Women in CS

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Women in CS

Postby ascendingPig » Wed Dec 17, 2008 4:49 am UTC

I recently read an article in the NY Times that claimed women constitute only 12% of current CS majors.

I was wondering if anyone here working in CS can enlighten me on the plight of these women. Is the situation different in academia or industry? Are particular fields more popular with women (AI, computational linguistics)?

To the women: are there advantages to this? Disadvantages? What are my chances of marrying into money?

(... That last question was a joke.)
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Re: Women in CS

Postby Berengal » Wed Dec 17, 2008 6:12 am UTC

Some time ago I read an article about notable people in CS, mainly focusing on what they were famous for (conclusion: A single project, most of the time, with multiple projects a distant second). Out of about 200 people, I think there were 5.5 females (one female shared her notability with her husband, so they both only counted half a person. Article logic,) of course is something like 2.5%. Interestingly enough, 0.5% were transvestites (that is, there was one), which means that gender group almost rivaled females.

Also, in my lectures, the ratio is below 10%. At work, there's no females in the IT department (but plenty of women elsewhere, and it's an ISP. Many of them have at least some kind of CS or CE education, though usually as a part of a business education)

Overall, I'd say your chances of marrying into money are somewhere between zero and one.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby Ipswitch » Thu Dec 18, 2008 6:57 am UTC

I think the plight they face is that it's gotta be tough to be a girl in CS. You're likely the only female in your classes, constantly surronded by horny computer geeks. That alone is reason enough for most girls to run screaming away. When you factor in the cultural stigma surrounding what sorts of majors people should have, it's a small wonder that there's so few women in Computer Science.

All that aside, I'm currently in a CS grad program with no women. 40 students, all guys. As an undergrad, my graduating class had a few females in it, but it was still 90% male. However, when I was working IT, it was a 50-50 or better split in favor of women over men. It was IT, but it's actually more common that large workplaces have a much more balanced gender distribution then small shops or even schools.

Now, is there anything we could do about it? Likely not without changing the culture of a CS program. They're already throwing money at the problem, and it doesn't go away. Surprisingly over time the trend is that fewer females are entering CS, down from a high in the 1980s. So something else has changed or must change to reverse the trend.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby odenskrigare » Thu Dec 18, 2008 7:55 am UTC

Ipswitch wrote:I think the plight they face is that it's gotta be tough to be a girl in CS. You're likely the only female in your classes, constantly surronded by horny computer geeks. That alone is reason enough for most girls to run screaming away. When you factor in the cultural stigma surrounding what sorts of majors people should have, it's a small wonder that there's so few women in Computer Science.


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.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby negatron » Thu Dec 18, 2008 12:47 pm UTC

Ipswitch wrote:You're likely the only female in your classes, constantly surronded by horny computer geeks. That alone is reason enough for most girls to run screaming away.

This explanation is demonstrably false. "Why are there no females in CS? Because there are no females in CS". The problem attempts to be it's own conclusion.

There is no adequate socio-cultural explanation for a shortage of females in high-tech fields, the only plight women face is their own lack of determination or capability.

If you're up for the challenge, go for it. Horny computer geeks are going to be the least of your problems.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby Moo » Thu Dec 18, 2008 1:01 pm UTC

negatron wrote:The only plight women face is their own lack of determination or capability
And you are presumably an expert in the field? Perhaps you have firsthand experience of being a woman in the field? :roll:




To the OP: I was the only girl in my class at uni taking the Comp Sci / Electric & Electronic Engineering hybrid degree, but there were some girls taking E&E and quite a few taking Comp Sci. A very, very rough guestimate would be about 30%. This was however in South Africa.

I am not a typical female, I don't dress or act in a way that particularly draws attention to my gender. Interestlingly, I was patronized more by professors than by classmates, but I have a pretty strong personality and managed to make my classmates not think of me as "that girl in our class". Many didn't quite know what to make of me though and avoided me to an extent.

I'm in the first job I've had since university now where I'm the only woman in a small programming department. Once again, I manage to form dynamics in such a way that they don't tend to treat me differently - however the people I don't have well established relationships with from other departments can get very patronizing and a lot of customers who phone up assume I'm the secretary :?

I doubt I'm a typical example though.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby Hammer » Thu Dec 18, 2008 1:23 pm UTC

negatron wrote:There is no adequate socio-cultural explanation for a shortage of females in high-tech fields, the only plight women face is their own lack of determination or capability.


Very untrue. Women face a host of socio-cultural barriers to entering and succeeding in CS. This book does a good job of presenting the research done at Carnegie Mellon on the subject.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby Berengal » Thu Dec 18, 2008 1:31 pm UTC

negatron wrote:the only plight women face is their own lack of determination or capability.

I very much doubt women lack determination or capability any more than men do.

You could say you meant women need more determination or capability than men to overcome the cultural barriers presented to them.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby negatron » Thu Dec 18, 2008 2:03 pm UTC

Moo wrote:And you are presumably an expert in the field? Perhaps you have firsthand experience of being a woman in the field?

Clearly I am not, however as you yourself said, you are not a typical example. I suspect that in South Africa being female is more difficult regardless of academic choices. I have never witnessed, first or second hand, abuse on any level of a female in a high tech course. Speaking from Canada, but naturally transferable to other civilized societies.

Hammer wrote:Very untrue. Women face a host of socio-cultural barriers to entering and succeeding in CS. This book does a good job of presenting the research done at Carnegie Mellon on the subject.

Interesting, however from what I gathered in the editorial review,

They found that the seven percent of female undergraduates at the college started out with as much excitement and talent as their male counterparts, but often wilted early on, perceiving that male students had come to college far better prepared than they had.

This appears to be the very motivational affair I was referring to. It is not being psychological pushed out of the field by a third party, but a personal lack of determination.

Berengal wrote:I very much doubt women lack determination or capability any more than men do.

There are relevant cognitive aspects in which females differ, and this necessarily impacts how their abilities relate to male counterparts. You could argue that this should not manifest itself in such disparity, however you cannot suggest it has no effect whatsoever.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby Moo » Thu Dec 18, 2008 2:13 pm UTC

negatron wrote:Clearly I am not, however as you yourself said, you are not a typical example. I suspect that in South Africa being female is more difficult regardless of academic choices. I have never witnessed, first or second hand, abuse on any level of a female in a high tech course. Speaking from Canada, but naturally transferable to other civilized societies.
Regarding the italicized part: in my social demographic (white previously advantaged) that is not the case more than any westernised setting. Once again you choose to make assumptions about situations you don't know anything about. Secondly; I went to university in SA but I work in England so your dismissal of my contribution is invalid.

As to not being a typical example: I meant that I am luckier than most, as I get treated with respect by those I work closely with, as opposed to some women I am acquainted with. Quite the contrary to what you assumed.

Also, no-one suggested physical violence but social exclusion*, sexual discrimination, unwanted advances and other such well documented social inequalities are more prevelant in male dominated fields. I strongly suggest you read some of the feminism discussions on this board before you comment any further as the gap in your knowledge on the subject will surprise you if you do.


*actually this one I do experience, I don't get invited to play TF2 over the intranet after hours despite my own Steam account and an interest in the game, nor invited to the pub on Friday.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby negatron » Thu Dec 18, 2008 3:28 pm UTC

Moo wrote:Regarding the italicized part: in my social demographic (white previously advantaged) that is not the case more than any westernised setting.

Fair enough, but you did presumably get through your courses. You say you were 'patronized' by your professors. What does this mean exactly and how did it impede your ability to proceed through the course? You did it, why couldn't other females do the same?

Moo wrote:As to not being a typical example: I meant that I am luckier than most, as I get treated with respect by those I work closely with, as opposed to some women I am acquainted with. Quite the contrary to what you assumed.

Can't blame me for what I assumed, you didn't exactly make it clear. Do you suppose your assumption that you're a "fortunate" case is more valid than my assumption that you are not?

Moo wrote:Also, no-one suggested physical violence

Neither did I.

Moo wrote:social exclusion*, sexual discrimination, unwanted advances and other such well documented social inequalities are more prevelant in male dominated fields.

This goes back to my initial point of the flaw with explaining why there is a shortage of females in a field using the very shortage as it's own explanation. Circular logic. It doesn't explain the cause of the "male domination" in the first place.

Moo wrote:I strongly suggest you read some of the feminism discussions on this board before you comment any further as the gap in your knowledge on the subject will surprise you if you do.

I strongly suggest you read some of the debate etiquette discussions on this board before you flaunt your superiority any further.


Moo wrote:I don't get invited to play TF2 over the intranet after hours despite my own Steam account and an interest in the game, nor invited to the pub on Friday.

That's unfortunate, but it isn't exactly an axiomatic proof of female academic pursuits. Is there no other male in your work environment who could be appropriately categorized in this exclusion? Perhaps you simply didn't show enough interest.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby Moo » Thu Dec 18, 2008 3:43 pm UTC

As to debate technique: this isn't SB, there is no requirement for rigid debate rules. As for TF2, I showed an interest and played two games after which I was actively excluded. All the other members of my department - ALL - play, as do all the members of the networking department - also all male. Every geek and gamer in the company that is not female. Without exception.
It doesn't explain the cause of the "male domination" in the first place.
This is an area in which others are better equipped to take you on but you do lack a background on male priviledge - a fact, which you have chosen to interpret as condescension.

Furthermore, I don't think we should hijack this thread with a discussion on whether male domination in western society exists or not. The best place for that discussion is the feminist thread, as I have indicated.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby The Great Hippo » Thu Dec 18, 2008 3:58 pm UTC

Negatron wrote:There are relevant cognitive aspects in which females differ, and this necessarily impacts how their abilities relate to male counterparts. You could argue that this should not manifest itself in such disparity, however you cannot suggest it has no effect whatsoever.


Cite some sources? I'm not saying you have to, but it'd be nice. You are, after all, making a very big claim.

Let me also point out that I'm requesting sources that acknowledge and deal with the possibility that the differences are related to cultural pressures, because that seems just as feasible. I mean, hey--black people tend to be poor; is that because black people are biologically prone to being poor? Or is it because of a very distinct background that has created a context where anyone in their situation is probably going to end up being poor? Same possibility goes for women not being in CS.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby negatron » Thu Dec 18, 2008 3:59 pm UTC

Moo wrote:As to debate technique: this isn't SB, there is no requirement for rigid debate rules.

Absolutely, which is why I shall proceed despite lacking a PhD in feminism :D

Moo wrote:I showed an interest and played two games after which I was actively excluded.

Maybe you just weren't very good. You DID play two games which suggests they weren't opposed to playing with you, but possibly opposed to how you played.

If you're truly not provided with an equivalent amount of respect despite equivalent performance, you might want to find another place to work, I know I would.

The Great Hippo wrote:Cite some sources?

Perfectly reasonable request!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_and_intelligence

The Great Hippo wrote:Let me also point out that I'm requesting sources that acknowledge and deal with the possibility that the differences are related to cultural pressures, because that seems just as feasible.

Some differences perhaps, but the above shows that, best case, not all such differences can be attributed cultural differences.

The Great Hippo wrote:I mean, hey--black people tend to be poor; is that because black people are biologically prone to being poor?

Well, there is a correlation between intelligence and wealth, and there is also a correlation between intelligence and race, which also implies a correlation between race and wealth from the factor of intelligence.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby 22/7 » Thu Dec 18, 2008 4:12 pm UTC

negatron wrote:Maybe you just weren't very good. You DID play two games which suggests they weren't opposed to playing with you, but possibly opposed to how you played.

If you're truly not provided with an equivalent amount of respect despite equivalent performance, you might want to find another place to work, I know I would.
Playing with someone does not in any way suggest that you're not opposed to playing with them. My hunch is that Moo isn't stupidly good at TF2, and so neither team felt like they'd be at a large enough advantage having Moo on their team that it would trump the boys' club being kept in place. The fact that she's not getting invited out to the pub supports this. Are they also opposed to how she drinks?
Totally not a hypothetical...

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Re: Women in CS

Postby negatron » Thu Dec 18, 2008 4:20 pm UTC

22/7 wrote:Playing with someone does not in any way suggest that you're not opposed to playing with them.

In SOME way, yes it does.

22/7 wrote:Are they also opposed to how she drinks?

I dare not speculate. It's not impossible to imagine friends who exclusively like to engage in activities would also prefer to exclusively drink together.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby AngrySquirrel » Thu Dec 18, 2008 4:26 pm UTC

Statistics isn't my thing. I can only speak from my own experience, so that is what I will do.

My main problem is usually not the people I work with or study with. When I encounter problems they mostly come from outsiders.

I am not in the high-end of CS-studies, I study network administrating and computer security. I am one of 4 girls in a class with approximately 30 students. This is an increase of 300% from earlier years. I love my class, most of them are very cool, social people, however, I have problems feeling like I am a part of the class, mostly I would say this is my own fault, I got an attitude that keeps most girls away from me, and I am not allowed to be "one of the guys" (I even asked). But this is something I am used to, and I really like this study so I don't let that bother me much at all. However, when my lecturers and teachers tell me "don't worry about this, it's too complicated for you, let someone else on your group fix it" it bugs me. It also bugs me that the only person from last years class that is currently looking for a job is the only girl, she recently quit her job because she was told by the people who she was working with to "stop trying to do things you know nothing about and make us some coffee". She was the person graduating last year with the best grades.

I also work at a service-desk job, I'm the only girl there, one of our bosses is also female but that's it in the whole company. I've been working there for 2 years, I'll admit I don't know the answer to every single question that I get asked, but I know the basic stuff and I can usually figure out any problems if I get a tiny bit of time. I don't mind letting people who've been there longer or knows more than me take over when things get difficult. However, it bugs me when people calling in asks to speak with someone who is not "just a secretary". It bugs me when they'd rather talk to someone who's been there 2 for two months and have no clue about what they are asking. And it bugs me that if I answer a question they won't listen, but if the other dude on shift says the same thing they will.

Now I'm not any worse or better at my job than my co-workers. And I'm for the most part a pretty average student. I can understand why people would want to leave the responsibilities to someone a bit more skilled than me. I want to be good at what I do, I want to get a job because of my skills, not because I happen to have an uterus. (I live in Norway, there have been taken measures by the government, schools and businesses to get more females into my field of work) I also know I could do a much better job, I am trying to do a better job. I have some great co-workers that will stand up for me and tell the people that call in that they need to talk to me and not them. I have some great group-members and class-mates that will bother to explain things to be when the teacher goes "leave it to someone more skilled". But it shouldn't have to be that way.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby The Great Hippo » Thu Dec 18, 2008 4:38 pm UTC

negatron wrote:Perfectly reasonable request!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_and_intelligence


While I'm more than willing to acknowledge that there are some differences between a female's brain and a male's brain (we've done MRIs, we've compared them, so on), I'm not so willing to buy that these differences result in clear and demonstrable cognitive differences. None of the sources on the wikipedia article differentiate between potential cultural factors and biological factors; the article says "Here are some statistics of observed differences, here are some differences we observed in the brains, here are some people who got in trouble for assuming the two were correlated. Bye!"

negatron wrote:Well, there is a correlation between intelligence and wealth, and there is also a correlation between intelligence and race, which also implies a correlation between race and wealth from the factor of intelligence.


Er, it also implies a direct correlation between intelligence and wealth (the wealthy go to better schools, get a better diet, and live in better neighborhoods, then die and leave their money to their well-educated kids--rinse, repeat). So what's your point? As has been said a million times on this forum, correlation is not causation.

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Re: Women in CS

Postby negatron » Thu Dec 18, 2008 5:01 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:None of the sources on the wikipedia article differentiate between potential cultural factors and biological factors

You're going to have incredible difficulty showing that spatial processing in females is poorer as a result of cultural factors. There are countless solid neurological studies attributing this to physiological differences. I have not come upon one that suggests otherwise.

The Great Hippo wrote:Er, it also implies a direct correlation between intelligence and wealth (the wealthy go to better schools, get a better diet, and live in better neighborhoods, then die and leave their money to their well-educated kids--rinse, repeat)

It is well known that education does not alter innate fluid intelligence, which is the typical measure used to judge IQ differences in various demographics.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby Moo » Thu Dec 18, 2008 5:13 pm UTC

negatron wrote:Absolutely, which is why I shall proceed despite lacking a PhD in feminism :D
Rigid debate <> complete ignorance on a point central to the discussion.


This is becoming more and more offtopic and unhelpful to the OP. Thread split perhaps?
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Re: Women in CS

Postby negatron » Thu Dec 18, 2008 5:16 pm UTC

Moo wrote:This is becoming more and more offtopic and unhelpful to the OP.

I don't think it can get any more relevant and helpful.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby The Great Hippo » Thu Dec 18, 2008 5:19 pm UTC

Negatron wrote:You're going to have incredible difficulty showing that spatial processing in females is poorer as a result of cultural factors.


Why? The brain is immensely complicated; something as simple as nutrition (which is often a product of culture) can affect your algebra scores. Cause and correlation are so difficult to pin down in matters of neurology--we can make some educated guesses, but that's about it.

negatron wrote:It is well known that education does not alter innate fluid intelligence, which is the typical measure used to judge IQ differences in various demographics.


I, er, really doubt that. IQ tests aren't reliable enough to draw an insight that specific and accurate.

As I am a history nerd and not a CS nerd, there is really nothing else I can contribute to this thread. So I am getting the hell out of Dodge before the law shows up--but before I do, one thing--a cursory glance at a few studies implies that the lack of women in CS is an issue with preference, not capability.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby Hammer » Thu Dec 18, 2008 5:21 pm UTC

negatron wrote:
Hammer wrote:Very untrue. Women face a host of socio-cultural barriers to entering and succeeding in CS. This book does a good job of presenting the research done at Carnegie Mellon on the subject.

Interesting, however from what I gathered in the editorial review,

They found that the seven percent of female undergraduates at the college started out with as much excitement and talent as their male counterparts, but often wilted early on, perceiving that male students had come to college far better prepared than they had.

This appears to be the very motivational affair I was referring to. It is not being psychological pushed out of the field by a third party, but a personal lack of determination.

That is not the conclusion reached by the study in the book. Perhaps you have not "come upon" or are unaware of the actual findings in this area of research because you read only single out-of-context sentences and insist they support your preconceptions. The reforms they made based on the study kicked the percentage up from 7% to 42% over the course of five years with a far higher rate of retention.

negatron wrote:I don't think it can get any more relevant and helpful.

I agree. You are providing an excellent example of the problem.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby negatron » Thu Dec 18, 2008 5:58 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:
Negatron wrote:You're going to have incredible difficulty showing that spatial processing in females is poorer as a result of cultural factors.

Why?

As I said, there is much credibly study that associates such differences with physiological aspects of the brain. If you wish I can be the one to provide you with sources, however it's not something outside the capabilities of Google. If you want to show cultural differences are the cause, you will need to show how the aforementioned aspects differ with culture and/or female discrimination. If there are studies that have offered meaningful results on this predicate, I would really like to hear about it, otherwise I have to assume what scientific inquiry has consistently reaffirmed.


The Great Hippo wrote:IQ tests aren't reliable enough to draw an insight that specific and accurate.

IQ in childhood is very consistent with IQ in adulthood, despite greatly differing educational pursuits.

Hammer wrote:That is not the conclusion reached by the study in the book.

Of course not. A book cannot possibly reach a conclusion which makes the very subject of the book inconsequential. As you are well aware I have not read the book, but I am aware of at least some of the reforms you speak of, which in particular make science scholarships more accessible to females than males. I suspect you could push many more males into nursing and physical therapy given the right incentives. I would be very keen to know what the full extent of these reforms was, specifically whether it reformed male prejudice, or whether it reformed the art of coercion.

Hammer wrote:I agree. You are providing an excellent example of the problem.

Being an orange, I concede that it is I who is the problem despite you yourself participating in the conversation.

I'm well aware that I hit sensitive subject matter when I suggested that differences in academic pursuits may not necessarily be society's fault, but merely different preferences between genders.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby Hammer » Thu Dec 18, 2008 6:18 pm UTC

negatron wrote: I am aware of at least some of the reforms you speak of, which in particular make science scholarships more accessible to females than males. I suspect you could push many more males into nursing and physical therapy given the right incentives. I would be very keen to know what the full extent of these reforms was, specifically whether it reformed male prejudice, or whether it reformed the art of coercion.

Those are not the reforms I speak of. This was not an affirmative action program. If you are keen to know, then read the study and followup materials. Read any of the studies. Credible scientific inquiry has not confirmed that women simply do not like science or than women are cognitively less capable of doing science or that women are less able to maintain "determination" as functions of being born female. There are a number of credible peer-reviewed studies available that investigate and address both the social and cognitive issues. Many of them are specifically looking at the validity of the views you profess. Their conclusions do not support your statements.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby negatron » Thu Dec 18, 2008 6:34 pm UTC

Hammer wrote:This was not an affirmative action program.

That's a big relief, I really hate those.

Hammer wrote:If you are keen to know, then read the study and followup materials. Read any of the studies.

I am indeed keen to know and I might just look into this book, however I have an immediate itching for some bullet points on what these reforms were.

Hammer wrote:Credible scientific inquiry has not confirmed that women simply do not like science or than women are cognitively less capable of doing science

Credible scientific inquiry has confirmed that there are cognitive differences between the sexes. Since different intellectual pursuits require different cognitive loads, it is unreasonable to conclude that this cannot impact the choice of profession.

Hammer wrote:Many of them are specifically looking at the validity of the views your profess. Their conclusions do not support your statements.

Ah, so there ARE studies which conclude that cognitive differences do not impact the choice of profession. Is this book one such study or do you have other sources? This would pretty much put my entire argument to the crapper if it were true, absolutely. :D
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Re: Women in CS

Postby odenskrigare » Thu Dec 18, 2008 6:35 pm UTC

http://www.apa.org/monitor/jun97/skills.html

LOL

I'm not quite convinced that the male/female distinctions in certain forms of intelligence related with CS/math are intrinsic.

However, the 'stigma' reasons someone gave for women not entering CS are bogus.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby negatron » Thu Dec 18, 2008 6:51 pm UTC

odenskrigare wrote:http://www.apa.org/monitor/jun97/skills.html

So women can navigate a building better than men if they have a floor plan? Fascinating.

The conclusion here is "If the task is explicitly described, performance improves". I could have told you that myself, this is task specific and does not transfer.

Although these studies don?t rule out a biologically determined proclivity for men to do better than women on spatial tasks

They say this as if it's not already implied.

I don't doubt general performance can be improved with training. By this I mean consistent with new and original problems. However the key phrase here, as they so put it "biologically determined proclivity".
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Re: Women in CS

Postby jestingrabbit » Thu Dec 18, 2008 7:09 pm UTC

@negatron: If a large part of your argument is going to be IQ test outcomes, then I would suggest that you familiarise yourself with literature that suggests that the whole IQ "hypothesis" (I challenge you to even clearly ellucidate the falsifiable hypothesis that scientists working with IQ are testing) is gigantically flawed. Start here, for instance.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby Hammer » Thu Dec 18, 2008 7:16 pm UTC

negatron wrote:
Hammer wrote:If you are keen to know, then read the study and followup materials. Read any of the studies.

I am indeed keen to know and I might just look into this book, however I have an immediate itching for some bullet points on what these reforms were.

They involved changing the way computer science was taught at the high school level to use techniques that appeal to other than the stereotypical geek boy. These methods also improved participation for other groups who come later to computing or have different priorities than "machine love". More than just women were positively impacted.

They encouraged high school teachers to actively recruit girls to join CS classes (not at the expense of boys) to overcome the sense that this field is not "for women". They taught middle and high school teachers to stop telling girls that they are bad at math and science as this shown to affect test scores in both directions for any group (again, not just women).

They involved making the environment less hostile. Examples include discouraging computing contests where the problems involved "checking out babes".

They adjusted the admissions criteria to look at many other factors than already having a certain level of computer experience, based on the new information about what a good CS candidate "looks like". This positively affected not only women, who often come to computing later than boys, but also other minority groups that lacked early computer access. They were comfortable doing so because the numbers indicated that lack of initial experience did not correlate with ongoing performance. People without early experience were able to catch up very quickly if not prevented from doing so by other factors. Carnegie-Mellon made the change because they genuinely believed that their existing criteria were eliminating desirable candidates, not to artificially increase the number of women and other minorities.

And so on.

Credible scientific inquiry has confirmed that there are cognitive differences between the sexes. Since different intellectual pursuits require different cognitive loads, it is unreasonable to conclude that this cannot impact the choice of profession.

It is not unreasonable to hypothesize that this might be the case, but my neuroscience researcher friends tell me that when they actually attempt to test this hypothesis, the gender factors do not correlate with performance.

Ah, so there ARE studies which conclude that cognitive differences do not impact the choice of profession. Is this book one such study or do you have other sources? This would pretty much put my entire argument to the crapper if it were true, absolutely. :D

Yes, there are. The book we've been talking about is not one of them, although they do reference many other studies of various kinds. The book refers to a sociological study. There are, however, neurological/cognitive studies on this subject. I don't have original sources in front of me as I have this information from talking to neuroscientists - not from being one. :)

I'm not sure about what the findings are specifically regarding choice of profession, but I do know that they do not support the statement that gender based cognitive differences significantly affect ability to perform in math/science oriented professions. I also know that the sociological studies do support the thinking that women avoid certain professions primarily because of the environment in that profession and/or because they believe that profession is not really available to them - not because they don't enjoy the subject matter.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby negatron » Thu Dec 18, 2008 8:05 pm UTC

jestingrabbit wrote:If a large part of your argument is going to be IQ test outcomes

I wouldn't say large, merely equivalent in proportion.

I'm well aware of the Flynn Effect, I'm also well aware that fluid intelligence can be increased through training.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/2743087/Hrntr ... tsspeicher

But the fact that measure of intelligence and conceivably any other measure of cognitive faculties can be increased is no indication that it is inherently equivalent in all population groups.

Hammer wrote:They involved changing the way computer science was taught at the high school level to use techniques that appeal to other than the stereotypical geek boy. These methods also improved participation for other groups who come later to computing or have different priorities than "machine love". More than just women were positively impacted. ...

Sounds reasonable. It doesn't appear to me that "high school CS techniques" are geared towards geek boys. I really couldn't name a single aspect of any of my classes which would discourage otherwise enthusiastic girls. In any case if they can dramatically shift the balance without introducing female-bias and effectively discouraging males as a side effect, which I'm a little concerned they might in one way or another do, it's great news for computer science.

Hammer wrote:I also know that the sociological studies do support the thinking that women avoid certain professions primarily because of the environment in that profession

Unless by environment they're referring to sexual discrimination, environment would fit under the category of old fashioned preferences. Women shouldn't be transformed to prefer the same things as men.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby achan1058 » Fri Dec 19, 2008 12:47 am UTC

As far as I know, inherent differences between people to people may exist, but for the vast majority of people, it does not matter since they are nowhere near that limit anyways. Hence, I would rule out the cause being genetic difference. At least, this is the impression that I got from my students. I mean, they are chatting to each other about how drunk they got last week instead of working on problems during tutorial!!

The difference is most likely social, and it seems awfully similar to the "Asian good at math" myth. Which the reason, as far as I know, is because it is "unacceptable" for kids to be bad at school (in particular math/science) in these countries (at least, that's what the parents would say). The parents will also never say to their children that they are bad at math, even if they are. At least, that's the impression I got from my parents, my friend's parents, and the parents of some of my students. Similar social reasons and expectations are at work here, except that it is reinforced negatively. The fact that we even use the word geek proves it, since as far as I know, most CS students are not geeks at all. From a talk I have heard, many women are more self conscious of their self image, and worry about not fitting in. Such "pretending to be geek" culture is definitely a bad factor, since this false image makes people who want to come in feel inferior, when in fact they are not. (Heck, it even make ME feel bad at first, and I am a guy, plus I am rather good at my stuff.) If it is true that women worry about their self image and fitting in, then this would definitely be a very negative factor.

I also recalled reading about a particular experiment about how the girls would do worse in a math test if they are boys in the room, or if you let them know that they are being compared to the guys in advance, and that there is no difference between the girls and boys otherwise. Assuming that math isn't too different than CS (which I would say it isn't), then the same should hold as well.

Anyways, I personally don't believe in reforming the teaching, as I think the curriculum is fine as is. However, I do believe in reforming the teachers.

Edit: Yes, I am aware that they are true geeks and geniuses out there, but the vast majority of the students are not. Otherwise, I would be getting F's. I am also aware that there are some geniuses that aren't geeks. I mean, they drink, socialize, and play poker.

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Re: Women in CS

Postby odenskrigare » Fri Dec 19, 2008 2:39 am UTC

achan1058 wrote:The difference is most likely social, and it seems awfully similar to the "Asian good at math" myth.


BAHAHAHA

Yeah, that's such a lie; I know it first hand ... I personally know like two Asians who are overall better at math than me
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Re: Women in CS

Postby headprogrammingczar » Fri Dec 19, 2008 3:01 am UTC

Just to complicate things further, note that the world's first "computer programmer" was a woman, Ada Lovelace.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby odenskrigare » Fri Dec 19, 2008 3:08 am UTC

headprogrammingczar wrote:Just to complicate things further, note that the world's first "computer programmer" was a woman, Ada Lovelace.


Well, to be fair, for all I know, genius may be more common in men. The set of men also apparently has more bricks than women, i.e., greater variance of intelligence. Regardless, once you are exposed to examples of people that totally violate stereotypes that were once familiar, it's very difficult to continue to believe in them.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby Hammer » Fri Dec 19, 2008 11:50 am UTC

This is veering too far off topic, folks. Let's bring it back to the OP's actual question, please.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby Yakk » Fri Dec 19, 2008 5:39 pm UTC

ascendingPig wrote:I recently read an article in the NY Times that claimed women constitute only 12% of current CS majors.

I was wondering if anyone here working in CS can enlighten me on the plight of these women.

CS in industry is good (better than average) money, long hours, and has a relatively lower impact from social skills than many other jobs. It also doesn't have that high of a social status cachet (like a Doctor, Lawyer, etc).

I am not aware of a particular plight that women suffer that men do not in CS in industry, or that women do not suffer in general, that isn't a reflection of the "I prefer spending time with people like me" effect.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby aleflamedyud » Sat Dec 20, 2008 7:44 pm UTC

Yakk wrote:
ascendingPig wrote:I recently read an article in the NY Times that claimed women constitute only 12% of current CS majors.

I was wondering if anyone here working in CS can enlighten me on the plight of these women.

CS in industry is good (better than average) money, long hours, and has a relatively lower impact from social skills than many other jobs. It also doesn't have that high of a social status cachet (like a Doctor, Lawyer, etc).

I am not aware of a particular plight that women suffer that men do not in CS in industry, or that women do not suffer in general, that isn't a reflection of the "I prefer spending time with people like me" effect.

Bingo. To my knowledge, women are just less interested in spending their days with cold machines in florescently-lit server rooms answering the phone with "'ello, IT, have you tried turning it off and on again?".
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Re: Women in CS

Postby negatron » Sat Dec 20, 2008 7:49 pm UTC

aleflamedyud wrote:To my knowledge, women are just less interested in spending their days with cold machines in florescently-lit server rooms answering the phone with "'ello, IT, have you tried turning it off and on again?".


Of all the people I know with a CS degree, not one is in tech support. About the only thing the two have in common is the word 'computer' is occasionally mentioned.
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Re: Women in CS

Postby Berengal » Sat Dec 20, 2008 8:36 pm UTC

negatron wrote:
aleflamedyud wrote:To my knowledge, women are just less interested in spending their days with cold machines in florescently-lit server rooms answering the phone with "'ello, IT, have you tried turning it off and on again?".


Of all the people I know with a CS degree, not one is in tech support. About the only thing the two have in common is the word 'computer' is occasionally mentioned.

Or that CS students sometimes work as tech support for extra money. I know of some, and it's apparantly not uncommon. I was set to work as such as well, before I got shifted off to do other, (to me) more important stuff before I even got started.

But yes, the only common denominator is computers. CS doesn't really have anything to do with tech support beyond that.
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