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Any female engineers in San Diego interested in showing my daughter their work?
239 points by niels_olson on Apr 2, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 162 comments
My daughter is 12 and has expressed for years that she wants to be an architect or engineer. She's also interested in medicine. She knows some Python and likes building things. She is also in need of some inspiration. I can show her medicine but I need some help on the engineering side. As it happens, her spring break is next week, so it would be good timing about now. PM me if you are interested. I would really appreciate it. We could probably work something out, maybe meet at lunch or something. I'll buy.

Edit: SD = San Diego. And for those recommending FIRST: our challenge with FIRST is that she has 16 hours of gymnastics practice every week, which markedly improves the report from school and now she's in love with it so I can't talk her out of it. I've tried. So spring break would be ideal.




I'm not in SD, but I'd highly recommend seeing if she's interested in FIRST and also definitely get her hooked on Sylvia's Super-Awesome Maker Show: http://sylviashow.com/

She presented at the first RobotsConf and it was really compelling and could inspire other kids to start building things: http://teamtreehouse.com/library/robotsconf-2013/super-aweso...


I'm a computer science postdoc at the Salk Institute. We're having a big public event next Saturday (Walk for Salk) where we're also doing lab tours. Bring your daughter there and I'll give her an extra tour of the computational areas.

(find me at avani@salk.edu)


Love Salk institute! very spiritual architecture too. I am not 12 year old but do you think i can get the tour ? :)


Here is the sign up sheet for lab tours during the event. I'll be volunteering there and am happy to talk about computational methods with anyone who is interested.

http://www.salk.edu/stepintodiscovery/exploresalk.php


Indeed. In case you've never seen it, there is a great documentary on Louis Kahn, the architect, with beautiful footage of his works: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0373175/


Yes I have, Thank you. I love Louis Kahn and his work.


What an incredible idea for an event! But just out of curiosity, has this been publicized at all? I live in SD, and I regularly tune in to local media (especially NPR/KPBS), and yet, reading it here on HN is the first time I've heard about Walk for Salk...

Anyway, it sounds like a great event, and I hope to come and bring the family!


There was an employee "contest" to e-mail people and let them know, but we're (sadly) pretty insular out here. Make sure to sign up ahead of time to walk or take a lab tour (http://www.salk.edu/stepintodiscovery/exploresalk.php), and please tell your scientifically inclined friends :-) .


Hi Niels! If you end up finding something interesting for your daughter, I think HN would love to hear about it. I know I would. Consider this an invitation for her to write something about it and post it here and/or for you to write something about it and post it here.

I have to say I envied you for a moment. My daughter once enjoyed an afternoon with me at the REPL, but then politely made it clear that we wouldn't need to do it again.


Did you show cool visual stuff like in SICP where you could make images and move them around? Or animate a story of some kind?

I'm asking because my younger cousin definitely enjoyed looking and playing with a Mario-like game where we would loop-back and have fun within the REPL. However, I don't think she would have enjoyed mathematical additions or learning about while loop for the fun of learning-about-while-looping.


No, I did a much shoddier job. I should have strategized it better.


This may seem silly, but what is REPL ? (All I can conclude is Read Eval Print Loop, but that doesn't seem to make sense with the context.)


That is exactly what it is. The interpreter Reads in the code the author writes, Evaluates it, and Prints the results. It also prints error codes. Then it Loops back to a prompt.


Get in touch with your local FIRST robotics team.

http://www.usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/frc

I am a mentor for my local team. The program is absolutlely wonderful. It inspires and drives kids at many levels. Mentors run a huge range, from scientists amd engineers to welders, makers and really driven Mom's and Dad's. The common thread, among other things, is to inpire the kids to learn and apply technologyy to solve problems. Highhly recommended.


Along these lines, the Botball program is a pretty amazing way to teach hands on engineering.

Bummer the OP just missed the 2014 Greater San Diego Tournament by a few days

http://www.botball.org/sca/2014/tournament


Agreed. I co-founded a FIRST FRC team during my time at high school and it remains one of the coolest things I've ever done. Program now is doubled in size and budget, and they accomplish some really cool things.

FRC league is for High School students. They have leagues for elementary and middle school students in Lego and Tetrix, respectively. FRC is the full blown CNC machined parts and rapid-prototyped/3D-printed awesomeness. (Or woodworking)


Can you give a little more information about what you're really hoping your daughter will see and get out of the experience? What type of engineer are you looking for? I'm a software engineer in SD with a 12 year old daughter of my own.


I think she's a little young to specify which branch of engineering (medicine and architecture are also on the list) but exposure to any and all would be good. She worked through a fair chunk of Python for Kids last summer. I feel a little bad that I'm not a great teacher, but she's proud of what she learned (as evidenced by the fact that they had an intro to python in school and she housed everybody).

Really, I just want her to come home with a new appreciation for the technical ability of women, and insight that learning math and science leads to something other than doing more long division by hand.

And to go and make a friend would be awesome!


damn, intro to python at 12? I wish my grade school taught me cs :(


Hi Kimberly,

I went through all the contacts made through this thread and my daughter seems most interested in contacting you and your daughter. If you're interested in a free lunch, my email's in my profile.


Would like an update about this. Wondered how I would handle such a request. 12 year old would not have much inspiration watching me fix bugs and read hacker news


Don't forget alternating between standing a sitting a few times a day and going to planning meetings. "Okay, the next hour is when I say 'No' to marketing a bunch of times. Aren't you excited??"


Qualcomm is up in the Mira Mesa area and has a really cool museum of the history of CDMA and cell phones in their headquarters building (Building N). They've got big tubes of chips showing how they have decreased in size over time, a van that they used to demo CDMA to investors 20+ years ago, demo Android devices, a cool Mirasol display, some parts of their truck tracking system, and a bunch of stuff about the history of the company.

You do need to have an employee ID badge to get into the area that the museum is in, but I bet if you called them or know someone who currently works there they could show you around.

Source: I was an intern there last summer. http://www.qualcomm.com/about/buildings/museum


Hey. I'm in San Diego, Del Mar area. I mentor a FRC FIRST team that is going to be putting on a number of Robotics Camps over the summer. If you interested, send me a message tyler@team3128.org.

Totally get if gymanstics is taking a priority though :). Running and jumping and doing cool tricks is a ton of fun.


You may also try showing her some Ted talks - lots of really inspiring things to watch there concerning tech, for sure.

It doesn't seem like there's a Girl Develop It chapter in San Diego yet, but a quick Google search shows a few meetup options nearby:

- http://www.meetup.com/Teach-Yourself-Programming-A-Womens-Co... - http://www.meetup.com/IEEE-Women-in-Tech-Meetup/

I bet you could reach out to the group members/founders and they would be more than happy to speak with you and your daughter about tech things! It's really wonderful you're encouraging her passion too, btw. Good luck!


Is SD a neighborhood, city, state, country?

South Dakota? Sudan? Santo Domingo? San Diego?


I was wondering "What the hell is SD?" as well, though the user profile page does make it clear. Still, could have saved many of us a click and some parsing time to just write San Diego in full.

Being a European on the Internet is really a first world problem :)


As a chinese,I can't agree more with you.:)


I assume it stands for San Diego unless otherwise specified.


8 years ago, I lived in San Diego. Now, I live in South Dakota. I was doubly confused when I read this.


I assumed South Dakota!


Really? I would have guessed South Dakota.


Fun fact. There are more people in City of San Diego than the entire state of South Dakota.


Based off the user's profile, it's clearly San Diego.


OP here: San Diego


[deleted]


Do you mean Silicon Valley or Sorrento Valley?


San Diego is in Silicon Valley in the same sense that Paris is in Hamburg.


Please don't post snarky putdowns of Hacker News on HN itself. They get low-quality upvotes, but they're profoundly uninteresting. If you have a genuine concern about Hacker News, it's not hard to express it appropriately.

Normally we recuse ourselves from intervening when people are being critical of HN or YC, but here I think the community interest is clear: Snarky comments aren't welcome here. The only difference with HN itself as a topic is the strange fascination of meta.


San Diego is in the valley now?


Software Development?


That's what I thought as well


> Any female engineers in San Diego...

It means San Diego.


The title had been modified. Go away with your snark.


Please don't tell people rude things like "Go away" on HN.

We appreciate efforts to combat snark, but the cure must be better than the disease.


Good for you for helping her find her calling! Maybe you can meet someone through this! http://www.meetup.com/Geek-Girl-San-Diego/


maybe get in-touch with the SWE chapter at UCSD (http://swe.ucsd.edu/home.html). I'll bet they will have some events or could arrange some informal tours of interesting facilities on campus.


Someone sent me an email about SWE, thanks!


Do you know about PythonSD? I'm sure they could get you in touch with a female engineer.

http://pythonsd.org/

(I used to work at Cuker, and all the PythonSD guys are pretty great.)


I do now! I'll see what I can do.


There is also a PyLadies meetup group in San Diego: http://www.meetup.com/sd-pyladies/ - I know one of the organizers and she's great.


Girl Scouts have various camps focused on STEM. You can search here: http://www.sdgirlscouts.org/camp-descriptions


Hey hey, fellow San Diegan here! I've been seeing the comments about FIRST and it seems like you're not interested due to your little one's scheduling - but if that changes, let me know; my friend teaches FIRST (also saw post from Tyler here)

In the meantime, let me know if you want to grab lunch in SD - it's on me. yreztsov@gmail.com


She wants to be an engineer, let her pick out something to tinker with. Anything really. It doesn't have to be code. Look through maker kits that you can buy online. Or if there is a physical store you can get to, that might be even better.

Personally, I learned how to do web programming because I had something in mind that I wanted to build. I learned while building that thing. If I had to go through a book, course or tutorial first, I would have never been interested. I also wouldn't ever be inspired by going to work with someone unless that person is Elon Musk.

Your daughter might be the same. Let her interest guide her. I remember all the things I said I wanted to be when I was a kid. It was all just kid talk. I don't think I really ever cared to be any of those things.

Or maybe just leave her be. 16 hours of gymnastics plus school is a lot. Maybe she simply doesn't have time for anything else. Don't force it.


I'm many timezones out from there and wrong gender etc., but I have some advice that may be of use.

Since (as I understand it) the idea of same-gender is to make the connection more straightforward, I would further suggest that you prefer a graduate student to an actual "worker".

At my university there is a grad-student scholarship that requires fieldwork to be done in a certain place (first nations community). The grad student has to involve a local high-school student in the fieldwork. When I first heard of this I thought it was wonky social engineering, but apparently it's a great success: fun and educational for both.


Maybe HS First requires a lot of programming, the regular FIRST for 9-14 does not require any programming to advance. It is mainly focussed on presentation skills rather than technical skills.


That's not specifically true, especially on a team level. Some of your team members might not have to program but you do have to get the robot to do stuff well in order to advance.


You can win the robot game and it has no bearing on advancement. The key is the 3 interviews. In the robot design interview, the number of points for quality of engineering is low. Most of the points are in the show your work category. A better presentation of a poor design will score better than a poor presentation of a quality result.


You should reach out to Otherlab. https://otherlab.com/


Check out iD Tech Camps. They're all over California, including at UC San Diego.

http://www.idtech.com/locations/california-summer-camps/la-j...


  > she's in love with it
  > I can't talk her out of it. I've tried.
Why would you try and talk her out of something she's in love with?

If she "knows some python", is she in love with it? Is she actively learning more on the web?


Because 16 hours a week of gymnastics costs quite a bit of money, and if she does meets then it probably costs a fortune. So money, money would be why a parent might try to edge a daughter out of gymnastics.

Or the injuries. They suck too.


I did this level of gymnastics as a kid. It taught me many things in life.

How to work hard and improve at something through many small iterations.

Learning multiple events is tricky and useful.

Dealing with injuries is an important part of life. Nobody goes through their day to day at 100% all the time. Working through the challenges is part of life.

I think gymnastics is one of those 'learning to learn' activities like chess.

I would strongly recommend looking into BJJ when she wants to move on from gymnastics. It has very similar benefits and is substantially cheaper. It can also be done at a slower pace than gymnastics, you could take a few classes a week instead of 4 x 4 hours.


She's also 12 though. I think it's perfectly fine to have hobbies that aren't programming. I for one wasn't "in love" with programming when I was 12, I hadn't even been exposed to it. Seeing how people work in career paths she may not even know exists could be incredibly valuable, I know it would have been for me.


16 hours is a rather massive amount of time to invest into any sport (not many exist that your body would tolerate for that long in the span of a week). The "balance" thing goes the other direction, too.

For most girls (less for boys apparently) this problem solves itself by age 14, and he'll probably have to nudge her to do some sport of any kind by 15.


Because progress means making girls do boy things


Even if they'd much rather be doing girl things...


Buy her a 3d printer kit, something she will have to assemble herself. Its the bigest, most enjoyable engineering puzzle I have ever had to deal with. A printrbot simple is $299 in kit form. Once she gets it to work she will have a tool that will enable her to build almost anything in plastic. She will learn, engineering, 3d modeling, electronics and operating complex manufacturing processes, materials and thier strength, product design.


Also check out Wintress Technical School in SD.

http://wintrisstech.org/workshops.html


San Diego or South Dakota?


San Diego


I live in San Diego and reading this brings me joy.


There's a program here called "thought stem" which is aimed at children her age and run by some wonderful friends of mine.


It's great that you see your daughter's interest in engineering and are encouraging her to pursue this passion.


Why do you need a woman?

I don't understand why we all talk about the gender problem in engineering, then continue it by isolating female students from male teachers. There is no isolation between male students and female teachers, or same gender students and teachers.

If we want to move towards equality, why carefully structure inequality in?


Because chances are, she's not isolated from male teachers, and even if she is, the need to offer a relatable role model is more important to inspire and motivate her than the need to not isolate her from male teachers.

Over the past 8 years, I've taught programming to people from ages 6 to 50, of all genders and cultural backgrounds. Female students have generally related more to my female colleagues, just like black students generally relate more to my black colleagues. Which is perfectly fine, and why you want a diverse set of educators in the first place.


"the need to offer a relatable role model is more important"

My point being that I don't actually believe that people need to be the same gender (or skin color or etc) to be relatable as role models.

I think making role models less demographically binned would be an important and positive step.

.

"Female students have generally related more to my female colleagues"

Do you have any reason to believe that this isn't because every time they're getting started someone carefully creates that situation, as is being created here?

Measurements are frequently measurements of effects, rather than of causes.

.

"Which is perfectly fine"

How can you be sure that refusing demographic cross pollination by intent is not a negative thing?


I understand you personally feel this way, but research has shown that this is not the case, and I think it makes sense.

It has been proven that our society is full of gender and racial biases, and to fight them we need to accept this fact so we can have a sensible plan of attack. Apparently we can't just make those biases disappear by wishing them away. It is easier to dismantle them by first fighting the symptoms. If you just tell people to ignore their biases, you will ask them to ignore their personal day-to-day experience, and that's asking a lot. It's hard for people to believe one thing if what they see around them goes against that belief. To change beliefs we must first change the experience.


By adding such discrimination in ones search for role models, one deprive children a chance to meet any of the potential Richard Feynmans, Carl Sagans and Randy Pauschs that exists here in the HN community.

All for what? a social experiment to fight biases with "positive discrimination"? The hope removing half of every possible role model is worth getting a female role model over a male role model?

In the end its the parent that decide and it might be worth if there is already plenty of male role models, so long one is aware of the costs.


> Why do you need a woman?

I don't. I don't need french onion soup either, but it's sure a nice treat on occasion.

> isolating female students from male teachers

Her current math teacher is male, her science teacher is a woman and former pilot of helicopter gunships. I'm her dad, and I help her with her math and science at home. One of our good friends in the neighborhood is a PhD biostatistician who is the CEO of her own research firm.

But why ask for what's common? Within my social circle, half the guys are engineers. Heck, I can arrange for her to get a trip to SpaceX. I don't need the megaphone of Hacker News to get that. In fact, the mom of my son's best friends (twins) is an environmental engineer. So "female engineer in San Diego" is actually a tractable problem within my social circle.

Finding women in each of the many STEM careers is quite another thing. And for that, I tossed it out to Hacker News. When I post things to Hacker News, I generally don't expect a big response. Most of my posts die in /new. This didn't, which I'm grateful for.

> why carefully structure inequality in?

Because equality is often an unstable equilibrium. So exerting a force opposed to the instantaneous natural tendency may be the right response at any given time. In fact, the system may have to be permanently pre-stressed to change from unstable to stable.


(I apologize if I currently seem defensive; I'm getting pretty massively downvoted for trying to understand you, by people who are telling me you mean something very different than what you seem to be saying; I'm glad you chose to respond. Thank you.)

.

"But why ask for what's common?"

I didn't say ask for what's common. I asked why to ask for something uncommon. They're quite different and they aren't the range of possibilities. Another possibility entirely is to just not limit it.

When talking about mentors, "because a mentorship is a many year relationship that can have a significant impact on a person's life, and I'm not sure why you would only search half the space available to you for the best person for the job."

.

"Because equality is often an unstable equilibrium."

Not in the case of human gender.

.

"So exerting a force opposed to the instantaneous natural tendency may be the right response at any given time."

I don't see any instantaneous natural tendency to select for male either, and I'm still looking for a supporting cause for that "may be" which isn't a vague reference to an unstable equilibrium.

I'm not even sure what equilibrium you might mean, unless you mean how many people are in each gender, and expect that to change.

.

"In fact, the system may have to be permanently pre-stressed to change from unstable to stable."

As that stress has been applied, beginning in the late 1970s, the division in gender in technical roles has increased dramatically. Indeed, it appears that since women's mentorship in tech has been steered towards other women, the number of women in tech has dropped dramatically.

It's important to take a look at the data before taking a position on hypotheticals, in case the data suggests exactly the opposite of what the suspicion suggests.

How would you respond if it turned out that giving a child a mentor of the opposite role, meaning they were used to a broader range of gender roles than otherwise, increased diversification? Would that change your mind about the right thing to do?

.

Lastly (and sorry it's out of order, but it's to me the dividing point):

"So "female engineer in San Diego" is actually a tractable problem within my social circle."

It's not clear to me what makes this the problem to solve, yet.

I'm not arguing with you, or saying you're wrong; I don't understand the reaction I'm getting.

I'm just trying to understand why you are cutting away the vast majority of the available mentors.

If there are ninety Xs and ten Ys available, and if Xs and Ys are fundamentally equal quality, but if both groups have individual variation, then it is strongly statistically expected that the best available individual is an X, because of the variation of individuals and the larger sampling pool.

People don't get several mentors.

I don't understand why the choice is in any terms other than finding the single best available individual.

I just want to understand the data driving your choices. I'm not arguing.


It's important to be able to see people who look like your potential future self. There's more to it than just seeing neat work - everyone needs role models.

Kids are very perceptive. This girl sounds lucky to have parents who encourage her in STEM topics, but that doesn't shield her from media/misguided school teachers/councillors/other kids telling her these things aren't for her. Having a female role model is a powerful thing.


I'm a man and I modelled my professional self on a woman, so I have some difficulty with this.

I believe that choosing to limit one's role models by gender is a problem.


The average man in an engineering discipline can trivially meet other male engineers, and will be pretty much surrounded by them anywhere they work. This would be true at the grade-school level up through the pinnacle of their careers.

This is not true for women. This guy's daughter might be the only girl in her class who feels comfortable expressing an interest in engineering. She might go on to be one of a tiny (and steadily decreasing) number of women in an overwhelmingly male university-level engineering program. Can you imagine how it might be nice to at some point be able to meet and learn from someone whose life experiences more closely match your own, and learn from the experiences that they have (or will have) in common?


If the issue is how common the people are going to be by demographic in the workforce, then shouldn't we start early in making them comfortable with the people they're going to be around, as the ice breaking generation, by mentoring them with the common rather than the rare?

I mean I genuinely do not understand why this is actually helpful. The lady engineers I talk to are either all pandering to me, or are as confused as I am.

I don't understand why we're presuming that a girl can't have a good, positive male role model, just like I, a boy, had a good, positive female role model.

.

"She might go on to be one of a tiny (and steadily decreasing) number of women in an overwhelmingly male university-level engineering program."

So, as we bucketted women out of the mainstream and told them they could only learn from people like themselves, their global participation began to drop.

I mean really, the data you're recommending seems to suggest that what we're doing is destructive.

It was not the case, in Elizabeth Cady Stanton's work, that the newly liberated woman was expected to learn only from other women. They're supposed to be equal.

The supporting claims seem to be assertions of better-ness with no supporting data or logic other than an intuitive feeling that the child's recognition of similarity is somehow more important than the child's early exposure to diversity (something most data backed child rearing studies disagree with.)

I do understand that your opinion is that a girl will have an emotional need to only learn from women.

Do you have any data to defend this? This seems bizarre and offensive to me, as it does to the female engineer who spoke up elsewhere in this thread.

I think that, just like men, women can learn from anyone, and should choose the best source, not the most similar source.

You can't create an inclusive society by educating explicitly exclusively, in my viewpoint.

I would love to see actual data, rather than beliefs or opinions, which suggest that learning from a demographically similar role model produces better results than learning from the best available role model, or that taking a role model from what you claim is an extreme minority, rather than building bonds and understanding with the majority, leads to more inclusion, despite that you also claim that inclusion is decreasing, despite that this sort of like-only mentorship is increasing.

It seems like your own data contradicts you. Maybe I'm misunderstanding.


I do understand that your opinion is that a girl will have an emotional need to only learn from women.

That is not what is being said, it is that it may be useful for a girl to not only learn from men.


Thanks, that is exactly what I'm saying.


> I believe that choosing to limit one's role models by gender is a problem.

No one is talking about limiting to one kind of role model. Indeed, since women in STEM are not as represented as men, it may be limiting to not allow a student to seek out a role model who is a woman as they may never encounter one by happenstance. Having a role model you identify with, esp. with a trait that is a minority in some group, is one of the ways people can counteract imposter syndrome.


I wish you would stop saying "nobody is saying (the thing everyone is actually literally saying)".

Yes, the post saying "I need a woman for a role mode" is limiting one's role models by gender.


No it is not. It is a woman for a rolemodel, not a woman for my one and only and forever rolemodel.

Having a woman for a rolemodel does not exclude also having a man as a rolemodel.


A limitation is still a limitation even if it isn't universal.


If you really believed this, then you would agree that this is true for women in STEM in that the field is heavily stacked with men. It is totally justified to counteract such an implicit limitation in the field by someone putting in extra effort to meet women in STEM.


Source?


I believe the idea behind this would be that a woman can guide her more and talk to her about the potential problems she faced.

Consider it like getting an advice on getting into a good college from someone who got in using Affirmative Action vs someone who didn't.


>>Consider it like getting an advice on getting into a good college from someone who got in using Affirmative Action vs someone who didn't.

A better analogy would be considering someone getting into a good college because of their connections & wealthy parents vs someone who didn't.


"A better analogy would be considering someone getting into a good college because of their connections & wealthy parents vs someone who didn't."

In that case, isn't it absolutely imperative to start making those connections, by not demographically binning mentors?

Connections don't just spring out of nowhere.


>>Connections don't just spring out of nowhere.

I don't want to go too far down the rabbit hole here because I know where this is leading to from past experience on HN, but....

I think in the tech-scene(probably society in general) some of those connections are easier made(and sometimes come as default) depending on gender/race.


I am confused.

You don't want to make those connections early by arrangement, because they would be more difficult to make later on voluntarily?


Because this father feels his daughter would be more inspired by meeting an engineer who is a woman, and/or feels that a woman would be more interested in mentoring a girl, and/or would be more comfortable introducing his young daughter to adult women that he met on HN than to adult men he met on HN.

Not every individual's parenting decision needs to be treated as an overall trend to be analyzed and correct.


That's why I was asking for his opinion, rather than a defense from a third party that mostly said "you shouldn't ask."

Sometimes it's actually perfectly valid to politely ask someone why they think something.


Exactly what I was thinking. Its quite insulting to suggest that girls are so myopic they can't possibly be inspired unless they meet someone of the same gender.

For the record, I'm a female engineer who moved to the USA from Ghana when I was a smaller. I can't stand this ridiculous patronizing attitude there is towards female engineers, as if we need "extra help" or something. Even worse are the feminists creating us-vs-them politicization of the issue.

When I was learning to code, ride a bike, tie my shoes or something, I never thought "gosh I can't do that since none of the role models are female". In fact, if there are no role models of the same gender or race, its usually even more inspiring as you want to be the first one.


> I can't stand this ridiculous patronizing attitude there is towards female engineers, as if we need "extra help" or something. Even worse are the feminists creating us-vs-them politicization of the issue.

Nobody is saying women engineers need extra help. Wanting to meet someone who you identify with as a woman in STEM is not necessarily easy and it is totally legitimate to seek someone out. As for feminists and feminism, I don't know of anything that would suggest an us vs. them attitude, generally feminist leaning groups look to increase participation of women in STEM through a variety of ways.

> When I was learning to code, ride a bike, tie my shoes or something, I never thought "gosh I can't do that since none of the role models are female". In fact, if there are no role models of the same gender or race, its usually even more inspiring as you want to be the first one.

This may be true for yourself and others, but we know that this is not true on a larger scale. People can and do internalize messages about the kind of people that exist in certain professions and this can be self limiting in both conscious and unconscious ways. I'm not speaking for any one person about that, but it is legitimate to find a role model that you identify with esp. when you are a minority status in a group.

You can read more about stereotype threat here: http://www.reducingstereotypethreat.org/definition.html


> People can and do internalize messages

Thanks for this. That's why I said she could use some inspiration. And not all the messages come from men. Women and friends provide powerful messages as well.


I used to feel that way. Then, I realized I had no one to talk to when I saw blatant sexism affect my friends because there were no tenured woman on the faculty whom I knew. I've been lucky that it hasn't hit me, but it's out there and it is insidious.

Also, I'll add another +1 to the people who are saying it's nice to see someone like you. There are questions that it is safer to ask someone who has faced similar struggles in the past. For example, I would love to meet more female professors who have managed to find a balance between family/R01-level research/service.


I am glad to know there are others who see it the way I do.

I draw great inspiration from people who do not have my gender, my race, or several other role model limiting demographic factors.

I feel very sad for people who are set up to not have the advantage of looking up to everyone of value.

===========

Edit: why is this being downvoted? Is it disagreeable to say "I have learned from people unlike me?" Are we now saying it's bad to argue for inclusion?

It's a polite, friendly comment, stating a positive opinion that says "I think people of every gender, race, etc are of value and should be available."

I feel like people are using downvote to show personal frustration.


The reason why you are being downvoted is that the notion of "I think people of every gender, race, etc are of value and should be available." doesn't really address the issue of why someone who is in a minority in STEM would seek out someone like themselves as a role model.

People have value, but we can't deny that for some people finding someone like themselves in a particular field is very difficult. Those people certainly can and do learn from others, but finding someone that has faced the same issue and challenges as themselves is very helpful in not only exploring an issue, but also in counteracting stereotype threat.


"The reason why you are being downvoted is that the notion of "I think people of every gender, race, etc are of value and should be available." doesn't really address the issue of why someone who is in a minority in STEM would seek out someone like themselves as a role model."

This reads to me like

"You are being downvoted because your opinion doesn't address the original question you asked."

I have been polite, friendly, and reasonable. You guys are punishing an opinion about increasing inclusiveness because it goes against your norm.


> "You are being downvoted because your opinion doesn't address the original question you asked."

Except your original post said:

"I don't understand why we all talk about the gender problem in engineering, then continue it by isolating female students from male teachers."

The gender problem in STEM isn't that women have a hard time finding men as peers and role models, its that women have a hard time finding women as peers and role models. You started out by misidentifying the problem in the first place, this is why your subsequent posts are downvoted because you are creating a straw man out of the OP's request to find a woman in STEM for their daughter to meet.


In Monte Carlo, there is something called "stratified" or "biased" sampling. It's used to overcome the problem that if you are trying to sample a highly nonuniform probability distribution, a "fair" sampling based on the frequency distribution won't tell you about the tails unless you use a lot of samples.

Suppose that we are trying to sample a distribution that is, say, 90% male and 10% female. If we do that with a fair sampling, and take 5 samples, chances are that we will end up with no females in the sample. Someone observing the sampled distribution would draw the conclusion that there are no women in the population from which the samples are drawn.

The solution is to not sample fairly, because to do so results in oversampling the common cases and undersampling the rare cases. Instead, you construct your sample such that it samples the rare cases with an artificially higher probability. You of course needs to take this into account when interpreting the samples, but that's fine.

So for the topic at hand: if you want to expose someone to the widest possible range of viewpoints, sampling fairly is an inefficient thing to do. Instead, you need to split the samples into several strata, be they gender, cultural background, wealth, anything you can think of, and then make sure that all parts of those distributions are represented in your sample. Otherwise, with a limited number of samples, you'll never encounter the rare instances.

In other words, you need to "carefully structure inequality in", as you say.


We can pretend things are equal, but they're not. If a young girl is taken to a work place and all she sees is 20+ men working there (and chances are that is what she would see), that can definitely be discouraging. Unfortunately, women in engineering isn't common enough and personally observing a status quo of there being very few women can cause a problem in what a child sees as their possibilities.


> Why do you need a woman?

Because role models are a great thing thing for a young person to have. Why is it a problem for him to want a female role model for a female child? Why do you think that "wanting his daughter to meet a female engineer" represents inequality? Do you think that it would somehow be more equal for women to only have male role models?


"Do you think that it would somehow be more equal for women to only have male role models?"

You seem to be going to great effort to misunderstand me.

By saying "I think young people should have access to everyone, not just people demographically like them," you seem to have heard "I think young women should only have access to people unlike them."

A call for inclusion has been misrepresented as a call for exclusion.

.

"Why is it a problem for him to want a female role model for a female child?"

For the same reason that it would be a problem to only want male role models for male children. It reinforces existing problems and stereotypes, prevents social connections across demographics, limits group knowledge cross pollination, and limits the students' access to whoever is the best mentor available in the case that that mentor does not match them demographically.

.

"Why do you think that "wanting his daughter to meet a female engineer" represents inequality?"

Does this actually need to be explained?


> By saying "I think young people should have access to everyone, not just people demographically like them," you seem to have heard "I think young women should only have access to people unlike them."

> A call for inclusion has been misrepresented as a call for exclusion.

In terms of gender, cisgender men by far the norm, they have no problem being represented. Women in general are not as well represented, someone looking for a women as a role model would have to look harder to find someone. To that end, a highly represented group doesn't need special consideration to be included, they are heavily included already.

> For the same reason that it would be a problem to only want male role models for male children. It reinforces existing problems and stereotypes, prevents social connections across demographics, limits group knowledge cross pollination, and limits the students' access to whoever is the best mentor available in the case that that mentor does not match them demographically.

Nobody is arguing that role models should be limited. Indeed, if this person's daughter pursues STEM they will likely have a man as a role model at some point since they are well represented. Groups of people that are not as well represented will be harder to come across so it is not a bad idea for someone to seek out different people.

> Does this actually need to be explained?

It does to a certain degree, as it seems that you feel that the extra search and effort to find a woman role model detracts from the dominant group.


I feel like I can't reply because I'm being mass downvoted for saying "I think women should have access to everybody" and being told that that makes me a bad person.

"Nobody is arguing that role models should be limited."

The entire tree I'm responding to is.


I don't actually see where anyone says they should be limited until I read your comments assuming that. The frustrating bit is that you're basically on the same page as your downvoters if your ultimate message is "everyone should have access to everyone".

The father wants to make sure his daughter gets access to both male and female role models at which point she can choose one or two or all or none of them if she wants - that is the complete opposite of _limiting_ role models. People replying to you think it's okay for him to seek out a female engineer specifically because if he doesn't try, she's ending up with a male role model (not a bad thing) out of a pool of only men right now (the bad thing). He's not saying "my daughter will ONLY have female role models or else" or "men can't be role models for my daughter" or "the woman I find from this Ask HN must be my daughter's role model". He's also not asking for male role models because he thinks they make bad role models for women, rather that they're very common as half the men in his social circle can act as one for his daughter. I would also fully expect him and others to care just as much about finding a similar potential role model had he had a son instead of a daughter.

Personally, most of my role models were male, but it would have been nice to encounter more women along the way. I have different conversations with other women than I do with men that aren't my husband in the tech industry. It's also a coping mechanism when I deal with sexism that men don't fully understand because they're not used to or aware of it. (I recognize that the complete opposite happens in some fields and I don't approve of any of the sexism, I just don't see what's wrong with doing what you can and taking advantage of what you can if you need to.)


"The frustrating bit is that you're basically on the same page as your downvoters if your ultimate message is "everyone should have access to everyone".

I agree. :(

.

"He's not saying "my daughter will ONLY have female role models or else"

Yeah, I didn't claim he was. What I actually said was "making this selection explicitly by a demographic feature that isn't germane is limiting." It doesn't have to be universal.

If you go to the store and say "I'm going to try a strawberry drink," that's limiting, even if it's only applied to that one store trip.

Everyone seems to be trying to stretch what I said into an infinitive I had no intent of, which isn't actually present in my speech, in order to argue with the infinitive.

It's simpler than that.

Kids don't get a plethora of mentors. I think it's problematic to screw up the first mentorship by adding a criterion that is unnecessary and not particularly productive.

I mean reduce it to absurdity. "I want to give my child access to four mentors, one each from the four elements of the Western Zodiac, to give them the chance to figure out which element they like best."

Except that's dramatically limiting - it constrains which sets of mentors can be made available. If you have Charlie, who's an Aries, you can't also have Dave, who's a Taurus, because they're both fire signs. (They probably aren't; I don't actually know astrology.)

And when you hook it on something we all explicitly don't care about, like astrology, then suddenly the problem becomes really obvious, because it isn't taboo to think it over. "Oh hey, I shouldn't be adding arbitrary constraints to what can be proferred, then observing the range of those constraints as if it's some form of diversification, because constraints are always a reduction against wild card."

.

"He's also not asking for male role models because he thinks they make bad role models for women"

I wish people would stop making assumptions about the author's opinions then stuffing words into his mouth this way.

I asked that guy his opinion. Not everybody else reading the thread. You aren't mind readers and you don't know if this is what he meant.

.

"I would also fully expect him and others to care just as much about finding a similar potential role model had he had a son instead of a daughter."

I have a hard time reading this, because it seems to me like you're saying you expect his son to be proferred male role models, in the same post as where you're talking about how he doesn't limit who's offered.

Again: I am a man, and I modelled my professional self on a woman. I think that to offer male children preferential access to male role models perpetuates the broken networking and disallows men to learn from women.

I don't understand why this is not obviously a problem.

.

"Personally, most of my role models were male, but it would have been nice to encounter more women along the way."

And yet you want to make sure this girl gets childhood mentored by a woman.

I wonder if you're just taking this from the position that a person has several childhood mentors in their life?

.

"It's also a coping mechanism when I deal with sexism that men don't fully understand because they're not used to or aware of it."

Which is another great reason that we shouldn't be hiding male mentors from having access to those vanishingly rare female students.

.

"The father wants to make sure his daughter gets access to both male and female role models at which point she can choose one or two or all or none of them if she wants - that is the complete opposite of _limiting_ role models."

I don't know that I actually agree here.

If I had a boy, and I wanted to arrange for him one male and one female role model, and it turned out that the two best available were two women, I'd have limited him.

Unfortunately, despite that I'm trying to argue for inclusion and for helping female students, I'm about to be downvoted again :(


> men by far the norm, they have no problem being represented.

For all the HN articles about parent seeking role models for their children, are we really saying that "parent looking for male role model" is highly represented on the HN?

Or is it that no parent will ever need to look for a male role model outside their own social circle?


It is more that for "parent looking for role model" in STEM fields they will by default encounter mostly men, so if for one reason or another you'd like to meet a women you'll probably have to specifically look for someone, esp. when you are looking for people in fields that are outside of your own.


It's absolutely trivial to meet male engineers. Many, if not most, of his daughters role models will end up being male engineers. The effort isn't to exclude men from being involved in her career choice / education, the effort is to include a woman in it.


I had asked you several questions. Were those going to be responded to?


So she has at least one mentor she can talk to directly about problems and hurdles she experiences because of her gender, and benefit from her experience?


If I had a daughter, I'd focus on supporting _her_ decisions rather than my own interest. But I might be wrong.


I'm sending this link to Lynn Langit


You sound sexist. Are you sexist? Why female engineers? Are male engineers not up to the challenge of instructing your offspring?


Thanks to the fair-minded users of Hacker News for downvoting this bullshit. When I encounter a comment like this, it's a relief to discover that the community immune system already rejected it.

When you see a comment that is truly toxic for HN, flag it by clicking "link" to go to the item page and then "flag" at the top.

Edit: Since I know some people have concerns about unpopular opinions being suppressed, perhaps I should add that it's not an unpopular opinion which is the problem here. It's the trollish content and vicious tone.


He's not just trolling and vicious, but he's wrong too. The other day, I brought up the fact that Michael Bay had gotten the design of the ninja turtles totally wrong in the new movie. And she said: "I always kinda liked TMNT, but it was a 'boy' thing so I never really got into it a kid. I mean, I guess they had April."

So yes, gender matters. Kids want to be able to relate to their heroes, and gender is a deep part of identity. And admitting that gender matters isn't sexist.


Being wrong is not a crime on Hacker News; trolling and viciousness are.


I wonder how many civil, patiently explained responses that live up to your expectations for HN standards would have appeared if the request was for a male-only engineer.


It doesn't matter. Trying to measure these things for who's worse, etc., is a guaranteed way to fall straight back into raging. What we need are "civil, patiently explained responses" all around.


I think it might be a good idea when you make your mod comments to include the fact that you are the mod.

I wouldn't assume that people know that. In fact if I hadn't read that particular post on that day I wouldn't know that.

I wouldn't also assume that any particular user will even click on your profile (which is another way of saying "don't just put it there").


I see your point, and have wondered about it myself. This seems like a case where laziness will show the way. If it's important, it will eventually be obvious that it needs implementing. There are a lot of other features to build.

I thought for a while about only making mod comments from this account, but that doesn't seem right. I was a community member and HN user long, long before I was a moderator.

We'll figure it all out as we go :)


Never underestimate the value of seeing "Someone who is like you" doing something.


Role models, yo.


[deleted]


This comment is also out of line. Two wrongs do not make a right, and personal attacks are absolutely unwelcome on Hacker News. It doesn't matter how provocative the other person was being.

When you see something provocative on HN, please reflect before responding. Fighting poison with poison makes things worse. Please either add comments that make things better, or no comments.

When responding to a toxic comment, re-read what you just posted to make sure that you didn't slip up and make a toxic comment yourself. If you did, edit out the acidity until your comment is neutral; or simply delete it. That's what I do, and I can tell you from long experience that this approach works.


Off topic, but thanks for wading in and describing the moderator viewpoint, even if it isn't fun. :) I think more moderator transparency is helpful, even if it ends up being something I disagree with[1].

[1] Not anything that I saw in this thread, just theoretically.


Sure. It's an experiment to see if we can help get things on track by putting feedback into the system. Also, the community needs a good dose of responsiveness, and I'm able to do that now.

My answer to the no-fun bit is that it's temporary. :)


"Please either add comments that make things better, or no comments."

I wrote this on a sticky note and put it on my monitor. It will be my mantra for the next few days.


lol. nice try. but if it would be funnier if you posted the same post, word for word, but changing the genders. that would show the knew jerk reactions going on in this community better than your also sexist comment.


http://i.imgur.com/KgoIF.gif

I'm so glad everyone downvoted you.


This comment is nowhere near as bad as the others, but it's still bad. It's fluff that contains no information; it's playing with being provocative, and that link! don't get me started.


How do you know everyone downvoted?


Comments become more gray and slightly less readable as they accumulate down votes. If you're using something that scrapes the site you might not be able to see it but it's visible on the main news.ycombinator.com site.


This is no evidence for the claim, i.e. EVERYONE downvoted.

Are you suggesting that there is no possibility for any upvote to a gray comment?


"she has 16 hours of gymnastics practice every week, which markedly improves the report from school and now she's in love with it so I can't talk her out of it. I've tried. So spring break would be ideal."

This is going to sound harsh. So, essentially even though you have an available resource (FIRST) since your daughter would rather take gymnastics you are then going to push off this responsibility to a complete stranger and buy them lunch as a thank you? (Recognizing that that person of course will gain some karma by helping you out..) Why not just have your daughter learn a lesson early on about priorities in life?

Gymnastics, nice, leads to ? Inspiration to be an engineer that gives a child career direction leads to...


Teaching your kids to stop playing sports in favor of pursuing their career is a terrible lesson. There is a lot more to life than your job - our culture fights that notion, but it's true.


What's so terrible in the lesson of focusing on activities that benefit other people?


Justice Byron White played college football, got a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford, played in the NFL for Pittsburgh and Detroit, served in the Navy, built a private practice, and served on the Supreme Court for 31 years.

Gymnastics leads to becoming a well-rounded person, which is a pre-requisite for the Harvards and Stanfords of the world, which leads to exceptional careers in medicine or technology. American culture places a tremendous value on athletics, even for people in intellectual pursuits. In the business world, athletics is a key way for intelligent people to distinguish themselves within the pool of other intelligent people.


"Justice Byron White played...."

He also drank milk. I mean there is no way you are seriously suggesting logic like this are you?

"Gymnastics leads to becoming a well-rounded person"

I agree that Harvard and Stanford will choose only exceptional people (that is ones without other connections or advantages etc.) However even without doing any research, I somehow feel that there are quite a few people at all the IVY league schools who don't participate in sports at all. And never have. I went to one and I never did any sports. And I knew plenty of people that never did any sports. And I know that there is no checklist that says "reject if no sports" like there might be "reject if a felon".

For that matter what makes participating in any sport (gymnastics or otherwise) a pre for being well rounded? What about handicapped people?

Lastly it's obvious that there are many schools other than Harvard, Stanford or the usual suspects that allow people to lead exceptional careers.

So the question becomes to what extent are you going to play the game in high school with extra activities to try to get into a "top" school vs. a "really good school"

Not only that but some people actually can't handle academics and sport participation.

Somehow I feel that since it is well understood that grades and sat's are quite important (and there are clear demarcation points on those values) for some students it might actually pay to not do any sport or spend time learning to program.


Teaching your kid that work and obligations of life are more important than pursuing the things that make you happy leads to...


Not being broke makes me pretty fucking happy. "Do what makes you happy and don't worry about money" is a platitude for the privileged and not actually life advice. "Do what you enjoy well enough to spend 40 hours a week on if someone is paying you for it" is a better goal.


I agree, but the world is not absolutes. You can be a programmer that makes a fine living and do gymnastics 16 hours per week.

Do what you enjoy enough that you don't mind doing it 30 hours per week, and do what you love the rest of the time is pretty solid as well.


And what will you do with the other 128 hours?


well, probably healthier relationships with other people, for starters. blowing off your obligations to do whatever makes you happy is probably going to upset a lot of other folks.

there's certainly a balance to be had, and it isn't fully in favor of short term happiness, either.


And sitting in front of a computer for an extra 16 hours a week learning to program at the age of 12 instead of having normal social interactions is supposed to enable her to have "healthier relationships with other people"?

> blowing off your obligations

She is 12 years old. Are you people mad? She has very few obligations and that's a good thing. Let her have some fun before she needs to start being an adult.


> And sitting in front of a computer for an extra 16 hours a week learning to program at the age of 12 instead of having normal social interactions is supposed to enable her to have "healthier relationships with other people"?

huh, can't find the part where i suggested that. or anything like it.

in fact, pretty sure i said something about balance.

> She is 12 years old. Are you people mad?

i was addressing the values that kids should be taught, not the expectations for their behavior, and certainly not the expectations for one particular kid i don't even know.

perhaps look harder for alternative interpretations before resorting to madness as the most likely explanation next time?


"and it isn't fully in favor of short term happiness"

Exactly. And see nobody wants to believe that. They want to think that things will just work out.

I'm wondering about how many people downvoting or disagreeing are aware that the major problem in marriage (as reported in popular culture and I believe it from my observation to be true) are money problems. So sure hey continue to pursue what gives you happiness but don't forget the things that allow basic survival.


Both of my sisters received NCAA scholarships for gymnastics. So it can lead to a free education, where her daughter might choose to study something STEM.


"so it can lead"

Care to discuss the probability of that happening?

I know someone who got an NCAA (or similar) scholarship for swimming. The rest of the team didn't.


Well nothing in this world is guaranteed.

Anecdotal still, but both of my sisters turned down the gymnastics scholarships. They trained 36 hours a week from age 6-18 and then quit completely. One is now a nurse and the other is in vet school. Seems wasting their childhood on something they loved wasn't terribly detrimental after all.

I think that there are "intangible" benefits to athletics (not just team sports) that you're missing here.


I swam in high school, out of everyone who was on my club team, which had pretty serious commitments, I think about 90% had some doors opened for them with college that wouldn't have been there otherwise.

It isn't always a full ride at a D1 school (only true for 2 out of about 30), but many got into schools they wouldn't have otherwise, others received partial D1 scholarships, and many others received large "leadership" scholarships at private D3 schools.

All this to say, there are some real benefits in the college process to competing at higher levels of high school athletics. Even if all the student gets is to spend a night on campus, and meet the entire team, and see the campus as a student, there's some real value to that.


I can make a pretty compelling case that one of the reasons I am where I am today is because I was a mediocre ski racer.


Edit:

In retrospect this is probably what seems to have made people upset (from the comments below)

"Gymnastics, nice, leads to ?"

That said I'm appreciative for the other perspectives.

I didn't mean to imply that there was no value in sports (although for sure that is what my sentence seems to say). What I meant is that I thought the value of the other program (FIRST) was more valuable in terms of setting the child apart. That's strictly my opinion it's obvious that others see it differently. You only have so much time in a week you can't do everything and have to triage based on what you feel the best outcome is.


I suspect it was downvoted for a lot of reasons. For example: What on earth is your problem with him asking this? So maybe you don't want to give time to a 12 yo girl. Does that mean others will not? There's just a lot of arrogance there. (and I could think of others, but I am honestly not trying to attack you, just give some feedback as to why this likely got downvoted)

But since you asked: I am female and did gymnastics as a kid. What has it led to? It has led to someone who knows how to fall without ending up in the ER. I have a serious medical condition which sometimes leaves me neurologically impaired. I sometimes fall down under circumstances where I really should be left bloody and with broken bones and the like. I am usually left with a few bruises and strains. That a) is worth big bucks in terms of money not spent on major medical care and b) priceless because god knows I have suffered enough from my medical condition, I don't need to be in the effin ER every time I turn around because I stupidly feel down. I have enough pain and physical limitations without it being constantly compounded by more scars and the like.

Gymnastics training is not just some frivolous indulgence.




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