Archive for January 30, 2013
How Can We Get More Boys Into Ballet? Response to an argument against getting more women into computing
Do we have a desperate need for more ballet dancers? Has ballet dancing become the lifeblood of our society? If so, then we really should try to get more boys into ballet. Or maybe ballet dancers made much more than average. Then getting more boys into ballet (or figuring out, at least, why they weren’t there) would be about being fair, giving everyone a chance at the high-paying jobs by making sure that there weren’t any accidental barriers or implicit bias.
Fortunately, we’re talking computing, not ballet, and we know the answers to many of those questions for computing. Computing is ubiquitous in our society and is critical to our economy. We face a labor shortage of skilled computing professionals. Computing professionals are rarely female. There are forms of bias that prevent many women from engaging and persisting in computing. Finally, when there are more diverse teams, design gets better. For all these reasons, we need more women in computing. There are answers beyond a “positive discrimination policy.” Changing what we do can making computing education more attractive and engaging for women, and make it better for men, too. Curb cuts help everyone.
I have a great amount of respect for the efforts of others in doing what they can to try to redress these outmoded stereotypes. I’m just not sure that I agree completely that a positive discrimination policy is an effective solution. This issue is not confined to just this sector of tech and computing but applies in many others. In our school there is one boy in the GCSE Textiles class and 3 boys in the GCSE Food class. I wonder if as a society we should question whether we celebrate the differences between male and female or seek to remove and reduce them. When I stand up on the bus to offer my seat to a lady or hold the door open for a female colleague, am I being courteous, chivalrous or disrespectful to men?