Re: [Scientific American] Gender Gap in Computer Science continues.

John M. Klassa (
Thu, 06 Aug 1998 15:14:32 -0400

[oops; forgot to FoRK my reply...]

>>>>> On Thu, 6 Aug 1998, "ES" == Eve Schooler wrote:

ES> except that more people are needed for the industry to sustain
ES> itself. also, it is not just to bring people into the ranks. it
ES> is the hope that by making it more accessible to other types of
ES> people, the industry itself will benefit by the skills of these
ES> other people -- skills that may be markedly different than the
ES> existing norm.

Point taken.

ES> pooh. no one is requiring the cs field to admit women. the point
ES> is that if someone wants to be a computer scientist then it is
ES> more than learning algorithms. they have to put up with the
ES> culture. if this is what is causing people to leave the field,
ES> then perhaps it needs re-examination.

The long-term goal, however, is to change the culture to prevent people
from leaving...

ES> i say, if women want to participate in those professions, they
ES> should have as much opportunity as the next person. embrace the
ES> culture to a point. tolerate it to a point. but don't make it
ES> unnecessarily more difficult than it already is, i.e., saying the
ES> problem doesn't exist. if you don't have to deal on a daily basis
ES> with being "foreign", then isn't your job easier than mine? should
ES> it be?

Here, I'm not sure. It seems to be about perception (which, I suppose,
is the original point of the article Adam cited; to investigate the
perceptions and see what drives the trends).

ES> there are systemic problems with the navy that are entirely
ES> different than the field of cs. in the past women have been
ES> explicitly prohibited from holding certain jobs. the culture MUST
ES> adapt to allow women those opportunities. if along the way some of
ES> the traditions have to change, so be it. the enduring, important
ES> traditions will prevail. i for one am comfortable with hazing
ES> rituals persisting, but it is inevitable that they will become
ES> more gender neutral.

I guess I don't mind gradual, mutual change to a place where all parties
can agree and be happy. What I resent, however, is when group A decides
to crash group B's party, and attempts to enforce new rules and new ways
of doing things, wholesale, with seemingly little respect for the ways
things have always been done. Tradition isn't always bad.

This is getting off-topic, now (and is admittedly my fault :-)). My first
message was, I think, a knee-jerk reaction to the kind of "PCism" that
runs rampant these days, which seemed (to me, anyway) a logical step
from the content of what Adam cited.

ES> why not? if you don't like something you had better try to change
ES> it or you forfeit your right to complain about it.


ES> no one is saying that the cs field is acting in a discriminatory
ES> fashion since only males are getting hired. women aren't asking
ES> for standards to be lowered. they are simply asking that those
ES> involved in the field become aware of the fact that something
ES> about the culture is broken enough that the pipeline thins more
ES> dramatically than it used to. one can live with the maleness of
ES> the culture, the stereotypical nerdy images, the long hours and
ES> hard work; there are plenty of other professions with those same
ES> profiles, e.g., other engineering disciplines, medicine, that have
ES> maintained or boosted the numbers of women entering the workforce.
ES> it is more the harrassment and the gender discrimination -- not to
ES> mention a high percentage of people who don't believe a problem
ES> exists :-) -- that cause women to leave the profession.

Touche. :-)

I'm not a Neanderthal, really... My philosophy runs more to the "live
and let live" than the "beat 'em over the head with it" mentality.
To tie in an earlier message (from Nelson), while I don't believe in
"whoring and queer-bashing", I also don't believe in proverbial rug
out from under established institutions in order to suit the whim of
somebody new who wants to join the game.

To investigate the reasons why women don't seem to enter (or stay
with) the CS is fine; to act on those findings in a way that will make
the profession less attractive for those who are already in it isn't.
I'm not saying that one implies the other, simply that that's the
eventuality I'd rather not see.

John Klassa / Alcatel Telecom / Raleigh, NC, USA <><