Women in CS

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Re: Women in CS

Postby Cosmologicon » Mon Dec 22, 2008 12:17 am UTC

It might surprise some people in this thread to know that women were not always so underrepresented in CS. (Ipswitch mentioned it, but I think it bears repeating.)

In the mid-1980s nearly 40% of CS degrees went to women, compared with the current 12% that the OP gives. Wikipedia cites a hypothesis by a Professor de Palma. He notes that the 1980s saw the explosion of microcomputers, and a shift in CS from being like pure math (where the fraction of women is greater than in CS) to being like engineering (where it's less than in CS). As the focus changed from abstract symbol manipulation to "tinkering", the fraction of women dropped.

It's a very interesting hypothesis. At any rate, the historical evidence is hard to reconcile with the idea that men are intrinsically better suited to or interested in computer science.

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Re: Women in CS

Postby photosinensis » Mon Dec 22, 2008 10:21 pm UTC

I would be amongst the chorus blaming the common Western culture for the lack of women in CS. A part of it is the "girls are bad at math" meme that's floated for far too long (my sister's the one that's good at math, but she abhors machinery1). I've found that women are far more represented amongst the foreign students at my old university, to the point that I don't find a South or East Asian woman too uncommon in the field. They don't seem to share the same incuriousness that has plagued Western perceptions and ideals of femininity. It's those very standards that prevent white and black women from going into the field, to the point that I was taken aback every time I saw an unfamiliar face from either of those groups going to the 5th floor of PGH2.

[small]1. When it comes to machinery, she's only curious about the degree of accuracy a computer can give her, and how problems with computers may impact her math results. She detests the actual study of machines for the machines' sake. The only reason she'd take a computing course is if she had to do so. Interestingly, she also hates video games.
2. The offices of the Department of Computer Science at the University of Houston. Well, most of them: the department's research wing occupies the entire second floor of the same building, and some of the Ph.D. students have offices on the third floor.[/small]
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Re: Women in CS

Postby brause » Mon Dec 22, 2008 11:48 pm UTC

I am studying computer science related things and we are 2 girls, out of about 30/35 guys in my semester. I did a rather broad B.Sc., with a ratio of 50%, but as soon we were asked specialisation, the other girls, even though they learnt programming/math were rather into biology/philosophy/psychology. I don't know why -- my friends were never able to answer this in a more abstract way.

It is not easy as one of the only girls. Sure, you have all the attention you want and sure, if you need help its not a problem. But it is really hard to prove that you are not the dummy, eventually you have to be better to be accepted as a valuable team partner. One also has to learn to change topics smoothly, away from irrelevant video gaming stuff :). Communication is easier though.

brause

On the other hand, I think professors tend to grade better, to not loose the few girls.

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Re: Women in CS

Postby mr_fixxit » Fri Dec 26, 2008 8:59 am UTC

Granted, this is a complicated issue, but I'm not convinced it should be thought of as a "problem that needs fixed" or even that it needs to be understood. I propose that we just accept it as the current status in academia. Stick around a while - things will just keep on changing.

I have been teaching Computer Science for 22 years and have observed that very few of our students are women. I haven't tracked the numbers but I'm confident that it is less than 10% or maybe less than 5%. Other groups that are similarly missing in the ranks of computer science are student athletes, Native Americans, people of Spanish or Latin decent, and people of African decent. My observation is also that when these individuals are in our program, they are more likely to be diligent in their study habits and work ethics than many of their Caucasian, male class mates. There isn't a quota system that calls for certain numbers of any identifiable demographic groups to major in computer science or any other field of study. We have traditionally had very few male students in our Nursing program and even fewer in the Dental Hygiene program. Nobody is too worried about those facts. What an individual chooses as their major field of study is a personal choice. Let people be individuals!

The important thing is that each student feels welcome and is treated with respect by both faculty and other students regardless of their chosen field of study.

All that being said, I think western society does a lot to discourage young women from going into technical fields in general. Myself, having 3 daughters and 2 sons, I'm as guilty as anyone. I wanted the boys to be engineers and the girls to, to, ah, just do good at something and, and, ah, marry an engineer, ya, that's it. I'm glad to report that my current employer is a sponsor for a program called "Expanding Your Horizons" which promotes math and science studies amount girls in elementary and junior high schools.

Okay, now all you people wasting time on these silly forums, quit it! Spend your energy doing something that will make a real difference in the world. Eradicate prejudice! When you get that one done, go after envy. Oh, and while you're at it, get food to all the starving people around the world.

Oh, ya, and have a Happy New Year! (and give your car keys to a sober person)

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Re: Women in CS

Postby Hammer » Mon Dec 29, 2008 7:56 pm UTC

Note to any women/minorities reading this thread: Yeah, I know.

Yes, this is indeed what it's going to be like and what you are going to run into. Yes, you may decide that your "preference" as an "individual" is to choose a career/educational path that does not involve you having to work far harder and better than your classmates in an isolating environment for less respect in order to graduate so that you can fight through similar barriers to get a job where you can, again, work harder and better than your workmates for (in the case of women) 77 cents on the dollar less money.

I completely understand if you instead just decide that this path is a really poor choice from an ROI standpoint (regardless of your enjoyment or skill at the subject) and be a dental hygenist or try to catch yourself a spouse who has not had to overcome the obstacles placed in your way to achieve the prestige and earning power that comes with high level degrees in engineering and computer science. If you are smart enough to enter these fields in the first place, you are probably smart enough to recognize a losing proposition when you see one.

Unfortunately, "stick around a while - things will just keep on changing" is only true if people get up and change them. The Socialization Fairy isn't going to come and sprinkle magic dust and make gender bias and racism disappear. Therefore, while I certainly understand those of you who just don't want to take this on in your lives, I sincerely hope that at least some of you do go ahead and get those CS and Engineering degrees. It's the only way that anything actually changes.

Fortunately, there are a number of groups that exist to provide resources for women and minorities who are trying to overcome the obstacles and enter these fields. Use them. Not all of us are limiting our activities to the fora-verse. We're out there working to plow the road for you.

( [edit] Changed to avoid getting focused on whether this number is accurate to every specific situation that may be described. It is a general and averaged number and therefore does not accurately describe any given specific. )
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Re: Women in CS

Postby 0xBADFEED » Mon Dec 29, 2008 8:19 pm UTC

I can only speak from my experience in university but I never observed any derogatory sexist attitudes in the CS department (I'm a guy). What I did observe was that women in CS classes were treated more like rockstars than pariahs by their male counterparts. Most seemed to have a loyal gaggle of geeky hangers-on.

This seems like maybe it's a form of "sexism" but I don't really think it's the type of "sexism" that people talk about that allegedly keeps women out of computer science.

I felt more like an outcast in the CS program than most of the women seemed to, as I don't generally have too many of the typical "geeky" interests (i.e. computer games, gadgets, etc.) that are associated with CS majors.

My observation could be in error though, as I was only on the outside looking in.

EDIT:
I am not suggesting that it doesn't exist, just saying that I have never observed it.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby Hammer » Mon Dec 29, 2008 8:23 pm UTC

0xBADFEED wrote:I can only speak from my experience in university but I never observed any sexist attitudes in the CS department (I'm a guy). What I did observe was that women in CS classes were treated more like rockstars than pariahs by their male counterparts. Most seemed to have a loyal gaggle of geeky hangers-on.

*laughing* Yeah. Please keep in mind that what you may see as being treated like a "rockstar" and having "hangers-on" the women in question often describe as being "stalked" and "dealing with groups of guys who always want to talk to them just to be close to a girl". It's not necessarily as much fun as it looks like from the other side. Some women are comfortable with dealing with that brand of attention, but many find it very unpleasant.

I felt more like an outcast in the CS program than most of the women seemed to, as I don't generally have too many of the typical "geeky" interests (i.e. computer games, gadgets, etc.) that are associated with CS majors.

Many guys who are interested in CS don't. That's why a lot of the programs that improve things for women also make the field more accessible for guys like you.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby 0xBADFEED » Mon Dec 29, 2008 8:26 pm UTC

Hammer wrote:
0xBADFEED wrote:I can only speak from my experience in university but I never observed any sexist attitudes in the CS department (I'm a guy). What I did observe was that women in CS classes were treated more like rockstars than pariahs by their male counterparts. Most seemed to have a loyal gaggle of geeky hangers-on.

*laughing* Yeah. Please keep in mind that what you may see as being treated like a "rockstar" and having "hangers-on" the women in question often describe as being "stalked" and "dealing with groups of guys who always want to talk to them just to be close to a girl". It's not necessarily as much fun as it looks like from the other side. Some women are comfortable with dealing with that brand of attention, but many find it very unpleasant.


Yeah, that had occurred to me.

But as far as I can remember, it never seemed like any of the attention was undesired. But again, outsider looking in and all...

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Re: Women in CS

Postby Hammer » Mon Dec 29, 2008 8:30 pm UTC

0xBADFEED wrote:But as far as I can remember, it never seemed like any of the attention was undesired. But again, outsider looking in and all...

Yeah, that's kind of self-selecting. The women who can't deal with that often don't enter CS in the first place or drop out early. BTW, I'm not blaming every male in CS for this issue. The problems start long before college and not all guys contribute to the bad stuff. Women teach their daughters not to enter these fields just as much as men do. There are plenty of decent men in the world. Not being able to immediately see from this perspective doesn't mean you're out there actively being a problem for women.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby 0xBADFEED » Mon Dec 29, 2008 8:43 pm UTC

Hammer wrote:
0xBADFEED wrote:But as far as I can remember, it never seemed like any of the attention was undesired. But again, outsider looking in and all...

Yeah, that's kind of self-selecting. The women who can't deal with that often don't enter CS in the first place or drop out early. BTW, I'm not blaming every male in CS for this issue. The problems start long before college and not all guys contribute to the bad stuff. Women teach their daughters not to enter these fields just as much as men do. There are plenty of decent men in the world. Not being able to immediately see from this perspective doesn't mean you're out there being a problem for women.


True. From reading your posts I haven't gotten the impression that you're specifically blaming any group, more blaming an (perhaps unconscious) attitude that doesn't necessarily have a group-defined border?

I was actually discouraged from entering CS by my dad who had hoped I'd go into law, accounting, or finance. You know, something where the real money is. And he's right, if you're successful in those fields you can typically make a great deal more money than in CS. It's just not what I wanted to do. Men have to deal with this too. There can be a lot of pressure to pick a "big money" field. CS and engineering just aren't "big money" fields.

There isn't any particular point I'm trying to make with this. Just saying...

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Re: Women in CS

Postby Hammer » Mon Dec 29, 2008 9:01 pm UTC

0xBADFEED wrote:Men that have to deal with this too.

Oh, men absolutely have to deal with being discouraged from entering various fields for various reasons, but we're talking about a particular thing here. For example, a number of women report arriving at their CS classes and being greeted by guys who walk up them and announce that "you only got in because you're a girl" or tell them that "good thing you've got the stuff to get help from us if you need it" and other such things. Including living all their lives with the subtle but pervasive expectation that they can/should "just get married". You might see a similar type of treatment and/or derision if you went into a traditionally female field like nursing.

Guys just don't have to deal with that, nor are they likely to see it happening if they are not one of the guys doing it. Other minorities are subjected to the same types of things. Getting degrees in these fields is hard enough without piling all that on top of it. I'm sure that your father's disapproval of your choice and your sense that you don't fit in with the "code in the basement all night" crowd makes things harder for you. The things women face make it much harder for us as well, and we run into a lot of things that you -as a white(?) male - simply never encounter.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby Yakk » Mon Dec 29, 2008 9:02 pm UTC

Hammer wrote:Yes, this is indeed what it's going to be like and what you are going to run into. Yes, you may decide that your "preference" as an "individual" is to choose a career/educational path that does not involve you having to work far harder and better than your classmates in an isolating environment for less respect in order to graduate so that you can fight through similar barriers to get a job where you can, again, work harder and better than your workmates for (in the case of women) 77 cents on the dollar.

The gap can be bounded at about 89 cents instead of 77 cents (see below), and is probably smaller in the tech industry and/or in the specific job of computer programming.

Your number seems to be based on the average hourly wages of all men and all women in the entire US economy. That data ignores many many many effects. I don't strongly doubt that the effect (sexual discrimination that reduces female wages) exists. I'm disputing the use of hard numbers that are misleading and quantitatively inaccurate.

Some quick links:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/co ... 00827.html
Women working full time earn about 77 percent of the salaries of men working full time, Babcock said. That figure does not take differing professions and educational levels into account, but when those and other factors are controlled for, women who work full time and have never taken time off to have children earn about 11 percent less than men with equivalent education and experience.

89 cents, not 77 cents, in the general economy. (This seems somewhat credible)

Ie: men getting 1.3x the reward falls to 1.12x the reward once you take into account experience, education, choice of profession, and continuous employment.

Note that the same article then goes on to generate a pretty decent argument why a good chunk of that remaining 11 cents on the dollar gap exists: a gap in the willingness to negotiate in favor of men, together with negotiating women being viewed worse than negotiating men:
"This isn't about fixing the women," Bowles said. "It isn't about telling women, 'You need self-confidence or training.' They are responding to incentives within the social environment."

And yes, the difference between a 1.3 multiplier and a 1.12 multiplier is huge: 1.16x, which is larger than the remaining pay gap.

There is injustice, and it is horrid enough without being exaggerated.

The question I'm asking is: why the avoidance of computer science, in particular? I cannot find any evidence that the "penalty" for being a women is any greater than in many other industries?

Is the discrimination effect against women within alternative science careers, such as biology (which doesn't have nearly the same gap) smaller?

An attempt at tech data:
http://www.computerworld.com/action/art ... Id=9060098
The survey found that salaries for men increased by 2.4% in 2007 but stayed flat for women. The average salary last year for men was $76,582, and for women, it was $67,507, according to Dice. The gap widened last year: In 2006, the difference between salaries paid to men and women was 9.7%.

This doesn't seem to account for details like the above survey, and is just in an industry. It is also 2.3 times smaller than the difference (with the same constraints) in the general economy. On the down side, it is probably crappy data.

As claimed earlier, I am not aware of problems specific to this industry that are not a general problem, barring the "being like people similar to you" effect. Based off of the above quick (and not perfectly reliable) research, the gap seem smaller in the industry than elsewhere. And given that the dice survey was broad ("tech workers" as opposed to "women who are computer scientists"), I'd expect the narrower profession effect, and (given the societal bias towards women raising children instead of men) experience and contiguous experience to reduce the magnitude of the difference within the industry.

Sadly, the base data in this case (the tech industry wage gap) is rather crappy, so it is hard to tell if this is the case or not.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby Hammer » Mon Dec 29, 2008 9:15 pm UTC

Yakk wrote:Your number seems to be based on the average hourly wages of all men and all women in the entire US economy. That data ignores many many many effects. I don't strongly doubt that the effect (sexual discrimination that reduces female wages) exists. I'm disputing the use of hard numbers that are misleading and quantitatively inaccurate.

No intention of being deliberately misleading or falsely exaggerating. The number I used is from the general study. The industry specific numbers are harder to get and can be, as you say, less trustworthy so I used the most reliable number I knew of which genuinely attempts to correct for many factors. There will absolutely be significant variations within any particular industry. I'm not sure I trust the smaller gap, given the reduced ratio of women to men as a whole in both CS and Engineering, but I'd have to do a whole lot more research (or talk to someone whose research focuses specifically on this and appears to be honest) to really make a decision. I do know the gap in both pay and employment exists, even if we disagree about the size of the gap.

The question I'm asking is: why the avoidance of computer science, in particular? I cannot find any evidence that the "penalty" for being a women is any greater than in many other industries?

There are a number of possible answers to this. The correct answer is probably "a little bit of all of them". There are a whole pile of societal factors that start very very early and pile up. There are also a number of myths surrounding what CS people are "like" that serve to discourage both women and men who don't see themselves as fitting the stereotype. I don't think there is a "silver bullet" answer.

Is the discrimination effect against women within alternative science careers, such as biology (which doesn't have nearly the same gap) smaller?

I don't know. I haven't researched this specifically.

As claimed earlier, I am not aware of problems specific to this industry that are not a general problem, barring the "being like people similar to you" effect.

I agree. This type of discrimination is general and keeps men out of certain fields just as it keeps women out of others. The thread is about women in CS, so the focus has been there.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby 0xBADFEED » Mon Dec 29, 2008 9:22 pm UTC

Hammer wrote:The things women face make it much harder for us as well, and we run into a lot of things that you -as a white(?) male - simply never encounter.


White male, yes.

I wasn't trying to suggest that the friction was equal, just that isn't always non-zero for men who want to enter engineering. And I'm not disputing that women typically have a harder row to hoe in CS.

This is probably off-topic territory. (So, feel free to edit as required for the good of the thread, it's just me musing anyway)

I don't have the stats but I wouldn't be surprised if white males were actually a minority in my university CS program. If they were a majority, it was only by an extremely slim margin versus Americans of Asian descent and international students from India, China, and other Asian nations.

I think it may be the case that white males are beginning to see some friction regarding entering engineering and the sciences as the professions lose some of the prestige that they have traditionally had in American culture. I mean how many TV shows and movies are there about scientists and engineers versus lawyers, doctors, and general business people. The work just isn't viewed as exciting by the general population.

That's fine by me though, just means more exciting work for me. :wink:

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Re: Women in CS

Postby Hammer » Mon Dec 29, 2008 9:33 pm UTC

0xBADFEED wrote:it was only by an extremely slim margin versus Americans of Asian descent and international students from India, China, and other Asian nations.

Heh. My observations (informal at best) are that there actually seems to be reverse discrimination in that light. There seems to be an expectation that all Asians totally know all about math and computers. :D
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Re: Women in CS

Postby quintopia » Mon Dec 29, 2008 11:35 pm UTC

0xBADFEED wrote:I don't have the stats but I wouldn't be surprised if white males were actually a minority in my university CS program. If they were a majority, it was only by an extremely slim margin versus Americans of Asian descent and international students from India, China, and other Asian nations.


At Georgia Tech, there is an overwhelming white majority in the undergrad program (of which a significant fraction are women), but in the grad program, international students are the majority (and a smaller fraction are women). This is the CS program only. Does anyone else see the same thing?

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Re: Women in CS

Postby Nath » Tue Dec 30, 2008 1:50 am UTC

0xBADFEED wrote:I can only speak from my experience in university but I never observed any derogatory sexist attitudes in the CS department (I'm a guy).

Nor had I. I had shrugged it off as 'probably just preference', and 'not something that necessarily needs fixing'. And then I heard some people talking about the sorts of things they had to deal with, and it turns out there is actually some pretty blatant discrimination going on. (I don't remember what the specific incidents were, unfortunately.) I guess it's not the kind of thing that people (discriminators and discriminatees) talk about much in a classroom/homework-type environment. Not being a very social type, I hadn't spoken to many people in the department in other contexts, so it was easy for this sort of thing to be happening without me noticing.

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Re: Women in CS

Postby aleflamedyud » Fri Jan 02, 2009 7:31 pm UTC

Nath wrote:
0xBADFEED wrote:I can only speak from my experience in university but I never observed any derogatory sexist attitudes in the CS department (I'm a guy).

Nor had I. I had shrugged it off as 'probably just preference', and 'not something that necessarily needs fixing'. And then I heard some people talking about the sorts of things they had to deal with, and it turns out there is actually some pretty blatant discrimination going on. (I don't remember what the specific incidents were, unfortunately.) I guess it's not the kind of thing that people (discriminators and discriminatees) talk about much in a classroom/homework-type environment. Not being a very social type, I hadn't spoken to many people in the department in other contexts, so it was easy for this sort of thing to be happening without me noticing.

This may be the situation I'm in. I'm a very social person, but not with CS majors. I don't really like most of my fellow CS majors for some reason.

Anyway, I'm going to give everyone an extremely elaborate hypothesis on why women (and non-Asian (where Asian includes East Asia, India, and the Middle East*) racial/ethnic minorities). First of all, I'm going to suppose that Computing Aptitude is distributed in a normal curve across populations. Secondly, I'm going to assume from personal observation that in males that aptitude tends to cause some life stage of "geeking out" or a "larval stage" (as ESR called it), in which one closes off the outside world and indulges almost exclusively in "geeky" interests. My hypothesis (once again from personal observation) is that the timing of this Larval Stage has a profound effect on an individual's social development. Thus, allow me to present a division of the graph of CS ability into segments, whose age of larval stage I will hypothesize upon.

-2-sigma aptitude: the people here don't really have much aptitude for computing, even if they enter the field. They will undergo Larval Stage never or extremely late, and will thus remain socially normal people for most of their lives.
-1-sigma aptitude: the people here go through larval stage part or most of the way through college, with it possibly lasting into their post-graduation years. They will be normal until larval stage, and since their larval stage comes late they stand a chance of becoming mostly socially normal afterward.
0 sigma aptitude: the people here make up the plurality of Computer Science majors (when coupled with the +1-sigma and -1-sigma, a majority!), and will unfortunately spend most of their college years in larval stage. This group experiences the second-most-profound difference in social development, as while most people get busy learning bar etiquette and how to hook up, this group is busy learning Japanese for an anime convention. Please replace my flagrant stereotypes with your local counterparts and account for slight variation in your mileage.
+1 sigma aptitude: this group goes through their larval stage in high school, possibly lasting into the early college years. They experience the most profound social differences, as high school in America is one of the most fascist, conformist social environments in any society of the developed world. Some manage to throw off their sense of alienation in college and develop at least some normal social skills, but most are less fortunate.
+2 sigma aptitude: the people in this group have such aptitude for computing that they tend to begin their work/study in it very early in life, as early as elementary or middle school. By the time the adolescent and young adult years of social development arrive, they tend to already have a foot firmly planted in geek culture and social norms, and many if not most of this group have the cleverness to realize they should plant the other foot firmly into the normal society. This group is the most likely to end up as great business or cultural successes, because they can spend their adult years interacting with normal society while other Comp Scis acquire the skills and acculturation these guys took as children. Ex: Randall Munroe.

Now, my hypothesis about women and minorities is that the social culture of most women and non-Asian minorities in the USA is biased against geek culture, they don't like nerds. Thus, the fact that most Comp Sci majors appear to go through their larval stages right as everyone is developing socially and choosing professions/fields biases women and minorities against computing by making it look like a profession mostly inhabited by "nerds" or "geeks" when in fact those nerds/geeks are merely going through a phase. This hypothesis could also explain why "geeks" tend to not date much in youth and then inexplicably wind up happily married when they get older: they spend the dating stages of their youth in larval stage, then marry when they get older and rejoin the Real World.

Thank you, I'll be here all week. Try the veal. Maybe sometime I'll actually draw a graph of this stuff; graphs make everything clearer.

* -- The overrepresentation in scientific fields that once fell exclusively on Jews now includes Arabs and Persians as well in the USA. Some meme embedded in the Semitic religions seems to make people think learning is a good thing, in contrast to the anti-intellectualism of broader USA culture.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby 0xBADFEED » Sat Jan 03, 2009 2:18 am UTC

aleflamedyud wrote:Anyway, I'm going to give everyone an extremely elaborate hypothesis on why women (and non-Asian (where Asian includes East Asia, India, and the Middle East*) racial/ethnic minorities). First of all, I'm going to suppose that Computing Aptitude is distributed in a normal curve across populations.

...the rest...



I've never personally seen much of a link between age-started-programming and actual talent for programming/CS. Lots of the kids I knew in high school who had been programming for years just really weren't that good at it. They didn't seem to have any more natural talent or aptitude for it than other kids who started programming in late high school or early college.

It's been my experience that "geekiness" is more of an attitude that manifests as getting really interested in some topic. This tends to be a deep personality trait that first presents itself early on (like elementary school). I've never known anyone go through a "geek" phase. The topics of interest may change, but the underlying attitude is always there and I've never seen it disappear.

Any social awkwardness seems to be something completely disjoint from general "geekiness". In fact, I would say that most "geeks" I have known tend to be more outgoing, not less.

I've never seen anyone discover computing and turn into a "geek". They were already a "geek" they just found a new topic.

aleflamedyud wrote:They experience the most profound social differences, as high school in America is one of the most fascist, conformist social environments in any society of the developed world


*facepalm* See, it's statements like this that drive people away from computing.

I thought high school was a blast. For most people, it is a confluence of little responsibility and lots of freedom that results in tons of fun. Most people took advantage, sorry if you didn't.

I have noticed an inordinate number of social malcontents in computer science and engineering. I could see that driving women away.

Edit:

The thing about social malcontents driving women away was a joke ... mostly.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby Berengal » Sat Jan 03, 2009 2:22 am UTC

There aren't any female social malcontents? I could say I know of a few. They weren't geeks by any standard, just... social malcontents.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby Iori_Yagami » Mon Jan 05, 2009 1:02 pm UTC

There were few girls in last two years of study in our Uni. (less than 10%) But, my, were they good at it! 8) I'd even say some were better than guys, since generally girls tend to be more attentive and organized at small secondary things and are not likely to say 'Bah, I'll fix that little inconsistent update bug later - it's easy anyway, I'll rather try out that new approach now - look at this new pattern!' And, ironic enough, most of the time it is those little things you should've paid attention to are what make a coherent system, rather than quirky algorithms. At least, it is so at less academic work.

I also find it quite amusing as the only student able to read electric schematics of different household hardware in our 10th grade was a girl. :)

And real reason is simple: IT often requires diving into it with all your head, something many women would not want to do.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby 22/7 » Tue Jan 06, 2009 4:20 pm UTC

Iori_Yagami wrote:And real reason is simple: IT often requires diving into it with all your head, something many women would not want to do.
You... you're kidding, right?
Totally not a hypothetical...

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Re: Women in CS

Postby Durinia » Thu Jan 08, 2009 8:05 pm UTC

First off, I came here to link to the book from Carnegie Mellon - but see that Hammer has that taken care of nicely. :) It really does an excellent job of shedding some light on where some of the enrollment/dropout numbers seem to be coming from. A quick read that is well worth it.

quintopia wrote:At Georgia Tech, there is an overwhelming white majority in the undergrad program (of which a significant fraction are women), but in the grad program, international students are the majority (and a smaller fraction are women). This is the CS program only. Does anyone else see the same thing?


This (at least to me) appears very commonly at US Universities. Most American CS grads go take their 50-70k/year jobs after graduation, so the American population in CS (and engineering areas as well) grad schools is definitely a minority. Sorry, I don't have any numbers. I'm betting CRA might have those demographics buried somewhere.

My wife (Blond caucasian of purely northern european descent) actually got a minority fellowship when she went to graduate school in CS. It was a campus-wide fellowship program (minority status was determined by department), and it involved a summer program before the first semester. She says that walking into the room the first day of the session helped her to understand a bit of what its like to be a minority. :lol:

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Re: Women in CS

Postby 0xBADFEED » Thu Jan 08, 2009 9:21 pm UTC

Durinia wrote:My wife (Blond caucasian of purely northern european descent) actually got a minority fellowship when she went to graduate school in CS.


I would wager the "minority" part of the scholarship had more to do with her being a woman than being white. A lot of the time "minority" status is also conferred on women regardless of ethnicity. Especially if it's anything to do with the government or that's funded by the government. For instance, for a lot of purposes businesses that are owned by women qualify for a lot of the same benefits as those that are "minority-owned". My girlfriend used to work at a print-shop that was run by a man but on paper was "owned" by his wife (both white) to get the benefits of running a "minority/woman-owned" business.

Basically, "white male" is the only thing that is not a minority, and thus doesn't get any benefits... you know, except for the whole "white male" thing.

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Re: Women in CS

Postby vatar » Thu Jan 08, 2009 9:49 pm UTC

quintopia wrote:
0xBADFEED wrote:I don't have the stats but I wouldn't be surprised if white males were actually a minority in my university CS program. If they were a majority, it was only by an extremely slim margin versus Americans of Asian descent and international students from India, China, and other Asian nations.


At Georgia Tech, there is an overwhelming white majority in the undergrad program (of which a significant fraction are women), but in the grad program, international students are the majority (and a smaller fraction are women). This is the CS program only. Does anyone else see the same thing?

I am a CS grad student. There seems to be a much smaller number of females in grad school compared to undergrad. After getting a bachelors degree, most of the women I knew had no trouble getting an attractive job offer, making grad school less attractive, but that was not true for males. Make your own conclusion from that.

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Re: Women in CS

Postby Durinia » Fri Jan 09, 2009 5:51 pm UTC

0xBADFEED wrote:
Durinia wrote:My wife (Blond caucasian of purely northern european descent) actually got a minority fellowship when she went to graduate school in CS.


I would wager the "minority" part of the scholarship had more to do with her being a woman than being white.


That's the case. The way I put it wasn't clear - her race had nothing to do with it. I believe departments were allowed to give the fellowship to anyone in a demographic that was a demonstrable minority in their department. (her race just made for an interesting experience - being lumped in with racial minorities.)

It's worth noting that some DoEd programs (like the McNair program for minorities and first-generation students) have had their definitions of minorities rigidly defined across disciplines, and they do NOT include women in CS. (The campus program director seemed to say this was a Bush policy and it was different under Clinton - meaning this may change?)

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Re: Women in CS

Postby aleflamedyud » Fri Jan 09, 2009 8:47 pm UTC

Durinia wrote:
0xBADFEED wrote:
Durinia wrote:My wife (Blond caucasian of purely northern european descent) actually got a minority fellowship when she went to graduate school in CS.


I would wager the "minority" part of the scholarship had more to do with her being a woman than being white.


That's the case. The way I put it wasn't clear - her race had nothing to do with it. I believe departments were allowed to give the fellowship to anyone in a demographic that was a demonstrable minority in their department. (her race just made for an interesting experience - being lumped in with racial minorities.)

It's worth noting that some DoEd programs (like the McNair program for minorities and first-generation students) have had their definitions of minorities rigidly defined across disciplines, and they do NOT include women in CS. (The campus program director seemed to say this was a Bush policy and it was different under Clinton - meaning this may change?)

And I wish all those fellowship/scholarship programs could just work on merit. I want more money!
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Re: Women in CS

Postby quintopia » Fri Jan 09, 2009 9:12 pm UTC

0xBADFEED wrote:It's been my experience that "geekiness" is more of an attitude that manifests as getting really interested in some topic. This tends to be a deep personality trait that first presents itself early on (like elementary school). I've never known anyone go through a "geek" phase. The topics of interest may change, but the underlying attitude is always there and I've never seen it disappear.


Families.com wrote:Temperament is a set of traits that helps determine your child's personality, and in turn their behavior. These traits are inherent from birth, and will most likely remain through adulthood.

...

Persistence: is how long a child will continue to work on an activity even when it is difficult.


I imagine "getting really interested in some topic" is a confluence of some unchangeable aspects of temperament, which manifest at birth.

On the other hand, I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss the "phase" interpretation. I do believe I went through a phase where I was far more interested in intellectual pursuits than social ones. I'm not saying that my intellectual interests ever dissipated, but simply that my interest in pursuits involving the socio-sexual circuit increased so that now my time is split more evenly between the two.

On the third hand, I do believe you're right in saying there is no causation of talent by the mental faculties that might cause someone to go through such a phase of development. It is more likely there is some correlation (or indirect causation) between the two in that spending a lot of time developing a skill often results in more talent with it.

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Re: Women in CS

Postby stephentyrone » Fri Jan 09, 2009 10:07 pm UTC

aleflamedyud wrote:And I wish all those fellowship/scholarship programs could just work on merit. I want more money!


Because we all know that if things were awarded based on merit, they would of course be awarded to us.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby aleflamedyud » Sun Jan 11, 2009 2:15 am UTC

stephentyrone wrote:
aleflamedyud wrote:And I wish all those fellowship/scholarship programs could just work on merit. I want more money!


Because we all know that if things were awarded merit, they would of course be awarded to us.

Well in my case I already receive a merit scholarship, so if they increased the size of merit scholarships they might feasibly increase mine.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby Indon » Wed Jan 14, 2009 9:19 pm UTC

odenskrigare wrote:Disclaimer: this is going to sound insensitive.

If you want to be taken seriously, stop caring about what other people think. The winds might blow one way or the other, but otherwise you are the captain of your fate. Continuing with the nautical analogy, that random people 'expect you to be in some major or another' is not exactly what I'd call a 'whole gale'. Fuck them. Prove them wrong.


There was a time I believed that and would have agreed, but then I realized how important networking and socialization is in a professional environment, and realized that ultimately, if you separate yourself from your professional community, you're gimping your career.

Of course, one could argue that the stigma basically forces women to do this in order to gain a comparative advantage (either get patronized by males and looked down upon, or miss out on the help they freely give each other), in a kind of rock/hard place situation, but that doesn't mean the situation doesn't suck any less for women in the field.

On an anecdotal note, I work with three women. Two of them do significantly less technical (i.e. "code monkey") work than the males in my office. In practice, the stigma exists (that women are less technically inclined than men), and frankly is completely obvious whenever the subject comes up in the shop.

Yakk wrote:CS in industry is good (better than average) money, long hours, and has a relatively lower impact from social skills than many other jobs.

I disagree on the social skills. It's not a PR job, certainly - you don't interface with the customer. But you interface with your peers constantly for professional development purposes, and on any appreciably large project you will be working frequently with your peers. You must be able to interact with your fellow programmers effectively in order to succeed in a technical sense, and women are placed at a disadvantage there by a very male-oriented professional culture.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby A.DTheMediocre » Sun Jan 18, 2009 9:52 pm UTC

I'm astounded no one has mentioned this, but the lack of women in CS really is partly due to the lack of women in CS. The logic of negatron disproves nothing save that it was the original cause of a lack of women in CS, which is a highly flawed base for his argument that sexism is not a cause as there is no sexism in CS today (or in society about women taking a degree in CS) - even accepting that to be true, which is blatantly isn't, there would have only needed to have been sexism in CS at one point to cause the lack of women in CS in the first place (which then becomes a barrier in its own right) for his argument to be wholly invalid. As I said, I'm shocked no one has pointed out this glaring error.

This is highly pertinent to the original question.

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Re: Women in CS

Postby aleflamedyud » Mon Jan 19, 2009 9:33 pm UTC

A.DTheMediocre wrote:I'm astounded no one has mentioned this, but the lack of women in CS really is partly due to the lack of women in CS. The logic of negatron disproves nothing save that it was the original cause of a lack of women in CS, which is a highly flawed base for his argument that sexism is not a cause as there is no sexism in CS today (or in society about women taking a degree in CS) - even accepting that to be true, which is blatantly isn't, there would have only needed to have been sexism in CS at one point to cause the lack of women in CS in the first place (which then becomes a barrier in its own right) for his argument to be wholly invalid. As I said, I'm shocked no one has pointed out this glaring error.

This is highly pertinent to the original question.

The problem is that the percentage of women in CS was once much higher than now.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby 0xDEADBEEF » Mon Jan 19, 2009 10:30 pm UTC

If there's not a double-standard here, then why aren't we asking why there aren't more men in nursing, teaching, and fashion design?

The simplest answer comes down to the individual. "Why didn't you major in X instead of Y?" "Because I wanted to major in Y, not X."

I will admit that at some level, in my chauvinistic mind, nursing, teaching, and fashion design are "female" professions, but the real reason that I personally didn't major in any of those because CS seemed way more interesting to me. Lots of other people, male and female, simply prefer some other field to CS.

What is the obvious reason that CS is taught in a way that reaches males? Because most CS professors are men, and they teach the way that makes sense to them. If you set up a CS program with an all-female faculty, the curriculum would be different...and that's not necessarily a bad idea.

It has been my observation that just about all math/science/engineering/CS programs have less women in them, but the women that choose those fields are, if anything, more capable than the men in the same class, because they represent a narrower cross-section of their gender than do the men.

Instead of concentrating on the "gender gap," I'd like to see CS programs (as well as several other majors) concentrate on making themselves more "open" to any students who have the aptitude for a career in that field.

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Re: Women in CS

Postby aleflamedyud » Mon Jan 19, 2009 11:35 pm UTC

Actually, when I was a kid I wanted to become a teacher. I eventually decided against it because of the shitty pay.

EDIT: OK, shitty pay for hours worked, stresses undergone and necessary training.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby poxic » Tue Jan 20, 2009 12:00 am UTC

I work in the IT department of a financial firm (yes, one that's hurting right now, but it's still solvent). My particular area is probably 50% women and about 75% immigrant. I don't notice any stigma or resentment around gender, race, or native language, but then I don't often venture out of our department.

We're the programming and business analysis group, roughly. We've stumbled into some sort of gender-blind and nationality-blind utopia in our little corner, out of necessity more than anything. Down the hall from us are the "wireheads", the systems and networking guys. They are all men, and fewer of them are immigrants. (In operations -- accounting and clerical -- it's maybe 75% female and 50% immigrant; in the actual business of being a stock broker, it's mostly Canada- or US-born white men.)

In other words, it depends on where you end up. I wouldn't be surprised if the relatively large number of women in the analysis side of things is helped along by women's tendency to prefer integration over specialisation. Business and systems analysis require the ability to learn the details of other people's jobs and slot them into the bigger picture. I fell into it because of work experience in the business, and because I had a knack for the integration of business and systems knowledge.

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Re: Women in CS

Postby vatar » Tue Jan 20, 2009 3:23 am UTC

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Re: Women in CS

Postby Moo » Tue Jan 20, 2009 10:40 am UTC

0xDEADBEEF wrote:If you set up a CS program with an all-female faculty, the curriculum would be different...and that's not necessarily a bad idea.
Lolwut? I fail to see how a woman would have differently imparted the necessary knowledge for my Algorithms And Data Structures course. Or Software Design. In fact I had three courses taught by women and they differed in no way to my other classes. I call bullshit.

Also, I like how your circular logic is circular. "There aren't more women in CS because it's taught by men". Uhm, duh. If there were more women in CS there would be more women who would be able to teach CS.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby Hammer » Tue Jan 20, 2009 8:45 pm UTC

poxic wrote:I wouldn't be surprised if the relatively large number of women in the analysis side of things is helped along by women's tendency to prefer integration over specialisation.

It is generally beneficial when considering these issues to not allow oneself to accept assumptions about what people prefer based on their gender/race/class. Just because women tend to end up in or be socialized towards particular roles does not mean they prefer them as a function of having been born female. The same is true for men, people of color, etc. Remove or reduce the outside pressures and people of all kinds find that they enjoy and are skilled at many things that may fall outside "traditional" gender/race/class roles. Allowing ourselves to dismiss imbalances by shrugging and saying "Well, [n] just doesn't prefer to do that" means we don't really think about what else might be causing the imbalance. And, historically, it turns out that there usually are other reasons.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby aleflamedyud » Wed Jan 21, 2009 5:13 am UTC

Hammer wrote:
poxic wrote:I wouldn't be surprised if the relatively large number of women in the analysis side of things is helped along by women's tendency to prefer integration over specialisation.

It is generally beneficial when considering these issues to not allow oneself to accept assumptions about what people prefer based on their gender/race/class. Just because women tend to end up in or be socialized towards particular roles does not mean they prefer them as a function of having been born female. The same is true for men, people of color, etc. Remove or reduce the outside pressures and people of all kinds find that they enjoy and are skilled at many things that may fall outside "traditional" gender/race/class roles. Allowing ourselves to dismiss imbalances by shrugging and saying "Well, [n] just doesn't prefer to do that" means we don't really think about what else might be causing the imbalance. And, historically, it turns out that there usually are other reasons.

Keeping away from gender topics, I have often found myself wishing that university would help us to learn to determine what sort of real-world problems we can apply our CS skills to. It always sort of seems like they figure they're either teaching researchers or training programmers, but not trying to produce the sort of person who might look at a real-world issue and think "Hey, I can write a useful computer program to solve this!". Technically I suppose that skill may not fall under "Computer Science", but lots of CS departments teach software engineering courses even though that doesn't fall under CS either.
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