Technology’s Man Problem: An important issue for NCWIT

May 20, 2014 at 10:00 am 2 comments

I’m speaking today at the NCWIT Summit, and this is a good article from NYTimes to re-read before the summit:

After the Titstare presentation, a commenter calling himself White_N_Nerdy wrote on Reddit, “I’m honestly trying to understand why anyone says that females are ‘needed’ in the tech industry.” He continued: “The tech community works fine without females, just like any other mostly male industry. Feminists probably just want women making more money.”

Online gathering spots for engineers, like Reddit, Hacker News and 4chan, where people often post anonymously, can feel like hostile territory for women.

via Technology’s Man Problem –

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Fake Geek Guys: A Message to Men About Sexual Harassment Boycotting a science conference because program is all-male

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Liza Loop  |  May 21, 2014 at 12:07 am

    I get really tired of women complaining about male dominated environments. Sure the territory is hostile. Get in there, girls, and slug it out. Yes, there are inequalities of pay, sexual innuendos, cliques, old boys networks and practical jokes with frogs, bugs and snakes in unexpected places. But being female isn’t a handicap that prevents you from attacking these issues with intelligence and aggression. Do outstanding work, make yourself indispensable and then demand the raise. Anything short of a serious rape threat you can give right back and watch ’em run. Most guys are like dogs chasing cats. If the cat won’t run away the dog loses interest and if the cat turns and swats it in the nose it’s the dog that runs. Cliques? Women are famous for cliquish behavior. Why shouldn’t men have the same privilege? And as for creepy, crawlies — stop being a sissy. Yes, there will still be work to do to gain full equality but we women need to earn our equality. We need to **be** equal and not just claim it. And we can’t do this by whining.

    Women should learn to code because everyone should know the rudiments of coding, not because they’re women.

    • 2. Michael S. Kirkpatrick  |  May 23, 2014 at 11:15 am

      Whenever I hear this response from a woman, I’m always a bit torn. In my first semester of teaching (a whopping 3 years ago!), I had a female student who vocally expressed that she wanted to be hired and respected for her coding skills, not her anatomy. In one respect, I completely agree: In an ideal world, people would be evaluated based on their abilities and nothing else. Where I hesitate, though, is on two fronts:

      First, we don’t live in an ideal world. There are plenty of men who are given advantages that have nothing to do with abilities. For instance, that is one of the driving forces behind fraternal organizations (both on-campus and adult ones like Eagles, Elks, etc.). As these organizations exclude women by nature, men are given opportunities denied women…on grounds that have nothing to do with ability. I also remember hearing about a study (sociology isn’t my area, so I certainly can’t provide a citation) that showed women’s discussion points are often ignored until a man repeats it. Thus, women CAN’T earn full equality in the current context unless they go far above and beyond what their male peers do.

      Second and particular to the CS field, this view implicitly assumes that we philosophically know what constitutes “goodness” within the realm of computing. That is, we somehow know how to judge coding ability. But I disagree. I don’t think we do. I think we have a reasonable understanding of what constitutes code quality within the context of C-based languages and von Neumann uniprocessing architectures. But are those the best places to start? As Mark said the other day, did the computing and interface design peak in the 1970s? I don’t think so, and I think a more inclusive demographic in the CS field is critical to our end goals.

      Does all that mean we should push unqualified female candidates into positions where they cannot succeed? Absolutely not. Instead, we men have a responsibility to speak out against sophomoric crap that creates a culture that drives qualified women away. The field would be considerably improved if we instead drove away the post-adolescents that created Titstare and this White_N_Nerdy guy.


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