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[flagged] What Silicon Valley Thinks of Women (newsweek.com)
114 points by Alex3917 on Jan 29, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 230 comments

> It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that a front line, if not the trench of the global gender war, is in Silicon Valley.

I agree that parts of the tech world are really horrible, and I think we need to be doing everything we can to make women feel more welcome in our industry (not just for them, but for us), but isn't it at least a little exaggeration to say that Silicon Valley is the main "trench of the global gender war"?

I'd think we'd be ranked after at least a couple of these:

* The construction industry

* The Bible Belt

* The restaurant industry

* West Africa

* The movie industry

* The Vatican

* The sportswriting industry

* The people who make Superbowl ads

* Japan

* The adult entertainment industry

* The Middle East

* Wall Street

* Nepal

* The upper echelons of American politics

OK. Maybe I don't get this, but doesn't framing this as a "war" make the situation even worse? Isn't viewing the opposite gender as "enemy combatants" a really terrible thing to do?

I would think that women face enough challenges in their workplace without being viewed by their coworkers as being hostile and out for their livelihoods.

Maybe I have this all wrong, but this seems that "news" pieces like this do not help anybody but the media (though perhaps it makes those on either side of the gender divide who already view the others as enemy combatants feel validated).

> Isn't viewing the opposite gender as "enemy combatants" a really terrible thing to do?

Except that's not what's happening. The war is between the ideology that genders are equal and the ideology that genders are not equal.

Framing it the way you have is a standard tactic employed by people who are entirely aware they are at war and have set up feminists as enemy combatants already.

The war is between the ideology that genders are equal and the ideology that genders are not equal.

I think a better summary would be this:

The war is between the ideology that genders should have equal opportunities and the ideology that genders should not.

I don't think anyone outside certain religions[1] asserts that genders should not have equal opportunities. Could you link to such a person?

A better statement: The war is between the ideology that individual humans should have equal opportunities, and the ideology that certain groups should be statistically equally represented in all fields.

(Or sometimes it's all fields that result in "power", a poorly defined term.)

[1] Interestingly, those religions usually have more women than computing. I've never been to a church where women didn't outnumber men.

Since you're obfuscating, I want to clarify that your "better statement" is not a restatement of what I said. It's a disagreement.

Yes, I'm disagreeing. I guess my phrasing was unclear, my apologies. Again, if you can link to people of any significance who openly state opposition to equal opportunity for individuals, it would be fairly convincing.

What does "equal opportunity" mean?


Is it equal opportunity to see the baseball game, or equal opportunity to pick up a crate?

There are certainly people who state opposition to each of these forms, although they each tend to say they support "equal opportunity," meaning the other.

To translate my statement to the language used in your cartoon, "equality of individual opportunity" is "SAMENESS" and statistical equality is "EQUITY".

One major obfuscation made by various activists in this discussion is that lack of EQUITY can only be caused by a lack of SAMENESS. As illustrated nicely by the cartoon, some folks are short. If shortness is distributed unevenly, then SAMENESS will result in some groups being underrepresented.

Yes, but (to stretch this analogy quite thin) the goal here isn't shortness or tallness. The goal is being able to watch the baseball game. It just so happens that there's a big wooden fence there, which may or may not have some reason to exist, but its purpose is definitely not to block short people from watching the game. If it has a purpose, it's something else. Blocking short people is a side effect.

So, if shortness is distributed unequally, and there's a big wooden fence in front of the game, you could respond by saying that tall people are naturally more suited for game-watching, and argue based on tall people having historically been more successful at it. But that claim isn't likely to stand up to a deep examination of causality and reality.

There are two significantly more defensible responses: give short people enough crates to see over the fence, or tear down the fence (preferably by figuring out what purpose it serves, and building something else to serve its purpose without the side effects, like a Plexiglas fence).

Then your ability to watch the game will be determined only by your natural talent at game-watching, not by your natural talent at being tall.

> So, if shortness is distributed unequally, and there's a big wooden fence in front of the game, you could respond by saying that tall people are naturally more suited for game-watching, and argue based on tall people having historically been more successful at it. But that claim isn't likely to stand up to a deep examination of causality and reality.

Interesting observation. The questions that follow next are:

(1) What are the "fences" in Silicon Valley that lead to the issues described in the article (a single fence is interesting for illustration, but in practice there are probably multiple fences)

(2) Of those additional "fences" how many are the fault of culture (the article cites several such as viewing women entrepreneurs as potential mates first and funding opportunities second) and how many are circumstances beyond the control of anyone in Silicon Valley (like the last of STEM support during formative years (childhood/adolescence/higher education) or the fact that greater testosterone levels correlate with greater aggression and risk taking that VCs tend to look for (several times in the article there are examples of women not being forward and actually asking for money or not asking for enough). The self selection of female entrepreneurs only seeking out VCs that have funded women and or have women involved is yet another fence that no one can solve but the women (this creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. what if several VC funds out there haven't funded a women because many women they may have wanted to fund never approached them to ask for money).

The former "fences" (like viewing female entrepreneurs as mates, we should drive out of the industry. But some of the latter issues are the responsibility of women (and the men whose exhibit the same traits) to solve. I know a ton of shy nerdy guys that would never get funding because they don't know how to pitch and get someone to cut them a check (close the deal). They either have to learn those skills or they have to pair up with another person who has skills in selling. Being tenacious and aggressive matters.

Of all the men working in Silicon Valley, a tiny fraction of them are actually fundable because they have the skills to be funded (technically brilliant and/or tenacious/alphas). The overwhelming majority do not get funded because they either don't have the technical skills or they are betas or omegas.

For startup ideas not reliant on some major, defensible technological advantage, the VC industry has a strong preference for founding teams teams that have at least one alpha among them regardless of gender.

One question I'd love to see studied is testosterone levels of people (relative to their own gender) pitching VCs and whether they get funded, and if so by how much.

Assuming there is a preference for investing in people with high testosterone levels, the second question which I'd like to see investigated (but I don't know how you'd design an experiment for this.) is whether or not investing in greater testosterone levels is a good investment thesis/strategy.

I don't think anyone outside certain religions[1] asserts that genders should not have equal opportunities. Could you link to such a person?

Some (fairly major) golf clubs don't let women play on their courses[1]. Plenty of people think women should not be allowed in combat roles in the armed forces[2]. I could continue...

[1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-politics/10186258/Go...

[2] http://www.usnews.com/debate-club/should-women-be-allowed-to...

Will men be allowed to participate in Glassbreakers?

It would be pretty easy to cite circumstances when women are excluded and men are excluded. For example, there are men's only colleges and women's only colleges, and the number of women's only institutions of higher education greatly outnumber the number of men's only institutions (The only one I can think of is Hampden Sydney in Virginia).

Personally, I'm very anti-gender binary, so my purpose of commenting here is that it is intellectually dishonest to cite examples where women are excluded and conveniently omit examples where men are excluded.

Hi, Eileen from Glassbreakers here. Glassbreakers is currently only for any one who identifies as a woman (cis or trans). This is because on a global scale, women face different career challenges that are specific to their gender. We hope that by connecting the global female workforce to each other we can speed up the process of a true gender balanced workforce. We do, however, want to keep men a part of the conversation and a part of our community. Anyone who believes is the social, political and economical equality of sexes is a Glassbreaker. We're saving the information of the men who do sign up or reach out because they want to help and are brainstorming creative ways to keep them involved.

Its Lauren from Glassbreakers. Eileen's comment is spot on. Even though you aren't on the platform, how would you like to be involved? @malandrew

> Some (fairly major) golf clubs don't let women play on their courses[1].

Actually those clubs don't let women become members of the club, but they do let them play on the course. (Specifically, Muirfield does.) Or in some cases (I'm not sure if it's a nonzero number now that the R&A golf club has had its vote) they don't own the course.

So that is confirmation that women don't have the right to join the club?

Eh. I prefer mine. We're really just changing where we put the origin point for our coordinate systems, but I like mine better. :P

I would also swap out "opportunities" for "autonomies", but that's being pedantic and obscure.

Define equal. Then tell me what legal rights women have that men don't have. Because I can name about five legal rights that women have that men don't.

Legal rights are irrelevant if they cannot be exercised. In 1860, a runaway slave in the North had the right to life, liberty, and property; why did the Underground Railroad reach to Canada?

You didn't answer my question. What legal right don't they have? Or, as you say, what legal right can't they exercise?

Your repetition of ideological talking points is both inflaming this thread and making it altogether predictable. We don't need yet another flamewar. Please stop.

You misunderstand the enemy. The enemy isn't the other sex. The enemy is the culture itself that reinforces and perpetuates traditionalist gender roles.

In short, the enemy is the patriarchy, and if you think for a minute that that only negatively affects girls and women, well, then you've never been a shy nerd asking out that cute girl from your math class who's also a cheerleader. Spoiler alert, P(that goes well) < 0.01.

In this setting, you should refer to it as 'sexism'. It means almost the same thing as 'patriarchy', but isn't unnecessarily divisive. You can use 'culture of sexism' if you want to cut closer to 'patriarchy'.

I don't think sexism or culture of sexism is enough because the example I gave is entirely about gender. The cheerleader doesn't reject him because he's male; she's rejects him because he's not masculine. That has nothing to do with his sex, and everything to do with not embodying what a society says the is ideal masculine gender.

Certainly those ideals are rooted in sexism and are in many ways sexist, but the sexism isn't what caused the problem in my example. The gender norms by themselves (ie doesn't matter whether they're the way they are due to sexism) caused the problem, because they basically say that a guy is worthless if he isn't a nearly perfect example of the masculine gender.

She's rejecting him because he doesn't have enough of the traits that society says a man should have (and maybe has too many of the traits that society says women should have): He's not strong, he's not assertive, he's not domineering, he's not good at arbitrary athletic competitions, etc. etc. etc.

The cheerleader doesn't reject him because he's male; she's rejects him because he's not masculine. That has nothing to do with his sex, and everything to do with not embodying what a society says the is ideal masculine gender.

This has everything to do with his sex. He is being rejected (hypothetically - within our thought experiment here) because he is considered to be an insufficient exemplar of the male sex. To phrase it a different way - he is insufficiently masculine for this cheerleader (i.e. a very high-status female) to have an interest in him.

You correctly point this out later on - She's rejecting him because he doesn't have enough of the traits that society says a man should have (and maybe has too many of the traits that society says women should have): He's not strong, he's not assertive, he's not domineering, he's not good at arbitrary athletic competitions, etc. etc. etc.

If we don't explicitly define some terms first, we're just going to continue to equivocate. Sex and gender are two different things that you are conflating, and masculine, feminine, male, and female describe separate things.

Sex is purely genitalia. The two extremes are male and female, but this is a spectrum and not a binary.

Gender is all the other shit that society piles on top of that. The two extremes in western culture are masculine and feminine, but this is a spectrum and not a binary. That this mostly lines up with the sexual spectrum is an arbitrary decision by society; society could define gender in such a way that it is orthogonal to sex. Examples of where gender doesn't line up with sex in western society include butch within the lgbtq community: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butch_and_femme. Other societies have in fact defined gender in a way that doesn't line up with sex, so this isn't just theoretical: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_identity#Non-Western_gen....

In the thought experiment he is not being rejected because of his sex. He is being rejected because of the gender he presents is not sufficiently masculine enough.

> She's rejecting him because he doesn't have enough of the traits that society says a man should have (and maybe has too many of the traits that society says women should have):

That's sexism.

Gender-based prejudice is a separate thing from sexism (but they are interrelated). Point one and three from this page [1] do a good job explaining, but here's the crux of the argument:

"The first important thing to understand about sexism is that it is systemic. Gender-based prejudice, on the other hand, is individual, although it exists in the context of a sexist system."

"But men who experience oppression based on the way they express their gender are still not oppressed on the basis of their gender itself. That is to say, they’re not experiencing that oppression because they’re men. Non-men, on the other hand, experience gender-based oppression because they aren’t men."

[1]: http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/01/sexism-vs-prejudice/

How is it the fault of the "patriarchy" that shy nerds asking out cheerleaders tends not to go well? This makes it sound like a conspiracy.

So, sexism cuts all the way down to the bone of our daily interpersonal interactions. It creates the whole jock / nerd divide. It creates the difference between the hot cheerleaders and the normal girls.

What does this is gender roles and their consequent beauty norms. People decide that women are best off looking fit and have big boobs and are outgoing and have a certain personality. These norms are communicated to them all throughout their childhood through media and peer pressure. In exactly the same way, ideals create the jock as well.

When you actually look at the people embodying these stereotypes, there's nothing all that much different about them, they're just people who've managed to adopt these norms. They might even be meaner than normal, enforcing these roles themselves.

Gender roles, beauty norms are part of the culture that feminists call patriarchy. Patriarchy is just sexism at the social / cultural scale. They wouldn't exist without these broader cultural dynamics, people would just be people and you could ask out whoever you want and she wouldn't shut you down because she has a place to maintain in the hierarchy, a hierarchy created and maintained by sexism.

Once you realize that women perpetuate patriarchy too and how, that's when you start to really understand just what it is.

If you need an analogy, think about how the general lack of respect for privacy at both the individual and the legislative levels negatively affects all of us, even those who 'have nothing to hide'.

So, sexism cuts all the way down to the bone of our daily interpersonal interactions. It creates the whole jock / nerd divide. It creates the difference between the hot cheerleaders and the normal girls.

I'm not really clear on how such divisions emerges from sexism. At its root, it seems to come from primate status competition, within separate groups that happen to be divided out by sex.

Among the boys, the jocks are those who prioritize sports and physical achievement, while the nerds are those who prioritize academics and mental achievement. This divide persists even in the absence of females - for example, all-boys schools still have aggressive athletes and quiet, bookish introverts, regardless of the presence or absence of the opposite sex.

If anything, the thing you're describing as patriarchy and/or sexism is the effect, rather than the cause.

The enemy isn't the patriarchy, it's feminism. They create straw men to attack because they want power. There is no global gender war. It's being fabricated in real time to justify the ridiculous laws that arbitrarily make criminals out of men. And if you don't believe me, ask Byron Banks.

you've never been a shy nerd asking out that cute girl from your math class who's also a cheerleader.

Feminism is designed to make sure it's illegal for the shy nerd to ask out the prom queen. Spoiler alert: feminists are not the friends you may think they are.

Do you possibly mean Brian Banks, the Long Beach high football player?

False accusations of any crime are horrible, but they are in no way common: The United States Justice Department agrees [with the rough percentage of false rape claims], saying false accusations "are estimated to occur at the low rate of two percent -- similar to the rate of false accusations for other violent crimes."

Coincidentally, 2% is the number of rape accusations that ever result in a conviction: https://rainn.org/get-information/statistics/reporting-rates (this sources back to the DoJ as well. RAINN just has a nifty infographic.

The bible belt isn't exactly eating the world.

We live in a society where more people now aspire to be tech CEOs than pro athletes or rock stars, and tech is one of the main centers of power both politically and economically.

It's easy to dismiss the article because there are a few mischaracterizations and exaggerations. But you need to remember that most people get their information about the tech world from second hand sources, and SV is largely opaque and closed off to the general public.

If you actually read it for what it is rather than just judging the author based on her knowledge of obscure inside-baseball tech scandals then I think there are some valuable points.

Ah, you're saying SV is the front line not because it treats women worse than anyone else in the world, but rather (to use the military analogy) because it's an extremely strategic piece of territory.

It doesn't treat women worse than every other place in the world, no, but it treats them worse than many other places. Computer science has a sharply worse gender participation gap than other professions, and even from other STEM fields. It also continues to allow that gap to reinforce itself, for instance with apologia about how women aren't taught computers when they're younger and (by implication) how they're too far gone by the time they're 20 to remedy that problem. And that's one of the more charitable pathologies to focus on.

It doesn't actually treat women worse than lots of other places that have plenty of women. Islam, acting and modeling all treat women worse than computing (flogging them for rape, casting couches), yet have far more women.

Women are sometimes treated badly in technology. Technology also has few women. But what evidence do we have that the former is a significant cause of the latter? It's hard to even demonstrate a correlation, let alone causation.

The notion that there is some intrinsic property of women that makes them uncompetitive in computer science, but not in accounting, actuary, law, medicine, &c is an extraordinary claim. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. No such evidence has been presented.

The notion that a male majority which happens to almost entirely comprise the upper echelons of the technology industry might, intentionally or (just as likely) not, set up self-reinforcing cycles of encouragement for men and discouragement for women is not an extraordinary claim. It is bog-standard human pack-animal clique behavior. And nevertheless, clear, ringing evidence of these phenomena are published routinely.

I think you are ignoring the much more likely scenario that women see computer science/software development as a bad bet or it simply does not appeal to them.

For example it is a field where if you take 5 years off you are treated worse than a fresh graduate... Funnily enough a lot of women might want the ability to take a few years off.

Or for example it is an industry which has a lot of instability and lack of internal mobility. This means that you often are forced to leave jobs you love and where you have close friends in order to progess, or because they pivoted, or simply went out of business. Less women are willing to put up with this crap.

I've worked as a software developer at a couple of larger companies where maybe 15% of the developers were female. However, about 40% of the systems analysts/business analysts/project managers/testers/QA were female. These are roles in which you interact with the developers on a daily basis.... Surely if the issue was software developers being sexist then women wouldn't want to do these other roles either.

There is some sexism in the industry, but no more than many other industries which have plenty of women.

No offense, but I'm not sure you've actually said anything here. Take this exact comment, substitute "women" for "men", and it seems equally valid. If you can't explain why things would be different specifically for women, you're not addressing the fact that there are four men for every woman in software development.

I'm saying that women, on average, might value the attributes/factors I listed more than men. I.e.

Being able to take 1+ years off when you have children without serious career damage is more important to woman than men.

The research I have read suggests that women are much less likely to leave a job they enjoy and where they have made friends in order to get a pay rise than men are. It's not much of a leap for women to consider this issue before entering a field.

Likewise there is considerable research on women being more risk averse than men and surely this at least has an impact on joining the startup world.

My last two paragraphs basically boil down to a question for you: why are women who are, in your opinion, not becoming software developers because of sexism still entering into roles that interact heavily with these sexist software developers?

Easy: because those roles you referenced are fed by a career track that starts in university programs with a much better gender balance. Some of those role are MBAs, and some of them (the project management stuff) are generic liberal arts with some industry training (like PMP).

That doesn't mean that the solution to the problem is in university enrollment, but it does explain why it's easier to find women in non-tech roles in software companies: it's because those roles don't require an early life commitment to a career in technology.

Every field you mentioned had the same male majority, yet they all failed to keep women out. Well, almost every field you mentioned - actuaries were quite successful.


If you want to appeal to "bog-standard human behavior", it would help if you showed that computing, physics and actuary have "bog-standard human behavior" while law and medicine don't. As I said, not even correlation has been demonstrated.

Just so that you can understand what I mean by "correlations", let me demonstrate with a different theory. Theory: women are less likely to have high quantitative ability, so fields with higher quantitative ability requirements will have fewer women. Demonstrating a correlation would involve showing a downward sloping graph with quant ability requirements on the X-axis and %women on the Y-axis. Like the graphs here: http://slatestarcodex.com/2015/01/24/perceptions-of-required...

Then I'd need to present evidence that women are less likely to have high quant abilities. Like in these papers here (note that the abstracts have been creatively worded to be published, skip to the data tables): http://www.sciencemag.org/content/321/5888/494.summary http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/2889145?uid=3738256&ui... http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21038941 http://www.ams.org/notices/201201/rtx120100010p.pdf

Simply pointing out that humans act like humans fails - it predicts flat graphs rather than downward sloping ones.

I said extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

You just made two different extraordinary claims: that women (as a demographic) intrinsically lack quantitative ability, so much so that they're at a disadvantage in industry (not merely at a disadvantage in the competition for Fields Medals), and that computer science as an industry is uniquely dependent on quantitative ability, moreso than actuaries (where there is significantly greater female participation.)

Your extraordinary evidence for this is a blog post with regression lines.

Sometimes your rhetorical strategy on HN is bracing and useful. Like all message boards, HN is prone to flights to abstraction and goalpost moving, and the introduction of facts can cut through that and ground the discussion.

Other times, it seems like you simply have far too much confidence in the significance of the facts you choose, and your overconfidence hamstrings you.

I don't have to care whether male quantitative ability has more variance than female ability. I can sort of enjoy reading about it on Marginal Revolution without incorporating any of those conclusions into my identity or philosophy.

I do care about the idea that results about variance in quantitative ability speak to CS ability. For the great majority of specialties in CS, they do not, at all. I think you may be blinded to this by the specialty you've chosen to work in, which is math-intensive. I'm a systems programmer --- in fact, a crypto-intensive systems programmer! --- and I will go to the mat against the idea that computer science requires atypical quantitative ability.

At any rate: it is self-evident that professional software development doesn't require the quantitative aptitude required to compete for university math tenure.

I gather you assign a lower prior to cognitive variations - that's fine. No point debating that at the moment, it's just an example to show what evidence might look like: a downward sloping graph with your predictor on the X-axis and %female on the Y.

You don't have that graph. All you have is vague theories like "bog-standard human behavior prevents women from entering a field". This theory predicts that every historically male field should remain historically male, which is false.

Every historically male field will remain male in the absence of a focused effort to improve balance, which is what happened in the demanding (and often quantitatively rigorous) professions that improved women's participation, and what's being contested in computer science.

I am not making an extraordinary claim. I am looking at the numbers for female participation in CS, noticing that they are anomalous, all the more so given the relative size of the CS professions (they are enormous, which should have helped smooth out the anomaly), noting the incentives for participation (CS professions are, relative to the effort it takes to enter the field, well compensated, flexible, geographically well distributed, and not physically demanding) and observing that there are only two logical explanations:

(a) Social and process factors are having the effect of encouraging male participation and discouraging female participation, or

(b) Women are intrinsically sharply less capable of performing in software development despite a demonstrated ability to perform in law, accounting, medicine, and even other STEM fields.

In the absence of something much more compelling than a blog post on slatestarcodex, I feel pretty comfortable ruling out (b).

So where is your evidence that quantitative fields did not have this "focused effort", but non-quantitative fields did? Can you present some evidence of focused effort in medicine, law and biology but none in computing and aerospace engineering?

I.e., do you have an upward sloping graph with focused effort on the X and %female on the Y?

You can for instance read through 'rayiner's comments on how this happened in law.

I skimmed his comments, he hints it was discriminatory affirmative action but doesn't say much in detail. It's hardly clear that engineering and STEM didn't do the same thing - in fact, we know they have done this for some time.

I find it a bit surprising that you are so unconvinced by Scott Alexander's actual quantitative data (not to mention all the other academic studies I linked to), yet find vague hints at a single datapoint to be proof positive of an alternate hypothesis.

In the face of a gigantic participation gap, I am not persuaded by numerology. I don't find the data you have on this issue to be particularly compelling. I think it relies primarily on a vain misconception a lot of people have about the demands on software developers.

I think you find it persuasive because you work in a small specialty of CS that is particularly math-oriented (even if I don't buy that your facts apply to your particular specialty).

So in the face of weak but suggestive data, we should instead accept an alternate hypothesis with a single data point vaguely alluded to?

"Single data point vaguely alluded to". That's funny. Women compromise 20% of the software development workforce. For every woman developer, there are four men. Against that fact, you've got statistical studies on the variance of quantitative ability between men and women which purport to explain why women don't chair math departments and win Fields Medals, and which you'd also like to use to explain why there are four men writing SQL queries to every woman.

Just curious, what evidence (if any) would cause you to change your views?

Also, given that you keep bringing up CS as somehow unique, does this mean you attribute other STEM fields without women (e.g. physics, aerospace engineering) to a different cause?

Those fields are tiny compared to software development, so I guess I'm willing to believe (a) that there isn't enough social impetus to correct them and (b) whatever biased CS is probably very similar to what biased those STEM fields that have the same problem as CS.

Results from unbiased work-sample aptitude tests would influence my views. But they wouldn't influence the views of the "pro-gap" faction; I expect the results would be explained away as "well of course that cohort of women captured by your sample does well on the test; it's all the other women that have the problem."

Anyways, I'd pay attention to that, because: the biggest fallacy I see in arguments that suggest the gender gap is benign is the notion that it attributable to intrinsic differences in intellectual attributes between males and females; when people attempt to explain those differences, they appear not to connect to software development in any but the most naive, high-school guidance counsellor kinds of ways.

My sensitivity to that fallacy has, like, the inverse vector of what I think yours is: I started my career with a huge deficit in math (my worst subject in high school, which is where my formal education stopped), but was successful regardless, and not because I plugged form fields into databases: after doing somewhat interesting systems programming for an ISP as a network admin, my first real dev job was compiler-theoretic. So I'm automatically suspicious of the belief that software development is closely tied to math aptitude.

Your claim (b) confuses me. First you try to paint CS as somehow special and requiring no quant skills, unlike the rest of STEM. Thus, the well supported "quant skill -> less women" correlation doesn't apply. But then you try to suggest other STEM fields do have the same problem as tech.

As for why intellect gap arguments persuade you and not me, I think I understand now. I tend to believe that there are very few independent dimensions in human intellect, you seem to think there are many. I'd suggest investigating psychometrics in a bit more detail - I found this idea very surprising, but it holds up quite well. Take tokenadult's linkdumps on hiring procedures as a good starting point.

Also, let me emphasize that I don't claim my theory is perfect - I just claim it's the best supported. Quantitatively, all the correlations point in the right direction. I see no reason to exclude other theories, e.g., Sapna Cheryan's "women avoid nerds" theory ( http://faculty.washington.edu/scheryan/research.htm ) - the correlations at least line up there, admittedly anecdotally (doctors and lawyers are high status, computer and math geeks are low status).

The idea that CS, math and physics are somehow uniquely unkind to women seems weak to me. I see no plausible reason why "bog-standard human behavior" would be worse in STEM - if anything, you'd expect objective fields to care less about human behavior. (That's probably why computing is so tolerant of weirdos.) Note that you haven't even provided anecdotal evidence that computing is somehow worse than law in this regard.

That's a strawman. The actual claim is that playing with computers at a young age has a high correlation with becoming a great programmer later in life, and that generally young girls are not encouraged to play with computers.

So the claim is that playing with computers at a young age is vital to the development of programming skill, just as the Hasbro game "Operation" is for physicians.

See: "extraordinary claims...".

No, again, you're creating a strawman. I never said it was vital; just that it helps a lot. And I see no reason such a claim would require a similar effect to be present in every industry.

In fact, the evidence supporting the idea that programming is special in this regard is precisely that you don't hear doctors talk about how they had spent their childhood years endlessly playing Operation, while meanwhile you do hear many great hackers say they spent their whole childhoods playing with computers (or, when unavailable, then the nearest facsimile: taking apart electronics, playing with Game Genie codes, building erector sets...)

It's hard to tell whether you're missing my point or agreeing with it. The idea that computer science is unique among the sciences and professions --- including detail, abstraction, and symbol-intensive fields like aerospace engineering and forensic accounting --- is itself an extraordinary claim.

It's also a counterintuitive claim, given the reality of what software development work actually is. A plurality of professional developers do little more than plumb connections from SQL database tables they understand poorly to front-end frameworks they didn't write. That's the practice that requires exposure from preschool, like a competitive concert violinist?

No. Not buying it. Sorry.

Indeed, most tech industry jobs don't require the sort of deep hacking abilities you can only learn young. However, the hiring process puts high value on having learned to hack young, and the social scene tends to exclude people who didn't have lifelong exposure to hacker culture.

Changing both these things would improve the gender balance.

I'm glad to see you writing that, and thanks. Lemme just add that I think I might be able to surprise you about aptitude to and development of "deep hacking abilities". I don't know about robotics, but C/ASM RTOS-style systems programming? I think you can quickly develop that from people with no prior exposure. I built a hiring process on that hypothesis, and months after leaving the firm we used it at, it apparently continues to be working very well.

I think if you were able to somehow come up with a compelling way to get kids to play forensic accountant (perhaps a new J.K. Rowling series?), you would absolutely see in 20 years that the kids who did were significantly more likely to go on to become great forensic accountants. Same with aerospace engineering. The special thing that distinguishes programming from those skills is that programming skills do have many analogs in the world of childhood playthings and can thus give certain children a preparatory advantage over others when they all reach college together.

Actually, aerospace engineering might have a bit of that. Have there been studies to see if children with the opportunity and encouragement to design, build, and fly their own model aircraft might perhaps be more likely to grow up to be successful aerospace engineers than children who aren't exposed to such things?

Your intuition that the world's best forensic accounting game would produce a generation of the world's best forensics accountants might be useful, but it is not evidence. And the requirement here is for extraordinary evidence.

What do you see as my corresponding extraordinary claim?

Once again: the idea that computer science is unique among virtually all the professions in that performance at the median level of competence requires, like a concert violinist, exposure at the earliest possible age. This despite the fact that most of what programmers do is simply plumbing and diagnostics.

> performance at the median level of competence requires [...] exposure at the earliest possible age.

I never claimed that, though. I think my actual claims were pretty mundane:

1. Children who play with computers have an advantage when, later in life, they're learning programming.

2. Young girls, in many places, are not encouraged to play with computers the way that young boys are.

It's funny that you keep mentioning highly quantitative fields like aerospace and actuary, and then try and contrast them with computing.


Undermines your point a bit.

This is sleight of hand. What you're doing here is crossing the streams between your conversation with me, which is about intrinsic male advantage in math ability, with my conversation here, which is about the supposed advantage men get from being exposed to computers at an earlier age.

The point of citing fields in your discussion with me is that there are quantitatively intensive fields which have significantly greater female participation than computer science, despite the dubious idea that computer science as it is actually practices is quantitatively more demanding than, say, the demands on corporate lawyers to structure debt and equity financing.

The point of citing fields in this particular discussion is that there are demanding technical fields in which practitioners generally get little to no exposure to the work until they approach the age at which professional software developers enter the industry.

Did you miss the distinction? I sometimes go "on tilt" in discussions and misfire like this too.

So is our primary goal increased representation of women, or treating women well? (Put more directly, if we find that mistreating women makes more of them enter technology, what should we do?)

It's certainly possible that not as many women are interested in technology careers as men. (Seems overwhelmingly unlikely to me based on both anecdotal and rigorous evidence, but as a good scientist, I should say it's possible.) But why does that justify mistreating those women who are interested? And why should we be satisfied with our behavior based on merely being not as bad as a religion or another industry?

People aren't complaining because they think SV treats women badly, they're complaining because they perceive SV as preventing women across the country from being as successful in business as men are.

> We live in a society where more people now aspire to be tech CEOs than pro athletes or rock stars, and tech is one of the main centers of power both politically and economically.

Citation? I would say this is a huge assumption, presumably backed by your anecdotal experiences. To offer an anecdotal counterpoint - from what I have seen of the majority of the college-going American generation, they do aspire to leadership positions in general, but seldom through purely technical means.

The Bible Belt has a pretty big impact just by its territory and the population within it alone.

I really, really don't think the broader population is anywhere near as enthusiastic about startup culture (which is probably what you mean by "aspire to be tech CEOs") as you think it is.

As for technology being a main center of power, that is correct. But probably not in the idealistic way you're thinking of, regarding entrepreneurship and "disruptions" or anything like that. The fruits of their labor may be used indirectly, but it's primarily closed-room contract work and military defense that is used to exert political power, not that trendy startup or open source project.

Wars are only fought where at least one side thinks they can win. SV is the front line because it is more egalitarian than those arenas you mention.

That's my thinking as well. I've read up a bit on feminism, the picture I get is of a movement that's trying really really hard to get people to take them seriously. They've chosen tech as the battleground for precisely that reason. Personally, I think it's great. I like seeing my compatriots forced to confront sexism.

If you think sexism is bad in technology, you should see it everywhere else. The gender gap has gotten a bit better in the last twenty years or so, but traditionally male occupations are still overwhelmingly male, and likewise for female occupations. And salary gaps where you do find men and women working together are just abominable.

Sexism is one of those things you just kind of ignore until you really start looking, then once you do you see it literally every fucking where. And it's utterly depressing. We like to think that because we gave the vote to black people and women that we're enlightened.

I think you're right. Highly educated, intellectual "nerds" who generally really want to do the "right thing" (however that is defined) are likely to be a lot easier to convert to feminism than, for example, (1) the NFL (2) Kentucky (3) Wall Street (4) Saudi Arabia.

Feminism, as a movement, is aimed at battles it thinks it can win. Nerds who aren't particularly attached to conventional forms of masculinity are already partly won over.

Or the skewed gender ratios in various fields are due to innate biological differences.

Sexual dimorphism, which includes psychological traits, extends to humans as well. We are animals too after all.

What an age we live in. Nearly every animal on earth, including our closests primate relatives, have innate morphological and behavioural differences between male and female. Yet noticing that homo sapiens exhibit the same differences has become a thought-crime of the highest order.

These differences cause a tendency for men and women to gravitate towards certain fields. Skewed sex ratios in a profession do not necessarily indicate discrimination and its time to stop pointing and sputtering when not everything is 50/50.

Gender ratios between fields aren't a huge huge problem, but it is something we could address and improve over time. We don't have to perpetuate the ratios by telling nerdier girls they're not good with computers and should really just be cheerleaders. Salary gaps, on the other hand, are clear evidence of discrimination. And there's plenty of those.

"Innate biological differences exist" isn't, by itself, a compelling argument. The closest argument you can make that's compelling is "Innate biological differences exist, linked with competence in computer science, and they are vast enough that the fraction of people who can make it skews heavily male." That's an actually-scientific hypothesis, which is great, because we can do some studies to determine whether it's true.


On the other hand, if you make non-scientific claims, it's pretty easy to push "innate biological differences" to mean whatever you want it to mean. Like that women are more naturally suited for programming than men, because it's just like prepping dinner.


The slide share only attempts to address difference in ability, not inclination. If women are just as capable programmers, but, on average, tend to have a natural inclination towards more social and nurturing roles (teacher, nurse, etc... fields with the highest % of women) then we would still expect the same gender ratio skew we see.

Most troubling, any mention that innate biological differences between the genders could play a role in the skewed gender ratios is not even considered in these diversity attack articles. It has become a thoughtcrime.

Also "winning" the right to working in a coal mine or laying roofing wouldn't really be a victory after all compared to SV. These people want the upside of being a male without the risk that it carries. Yea some of us get to play this game in SV. What about the vast majority of us that have to work a shit job to support our family? Giving one gender privileged access to industries like SV while simultaneously sheltering them from industries like the coal mining industry would also be a horrible form of marginalization.

This argument is as terrible as it is old. Feminists have been fighting for the right to work in coal mines, and fight on battlefields, and everything else.

>Feminists have been fighting for the right to work in coal mines, and fight on battlefields, and everything else.

It's terrible because it doesn't fit the narrative you're trying to push. Paying occasional lip service isn't the same as "fighting for the right". Working in a coal mine or fighting in the battlefield isn't a "right". It's an obligation blue collar families fall into.

You are correct.

That said, from within Silicon Valley it sure looks like the feminists are coming for the supposedly easy money of engineering while ignoring the risky things like policing. True or not, it's sometimes the perception that matters.

This says more about Silicon Valley than about feminism, though.

My statement could be interpreted that way, yes.

I am a WIT. an actual, technical woman in tech, annoyed with myself for letting Newsweek basically troll me. I've noticed the MSM has "discovered" SV, and is doing the usual pieces (sexism! drugs! too much money!, etc.). While there are obviously so many problems in SV, they never seem to find any of the many, many, many (shudder! older) technical women at Google, FB, Intel, etc. to talk with. Everything is written through the more attractive, yet limited, prism of "young person asking for money, bad behavior ensues". I will not comment on the hypocrisy of bemoaning the limited access of women to the spotlight while turning to a self-styled male "expert" on WIT - it's easier to do that than track down actual women in SV to interview directly. I didn't feel represented by the article, I thought it was pretty opportunistic and to be honest, I don't think Newsweek cares for the "plight of women in SV", just about trying to become relevant again. And here I am, talking about it, so they were successful in their trolling.

If you don't mind me asking a personal question, I'm rather curious what your exposure to computers (or electronics that you could take apart, toys with gears, etc.) was like when you were a girl (say, ages 6-16).

Btw, I see some discussion on the thread about SAT Math, GRE Quantitative being skewed towards men (!) - every time I see this, I think of not just my experience, but that of so many girls I grew up with who _loved_ math and were good at it cause nobody had informed them they shouldn't. Look at the Eastern bloc, China, etc. - some of their idiotic policies had the unintended (perhaps) effect of making generations of women realize they can do math, physics, etc. I am not talking about being Alan Turing here, I can't comment on that. But calls to drop math from CS programs - no, just no :).

I am an immigrant. Grew up in the Eastern Bloc - no exposure to computers until high-school (given country), but tons of exposure in school to math, etc. Even in high-school, CS was absolutely more popular with boys and they were enacting the "hacker" model as they perceived it from distance, so there was some "girls don't belong here" attitude, but frankly, once you know you can do it, that stuff is much easier to ignore :). Again, they didn't know what "hacker" meant, more like adolescent posturing.

That's very interesting; I really appreciate your sharing.

Do you have any theories as to why, even in high school -- both in the US and the country you grew up in -- CS is more popular with boys than girls? And do you have any suggestions for how that could be changed?

Let me rephrase - it's not that CS was actually more popular with boys (it was fairly split, actually), it's that in addition to the CS courses there was a parallel community of teens trying to be "hackers". Mostly boys- and a lot of it had a social component (hanging out late, trying things out, etc.). Their parents got them computers - my parents, those of other girls didn't (I think it was a fairly new field). And they certainly wouldn't have been keen on their daughters staying up until 3 am with boys :) at the time. That's not a theory, just an anecdote. Things have obviously changed tremendously.

Also, let me say that I personally don't see any problem with CS being more popular with boys. Sure, I hope many more women go into the field because it's a great field! So don't stay out for bad reasons (e.g. "can't do math" - what?!, "it's not social enough" - BS, my college experience was all about being social, albeit with other CS nerds , etc.). Get kids (boys and girls) excited about math, building things (wth is more empowering than that ?) early and watch what happens.

Most of the things you listed are places where women's rights are well behind those of men.

I think those are all places that need to be fixed.

But at the same time it's possible to think of the front line as being the place where the battle to move forward is being fought now, instead of places where little progress has been made.

From that perspective talking of SV as a front line isn't wrong: if women can't be treated equally in the supposedly progressive environment of SV, then other places will be even further behind.

  But at the same time it's possible to think of the
  front line as being the place where the battle to move
  forward is being fought now, instead of places where
  little progress has been made.
How is that line of thinking, rational?

So you want people who are already putting up with plenty of progressive dogma to put up with more progressivism, when the rest of those areas that raldi [1] mentioned haven't seen a lick of the same progressivism, impacting their lives in decades?[2]

Dont you think that such unfair pressure solely on the tech world, will only serve to alienate them?

Won't it cause them to dig their heels in?

Is that kind of retrenchment desirable?

In what way does that make any sense?

This is isn't even the first time I've heard this line of fuzzy thought-leadership.

I find it grating when people offer such silly twisted logic to prop up their premises.

When any form of change is imposed on any section of society, at too fast a rate, there will be resistance.

When any form of change is unfairly imposed on ONLY one section of society or in ONLY one geographic region, within the same country, there is bound to be a even greater degree of resistance.

[1] The construction industry, The Bible Belt, The restaurant industry, West Africa, The movie industry, The Vatican, The sportswriting industry, The people who make Superbowl ads, Japan, The adult entertainment industry, The Middle East, Wall Street, Nepal, The upper echelons of American politics


[2] I'm by no means advocating less than progressive conditions to prevail in any industry or any geographic region. This could be just as well, said of the conservative end of the spectrum. In other words, there are conservative pockets, hell bent on turning their already conservative professions even more rigid and unyielding.

How is that line of thinking, rational?

I'm a little unclear if you are arguing that the terminology of it "being the front line" is irrational, or if equality is irrational.

If the first then I agree that it's an odd way to describe it, but I'm not sure I could explain their thinking any better than above.

If you are arguing that equality is irrational then I have to say I disagree quite strongly.

When any form of change is unfairly imposed on ONLY one section of society or in ONLY one geographic region, within the same country, there is bound to be a even greater degree of resistance.

I agree that there is resistance to seeing changes only occur in some areas. I agree it is unfair that equality isn't equally distributed.

What's disagreement about?

Name one right men have that women don't have.

I don't see active fights over the gender war happening in those fronts. It's certainly true that those aren't territories that we control firmly, but it's also not territory that we're disputing very hard. Gender is what it is in the Bible Belt, and most of the pushback is from a younger generation who grew up on the Internet. Gender is what it is in film, but the Bechdel test entered popular consciousness on the Internet. Gender is what it is in the minds of the old advertising firms, but the new ones are often technology companies, their clients are often technology companies, and when you say "Super Bowl ads" and "what they think of women" I can't help but think "GoDaddy". Gender is what it is in the minds of the current elected officials, but Obama's election has been credited, in part, to his ability to use technology more effectively than his opponents (and, therefore, to effective technologists wanting to work for him). Silicon Valley is the trench and the fortification; if it falls, we can then march on the cities.

Now, of course, there's a question as to whether the gender biases of the makers of the Internet impact the gender biases of the things that happen on the Internet. But I think they do. At the least, for fora like Reddit and HN where the platform and editorial direction are linked, it seems obvious that they must. For platforms like Twitter or G+, policies such as harassment response and tradeoffs, whether real names are common or uncommon[0], what speech is considered appropriate or inappropriate, etc. can all impact what voices are heard and who is empowered by the platform.

[0] I don't mean by this to imply that there's a standard feminist answer on whether real-name policies are good or not. There are feminist arguments on both sides.

Many of the industries/groups you cited don't have nearly as much wealth wrapped up in them. That's what makes the tech one worse, more wealth concentrated with less gender equality than others.

Once you reduce that list to ones with as much wealth as tech, its a pretty dang short list and it'd be interesting at that point to compare gender % in each.

Out of curiosity why did Nepal make its way on to your list?

Wall Street is much less sexist than Silicon Valley. I've been there. I know. Yes, there are some young men on Wall Street who act boorish, drunkenly hit on women, and generally cause a great deal of discomfort for those around them. They don't get promoted. They aren't trusted. They'll eventually get fired if they keep that shit up. In the Valley, they do get promoted. Misbehavior actually makes a young man more attractive to the VCs, deep in the throes of midlife crisis. That makes the difference. In one place, it's discouraged and relatively uncommon. In the other, it's rampant.

The amount of impropriety that you see in the VC darlings is off-the-charts. I worked (briefly) at an ed-tech where the married executives openly flirted with female subordinates (and one was fired for refusing advances). You'd never see that shit in finance, these days. That era ended when the people raising VC now were in diapers.

I would guess that "the upper echelons of American politics" are also less sexist than Silicon Valley, given that there are women succeeding in US politics, but wouldn't know from direct experience.

I've spent a fair amount of time working for Wall Street and the broader NYC financial industry as well, and got a quite different impression. And I'm not the only one. Examples: http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2014/07/03/goldman_sach... http://gawker.com/5979679/id-do-her-a-brief-history-of-micha...

BTW, who's the Sheryl Sandberg, Meg Whitman, or Marissa Mayer of Wall Street?

You aren't wrong that the author probably exaggerated with that sentence, but I think I am not alone in being awfully tired of your conversation.


EDIT: I guess I am alone.

I'm not saying the article should be dismissed; just that I think the author is overplaying her hand a bit in this one particular sentence.

We agree, then! Should have worded my thoughts carefully.

Not alone, just on your own island here.

but isn't it at least a little exaggeration to say that Silicon Valley is the main "trench of the global gender war"

It's an exaggeration to say there's a gender war at all. It's feminists against the patriarchy. Feminists are real people. What's the patriarchy?

>It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that a front line, if not the trench of the global gender war, is in Silicon Valley. In that sense, Silicon Valley culture echoes the Wolf of Wall Street culture in the ’80s and ’90s.

Signal the right politics and even this nonsense gets upvoted. Scott Alexander wrote about why differences in outcome in highly technical fields might not imply a vast economically-counterproductive misogynistic conspiracy here:http://slatestarcodex.com/2015/01/24/perceptions-of-required...

Reality is under no obligation to live up to our ideals.

I like that article a lot. GRE Quantitative and SAT Math skew heavily toward men. And the SAT covers very basic reasoning skills that would be related to programming aptitude. GRE Quantitative covers topics essential to surviving a CS major.

We should figure out where the educational system is failing women here. And we should also consider a new curriculum focused on programming, because traditional Computer Science isn't necessary for success as a tech worker. I've seen some colleges offer both a BA and a BS in Comp Sci which I think is smart, because in the BA they strip out physics, chemistry, calculus, etc which in my experience cause most CS majors to drop out.

>We should figure out where the educational system is failing women here.

How does "women do relatively poorly on quantitative tests" imply "the educational system is failing women"? This could be do to any number of factors, many of which having little/nothing to do with the education system.

And, of course, there are more female college students than male college students, so there are other areas where you could just as (in)accurately claim that the education system is failing men! In reality, it's probably (again) due to external factors.

> "women do relatively poorly on quantitative tests" imply "the educational system is failing women"

I said we should figure out where it's failing women. If we figure out it's not failing women, then the question is answered. And I didn't mean this to the exclusion of men either. Or children and adolescents.

Edit: I think it's a given anything can be improved, especially education. So in the constant discussions about fixing education, the article about math scores should certainly be on people's minds. And I'm also curious about verbal scores for men. And I agree there are a variety of factors at play, but that doesn't mean we can't investigate some of the factors in lieu of a comprehensive investigation/reform of everything in society, culture, and biology.

What CS degree requires physics and chemistry ?

Also I don't think a degree without calculus can really be called CS. How are you going to understand analysis of algorithms without at least a basic grasp of the concepts of calculus. A person who failed out of calculus definitely wouldn't have survived the rest of my CS program.

I wouldn't advise anyone to do a CS degree with all the math stripped out. Sure you can build CRUD apps all day long without an understanding of math, but you don't need a degree to build CRUD apps.

I think people who are happy doing that kind of work should skip college all together (or get a degree in something other than CS) and learn on their own or maybe do some kind of bootcamp.

Personally I think you can understand algorithms knowing only algebra and finite math. However, I should clarify the BA programs I'm aware of still required a semester or so of calculus versus others which require a few semesters.

At my college, almost every CS major ended up being 1 credit short of a minor in Math. I don't think that much math is necessary.

>Personally I think you can understand algorithms knowing only algebra and finite math.

How are you going to understand the growth rates of algorithms without calculus?

Are you just going to keep it at the level of: in f(n) = n^2 + n, n^2 grows much faster, so it's like comparing an elephant to a goldfish.

Intuitive explanations work fine as an introduction, but again I don't think you need a college degree to understand algorithms at this level.

It seems like what you're looking for would be better implemented as a 2 year programming degree at a community college.

> What CS degree requires physics and chemistry ?

Uh. Mine did, actually. Calculus too.

Yeah, they pretty much all require calculus, and most require 2 semesters of physics. Some let you take another science class instead physics.

Mine required 2 semesters of physics + labs and then a semester of any other science class.

But yours required physics and chemistry? I can't imagine why chemistry is required for CS.

Artifact of organization. My degree came through the college of engineering, which required physics and chemistry for all grads. And some technical breadth electives, too.

That makes sense. My CS department came out of the math department, I wasn't thinking of the ones that emerged from engineering.

Yeah, my alma mater has one of those too.

Michigan is a... unique beast. Anything worth doing is worth doing a minimum of twice, preferably with no knowledge of other attempts. This is why there are two entirely separate radio stations.

> Reality is under no obligation to live up to our ideals.

I think we should make a T-Shirt of that!

> differences in outcome in highly technical fields might not imply a vast economically-counterproductive misogynistic conspiracy

Even if there isn't a misogynistic conspiracy, there's still plenty of bog-standard human herd-behavior sexism telling girls they shouldn't even try to be good at computers because they can't be. It would be a shame if we ignored the latter just because we figured out the former doesn't exist.

On the flipside, our ideals have no obligation to be constrained by reality.

John Carmack's "we are having a hard time hiring all the people that we want. It doesn’t matter what they look like." is pretty much all you need to say, over and over, until they give up.

There are two problems w/ 'white male' dominated engineering fields (really, male, unless you insist on the slander that asian+indian are 'honorary white'). One is optical. It just looks bad to shallow thinkers who don't care to pause to find out what the pool of able+willing workers looks like.

The other is that techies are too insecure about their value and virtue; they're inclined to actually respond in good faith to slanders like this one. Big mistake. You do see also occasional diversity attacks against the really high earners (managers, sales, finance, corp. law, certain posh local FD/PD, maybe some doctors?) but since they don't seem to flinch much, they're pretty much left alone.

Yes, everywhere I look around me are a bunch of guys. (maybe 10-20% women). Yet I'm certain women are welcome. Sorry, they just are.

> Yet I'm certain women are welcome. Sorry, they just are.

How are you certain of this?

If you have an overly-touchy manager, and he never overly-touches you, would you know?

If you have someone in sales who makes not-that-funny sexist comments, but they're not actually bad enough that you should bother caring, would you know if it's rising to the level of being a problem for women?

If you don't offer generous parental leave, and that matters disproportionately to prospective employees who are women but not so much to men, would you know? (Do you know, off-hand, what your employer's parental leave policy is?)

If one of your usual interviewers says something like "You're pretty good for a woman" (and not "You're pretty good for a man"), and your technical interviews are one-on-one, and this is why there's a drop between job offers to women and new hires, would you know?

(The answer may well be "yes" for all these; there are systemic problems far away from all these that can easily get a company to 10-20% women. But I, personally, am hesitant to answer "Is your company a good place to work for women" with anything stronger than "I'm pretty sure it is, but I couldn't personally vouch for it.")

Extremely certain, except of course for workplaces outside my experience, which is most of them. One thing I hadn't considered when I first posted was the impact of H1B workers, which I guess would vary depending on the culture of origin.

Importing foreign workers obviously isn't to make the workplace representative of the local citizens or even residents.

I know that women in tech experience a different brand of socially awkward interactions than men suffer, but to suggest that there's bias against them making it more difficult to succeed (as opposed to the opposite - people rooting for them and ready to to help) is just a bridge too far for me.

You do see also occasional diversity attacks against the really high earners (managers, sales, finance, corp. law, certain posh local FD/PD, maybe some doctors?) but since they don't seem to flinch much, they're pretty much left alone.

I posted a question elsewhere in this thread asking why the tech industry has been getting the brunt of the diversity shakedown. I think this is part of the puzzle.

The type of mind that lends itself well to tech tends to have less political acumen and social intelligence. We're prone to taking things too literally and sometimes miss the bullshit below the surface.

Are we really expected to believe that people who write software are any more sexist than lawyers or the population in general?

Let's call the diversity hounding of tech exactly what it is: the playground bully picking on the kid who they know wont fight back.

Ah, but there's an alternative hypothesis. Tech is an industry that people enter because they see a new world being created and want to participate in the making of it with their own hands. Finance, corporate law, so forth, not so much.

So it seems believable that tech is a place where you will find people sympathetic to do difficult, tradition-destroying things to build a better world, much more than finance or corporate law. (The way that tech has publicly embraced things from LGBT rights to non-college-degreed people, more than finance or corporate law has, is evidence in favor of this belief.)

Given that, the pressure on tech to do better than the rest of the world, and thereby set an example for the rest of the world, makes a lot of sense. It's not that tech is the most sexist industry (it isn't), it's that it's the industry that's most likely to get significantly better in a short period of time.

I posted a question elsewhere in this thread asking why the tech industry has been getting the brunt of the diversity shakedown.

That's easy: it's influential. They started with the schools, then moved on to the universities. Next was hollywood, then the media. Every avenue of public debate in this country has fallen in line with the diversity shakedown. The internet is next precisely because it's the last influential arena where you can say what you want without fear of reprisal (for the most part). It's part of why the feminists have launched such an aggressive campaign against gamergate and gamers in general. They won't be bullied.

How many of those women you see are in technical roles?

I'm sure that on the face of it, you _do_ welcome women professionally -- the problem is the bias against women is entrenched, both by the familiarity bias (given two people with the exact same competency you will typically choose the male) and by social bias (working with women is complicated, you will tend to shy away from them).

To paraphrase, you can't buy lunch with good intentions, and despite yours it's obvious they aren't translating into the practical world. To go, "oh well, all the guys I work with don't have a problem with women, so the problem must be no women want to work here, or in technical roles" is a really shallow analysis of a much deeper problem. For example, it's widely known that some managers won't insert women into male-exclusive teams because of "cohesion". But it's not like they'll advertise that motive.

Because of these issues, universities have been advising women against pursuing computer science careers. So less women actually apply, which makes the ratio even worse, which makes it even easier (or more 'logical') to keep women out of technical teams. I've personally heard a manager say that they hired a man over a woman because they didn't think it was fair that he should have to hire the woman in the name of diversity, that it would be setting a dangerous precedent, etc.

Women make excellent troubleshooters, they can see angles and possibilities that men often can't. They can design awesome algorithms, come up with innovative solutions and take projects into bold new directions. Men are better at technical syntax, middleware, configuration, builds. There is an obvious benefit to having women on technical teams, and yet in most cases they aren't there. It isn't because they don't want to be, or can't pull their own weight. But when managers put them in, they often "don't work out" so they don't try the experiment twice. Strategic bias is still bias.

So... I'm a little confused here. When you say something like:

> Women make excellent troubleshooters, they can see angles and possibilities that men often can't. They can design awesome algorithms, come up with innovative solutions and take projects into bold new directions. Men are better at technical syntax, middleware, configuration, builds.

That just comes off as sexist against both men and women simultaneously.

>(given two people with the exact same competency you will typically choose the male)

My experience directly contradicts this. Software companies currently prioritize female engineering hires because people are making such a big stink about the fact that there are fewer women than men in software engineering (and automatically assuming that this is due to sexism).

I recently received an email from my employer to the effect of "If you know any female engineers, please send in a referral!". Yes, they used the word "female".

> Yet I'm certain women are welcome. Sorry, they just are.

Do you have anything other than "I believe!" to substantiate this, or are we to accept it on the power of faith?

The reason I'm so confident is that I, and everyone I know, personally welcome and would hire and help competent women and bright-but-just-starting-to-ascend-the-learning-curve ones too. I've coached a female colleague in preparation for a successful job talk at Google, for example (same as I'd help any colleague I thought had a shot and asked me).

I've admitted that I don't know the culture in every company and part of the U.S. and do think if we're serious about protecting women from unfair discrimination we need to screen out whoever, due to cultural differences, cannot be professional in hiring and working with women). Professionalism is a pretty low bar and I'd expect even H1Bs from more gender-traditional cultures to be able to pass it, no matter their private preferences+beliefs.

That's every bit as much as people on the other side have.

Well...that and statistics.

But even without statistics, if a group of people say they feel unwelcome and another group says "no you're welcome", is your conclusion that the environment is welcoming to the former group? Would you say this if the groups were whites and blacks? Muslims and Christians?

>Well...that and statistics.

Which are only tangentially related. The contention is there aren't more women in tech because sexism. But there are no statistics that bear on that question directly. All we can say is there aren't a lot of women in tech. But there aren't a lot of women in tech in college, either, despite campaigns to attract them. Like that nonsense "77 cents" statistic, it may be women simply make life choices that don't put them in tech.

None of the women in my graduating class lasted as engineers for more than a handful of years, preferring to go into sales or management instead. When I asked why they said they couldn't stand the lack of human interaction, something that doesn't bother me in the slightest. Maybe... maybe, and I'm just spitballing here... maybe men and women don't have exactly the same motivations, desires, and tolerances.

>But even without statistics, if a group of people say they feel unwelcome and another group says "no you're welcome", is your conclusion that the environment is welcoming to the former group?

You can't assume anything either way. It's a mistake to think you can divine what other people are thinking unless they tell you. If I don't offer a woman a job it's because there was someone else that was a better fit. If she goes away thinking she didn't get it because she's a woman, well, who's in the wrong here?

But the entire focus of the argument is wrong. Nobody went out of his way to make me or any other man "feel welcome". It's a job, not a Christmas party. You match your skills against what employers need and come to an arrangement. If you're such a wilting flower that some nebulous "not feeling welcome" is enough to keep you out of the industry, how can you possibly deal with problems on the job?

When you say 'until they give up' do you mean women and minorities who want a safe and welcoming workplace? Or are you referring to a different 'they' than the one being addressed in the article you're replying to?

How about "amoral 'journalists' trolling for clickbait," "far left-wing nutjobs salivating at the chance to strike at the tender underbelly of a vulnerable target hesitant to defend itself," "people with low social status desperately trying to act 'progressive' for kudos," "people who politick because they can't cut it technically," and "yuppies with no interest in computers who joined 'the industry' purely for the money, who 'appropriate' the culture of the native geeks while shaming and condemning them for the slightest trespass?"

>women and minorities who want a safe and welcoming workplace?

How are current software companies not "safe and welcoming"?

Ask the women - these companies safe and welcoming for me, but I'm a dude.

Just within my circle of friends - direct harassment, direct name-calling, including on the record (email and IM) - with no disciplinary action as a result except a light "knock it off". Sexually explicit messages despite being told they are unwanted - with, again, no disciplinary result. Repeated derogatory comments re: their gender despite being told to stop.

These are just the egregious ones that are impossible to paint with the "oh you're just being too sensitive" brush. There's lots more where that came from.

So no, software companies are not all "safe and welcoming", even the big ones that should know better. If anything software companies are worse than other white collar industries - our rejection of bureaucracy and hard policy means that we rarely take official disciplinary action against abusive employees for fear of appearing too "corporate", and fear that putting a stop to these locker-room antics will compromise the relaxed, informal atmosphere that is sacrosanct in tech.

I disagree in part with the comment above, but why is this opinion being downvoted, wherever you stand on the issue ? Regardless of whether you take issue with the soundness of his argument, a dissenting voice should have a right to be heard. I'm sometimes amazed at the swiftness with which a different perspective is swept under the rug...in the same forums and TOPIC, nothing less, where inclusiveness, Capital I, is being discussed.

Does anyone have a good source for industry-wide ratios that relate to the ones given in the article?

A couple examples:

2.7% of firms funded have female CEOs. How many of firms seeking funding have female CEOs? How many have a female cofounder rather than just looking at the CEO position?

80% of female founders used personal savings as their primary source of funding (it sounds like this is for the seed phase, but unclear in the article?). What is the industry-wide percentage?

Female founded firms do 31% better on average (in an industry where average = a failed company what does this mean?). Is the sample size (which the article makes sure to tell us is far too small on a moral basis) large enough to make this statistically significant?

Note: I am not trying to undermine the article - I don't have enough knowledge of the industry to say much. I am honestly looking for context for these numbers and wondering if anyone can help.

As a rule, those industry-wide ratios tend to come without data to contextualize them. For instance, you'll get a statistic about what percentage of funded startups have a woman co-founder but no information about what percentage of startups considered have a woman co-founder.

> As a rule, those industry-wide ratios tend to come without data to contextualize them.

So the rule is to gimp data in order to fool people into believing things that may not be true?

That's the cynical reading, yes. A more optimistic one is that people believe the numbers are scary enough that no context is needed.

If you want to think forward about solving the challenges women face here, companies would do well to start taking a hard look in the mirror about how much they pay operations staff.

Operations keeps the company humming along while it's simultaneously trying to fly off the rails of the rocket sled that is a startup. Unfortunately, a large quantity of dicks (literally) in SV think that operations positions are cookie cutter and can be filled by anyone hungry for a job. I can assure you from first hand experience that's not the case, and have seen many a company encounter additional struggles because they lacked (or lost) the operations support to keep the team together in hard times.

Operation's positions are primarily filled by women. Women who work their asses off to keep the rest of the company fed when they are in crunch time. Women who ensure the office is warm, friendly and receptive to creative work. Women who make sure the ADD CEO is where they need to be on time to make deals happen. Women who understand the business better than most of the executives, because that's what's required to be good at helping the executives to get their shit together and get stuff done.

And, sadly, these women doing operations are paid a fraction of what men are in other equally critical roles. Personally, I think it's time to fix this discrepancy.

(Literally downvoted 2 minutes into posting this. Nice.)

The problem with all this talk is that the scale is weird.

Silicon Valley is what? LinkedIn, or a 2015 YC summer intake company? At the scale of LinkedIn, maybe this argument is inconsequential in many ways. At the scale of a 2015 YC summer intake company, it is irrelevant.

Where between those two is this argument relevant? Should a growing company desperate for talent spend seed money while unprofitable on "operations staff"? Or should they minimise that pay and try to get great devs? Great sales people?

That's the issue with these kind of sweeping statements - there are so many companies in a labour market, and very few arguments can ever apply to all of them, or even most of them.

Is this a joke? Jobs pay what they pay. You don't fix things for other people based on your personal version of fairness, although you're free to pay employees in your own company whatever you like and they'll accept.

You're also advancing a "behind every great tech dick is a great female fluffer" narrative, which isn't helpful.

Is it as hard to find a suitable operations person as it is a suitable engineer?

I'm genuinely curious -- does the women in tech movement advocate for improvements in the treatment of such operational staff (HR, admin, etc.) or is the narrative mostly limited to engineering (and maybe including product and marketing)?

That will vary wildly depending on who you ask. A lot of attention and people are focused mainly on engineering, and we probably hear about those the most, but there is certainly a broader spread of attention too.

Yes. Model View Culture, which is as good a sample of tech feminism as any, published this good piece on exactly the subject:


If Shanley is the touchstone of good tech feminism, then it's time to give up and pack it all in.

I chose my words carefully. :) The topics in Model View Culture are a good representative sample of the topics popular in tech feminism, the article isn't by her, and it was published while Amelia Greenhall was still involved in the publication, for whatever that's worth. (Also, if your impression of Shanley is her Twitter feed, it's worth being aware that MVC is pretty different.)

I gather my impressions of Shanley from the parts of herself she chooses to show the world, both on Twitter and otherwise. I found her extremely hostile reaction to a journalist writing a profile of her very interesting.

>Two founders got less funding then they wanted, sexism? The idea for the company seemed reasonable, after all.

Maybe sexism.

The more likely answer is: most founders get less money than they want, in fact most founders fail.

There is under appreciated carnage in the founding game; acknowledgement of this, is one of the things that made PG such a fresh voice when he came on the scene years ago. That realism.

reality is that the founder game is a suckers bet, and one that men take at a vastly, vastly greater degree than women.

Men fail hard, and men themselves internalize the failure(most often) or blame larger forces outside of their control. Either response is fine (they usually don't blame "sexism" but they are plenty happy to blame other conspiracies).

But, when it comes time to talley the toll on men, society is largely quiet, why? Males are disposable.

Women, on the other hand, largely expect to be valued on the mere fact of their personage. They deserve respect for them being them. A noble belief, but one that does not exist in the hyper-competitive modern economy.

>yeah, if I was a professor I'd give your business plan an A-... Does that mean you "deserve" funding? No.

So, I could go on, but until women start throwing themselves into the grinder at the same rate men do, the ratio of men at the top will always be lopsided.

And I say this not as a man that is bitter (I actually won the game against all odds) but I say this as somebody who believes that women's strategies on a whole are better than men's.

That is: men are stupid to take so much risk! It shouldn't be venerated!

The true non-sexism is to realize that women's choices are valid (and probably smarter) and women are more than just "poorly performing men"

Spot on. Startups are a high risk industry and most fail.

We sell young men a dream... And the same dream just doesn't appeal to young women.

This is not a good article. It's badly written and shit for nuance.

It divides things into a "Global Gender War" purely for the sake of heightening the mood."Look at these terrible gang-bang interviewers!" is all it has to say. There is no mention of the massive amount of work women are doing in the space, and when there is, it as an example of how terrible they are being treated. Here is a women-led company that offers peer mentoring, but they too are struggling because of gender bias. It calls Model View Culture an "acid-penned, widely read website". MVC is actually doing the social justice work and newsweek calls them "acid-penned". It puts fucking Vivek Wadhwa up as a better example of feminism than the actual women fighting for their humanity. Vivek Wadhwa isn't a good person, in general he's just a terrible male ally. (what he says just in _this piece_ is disrespectful to women, see http://bensk.me/post/109449438931/tech-savvy-feminists)

There are no humans in the piece, only victims and demons. Two examples of struggling women-led startups, and a female VC who was forced to touch a penis. These are women in SV according to newsweek.

This is as badly thought out and less researched than that Rolling Stone article. One of the subheadings is "Asking for It" as a pun on women asking for money. That's an actual rape joke.

These are always tough pieces to respond to, because there are certainly a lot of gender inequalities in the startup world.

But I wish the piece had spent more time talking about the trajectory of the situation instead of just a description of its current state.

They mention this particular pair of founders was turned down by YC and their trouble raising funding, but not any of the stats YC shares about how they have funded more and more female founders, and all of the outreach efforts they do.

They mention Ellen Pao concerned a lawsuit, but then only say she is "at Reddit", instead of saying she is currently the CEO. The CEO!

Also, they mention Peter Thiel and David Sacks are the new generation? I honestly didn't know who David Sacks was until I just looked it up. What about all of the partners at YC? What about Mark Zuckerberg? What about all of the non-sexist people?

> "But I wish the piece had spent more time talking about the trajectory of the situation instead of just a description of its current state."

I admire the leadership being shown at YC right now and the progress that has been made.

But I'd caution against mistaking these accomplishments for trajectory. Just read the most upvoted posts in this very thread, and the number of men here who perceive that "women in tech" or feminism is a vendetta or war against men.

While we certainly appear more willing to call out the most egregious and obvious sexism in the industry (see: the Tinder fiasco), there are an alarming of young, supposedly enlightened participants who are vocally and virulently against any kind of reform, and adamant in their belief that women are "shaking down" the industry with their rabid bands of "SJW" lapdogs.

Note the sheer number of posters here who have completely not addressed any substance of the article and instead are focusing on how the tone is overly abrasive or the wording ineloquent.

No, I'm not willing to optimistically call the trajectory upwards - I'm not sure if I'm willing to call the trajectory level.

In all honesty, this article reads like a hackneyed retread of several dozen other articles I've read. It trots out the same statistics, quotes the same people, and so on. It's hard to take an article seriously when it feels like one giant repost.

It's a repost for us maybe - because this is an issue that's finally being talked about within the industry. Keep in mind that Newsweek is a mainstream publication, so for many readers this is the first they'll have heard of tech industry sexism.

The significance of this article isn't that it makes any revolutionary advancement in thought or argument (it doesn't), but that it is one of few high-profile accounts of the problem accessible to mainstream non-tech audiences.

And this is IMO important - maybe unmasking the festering sores that blight this industry to the wider world would be a motivation to address them.

I agree with you in spirit though - in fact I take issue with them quoting Wadhwa so liberally, the guy's promotion of women in tech reeks of opportunism and chauvinistic paternalism - just read his quotes in this article where he paints women founders as a bunch of lost lamb who are too dumb to know when a VC is hitting on them, who are then saved by his sagely advice.

Perhaps seeing the constant stream of do-nothing protests in the Bay has made me cynical. So take what I'm about to say with a grain of salt.

I have exactly zero faith in the power of "awareness" or similar to affect much of anything. Beyond clogging up BART because someone has chained themselves to something again to raise awareness for something-or-other.

Doubly so when it plays neatly into a larger cultural narrative about nerds as The Other, in need of forcible correction by right-thinking people.

I've been thinking for some time about the environmentalists. I'm relatively young, but I recall in the '90s and a bit in the '00s, the environmentalists were portrayed in media (sometimes older media) as bleeding-heart liberals, people who chained themselves to trees, vegans like PETA, ecoterrorists like Greenpeace, etc.

Today, the stodgiest, most conservative industries have email footers reading "Save a tree -- think before printing."

I can't find anything else to explain that other than "awareness". And I usually am one to believe in the power of protests, but this particular change baffles me... yet it still happened.

Given that this "change" consists mostly of cookie-cutter email footers instead of drastic environmental change, I think we see the power of awareness laid bare.

It also shows that arguments about how printing costs more money than email-only were better-received than what preceded them.

I'm actually consistently surprised that gender bias is really a problem (although I'm out in Boston so perhaps I don't see it). I would have thought that economic incentives would have stamped this stupid behavior out ages ago. The idea that team-killing unprofessional behavior on this reported scale is being allowed to continue by investors / management, or that VCs and hiring professionals are purposely ignoring strong opportunities because of peoples' gender just strikes me as being so stupid and shortsighted as to be almost unbelievable. Is this really happening, or are these types of articles simply exaggerating the extent of the problem?

This is the same Silicon Valley where having Mahbod Moghadam is an asset.

Revenue, especially in the form of VC, is so disconnected from productivity that massive inefficiencies can exist (provided you have the capital to power through them). You can build a sufficiently-successful company ignoring half your resumes. In some places it's way more than half, and there are biases to top-tier schools, biases to personal referrals, etc., and things work.

Also the nasty thing about those sorts of biases is that they're self-perpetuating. If someone else previously hired you for a job you were well-suited for, you now have nice experience on your resume, a good referral, and usually connections. So a company hiring experienced local developers, or a VC firm judging founders by what they've built in the past, gets the result of everyone else's biases. There's also explicitly some allowance for mistakes if you look like you should have been and could still be successful, ranging from the acceptance of pivots to giving people funding even if their last exit wasn't so great. While useful, this also tends to defang the savagery of the free market significantly.

This is not to say that anyone is guaranteed free money. There's certainly hard work required, and also certainly some blind luck. But the market won't shake out mistakes as quickly as you'd hope.

Venture Capitalists aren't some bleep blorp ration-bots, they're just regular people who happen to control a lot of money.

being so stupid and shortsighted as to be almost unbelievable.

If something seems to good to be true, it usually is. When somebody writes an article alleging something too stupid to be believable, maybe you should be asking what the author has to gain by misrepresenting the truth?

I would love to see the numbers of bootstrapped companies run/founded by women vs. those recieving investments. Until there are more women VC's, you're not going to see more women getting VC money. Why? Because purely evaluating a potential fundee on metrics alone will fail. VC's that use too much math and not enough "gut" will finance the wrong companies.

The problem with that is, all the dudes got all the money, and human tendency is to think highly of things we most identify with. ergo, dude investors are more willing to go out on a limb on an idea if they can identify with the person giving it (currently, lots of white males). It's unfortunate, but it's not purely inequality, it's just a sad fact of human nature that we seek what's most alike us.

It takes a particularly well educated, and self-understanding individual to look past emotional bias. The problem then becomes that others around them don't necessarily have that skill, so there becomes a cascading effect of lack of belief in something. (be that other investors, potential clients, or even quality employees) In effect, our prejudices create the successes on a larger scale that seed the next generation (of VC's, not generations of people) that's making the same emotional decisions.

I don't have a solution. Maybe it's screaming about inequality, as some do, maybe it's succeeding in spite of it. I don't deny it's existence, but I just can't figure out how to change it.

I think it just has to come down to each person realizing it in themselves and changing it. For me it was in round 4343239534 of potential front end developers, when a dorky looking hipster girl came in, and I realized half-way through her interview I had already set her up for failure because I'd assumed she was a poser. It took her being beyond great at what she did to make me realize that in myself, and let me tell you, that's an awful, awful feeling to have. When you're sitting there thinking you're a good person, fair to people, and realize you've made such a sweeping - and wrong - assumption about some one else because of their sex, race, lifestyle, whatever, it's really damn hard to accept it. I can completely see how people let themselves continue to ignore that little nudge in the back of their mind. It's not easy to change the way you think.

TL;DR - Fucking sucks, and it's really hard to change, but it exists.

Throwaway account given the topic.

As someone who has been in the valley along while, the disrespect from women seems to come from a couple of angles -- the bro culture (define as you wise, Uber excels in this), racial groups (indian males are amongst the worst), and many of those that grew up outside the bay area.

Some of us have been seeing each other as equals for years, judgement based on merit, but many a*holes still perpetuate issues.

My data set -- several startups, a few big companies, bay area native; my wife non native, white, a number of large prominent technical companies. One of us in engineering, the other in project/program management.

The influx of H1-B, caste loving people is making the push for equality a difficult one.

> racial groups (indian males are amongst the worst)

> The influx of H1-B, caste loving people is making the push for equality a difficult one.

I'm not going to call you a racist, but the least you could do is provide examples or, at best, statistics to backup your allegations. None, but one, of the feminist accusations of the tech industry in the American media involved a non-white male.

> caste loving people

As if Americans are not caste-loving? http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/03/class-di...

Anil Dash has a nice article talking about Indian-American culture that comes off as much less racist because he's reflecting on his own culture (which, incidentally, happens to be my own, and I can confirm anecdotally lots of what he says).


(To be overly clear, I don't think the claim that all the H1-Bs are importing sexism is defensible, as phrased, and I certainly don't think Indian culture bears the majority of the responsibility here, compared to American culture. I'm just trying to offer a better and relevant claim.)

Surely you can admit that Americans are less caste-loving. We treat talented individuals of all races+genders+GLBTQBBQ pretty damn well compared to the majority of the world (the mentally ill, on the other hand ...). I give us an A-, globally speaking.

> Surely you can admit that Americans are less caste-loving. We treat talented individuals of all races+genders+GLBTQBBQ pretty damn well compared to the majority of the world

I'm not really sure about that. If you are talking about overt treatment, sure we tend to be nice and well-mannered compared to the majority of the world. But underneath that facade we really aren't any different from the rest. Why do you think an HN user had to create a throwaway account (throwaway6761) to denigrate an entire race of people? I'm sure he tends to be nice and well-mannered to the minorities outside the Internet. Finally note that the comment you are responding to points to the class/status system between Americans (not just between races): http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/03/class-di...

Nothing more ironic than someone trying to fight sexism by denegrating an entire race!

> Zuckerberg, Gates, Thiel, Musk—these are our Carnegies and Morgans and Rockefellers, whose names will be on museum wings and university halls 100 years from now. And there’s not a female among them.

Wow, yeah, it's crazy that a shortlist of four people of 316 million that none of them are women. Despite Asians having large representation in tech, should I be offended that none of those these heavyweights are Asian?

Many of the concerns raised in this article are legitimate, and obviously aren't exclusive to tech. But the narrative presented by this article is not as compelling as it could be because the author relies so heavily on the experience of two founders whose struggle raising seed capital mirrors that of countless male founders.

Is it possible that Glassbreakers simply isn't the $100 million/year investment opportunity the founders believe it is? The author devotes just a single paragraph to this possibility:

> To be fair, there are many reasons Glassbreakers might not appeal to a Founders Fund or Andreessen Horowitz, or any of the dozens of other all-male VC partnerships on Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park, reasons that have nothing to do with sexist bias. It’s not likely to be a Facebook, or even a Houzz, the home-remodeling site launched by an Israeli husband and wife, financed by Sequoia and now valued at $2.3 billion. Glassbreakers is by definition “gender-gated,” thereby excluding 50 percent of potential users. It also presumes that many women do feel the need for female mentorship, when in fact there is quite possibly a significant cohort of working women who think they are getting along just fine without another woman’s advice.

The author then minimizes this argument by pointing out that Uber founder Travis Kalanick was able to buy a San Fransico mansion when he sold a "now-forgotten" file sharing service. This has nothing to do with Glassbreakers, and anybody who stays in this game long enough will inevitably see more inexplicable fundings and acquisitions than can be counted. Good people and ideas go without funding and exits all the time.

The Glassbreakers founders were able to raise $100,000 in seed money, which the article's author humorously refers to as "pre-seed." They were looking for half a million dollars in "pre-seed" funding, but a lot of companies have problems raising. It appears Glassbreakers has some traction (1,500 registered users) since launch, but without significantly more than this, raising $1.5 million might be difficult for the founders in today's ultra-competitive environment. Just because they want an 18 month runway doesn't mean that investors are obligated to provide it.

Meanwhile, there are companies like Chronus (http://chronus.com/) and MicroMentor (http://www.micromentor.org/) that offer mentoring software corporations can use to build their own mentoring programs for employees. There is also an ecosystem of firms like Insala (http://www.insala.com) that help corporations implement mentoring programs end to end. So if Glassbreakers is ultimately going to pursue revenue through corporate opportunities, which is allued to in the article, Glassbreakers has to prove that it can differentiate itself from and compete with what's already out there. Nothing in the article suggests that it has at this early stage.

It's particularly ironic that the author included this quote:

>“When I coach women, I tell them how wonderful they are. Women won’t make the ridiculous projections about their companies that the guys will. They won’t say the really stupid thing the nerds do. They are a lot more realistic and practical and humble.”

Soon after this line:

>They told investors their project was the next Pinterest—the way screenwriters tell movie moguls their scripts are the next Titanic.

And then they quoted Shanley Kane and I lost the ability to take the article seriously.

I agree--there were several decent points being made in the article, but fluffing it up to look like their gender was the reason they didn't get their desired funding was kind of disingenuous.

I can think of a probably a dozen local startups off the top of my head here that didn't get funding either. Tough shit.

Attitudes towards women in IT environments would become a little more relaxed if a fair number of programmers would have the courage to stop denying and come out of the closet. There, I said it.

"Gang-Bang Interviews"? Really?

SV tech is getting the diversity shakedown hard these days. Plenty of other fields have sex ratios just as skewed. Why is tech getting the brunt?

Because it's filled with idealists who are trying to "change the world"?

I've wondered that myself. There are plenty of other well paying jobs that are even more skewed than tech. Look at electricians, and plumbers to start.

I don't see a constant barrage of articles lamenting on the lack of women electricians.

How many articles do you see about electricians to begin with?

I think that's the point. The reason you see articles lamenting the lack of women in tech is because tech is currently a sexy career, while electrician isn't.

My point is that if people really cared about improving women's lives, they'd be pushing for more women in skilled trades in addition to pushing for more women in tech.

Unlike software development, being an electrician require an apprenticeship instead of college. Apprenticeships are paid and therefore more accessible to people with lower incomes.

I'd argue that trying to improve the lives of less educated lower income women specifically is more beneficial than focusing on the smart, ambitious, college graduates (and future college graduates) who we are trying to entice into software development--women who would probably go on to high paying jobs in other fields anyway.

I'm a software engineer. I have a voice among software engineers, and not so much among electricians. I'll focus on the change that I have half a chance of making some progress on. I don't think this means that I don't really care about improving women's lives, any more than how, as a Linux user, me not writing Windows tutorials means I don't really care about improving user's lives.

Why aren't there analogous articles written by electricians? You'd have to ask the electricians.

>Why aren't there analogous articles written by electricians? You'd have to ask the electricians.

Software engineers aren't the ones writing these articles, and this is an article in Newsweek not a tech blog.

>I'll focus on the change that I have half a chance of making some progress on.

We're not talking about software engineers getting together and deciding to make our workplaces more hospitable to women (which I fully support). We're talking about people from outside singling us out for societal problems, while wrapping themselves in moral superiority.

This isn't bout helping women, it's about getting clicks by picking on an unpopular easy target. The same way we had articles blaming San Fransisco's housing prices on Google buses.

Again if they really cared about women, they'd be pushing for programs designed to get women into skilled trades.

Exactly. The diversity hand wringers could be targeting any industry they want right now but are lasering in on tech.

They smell the blood in the water.

Because tech culture is often very juvenile and puerile, and so makes itself an easy target.

The cover art just sucks all the air out of the room. I immediately know you SV folks aren't going to get a fair shake in this article.

Wish they'd mentioned Theranos

Theranos imo is a special case. It was founded by a woman with tons of family money and friends in high places. She did not need to play the funding game to get started. I doubt she would have held onto her position today if she had to use regular funding channels in the beginning.

Most likely, she would have lost control of her company.

This post was briefly flag-killed by users. (That's what "[flagkilled]" means on a post.) We've unkilled it, obviously.

Thanks for unkilling, but it's pretty ironic that a piece about Silicon Valley being a boys' club was flag-killed. With HN's prominence in SV, I really wish this were a progressive enough community to at least acknowledge the existence of sexism, and realize why articles like these continue to get written. Getting past the clickbaity photo that was used (we can save journalistic ethics for another night), this was a relevant profile of one type of startup that isn't well understood by SV. I'm glad the moderators viewed it as worth saving, but I really wish this community didn't need babysitting when it comes to discussions on sexism.

thanks so much lauren!! Appreciate you standing up for us - we were really upset this was taken off hacker news considering how deeply involved we are with this community.

Ironic but not particularly surprising. It's almost like there are a bunch of guys here who don't like discussions of sexism.

Curious, why the resurrection?

Personally, I found the post distasteful, though not enough so to merit a flag. I think its us-vs-them tone and cherry-picking of facts makes it very easy to dismiss outright. I think that does the women in our industry a disservice and exacerbates the problem.

>>I think its us-vs-them tone and cherry-picking of facts makes it very easy to dismiss outright.

This only happens because the problem is constantly ignored. Personally, it's clear to me that nearly every single time anyone tries to talk about *ism in tech it degrades into a meltdown of horrible and/or needlessly pedantic comments. So much so that the actual problem never gets addressed. No choice but to try again and again; focusing harder and harder on examples. I do notice though, over a wide enough range of time, the conversations do very slowly inch towards maturity. And just think, if not even HN can handle the topic... what hope is there for anywhere else? Seriously, if anyone knows of another online community of mature discussion comparable to HN I'd like to know. Right now, HN seems to be in a class of its own in regards to quality of comments.

Hacker News is no longer really a community for serious debate or challenging insights WRT non-technology subjects. YCombinator's position as a public face of the tech industry sort of requires that submissions/comments, especially relating to gender issues, be whitewashed to some degree.

The intelligent discoursers I know have all moved to communities like slatestarcodex, LessWrong, potentially-vile "neoreaction" sites (you can read Mencius Moldbug's writings for a primer), and other obscure parts of the Twitterverse. Your mileage may vary with any of these subcultures, and there is plenty of "toxic" content, but IMO the quality of discourse is vastly higher that what you'd expect on a typical Hacker News thread for anything not explicitly related to startups or programming.

Just so I can be sure I understand this: you're suggesting that YC whitewashes gender topics off HN, so instead you discuss gender at LessWrong?

Although I don't read LessWrong much any more, people always seemed willing to talk about their actual beliefs in depth. It's about as male-heavy as HN, I guess. There was, a long time ago, some controversy over 'here's what you need to do to get more women', which, as you'd expect, enraged a few folks.

I actually don't read LessWrong itself, but I've interacted with lots of people and sub-communities that are associated with / spun off of the rationality movement. These were just rough pointers to directions I've followed to find higher levels of quality discourse. Ribbonfarm is another such community.

Why don't we remove ALL *isms, and call them biasses?

"The X bias is Y, and from the data we'd expect a bias of Z, therefore the bias is D".

By calling it sexism, we make it a value judgement. By talking about bias, we remove judgement.

was in a class of its own.


People here (and everywhere google is a verb) ignorance is not only implied, but encouraged.

Hey this is Eileen from the article. We are a part of this community - on hacker news every day - was sad to learn this has been flagged so much. This isn't an us vs them - we're all in this together. Hope by sharing our startup story more of you who were so offended by the article can see that we're just like you, hacking and hustling on a product we love.

I wish you hadn't unkilled it, because I ended up clicking on it.

I stopped reading and flagged the article after getting to this part: There is, though, one thing these two founders are missing, and it is almost the sine qua non of the fabled Silicon Valley startup. They don’t have penises.

This is trashy writing and flamebait, and I don't want to see in on HN. There is a vast library of quality literature on gender issues out there, and I think it's fair for us to reject articles that cannot rise above vulgarity.

It's pretty obvious why it was flag-killed, and not entirely unfair. But the reason I submitted this is that if you can get beyond the sensationsalist clickbaity sections then there are actually some good insights, and I think there is value in knowing how people who consider themselves to be outsiders perceive the world in general.

Thanks for fixing that.

Thank you for unkilling it. It might be mildly controversial but so are many stories that get posted on HN. It was unfair of people to use the spam-flagging mechanism to try to dispose of it. If they have an objection, they can make an argument in the comments. Thanks again.


Silicon Valley is where the future is allegedly built by people living in the past.

For just one of a zillion examples: why's the place so expensive? Fucking NIMBYs who refuse to allow 21st-century housing density. Also, California isn't that liberal. It's what 1960s liberalism would be if drained of all its leftist color and its impressive work ethic, leaving just nostalgic remembrances of the hippie era. The '60s leftists stood for something (like, civil rights and economic equality) but their 2015-era California remnant just wants to live in some silly suburban watered-down hippy-dippy utopia (see: Agrestic in Weeds) that never existed and doesn't even make sense on its own terms. Unfortunately, the not-fit-for-life soft-skulls become the Prop 13 assholes and the hair-trigger NIMBYs who block new development (it might shadow the gluten-free tomato garden I would start if I actually had ambition!) and drive house prices through the roof.

I like some people in California, for sure, but the Prop 13 NIMBY people should be forcibly relocated to the Pacific Garbage Patch... until we have something like The Raft in Snow Crash to put them on.

In the same way, this supposedly innovative industry is run by people who still subscribe to the Mad Men playbook of gender relations, never mind the fact that the rest of the world (yes, even Wall Street!) has moved beyond that and the sort of disgusting behavior (such as the investors who come on to women during pitches, or otherwise attempt to use their positions of power for sexual access) described in this article would get a person fired, if not more.

I really wish I could go to at least one site related to something I'm interested in be it sports, tech or gaming and not have to listen to this feminist propaganda.

Yeah it would be nice to just enjoy distractions without my beliefs being challenged all the time. Why can't I ignore all the problems of society, and just read blogs all day?

Some day someone will convince me that sexism can be fixed with more sexism. That day has not arrived.

If you know that you will be eventually convinced of it, shouldn't you just short-circuit the process and start believing it now?

This is the same type of sloppy thinking that endorses "if you're so tolerant, why don't you accept my bigotry."

It barely deserves a response, but I would like to point out that it is far more revealing of your ignorance of other people's experience than of any cleverness or wit on your part.

I'm pretty sure your response did nothing but attack the author and completely failed to counter the argument. Well done.

The front line of the gender war is the American courtroom, where men are subject to grossly unjust and discriminatory divorce and custody law.

In contested custody cases, fathers win about half the time. Granted, there's probably selection bias there.

The custody issue is clearly a result of gender stereotypes. I'm a feminism in part because it's the one movement that's actively and effectively fighting against that root cause.

I don't think tech sexism in SV is _the_ frontline, or that the courts are _the_ frontline, but they're both important fights. (SV might be the frontline _in tech_, but not in gender or sex equality overall, or even in the US.)

Turns out if you actually analyze the numbers, this turns out not to be the case.


I love the idea that the most accurate way to describe someone relies on a link to Breitbart. You were being ironic here, right? Well played: a trenchant commentary on the absurdity of personal takedowns.

"I love the idea that the most accurate way to describe someone relies on a link to Breitbart."

I said 'far more accurate way' to describe 'Shanley Kane' - not just someone. The most accurate way is of course her Encyclopedia Dramatica page and her twitter feed.



"You were being ironic here, right? Well played: a trenchant commentary on the absurdity of personal takedowns."

Your balls dude. They're between your legs. Read the links. Shanley Kane is a horrible, profane, disgusting, rage-filled human being who is only tolerated in the tech industry because she's a feminist.

Yes, that's where I thought you were coming from.

Oh look, here's another one (for German speakers):


It shows, among other things one of Shanley's delightful tweets about Linus:

"So disgusted. This shit is fucking disgusting. Again, GROW A MOTHERFUCKING SPINE LINUX. Get this asshole OUT."


Are you going to actually answer any of my points? Because you've answered none so far.

Go on then. Post links to Kane's technical achievements, her positive influence for women in tech and why the industry is so much better for having her in it. I'll wait.

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