[FoRK] Harley & Google's battle of the sexes

Stephen D. Williams sdw at lig.net
Thu Aug 10 15:50:21 PDT 2017

We have consistently failed to socialize engineering and software development and related fields as we should.  We give children 
relatively deep understanding of the value and characteristics of a few professions (fireman, police, doctor, nurse, dentists, 
hairdresser, sports, military, entertainers).  For many others, kids tend to have large misconceptions, stereotyping, and aversions 
that don't track well with reality.  One thing pointed out a few times recently is how much social interaction development and 
related management and creative roles depend on.  A lot of 'working with people' professions are very shallow and perfunctory while 
more technical and professional professions often involve deep thinking and involvement with people and their problems.

Part of that is power in various senses, especially empowerment, self-determination, freedom in general.

All of this is affected by the background of the job market, apparent opportunities, and role models who solve problems and make 
things happen.


On 8/10/17 1:32 PM, Sean Conner wrote:
> It was thus said that the Great Lorin Rivers once stated:
>> There’s way more difference between any two individuals than there is
>> between any groups they might belong to.
>> There is a very strong male bias in engineering and I think that’s
>> something best addressed from the bottom up—as a society, we need to
>> figure out why this is so, earlier, and do what we can to encourage more
>> diversity in the people who choose to do this sort of work.
>    From "Contra Grant On Exaggerated Differences"
> (http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/08/07/contra-grant-on-exaggerated-differences/):
>> So let’s look deeper into what prevents women from entering these STEM
>> fields.
>> Does it happen at the college level? About 20% of high school students
>> taking AP Computer Science are women. The ratio of women graduating from
>> college with computer science degrees is exactly what you would expect from
>> the ratio of women who showed interest in it in high school (the numbers are
>> even lower in Britain, where 8% of high school computer students are girls).
>> So differences exist before the college level, and nothing that happens at
>> the college level – no discriminatory professors, no sexist classmates –
>> change the numbers at all.
>> Does it happen at the high school level? There’s not a lot of obvious room
>> for discrimination – AP classes are voluntary; students who want to go into
>> them do, and students who don’t want to go into them don’t. There are no
>> prerequisites except basic mathematical competency or other open-access
>> courses. It seems like of the people who voluntarily choose to take AP
>> classes that nobody can stop them from going into, 80% are men and 20% are
>> women, which exactly matches the ratio of each gender that eventually get
>> tech company jobs.
>> Rather than go through every step individually, I’ll skip to the punch and
>> point out that the same pattern repeats in middle school, elementary school,
>> and about as young as anybody has ever bothered checking. So something
>> produces these differences very early on? What might that be?
>> Might young women be avoiding computers because they’ve absorbed stereotypes
>> telling them that they’re not smart enough, or that they’re “only for boys”?
>> No. As per Shashaani 1997, “[undergraduate] females strongly agreed with the
>> statement ‘females have as much ability as males when learning to use
>> computers’, and strongly disagreed with the statement ‘studying about
>> computers is more important for men than for women’. On a scale of 1-5,
>> where 5 represents complete certainty in gender equality in computer skills,
>> and 1 completely certainty in inequality, the average woman chooses 4.2; the
>> average male 4.03. This seems to have been true since the very beginning of
>> the age of personal computers: Smith 1986 finds that “there were no
>> significant differences between males and females in their attitudes of
>> efficacy or sense of confidence in ability to use the computer, contrary to
>> expectation…females [showed] stronger beliefs in equity of ability and
>> competencies in use of the computer.” This is a very consistent result and
>> you can find other studies corroborating it in the bibliographies of both
>> papers.
>> Might girls be worried not by stereotypes about computers themselves, but by
>> stereotypes that girls are bad at math and so can’t succeed in the
>> math-heavy world of computer science? No. About 45% of college math majors
>> are women, compared to (again) only 20% of computer science majors.
>> Undergraduate mathematics itself more-or-less shows gender parity. This
>> can’t be an explanation for the computer results.
>> Might sexist parents be buying computers for their sons but not their
>> daughters, giving boys a leg up in learning computer skills? In the 80s and
>> 90s, everybody was certain that this was the cause of the gap. Newspapers
>> would tell lurid (and entirely hypothetical) stories of girls sitting down
>> to use a computer when suddenly a boy would show up, push her away, and
>> demand it all to himself. But move forward a few decades and now young girls
>> are more likely to own computers than young boys – with little change in the
>> high school computer interest numbers. So that isn’t it either.
>> So if it happens before middle school, and it’s not stereotypes, what might
>> it be?
>> One subgroup of women does not display these gender differences at any age.
>> These are women with congenital adrenal hyperplasia, a condition that gives
>> them a more typically-male hormone balance. For a good review, see Gendered
>> Occupational Interests: Prenatal Androgen Effects on Psychological
>> Orientation to Things Versus People.
>    I would recommend reading the entire article (warning:  it's long).  It
> links to its sources (the author links to
> https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3166361/ so you can read
> "Gendered Occupational Interests: Prenatal Androgen Effects on Psychological
> Orientation to Things Versus People").  And the author presents a theory
> that can explain all the employment numbers across a wide range of jobs
> other than "Institutional Racism."
>    Also, the comments are good on this one---one of the sources he cites (and
> disagrees with) comments.
>    -spc
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