly the problem. There's no strong reason to suggest that this difference is due to anything other than social pressure. Something in the way we socialize children is convincing half the potential talent pool that they shouldn't develop an interest in technology fields, almost certainly because they see few if any adult role models.

It's not really a failing of the industry, in the sense that we're probably not the ones who originally caused it. But it is a problem for the industry, and one that industry insiders are in a unique position to solve.


I've read about studies [1] which shown that boys and girls under 1 year old already show preferences which we attribute with stereotypical gender roles (boys were more appealed to mechanical objects while girls were more interested in human faces (=>social interactions)).

[1] Since there are also studies which show that a nontrivial part of results in social science papers are not replicable, it has to be taken with a tiny grain of salt.


> There's no strong reason to suggest that this difference is due to anything other than social pressure.

Not entirely true. Differences between male and female behavior and interest can be demonstrated on the first day of life in humans, and can even be demonstrated in other species of animals such as rodents.

> In summary, we have demonstrated that at 1 day old, human neonates demonstrate sexual dimorphism in both social and mechanical perception. Male infants show a stronger interest in mechanical objects, while female infants show a stronger interest in the face. At such an age, these sex differences cannot readily be attributed to postnatal experience, and are instead consistent with a biological cause, most likely neurogenetic and/or neuroendocrine in nature. http://www.math.kth.se/matstat/gru/5b1501/F/sex.pdf

There are physical differences between the structure of male and female brains:

> Using magnetic resonance imaging, we assessed gray matter volumes in several cortical regions in 17 women and 43 men. Women had 23.2% (dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) and 12.8% (superior temporal gyrus) greater gray matter percentages than men in a language-related cortical region, but not in a more visuospatially related cortical region. These data seem to establish sexually dimorphic structural differences in the cerebral cortex, consistent with ptior cerebral blood flow reports. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/09254927950...

> The really significant difference, however, shows up in where language is processed in the male and female brains. The left and right hemispheres of women process language almost equally; while in men, language is processed almost exclusively by the left hemisphere. This symmetrical processing by the female brain is not limited to language applications, and is probably a result of a corpus callosum that is 20% larger in females than in males. (Eliot 1999:380-81,432; Kommer 2006: 248)

> Spatial tasks are among those other applications females process bilaterally. For men, however, spatial tasks are processed in the right hemisphere. (Rilea 2008:2) http://www.erha.org/buettner/spatial.htm

Based on current research it seems premature to conclude that the differences in performance or personal interest are /entirely/ social. Some research on the topic of performance differences between boys and girls:

> More than 50 years of psychological testing and research have yielded the consensus that "the most persistent of individual differences on mutlifactor tests of psychological functioning is a sex difference in spatial ability. Males have decidedly better spatial skill than females" (Harris 1978). In a detailed meta-analysis of the studies of cognitive sex differences, Rosenthal and Rubin (1982) concluded that, although the magnitude of such differences has declined in recent years, sex differences in cognitive functioning are still nontrivial and of real practical importance. The few nonhuman species for which there are comparative data suggest the generality of this phenomenon: among both wild and laboratory rodents males perform significantly better than females on spatial tasks. http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/2461648?uid=3739256...

> For instance, men and women perform comparably on such language skills as verbal reasoning and vocabulary, and men actually outperform women on verbal analogies. Women, despite their supposed mathematical shortcomings, are better at numerical calculations. (Eliot 1999:380, 431)

> Men do perform better on certain spatial tasks; for example, mentally rotating objects in space and reading maps/locating landmarks. Women, researchers have found, are better at remembering the location of objects in a large array. (Eliot 1999: 221; Understanding the Brain 2007:103; Sherry 1997:50)

> A large sex difference in mathematical ability in favor of boys was observed in every talent search. It is notable that we observed sizable sex differences in mathematical reasoning ability in 7th grade students. Until that grade, boys and girls have presumably had essential the same amount of formal training in mathematics. Thus, the sex difference in mathematical reasoning ability we found was observed before girls and boys started to differ significantly in the number and types of mathematics courses taken. http://www.vanderbilt.edu/peabody/smpy/ScienceFactOrArtifact...

> Sizable performance and participation rate differences have existed between male and female candidates on the College Board Admissions Testing Program's (ATP) Physics Achievement Test for many years (Pfeiffenberger, 1974) http://research.collegeboard.org/sites/default/files/publica... (this report concludes that the performance difference vanishes when comparing boys and girls with many semesters of physics training, but notes that far fewer girls undertake the training than boys).


There's no strong reason to suggest that this difference is due to anything other than social pressure.

The fact that such social pressure to enforce gender roles exists and the fact that such pressure independently arose in every advanced civilization to ever exist overwhelmingly suggests it is an intrinsic feature of the human race. Certainly, this would suggest the only way to overthrow the gender roles you despise is for some governing apparatus to coerce behaviour (which we already do to some extent); organically, humans will organize themselves in what you would call a "sexist" way.

Of course, even then, the shelf life on the sexless world you envision is short. American hegemony is waning and none of the candidates to fill the power vacuum will have much time for the 'isms that so occupy your mind.


Many women not being interested in the field is not a _cause_ of the male-oriented tech culture; it's a symptom (although it is self-perpetuating)

The idea that 'most women just aren't interested in the field' because they're women, and not because the male-dominated culture _makes_ most women uninterested in the field, is harmful. Making that statement on a male-dominated community site perpetuates and constructs that culture that makes women uncomfortable in the field.

Comments like that are _the reason why_ many women 'just aren't interested in the field'.

The only way that this culture can change is if individual people work to stop perpetuating it. The first step is to stop making comments like that. (Would a woman feel comfortable on this site if they read that statement?)


> The idea that 'most women just aren't interested in the field' because they're women, and not because the male-dominated culture _makes_ most women uninterested in the field, is harmful.

I suspect that most women aren't interested in the field the same reason most men aren't. Despite how interesting it is to those of us -- women and men -- who have chosen the field, the fact is that most people just don't see (or share) the attraction, for reasons which have nothing to do with either their own sex or their perception of the culture of the field.

The minority of women interested in the field may be a smaller minority than the minority of men, and that may be because of either perception (accurate or not) of the welcomingness of the culture of the field by women (and, for that matter, men) or actual sex differences, or both, but that is a whole different set of things than the reason most women aren't interested in the field.


The language I used was not clear.

most women are not interested in the field because most people aren't interested in the field.

I was speaking more towards the fact that less women go into STEM than basically any other major field.

Suggesting that it could be because of actual sex differences is ignorant and totally preposterous.

The hypotheses that a) the culture is male-dominated[1] and b)that the gap is due to that culture is well supported by sociological research.

[1]http://scholar.google.com/scholar_url?hl=en&q=http://onl...


I do not think what the field do about the internal culture matters since women are discouraged long before they have any encounters with the IT industry. The internal culture rarely matters for the outward appearance.

What we instead should do is focus on schools and activities for young women interesting din technology.


I think that both are issues, and that dismissing the internal culture because external discouragement exists is counter-productive.


I found the references to geek pop culture items odd, what does liking Star Wars, Doctor Who or comics have to do with working in IT? I have nothing against those things (nor would I consider myself of fan of them) but, I certainly don't think someone who doesn't embrace geek culture is any less intelligent or less able to fit into the IT industry as this story seems to imply. I don't presume to know the entire situation for the girl in the story but, to me it seems as if this she was dismissing her peers in much the same way they where dismissing her.


Isn't this just a density issue - like (for lack of a better analogy) being gay in a small town?

I can understand it's difficult when you are too young to choose geographic location - but once you can - the marginalisation is quickly solved by moving somewhere with a higher density of like-minded people.

The challenge, I guess, is to advertise that these places do exist - but I see so many 'Geek Girl Dinners' type events I can't believe that is really the case any more.


> The challenge, I guess, is to advertise that these places do exist - but I see so many 'Geek Girl Dinners' type events I can't believe that is really the case any more.

I wish it was that simple and this was already solved, but even in the Bay Area it can be frustratingly hard to connect with people who come from similar perspectives. I was just at a women in tech event last night and three of us went off for sushi afterward and we all talked about how frustrating it can be to find people who feel like us and how nice it would be if it wasn't so difficult.

I think the starkest variant of this I've seen was when one woman asked another: "Why should we even bother trying to increase the number of women in tech? Sometimes it's not even a good field, why should we be working so hard to get women into it?"

The other woman's response was simple and to the point: "I do it because it'd be nice to have someone to go to lunch with."

The truth of that statement isn't so much in that she couldn't have found anyone to go to lunch with ever, but the relative truth that exists when you feel less comfortable in a group because you're the one who is so different. For many people, tech is a place where everyone is different and different is cool and great. For women, different is often still just different.


Viewing it as a 'density issue' takes the root issue (dearth of women in STEM) for granted, as if that will always (or should always) be the case. The lack of women in STEM fields can be largely attributed to cultural and social pressures, not a "natural" tendency for people who identify as women to avoid those fields.

Saying 'a solution to feeling marginalized is to move to a place where you are not marginalized' doesn't really make sense when you aren't applying it to a single individual.


How old is the young woman the author spoke with? Don't most smart, geeky people in HS feel a bit out of place? There's a whole PG essay on that [1].

[1] http://www.paulgraham.com/nerds.html


You should take into account that schools in Europe are not necessarily the same as schools in the US (it was an event in London). I felt quite at home in my school’s physics and chemistry classes, and maths was sometimes boring, but overall okay, too.


To add to claudius's reply to your post, in the Netherlands we like to differentiate students around age 12 into levels: about 60 percent go to the vocational level, 25 percent to the general level, and about 15 percent to the academic level. Basically, all smart people are put together for up to six years of secondary education, after which they go on to university, meeting other smart people.


"But for some girls, it feels like women are alienating the girls who want to be in IT."

For most children, up through high school, it feels like they're being alienated by their peers for being "different."


> One of them told her to stop making them feel stupid all the time.

The world is full of idiots. What she experienced isn't unique to women, it happens to anyone who ends up spending time with people who do not care about knowledge.


You are right, but it is a really useful geek skill to share knowledge without making other people feel stupid. It is one of the differences between being the geek who runs the company, and the geek who is just as smart, but gets stuck on projects no one else wants.


You're glossing over something significant. Some subcultures (and demographics) suffer more from norms against intellectualism. It is more stigmatized as a woman, among the general population of other women in the US, to be into technical stuff, than to be a man into the same things. It is similar to how bookish black kids may be told to stop 'acting white'.


>It is similar to how bookish black kids may be told to stop 'acting white'.

As someone who was an absurdly bookish black kid (pre-edit: from a segregated black neighborhood in Chicago, lower middle-class, never knew a white person until I was 13) in the 80's I never heard this once except as a declaration by white people about the pressure felt by black children not to achieve.

I agree with your overall point, though, just not the example.


It is good to hear that was your experience, because it is disheartening to think that knowledge or education would be negatively stigmatized in any community.

Interestingly, Barack Obama is one of the big propagators of that idea. I think I heard from him first, and that's probably true of many others, when in his 2004 DNC speech (where many Americans heard him for the first time), he said, "Children can’t achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white.”


Ugh. "Our people"? This post is alienating me.

I am a female software engineer. I also cannot stand sci-fi and love fashion, romantic comedies, painting my nails and all kinds of girly shit. I can gush over a beautiful Hermes scarf or my favorite chambray shirt one moment, and automate the fuck out of the iOS app testing process the next. (Just an example that the author, because she's in testing, might be interested in.) If nothing else, we share our love for programming. So, the next time you dismiss a girl because she dare wear heels and has never seen Star Wars, you might be missing out on a friend.

I totally get that it has been your experience that girls who are into traditional girly shit are lame and not worth talking to, but maybe it's because you're not giving them a chance. What happened to not judging a book by its cover?

(Unless you don't like Arrested Development. Then I hate you. :)


I second that emotion.

Though one could admire the issue moving away from "women in tech" to "non-geek persons in tech" ;)


Had a hard time understanding the OP's point...but mostly because I don't understand what the event was about. Was it advertised explicitly as an IT/engineering event? I guess you could assume that from "Women in IT", but I think it's nice that such an event shows how information technology encompasses a lot of different fields. Even on "Hacker News", there are a good number of articles about marketing and law because geeks realize that being successful is not strictly based on coding skills.

As someone already pointed out, "IT" is a nebulous term. In my day, while at college, it was almost never used to refer to computer engineers, but was more intended for MIS majors, which was considered to be the "computer science of Excel". So it's kind of strange that the OP is calling for more elitism when the event used a term that's extremely vague and inclusive.


I've observed that most people allow themselves to go along with the social norms gender wise, with a few exceptions. Then I realize what a wonderful geeky outlier of a spouse that I have. My female coworkers are amazed by my tales of my wife's exploits in auto repair, gaming, hunting and appliance repair.


I know there's a bunch of quotes out there that all basically the same thing:

The more you repeat something, the more you believe something to be true, the more you will cause it to be true or real.

I suggest men, women, and everyone stop making this a bigger deal than it is (however big it currently is, it can be made bigger), and let's start focusing on real problems. Whoever has complaints about disrespect, belittling, or whatever, should just self-study and create something AWESOME, and then prove to the world by action, instead of blabbering off and causing pointless havoc that won't get us anywhere, let alone possibly make us take steps backward.


Depressing that neither of them seem to have heard of http://london.girlgeekdinners.com/


Feeling out of place, I can absolutely sympathise. I haven't quite found my place yet. It's made worse with all this talk about star wars, geeky t-shirts and other pop culture paraphernalia. We aren't all fans of star wars. We aren't all jumping at the chance to make pop culture references in conversation and we don't all own t-shirts with witty slogans concerning the dark side (I do confess to owning 2 wolverine t-shirts though). Now shows like the Big Bang Theory only help to reinforce this silly idea of what a 'nerd' is.

I was very into Heavy Metal growing up. Just as I was into comics. I felt like an outsider in the typical social circles at school and university and I felt even worse when I found the 'nerd' or 'geek' or 'metal' circles. Liking Metallica apparently didn't make me a true metalhead and so there you go, denounced. I'm not into D&D so there goes my invitations to D&D sessions. What about the girl in that conference that wasn't wearing a star wars t-shirt, that was just as interested in that talk? I absolutely hate how each sub-culture tries to belittle the other and how its admission is dependent on whether you all like the same things.

I know that wasn't the main focus of the OP's post and I'm somewhat incoherent because I did just wake up, but I had to have my little rant. It's not just the IT industry alienating based on gender but also hobbies and interests.

--- Amateur developer in Auckland that would like to meet other developers and not just to talk about star trek.


She shouldn't feel bad. I've never seen more than a few minutes of Star Wars or Star Trek. Never seen Dr. Who or any of the Monty Python stuff. I've never seen a single Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter movie (or read the books).

But I keep telling myself that one day I'll binge through them all online.


Don't force yourself to sit through something you hate just to get an imaginary badge. I can't stand Dr. Who, I'm often baffled by British humor, and LotR is the geek equivalent of having read all of Dostoyevski's novels.


Heh. Even though I like fantasy very much (big Robert Jordan fan), I really can't stand Lord of the Rings. It's just so utterly boring. :(


But it's okay. There will always be something else to talk about, and it's not like every technical person out there loves everything you name and then some. That's not what defines us.

Sadly... I have received criticism and ridicule from some for liking things like knitting (talk about a minority), WoW, and My Little Pony. Doctor Who, LotR, Firefly, EVE Online and all that stuff is usually "awesome!" and untouchable. Beyond me why this stupid double standard exists.

Or, how I spent one Harry Potter midnight book release waiting in line watching Grey's Anatomy (the medical romance/drama on ABC). Big freaking deal.


As a programmer who has seen all of the above (except for Dr. Who, never really could understand what was so special about it) while not being a fan of either of them in particular I also do feel that people who want to get into this industry should not look at these superficial things ("she/he wears a Star Wars t-shirt, she/he must be one of us")

I mean, reading "Ender's Game" as a 14-year old kid and being fascinated by it has nothing to do with the fact that 15+ years later I happen to program computers for a living. One of the major reasons that brought me into this industry (and one of the reasons I feel should be a big motivator for other people as well) it's that is so easy to build things that are actually useful.


"one day I'll binge through them all"

I watched all the star trek series when they were new, on live TV. A couple years ago I did the torrent + binge thing you're describing and the experience IS dramatically different.

Even merely watching commercial free downloads dramatically changes the apparent pacing of the story, if the original intention was to have a dramatic pause while you think for awhile. You're supposed to think for an hour of realtime not just 45 minutes. Sometimes I wonder if there are any "distros" of TV shows out there on torrent sites with "intermission" screens instead of simply editing out commercials. It would be a weird, possibly interesting experience.

On a longer scale the very best episodes probably need a couple days to consider, digest, contemplate. Something like "space hippies" is probably best forgotten as quickly as possible, but "Doomsday Machine" (and several others) resulted in a bit of thinking after viewing the episode. Its not the finest of literature, but if you're going to invest the time, you owe it to yourself to get the most you can out of the substantial time expenditure.

If you binge and hit "spocks brain" or some other awful episode during a binge you might be completely derailed and stop, but if its "the thing you go every thursday at 7pm or saturday at 4pm or whatever" then you won't be permanently derailed. Don't let "space hippies" during a binge prevent you from seeing "city on the edge of forever".

On the other hand there is a sort of blurry trippy coolness rush about staying awake for 24 hours watching the entire cardassian war story arc on DS9 or something like that. Everything seems weird and cool and interesting when you're sleep deprived, even if its probably not what the director intended. This is pretty good evidence that coding at 3am is probably results in poor taste results, unless you woke up at 5pm or something.


Monty Python varies in quality (especially some of the shorter sketches), but Life of Brian is a hilarious satire of religion and political movements in general: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krb2OdQksMc


But at least you'd understand what the references are coming from.


Marvel and Doctor Who and Darth Vader aren't really related to IT though. I'm aware of all three, and seen a couple of the Star Wars movies, but that's it. By her argument, Trish would be alienating to me, a male in IT as well. People in all fields have hobbies and interests outside of work. I don't think this is a sexism or even IT issue.


In India, the no of women that get outcasted for being a geek is phenomenal ! I mean really, I hate all those inferior girls who only aim to marry a successful guy to live off his income, and adjust if it isn't much, instead of going out there and doing something themselves, and if someone is doing so, let them be, or support them. My own sister have faced this problem, quite a no of times, when the girls in her class, come to know that she can play FIFA 13, they made fun of her! Can you imagine? Though she was strong enough to not get effected from it, but still, it isn't having zero effect at all.

As someone who values intelligence, I tell her, that it may require her to do more hardwork, but she can be actually beautiful+intelligent at the same time. I'm thinking about taking her to some start up events with me,to meet other women, so that she knows, and their is someone to look up to for her.

Thanks to this post, for making my decision firm.


> All the other girls would talk about fashion labels and gossip and she would be bored out of her mind, wondering why nobody else watched Doctor Who. None of them understood the joke on her Darth Vader t-shirt. One of them listened to her podcast and asked her what “Marvel” was. One of them told her to stop making them feel stupid all the time.

Believe it or not, you can be a good coder without knowing who Doctor Who and Darth Vader are, or what Marvel is. Not even having seen Star Wars will make you a good programmer!

(A friend of mine who saw the linked post was astounded at the idea that girls are keeping other girls out of IT by not being enthusiastic about juvenile comic books and juvenile sci-fi. That is just about the single stupidest thing one could possibly think---unless, perhaps, the single stupidest thing one could possibly think is that it's somehow daring or transgressive to be a fan of Dr. Who. Come the fuck on.)


"To see what is in front of one's nose is a constant struggle."

If you want more geek women, you need more geek girls. (Girls, if you wait long enough, turn into women, funnily enough.)


"Geek" is not synonymous with "programmer" though. There are plenty of girls who are band geeks, or literature geeks, or even science geeks (especially in biology). They're just not computer geeks.


Yes, it was implied I meant computer geeks.


> "They thought she wanted to build the next Terminator or hack into Government systems, when she just wanted to build self-driving cars."

Maybe she doesn't see how this is similar in terms of amazing, but I would say those other women weren't far off.


The student was probably complaining about the unwashed masses' Hollywood-fueled fantasy of the computer hacker: Anyone who can write a program longer than 10 lines is capable of hacking into any computer system in five minutes or less, using or fixing any piece of computer-y, electronic-y, or science-y equipment, etc.

Hacking systems gets easier the younger the hacker is, the more important the data being protected by the system is, and the more resources its owners have to secure it.

All of these are of course ridiculous assumptions which suit narrative purposes but have no basis in reality. A lot of people don't understand that, and they can be really annoying to those who do.


I'm sorry, but if people don't get your Star Wars humour, that does not make them stupid. May be they just didn't like Star Wars. And may be somehow they thought that being "in marketing or law or something" is just as worthy an occupation as writing spam filters for google.

I guess the reason they form a community in the short time of an IT event, and "the nerds" are always on the fringe is this same dismissive attitude of superiority that makes people fiercely unattractive and isolated. Men or women.


Working in marketing and law for Google isn't working in IT. It's working for IT, but it's working in marketing and law. Would anyone seriously think that the sysadmin for a law firm could seriously present at a 'women in law' presentation?


> Working in marketing and law for Google isn't working in IT.

It is working in the IT industry. It is not working in an IT profession. "Working in IT" can mean either.

I suspect that there is a group of people who would be interested in a presentation on issues facing "Women in the IT industry" as well as one with interest in issues facing "Women in the IT profession", and I suspect that those groups overlap considerably. Though, I would also suspect that there is a substantial subset of each group that is not in the other.


It would seem pointless to have an education faire for an industry rather than a profession. "Come and see what you can do working in the Water industry!" -> you could be a hydrologist, a lawyer, a receptionist, a pipelayer, a sysadmin, a farmer, a payroll officer... it's nonsensical, given the context. It'd almost be easier to list the jobs that can't be shoehorned into such a broad industry.


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