Assuming that's the case, who cares? Why all the hand wringing? One downside I see is the lack of a "woman's perspective," which, while admittedly important in many fields, seems mostly irrelevant in a field where stuff either works or it doesn't. The other is a lack of interest in the field overall, but it seems a constant source of debate (see any H1B visa thread) as to whether we have a shortage or a glut of qualified workers.
 This shouldn't be read as a position I'm strongly committed to.
EDIT: Criticisms of this post thus far are mostly along the lines of a) a woman's perspective matters more than I give it credit for and b) "works or doesn't" is too simplistic. Fair enough. I admit my argument wasn't particularly nuanced (purposefully), hence the "devil's advocate" label. Questions I would ask are: wrt point a), is this something we can empirically validate? Or should we just assume any gender imbalance is inherently problematic? I'm not necessarily against the latter view, but I'd like to see it addressed explicitly.
Think for a second. If we're talking about adjusting the decor to market to a culture, what culture does it make sense for CS to target? Women? Athletes? Norwegians? Black Guys? It seems to me the alliance between geeks and programmers is quite natural.
You could redecorate the lounge in pink and put plushies everywhere. You might get a few more women who think, "Okay, I guess I could fit in here." You'll get a lot fewer geeks who think, "Thank God, I've finally come home."
Is that a positive tradeoff? Color me skeptical. Go found a Hacker Girls group, dominate the industry, prove me wrong. Until then, don't be engineering the culture.
"CS is mature field and as such will do better if it projects a professional, neutral image" is a hypothesis, nothing more. Prove it with a successful venture -- but I don't think you will. This is still a place where passion trumps professionalism, and an enforced culturally neutral environment isn't the best incubator for passion.
Personally, I think we'll do best by simply being ourselves. And letting the demographic chips fall where they may.
To paraphrase Phil Greenspun (from the "women in science" essay), we need to ask if CS "is a sufficiently good career that people should debate who is privileged enough to work at it?"
CS at a reputable university is hard. Seriously, seriously hard. I have no doubt that people who can handle this can also handle the academic rigor of a bio major followed by med school, and they sure as hell can handle an econ major followed by an MBA, or sociology major followed by law school.
So I'd start by asking: what are the women who are able to do CS doing instead, and would it be in their better interest to stop doing that and study CS?
This, I think is the central problem. It seems that most of the really really intelligent women I know have gone into other fields than CS because that's where their interests lie. CS simply wasn't a fulfillment of their interests not some more nefarious discrimination problem.
So it is not really even 50% of the people diversity who create the software. It feels more like 5-10%.
I belong to that 5-10% and I think that among the others there are many who are way more creative than us.
The convergence of "geek culture" and "internet culture" is one of my big complaints. lolcats were funny for about 5 minutes.
Unless you like XKCD, in which case you are a bad person and you should feel bad.
You seem to be implying that geeks only write code because the industry isn't socially mainstream.
Socially mainstream means leaving work at 5pm and going to the pub, that's what "normal" people do.
But the deeper answer is: because western society thought we'd already patched that one. We had a long history of actively discriminating against women. But despite creating a stigma around that sort of behavior and 'officially' banning it, gender representation in our particular corner of society hasn't changed all that much. Not even the modest amount that other sectors have seen.
So the question of "where are the women" isn't only about the women, but about our seeming inability to fix society just by joining hands, singing kumbaya and declaring change.
If we'd gone through the trouble of a social movement to kick an industry bias against, say, stereotypical jocks, extroverts, or guys-who-know-how-to-talk-to-girls, then I suppose people would pay more attention to why those groups are still under-represented too.
As you point out, various personality types are underrepresented in CS. The particular ones that are highly represented are less common in women. There is a reason for that, and yes it's bad, but the personality type distribution among women in general has nothing to do with CS.
PS My theory on feminism is that it said, "Men must reform." And so they reformed some. Meanwhile it did nothing to help women. Hence women are now worse than men.
It's a rather broad resource, but to be honest I'm just starting to get into the subject. My earlier snarkiness was caused by frustration at how quickly people are willing to dismiss feminism or make sweeping generalisations about it, without bothering to learn much about it.
Sorry if I've overreacted, the comments on this article have made me hyper-sensitive.
One thing that does concern me greatly is that there are many women who are interested in science and technology, and especially computer science, who are at some point turned off. It appears to really begin around junior high and high school, and it continues through college.
My concern is that we're losing a lot of interested and bright minds, who might be excited in the course of actually working in technology, who are being turned away for some reason.
I think it's important to try to understand the reasons before we pass judgment upon them.
But it might raise some questions and inspire some solutions that generally makes work in technology more enjoyable. Not just for women; for everyone. Consider the reaction to pair programming. Both women and men just plain tended to like it more. That seems to show that there are many people out there who would enjoy working in technology were it not as solitary. That's a major discovery. And I think we've just scratched the surface.
a particularly keen insight i got from talking to a female college friend (who was a CS major) is that the "women's perspective" might be more relevant than people think even in a supposedly objective field where things either work or don't ... because men and women see the world differently, women might be able to come up with different high-level design, low-level debugging, or software team management strategies that an all-male team might not think of ... of course, i don't have any concrete examples to back up this vague hand-wavy statement, but i think there's something there
Lots of people believe that, but I've yet to see an example. Since we make a lot of decisions based on it being true, I'm troubled that we don't know if it actually is.
However, let's assume that it's true. It doesn't follow that said different is always valuable. It might be good in some fields, irrelevant in others, and bad in some.
In other words, even if "think different" is true, it's not an argument for universal inclusion.
Yes, I know that said "male think" may not be possessed by all males and lacking in all females.
What field are you talking about? I don't believe such a field exists. Not one that is worthy of the name "field".
It certainly isn't user-experience design, where there is obviously no bright line between "what works" and "what does not work", and where the value of a diverse team is easiest to appreciate. ("What, you mean the word processor user hasn't bothered to learn how to use a DVCS from the command line? Were they born yesterday?") But we needn't go that far. Everything that the hardest of hard-core geeks talk about all day long:
What language should we use?
Should I use emacs, vi, Textmate, Eclipse or Notepad?
Should I use Mac OS, Windows, or Linux here?
What database architecture is right for this task?
Come to think of it, am I even working on the right task?
Even down-and-dirty C hacking requires an endless series of decisions between things which will work and things which might work better on one axis or another.
That said, the self-perpetuating 'Boys Club' stereotype is a problem I care about.
In short: It causes nothing but trouble. It drives away more than just women. It creates stigma and bias and I don't see any positive return from it.
A homogeneous group certainly can be the best team for a given task. I'm only suggesting you have a sub-optimal environment if the only teams you can put together are homogeneous ones.
the smart women pick fields where they're helping others, and the smart men pick fields where they're building or discovering things.
(purely personal observation and might not be indicative of anything as a whole, or my own personal beliefs on the subject.)
 Although, there may be truth in the idea that software is written for/from a male perspective, meaning that it doesn't suit women's needs as well... whatever those needs are. Yeah, I'm ambivalent about this point, but I don't outright reject it.
PS I also highly recommend reading The Mismeasure of Woman by Carol(?) Tavris. It provides very clear concrete, statistical, and anecdotal explanations of how and why a woman's experience differs from a man's, and the consequences of the man's experience being an implicit standard. Despite being woman-focused, the book is also pretty rational and balanced about the potential of reverse-discrimination, and does a pretty good job of noting problems without demanding specific fixes.
If I could offer another anecdote and unsupported hypothesis, I suspect our grad program has a better mix because it is more foreign, and foreigners have a different perception of the gender stereotypes surrounding Computer Science than we do. There's a lot of non-Americans on hacker news, perhaps one of them could comment.
It is worth noting that this gender disparity (wrt women programmers etc.) is predominantly a native-born-women issue. Asian immigrant women in the US don't have a similar pattern and as far as I know, the US pattern doesn't exist in countries like India and China -
This has been particularly evidenced in gaming where mixed development teams come up with games that appeal far more widely to the general audience than the typical all-male FPS product. (Yes, this is a crass generalisation, but I've spent several years as part of women in gaming movements/the IGDA WiG SIG and so on. Male dev teams just don't build stuff that women want to play, for the most part.)
As to the "I'd really like to be a computer programmer, but I can't" -- I'm aware this was a facetious remark, but it's far more insidious than that, really. When I was at school, I was good at maths and physics. I loved logic and 'decision maths' (which was basically algorithms; we studied things like the TSP). I played about with computers in my spare time, ran the school website, etc. What career was I advised to follow? Electrical engineering. Not computer science. I didn't even know you could study computer science until I was looking at university prospectuses for mathematics.
I've never thought "I wish I could $foo, but I can't because I'm a woman". But I have experienced problems due to my gender, on a day to day level it's more stuff like having people change the topic of conversation when you join in the circle, not being asked for your opinion, having to over-justify your techie-ness to 'fit in' which just ends up sounding horribly arrogant.. being deliberately excluded from some conversations, having people make all kinds of stupid assumptions which you then have to correct - no I don't do marketing, no my PhD wasn't in linguistics, and techie people hate being wrong.. not fitting into XL freebie t-shirts properly, not having healthy/vegetarian/non-beer options at CS events (ok guys may well have this too).. etc etc. I don't list career sabotage or anything here because I'm young, I've mostly been in academia and I'm now running a startup, so I'm lucky enough not to have had problems there. (Except when I worked in a computer shop and customers actually demanded to speak to "the computer man", but hey. Their stupidity, not mine.)
On the extreme flipside, and I don't see many women talking about this stuff: being female has been great for getting fast-track opportunities into stuff. e.g. being flown to America to attend the Austin Games Conference as part of a Microsoft women in computing initiative. I do feel sometimes that I was let into competitive schemes partly because I'm awesome and partly due to the fact I'm the only woman applying and it looks good if I get in because then they have Gender Balance. (note, I am awesome, but that little voice of "was it because I'm perfect for the position or was it because I'm a minority" never quite goes away. I imagine others have the same problem in different ways.) However, I'm pretty sure that compared to a male CS major with a similar background, I've had far more opportunity. I feel a little guilty about it, but if I didn't seize it, someone else would -- and I'm actively trying to help change the need for such things in the first place.
This seems like a chicken and egg kinda thing. As a nerd I adjust my behavior when interacting with women and discussing CS-ey stuff, because, in my personal empirical experience they just "turn off" if I "nerd out" too much.
But that same prediction will lead to false positives for women who would get it if I were to nerd out at full throttle.
I think this circles back to how Humans are pretty great at categorizing, and making predictions as time savers, but it can screw us on edge cases.
Cause really the problem I have when women "zone out" during a techie discussion, is not that they're dumb. They don't care, or do, but lack all the implicit knowledge context I take for granted when I rationalize stuff in my head. You'd get the same behavior if a Business Major Frat Boy (oh look more stereotypes, weee!) asked you "So? How do those things really work?"
Just so happens gender is a pretty obvious label to latch onto for making that judgment call of "can I go all out, or not?", a label that can backfire a lot of the time.
I really am all for more girls in CS, because that means more likely hood of working with smart people, and I like me some smarties.
But something in that article made me wonder. When she was interviewing that female grad student there was worry over losing that "culture". It seems like women are just as capable of identifying with that "stereotype" culture. Are we sacrificing that when trying to get that raw percentage up?
"is it just me or do you get your hackles up a bit when there's another woman around" - with several posters agreeing, even though they didn't like it. catfights, drama, bitchfests -- call it what you will but women don't always react well to other women being around. a typical female CS of today, wearing a star wars t-shirt, running gentoo and drinking out of a thinkgeek mug just won't react well to someone who's not of that ilk coming along onto "her" territory.
slight tangent, but interesting to consider.
i think it's perfectly possible to be geeky without turning into a one-dimensional stereotype. a lot of girls who aren't the picture described above still like the odd geeky thing, whether it's lolcats, nintendo cushions, an affinity for linux, whatever. the culture isn't binary, and it's entirely possible to fit in without having to live the entire lifestyle. i should know. i hardly ever wear my star wars t-shirt these days.
I was thinking about it more at lunch, and what really tweaks me is the whole "I do this cause it's a paycheck" vs "I do this because I hearts it" developer mentality.
So maybe that's a better way to express the last point. Assuming that CS culture actively drives women away the ones that are in it, for the most part, really do love it (I know a few "this is just a paycheck" female devs).
So trying to increase that raw percentage might mean "polluting" the pool with "paycheckers" instead of "passion-ers" (man I am a wordSMITH)
(I also say this in full disclosure: I get monies for codes).
One thing is interesting is that there used to be many more women in programming.
And I say that as having been a pimply 15-year-old social reject. Girl.
The rewards in CS are just not as good for the middle-of-the-road people as many other industries. Biotech, for example, is at least as intellectually demanding (if not more), and has many more women.
Let's face it -- programming is largely low-status, exploitative work, where you are like as not going to get outsourced to India (or wherever), outgunned by teenagers, replaced by people who don't mind working 80 hours a week, and managed by people who think of you as a glorified typist, etc., etc.
And many of your best-skilled coworkers are likely to have very poor social skills, whether from atrophy or a genuine medical disorder.
Speaking of outsourcing to India, in cultures where programming is viewed as a respected career path, there are many more women programmers. Among Asians and Indians, specifically.
They don't seem to enjoy it all that much, though, based on my anecdotal evidence.
So, given the issues I raised above, who wants to fix them? Who will bother? Nobody. They will just talk circles about how there must be tons of girls who just long to spend 14 hours a day in front of a computer when they grow up, surrounded by Star Trek jokes lolcats.
I get off on technology, but I've always been different than other girls. I used to get all aggro about it, but as the years have gone and I've grown up, I've realized that's futile. Many women who are in tech jobs just cannot get over their defensiveness and accept that other women wouldn't be just like them, if but for their evil oppressors. I used to think that way too, but it turned out to be bullshit.
Women have different biology, their bodies respond differently, they fall ill to different diseases but somehow it's become taboo to say that perhaps they think differently too, and therefore tend towards different disciplines. The brain is just another organ after all...
An example from a similar field: 90% of NFL Wide Receivers are Black. Does that mean the NFL is racist? Or that black people's genetic heritage skews their speed&strength bell curve slightly to the right so that the top hundredth of a percent is slightly above white's top hundredth of a percent? I tend to believe it's the second.
Please note that I know some nerd girls (mostly from the CS and EE programs), and nothing I say indicates that opportunities should be closed, or discrimination should happen, but you can't look at a number like "15% of comp-sci students are women" and immediately assume something is wrong.
I don't doubt that social pressures are playing a role here, with general pressure to "be pretty, not smart", but I don't think it explains away all of it. I am not putting forward a theory of everything here, just expressing my frustration with general feminism thoughts that everybody is fundamentally identical, except for socialization.
Well, this is going to turn bad I'm sure, I've touched on sex AND race.... but the central argument across all 3 is similar. There are bell curves everywhere in biology, and they are slightly skewed and stretched across different groups. No individual point is enough to make a decision ("you're a woman" doesn't say anything about computer ability, just as saying "you're black" doesn't make them a wide receiver), but on a mass-scale they predict percentages and expectations.
Or that young white men, compared with young black men, are much less likely to see professional sports as their ticket to an upper-class lifestyle, and therefore the folks who focus their efforts on becoming a better football player are predominantly black?
(Note that in the first few decades of the 20th century, when antisemitism was much more prominent, professional boxing was a predominantly Jewish sport.)
I never think that biology should be used to discriminate, since the 90th percentile line of women may be the 85th percentile of men (or whatever skew you want), that doesn't mean that she's not better at whatever task than 85% of men, and hence a good hire. Basically, the macro scale says nothing about the micro scale. But what I wanted to point out was that using macro level statistics and saying "this is inherently wrong" is reading the skew, and not the individuals.
As with everything in life, I'm guessing the real answer is some combination of socialization and biology.
One other ideas has been kicking around in my head, a comp-sci idea even... If you have women being approximately equal members of college (I think they have a slight lead by a few percentages), and you have few women in comp-sci, by the pigeonhole principal, they're the majority in another major. Why isn't there a clamor to get men into those majors? The example of biology was used elsewhere in this thread I think.
The main issue, I think, is not whether women opt more or less for CS, but rather that many many are compelled/driven to opt-out of it. Something is clearly wrong if they can't opt freely without suffering prejudice or without having to, as some say, "grow a thick skin".
If you had asked, 40 years ago, "why is the lack of women in math, science, medicine, academia, and leadership positions a problem" this would be more obvious. Since many fields today are more equitable, it is a lot less problematic, although perhaps not for a few folks here and there.
Seriously, everything works out better for everyone in the long run if you value women as people first and foremost. Admittedly doing so reduces your opportunities to make passes at uninterested women. But it significantly improves your odds of success if you do make a pass, and greatly improves your odds of eventually winding up in a decent relationship.
If anything, guys in tech -- the real techies, that is -- are so horribly bad at talking to women that it's being viewed as an alien from outer space that's offputting, not being viewed as a pair of walking boobs. On that note, I definitely agree with valuing women as people. But in my experience, at least, male attitudes towards women in tech as sexual objects are not even remotely a factor. However, the concern that you won't even meet nerdy women if there aren't any women involved in tech is still valid, IMO!
If you wish to continue not experiencing it, then there are quite a few men I recommend not getting to know, starting with Eric Raymond.
If so, it might provide a useful means of distinguishing between the 'Roissy theory' (women are intolerant of low status men) I described downthread and scott_s's alternative theory (women don't want low status for themselves).
And yes, there is evidence that many women avoid strongly male-dominated environments. For some of that evidence look at the article that started this discussion: http://scicom.ucsc.edu/SciNotes/0901/pages/geeks/geeks.html
EDIT: Just to clarify, you're an idiot and a troll. Your (Devil's advocate) opinion is shortsighted and foolhardy. If you are writing software that "works or it doesn't", you are writing something inane, needless, or redundant. Most of the effort of developing software at this point in time is gathering requirements and designing interfaces. Work which is cut and dry is usually created by unnecessary process or poor choice of tools.
> former Harvard University president Lawrence Summers suggested that men are hard-wired to be more analytical than women
What he said was that there was more variance in IQ in males than in females, thus there are both more stupid males and more intelligent males - there are more males at either ends of the spectrum. Given a filter for extra-high IQ, you would then expect that there would be more males in that sample.
The fact that men have a greater variance in ability than women has been repeatedly confirmed. Depending on which characteristic of intelligence is being measured, the variance among men is generally 1.07 to 1.17 times as great as the variance among women. Vocabulary is an extreme, there the variance is 1.4 times greater among men than women. See http://precedings.nature.com/documents/3238/version/1/files/... for verification of that.
The open and difficult question is how much of the over-representation of men at the top echelons of society can be attributed to this variation of ability versus sexism. While the question is going to offend and be controversial, I agree with Summers that the principle of academic freedom says that academics should be free to ask it.
In short, the theory is that women are extremely intolerant of low status men and try to avoid working in fields where they are prevalent, and particularly in fields where they are respected. It actually has a reasonable amount of predictive power, certainly more than the sexism theory.
I'll be blown away, however, if we actually follow the theory to it's logical conclusion...
 Roissy in DC is an extremely sexist, but insightful blogger. He didn't state this theory, but I've heard it described as the 'Roissy' theory since it follows his line of thinking.
In general, yes, it does apply to all humans as a culture. I've seen men brush other lower status men away as I've seen women do. However, I can say, women tend to fill that category much more than men do.
I think it has more to do with the instinct to mate, than anything else. Women desire to project their masculine self onto a male figure that can most closely match the features of that masculinity. The masculine self having been created by the father figure, most women will seek out men that can fulfill those needs.
Hence why women generally date men older, with more social status, and more financial resources and freedom than they. There are obvious exceptions, so please consider those when reading this.
Oh, they do?
...if she had asked them to describe any other group, like black people or women, they would have refused to answer. “But describe computer science majors? No problem!” she says with a laugh
The article is caged in PC language, but it's describing nothing but intolerance of a certain group of people.
You'll note that the theory of the unwelcoming environment is easy to debunk; if true, then law and medicine should also have very few women (they were historically unwelcoming to women). Yet somehow, those fields (full of high status men) are now about 50% women.
As for intolerance, I'm not sure how we could consider your unwillingness to tolerate certain kinds of offices as anything other than intolerance.
The differences between what I said and what you said: mine could apply to any group, not just women, and I'm assuming that only a smaller subset of most people are willing to pursue high social status despite the extra burdens; most people are fine with middle status.
Also, intolerance of an environment is different than intolerance of a group of people.
Regarding middle status jobs, there are plenty of formerly male-dominated middle status jobs which women have successfully broken into, e.g. advertising (c.f. Mad Men).
Any explanation of why women do not enter math/phys/CS must come up with something that distinguishes math/phys/CS from those other fields. Being a "middle status job" doesn't do it, nor does initial unfriendliness. I'd suggest that one possible explanation is that "geeky" pursuits are actually lower status than most comparable office jobs, and more women than men are turned off by low status.
On the other hand, the idea of being repulsed by hanging out with low-status men… as a woman, that resonates with me.
The best thing that's happened for my happiness with programming is the arising of more well-rounded, socially skilled developers, who started off as music professors or linguists, like the ones I found when I switched to Ruby.
Say you expand a little further and say that really low status means social impairment. People who are socially impaired tend to be socially unpleasant. If a woman suspects that this person is a man, that makes the gap even wider and more of a turn off. Then it's not really wrong at all for women to think that way.
The way you have it framed makes "social status" seem like a random construct, a congenital handicap. And women who dislike these people are just "intolerant" of them.
Why does this happen? My school is trying hard to get more women in CS and engineering fields, which may mean poorly-qualified girls are being accepted and pushed into these degrees; are we just a statistical anomaly? The numbers in the article would seem to indicate otherwise. Anyone else have insights from their own grading/teaching experiences?
Oh, and regarding pair programming, it's the best possible way to make sure you won't want to see your friend's face for another week, because half the time one of you will want to do something the other one just doesn't "get", so you sit there and explain it repeatedly when you could have just implemented it by yourself, all the while watching your teammate type with a speed and error frequency generally associated with senile chimpanzees.
Anyway. Women who do badly in the first few weeks of a course will think it's all their fault and drop the course. Men who do badly in the first few weeks of a course will think it's the course's fault and carry on.
Here's the problem as I see it. You're accepting less qualified girls because you want girls in CS, but you're putting them up against a hard course that challenges their self confidence and belief, while their classmates -- typical boisterous male freshmen? -- are apparently coasting along (even if they aren't, they won't show it to the girls).
I'd suggest a summer preparation self-study course (before my CS degree started I had to practice some math questions and read a book about the foundations of CS, which helped a little bit. Some kind of Informatics Olympiad thing might have been more useful) that also overlaps with the beginnings of CS1. That way the start of the course won't seem too bad. At the risk of positively discriminating (though looking at the numbers this is merely fixing a problem), ensure the female students have extra help with the course. Assign a TA/RA/senior student to help them out by e-mail or something. Make sure any less qualified male students get the same help, though.
Just a thought. :)
1. Blame the victim?
2. 60% still isn't a supermajority like in CompSci/Eng.
1. Personal experience affirms. I have met more (in number) intelligent talented female students taking chem and bio disciplines. Example: last weekend I met a girl whose father taught one of my computer engineering courses, wearing a shirt that said "neuroscience".
But that just doesn't work in CS, not at most schools. The curriculum is designed for the average (or slightly below average) student, who already has some programming experience and OS knowledge and who is actively engaged in acquiring more experience and more savoir faire. An intelligent person with no experience can catch up, but only by focusing hard on CS and putting in a lot of extra work to catch up with the other students.
Is there any point in accommodating anyone else besides the lifelong hobby hackers and the focused enthusiasts? I think this is an important question. From a competitive standpoint, there's clearly no point. There are plenty of hard-core geeks, and it seems intuitively obvious that the curriculum can be more advanced and interesting if you take the students' strengths for granted. Washing out everyone else means you can produce graduates who are more deeply knowledgeable about computing and who are better equipped to be productive in typical industry jobs.
On the other hand, it homogenizes the field and bakes in the personal peculiarities -- positive and negative -- of the kinds of people who get deeply interested in computers as teenagers.
Obviously the PC answer (as well as the "big picture, good of society" answer) is to accommodate as wide a range of people as possible. At selective universities that is probably feasible, and if feasible, is the right answer. However, I got my degree in a non-CS field and only took CS classes when I was unemployed for a while early in my career. I took those classes at a community college and at a night extension of a crappy state school. In those classes, it was clear that some of the the geek/hobbyist students had a chance of being decently productive at industry jobs, but the students who had not done any hobby programming, whose only knowledge came from the curriculum, were completely hopeless. It was obvious they would never be competent enough to contribute in any industry job unless their primary competence was something other than computer science. For vocational training, I think it's unrealistic to encourage these "lightweights" to pursue a degree in computer science, because they'll never achieve a useful level of competence. You might as well wash them out and focus on the lifelong geeks, who at least can become competent coders or QA guys.
In any field- math, bio, art, music, the people who are best at it are those types- the start-early would-do-it-for-free types. But there's a whole lot of people milling around who could be second best. In other fields, being second best or not that into it is acceptable.
In computer science it's not. And more importantly, because programming and computer science are often equated, this prevents a whole lot of people from programming.
And who needs to program? I'd argue that the time is past where only computer scientists need to program. Everyone needs to program; biologists, mathematicians, linguists, social scientists... (maybe not the English majors, but w/e) and this idea that programming can only be done by people that started when they were 5 year old boys is a huge loss.
That's been my experience too, but I've only ever done it with people who were much less experienced programmers (i.e. once). It's sounds like you were also working with someone vastly more inexperienced, so it's probably not fair to poo-poo paired programming on that basis alone.
I always feel like the guy at the keyboard ends up having to write most of the real code, because if the other programmer has an idea they either have to switch spaces or he has to painstakingly dictate what he wants. Whoever isn't at the keyboard then tends to feel like he's not really contributing except to pick out occasional syntax errors and try to follow along with what's being written. Maybe it works for some people, but I prefer working alone.
Im a guy, I love all things tech (and am a bit geeky about it). However I never liked Star Trek and whilst I read Science Fiction / Fantasy the whole D&D and more mainstream Warhammer type stuff makes me squirm. I imagine that same room would put me off too; unless it had something cool in it (for example a complex lego "star trek" model) that appealed to the engineer in me.
I know a fair few CS majors - most are men. But there are easily as many women as hardcore star trek style geeks. Some of the most hardcore geeks are women.
I really think this is a lot more complex than star trek :)
My main point was r.e. the Star Trek thing. I agree entirely that it might put women off (as I said, it even puts me off) but I am not sure it is good evidence that this is how women [or anyone] perceive cs (and so puts them off). The test doesn't cover that issue at all.
It's like saying "we did a study where we found all men were unable to breast feed babies. As a result we conclude only women can get pregnant" :)
Is that correct?
Could it be that is is just computer science that many women don't feel attracted to? The statement above seems to contradict her own research, and she fails to see it. The stereotypes seem really outdated, too.
Or maybe women just tend to be intolerant... ducks
"Hey, how come there aren't more wimmin running our Caterpillar D9s in the Brazilian rainforest?"
Oh yeah, Philip Greenspun points out science is a dead end job for any ambitious woman: http://philip.greenspun.com/careers/women-in-science
If you go to the "About Us" → "Our Supporters" menu item, you see a list of donations, and the majority of donors are labor unions.
You want girls to feel comfortable because you want the girls who are good at CS to go into CS. This is independent of how many women go in total. But since we're at it, let's talk about the biology arguments:
according to the above study, undergraduate women in engineering showed comparatively a higher interest in math than men though slightly lower interest in engineering and yet lower interest in physics.
Through additional work CMU increased their percentage of women in CS from 8% to 1995 to 42% in 2000. One thing I recall is that women were not as experienced when they first got into CS and had to work harder. However they believed they had caught up by junior year.
The geekfeminism link addresses the almost-strawman argument that women don't have the math or analytical skills needed for CS. It doesn't address the possibility that there are biological reasons for differing levels of interest in the field.
The second link discusses interests and influences for female undergrads majoring in some kind of engineering, not CS, though I still think it is somewhat relevant. I find the influence on family members to be the most interesting.
The third link has papers specifically related to interest. One is titled "The Anatomy of Interest." It discusses why women who started college enthusiastic about CS ended up leaving.
It startles me just how pervasive some stereotypes are.
The quoted assertion appears to depend on two generalizations. The first is that women use purses instead of pockets , and the second is that they leave purses "over there." The implied converse generalization is that men don't leave their phone or its container "over there."
It makes me wonder if the inclusion of this quote was intentional foreshadowing on the part of the author.
Fair enough in what context? It's certainly a patently valid generalization, but it's still a generalization and, perhaps more importantly, is one that has no obvious and direct connection to being female.
Had the OP's study limited itself to women who self-identify as being feminine and/or wearing skirts, or at least measured that, I wouldn't even question it.
BlackBerries have a magnetic sensor to detect when they're in a case and can change their notifications accordingly, but that's not the same thing.
#ahem# bluetooth #cough#
I knew i was a techie, I've grown up with dissembling stuff and figuring out how stuff works and making stuff, its just that i didn't see programming the same way i saw drawing in my notebook. I do now.
If there are women reading this, and you LOVE making stuff, don't let stereotypes get in your way. If you don't like assholes don't work with them, if you don't like cubicles don't work in them, if you don't like smelly apartments with star trek posters on the wall, don't work there. Build your own environment, find like minded individuals and MAKE THINGS. I don't know if being a woman makes this harder, it probably does. Me, i can handle asshole nerds and their smelly apartments(i am one), but i avoid dry and sterile offices and bureaucracy as much as i can. Perhaps the extra effort isn't worth it, if i couldn't work in an environment of my taste, i probably wouldn't be a programmer, and be an artist instead, even though i SUCK as an artist a lot more than i suck as a programmer, and i don't find it as much fun as i used to when i sat bored in a classroom in high school.
That seems clear enough, but I started to think about how the lessons learned here might be applied elsewhere. Namely, how could this lesson be applied to help us, my fellow geek friends, out with the ladies?
Basically, what I'm saying is that if you want women to feel comfortable around you and in your surrounding (ie home or office), then you have to provide some cues to make them feel like they belong - barring that, at least remove the cues that make them feel like they definitely don't.
I'm not saying redecorate your apartment with pink unicorns everywhere, but maybe just start off small:
- Replace the 1-foot-tall Yoda replica with a potted plant
- Replace the wall of empty Mountain Dew cans with a bottle of water on your desk
Like I said, just simple things to make any potential women that might see your environment avoid the feeling that they "simply don't belong here."
I know the article isn't really about how to improve your odds with the ladies, but I see no reasons not to apply the lessons they are learning with actual research to other areas of our lives - especially one that our demographic has historically had difficulty with.
For once we are getting info on how to make women feel more comfortable that is backed by actual research as opposed to mere speculation and guesswork. Why wouldn't we try to make use of that information in as many ways as possible?
Maybe I'm missing the point and correct me if I'm wrong, but allot of computer science has already been created/invented/defined by women (the first compiler, arguably the first programming language, etc.).
So if you have something to contribute, pull up a keyboard and start hacking; computer science is one of the few arts/professions where today you need little more than a computer and an internet connection to become as good as your talent, creativity and willingness to invest the time will allow.
"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Thomas_Edison
It's a "social norm" issue. How many girls deciding on college can look to a woman in the field? How many of their friends are going on to major in CS? Or will even tell them that it's a good idea?
It's similar to another question: Why aren't there more African-American backpackers? The number I see tossed around a lot is that only 4% of backpackers are African-American.
Perhaps my feelings about generic, lifeless rooms are just atypical.
My guess is that women feel like they are biologically different than men, and geek paraphernalia is seen as a signal that the environment will be dominated by men who don't understand women. Any women here want to agree/disagree?
I think the room communicates an environment of obsessive and messy people, and that really isn't the kind of people I'd like to be around. I would have felt better if it wasn't just Star Trek, but various posters of stereotypically nerdy things. If it had been all posters of Harry Potter, I'd still feel uncomfortable. Also, a life-size bust? Really? I would think a life-size bust of anything to be weird, even if it was Zachary Quinto or George Washington.
A messy environment does make me uncomfortable. (Does it not make you uncomfortable?) The article described a mess of discarded computer parts. At a past company that I worked for, I got to visit the IT room, which had neat piles of spare computer parts organized in the middle of the floor. Although I did think it was weird that the stuff was just lying on the floor, I did have to resist an urge to crawl along the floor and check out everything (I totally would've done it if the HR people weren't watching me). If it had been a disorganized pile of discards, I wouldn't have given it a second glance.
> My guess is that women feel like they are biologically different than men
Um yes. I do feel that I am biologically different than men.
> and geek paraphernalia is seen as a signal that the environment will be dominated by men who don't understand women
Hmm, I think the closest place of "geek paraphernalia" that I've been exposed to is my school's linux lounge. The place has a bunch of working computers and some old computers to be stripped for parts, bookcases of CS textbooks, posters of the Linux penguin, signs made of the reflective side of compact discs, but there's nothing about this environment that turns me off. If the room had instead been covered with something I had zero interest in (like Star Trek) then yes, I would be a little put off.
A messy environment does not make me uncomfortable.
I wonder how much people’s dislike for disorder relates to the amount of time they look for things. It seems like the people that keep the most ordered desks spend the most time looking for things. However, I rarely need to find physical stuff in my environment so it's just not that important to me.
Nope. That's an established difference between men and women. I suspect it's because for men are on average better at using the part of the brain that processes abstract patterns, and worse at using the part of their brain that processes sensory data and emotion. So the mess is more salient for women and thus drains more cognitive cycles.
Also, I suspect people of both sexes getting better at using the other part of their brain as they get older. So it would possibly bother older men more, or possibly older women less. Just another one of my crazy theories though. :-)
Edit: fixed comparison
It is? And it's cross-cultural?
I'm astonished by the amount of "men and women are just different, everybody knows that!" going on in this thread.
So why are we trying to lump 50% of the population together into one bucket? There is no single unifying thing for every single woman out there. If there is, it will be either:
a) something all (most) humans want, such as the desire to be respected, or
b) something the woman herself considers relatively insignificant
Guess what, CS will never appeal to "the generic woman", just like it won't appeal to "the generic man". This is simply because they don't exist. This may come as a surprise, but not all women like the color pink, or cooking. And I personally don't understand the appeal of watching football on TV. Both my wife and I enjoy our video game nights together though.
So, in conclusion, don't market CS "for girls". Market "CS for smart people who want to make things". This is what's relevant, not gender.
It's too much like a "pen science" -- focusing too much on implementation and not enough on application. Imagine a science where students learn to write as quickly as possible with a pen and to fill the page with as much writing as possible. Who would want to get a "pen degree"?
The fact that many men want to major in CS reflects poorly on men.
The CS curriculum needs to be redesigned to be more applications-oriented and the major needs to be renamed to reflect that change.
French - informatique
Spanish - informática
German - Informatik
If we spoke not of computer science but of informatics we would make so much progress. Remember:
computer science : computers :: astronomy : telescopes.
Math, traditionally, has been about solving problems. Computer science is about solving problems concerning how we solve problems. How many things do we need to keep track of in order to solve, say, the 8 Queens problem? How many steps do we need to take? (space and time complexity) What are those steps? Can we substitute different steps with the same extensional effect that do the job more efficiently? (algorithm analysis and optimization) How do we arrange information in such a way to take fewer steps to solve our problem? (data structures) Can we develop a means of representation for steps that is both easy for a universal Turing machine to read and act on and easy for a human to read and write? (programming language theory) This is informatics and if you are not fascinated by it I feel sorry for you. Computer science sounds too much like what it has actually become in most major universities: code grinder trade school.
Hence the comparison to speed and compactness of writing in pen science.
Now, if the programmer were actually carrying out algorithms, this comparison would be entirely sensible. They're not. They're just trying to make them use as few resources as possible.
They have those majors already, they're called "Software Engineering" and "Information Technology" at most schools.
It just seems that fewer women enjoy doing the kinds of things you have to do to be successful in this particular field than in some other.
That's not to say there aren't women who participate in the field, but I've found, anecdotally, that they tend to view it as paycheck instead of passion (and maybe not insignificantly, the lions share appear to come from Asian countries with those country's concepts of work ethics and good jobs fueling most of those women). I think there are far more males who, for whatever reason, feel passionate about learning to build software.
Related, I've found anecdotally that most "geek girls" I've met are not as much into the substance of geekdom as they are into the image of geekdom. I've met lots of women with Pac Man t-shirts and binary watches at Anime festivals who couldn't give a rats ass about clock cycle counts for MOV operations on different revisions of the 80486 chips, but I've met lots of guys in the same clothing who owned aged dog-eared copies of Intel's multi-thousand page CPU Guidebooks (and read them for escapism).
For guys, seeing another guy dressed out of the ThinkGeek catalogue is a powerful signal of relevant knowledge, an ice-breaker of sorts as to how to relate. While there certainly are real geek women, their cultural appearance doesn't necessarily provide the same signaling. So when a geek chick shows up, the conversation switches basically to something less geeked out (at least in my experience) out of politeness.
I suppose this has two sides to it, the geek chick isn't then immersed into the kinds of topical discussions about xyz algorithm so she doesn't learn about it which cascades into never really getting as good as the boys, but to the boys, they learned about this on their own, in isolation, because they enjoyed it, and can't understand why anybody has to really be "coached" into becoming a geek.
full disclosure, I met my wife in a programming course, and she most definitely looks at it as paycheck
Ah, having typed this far, now I notice the obvioustroll username. Trolled, indeed. :)