Women in Technology

Hear us Roar

  So What?
Subject:   So this
Date:   2007-09-06 09:44:54
From:   MarkWood
"Who can say why women don't enter or stay in IT?" The person who has gone out and measured it, of course. Has anyone interviewed several thousand women who have the necessary aptitudes why they did or did not choose to work in computing? What did the stat.s look like?

May I also say that computing is not one field. "Computing science" is a branch of mathematics, and properly so. "IT" is running wires and installing and fixing stuff -- it's construction and maintenance, like plumbing. Programming is like commercial art except the artists have their brains installed backward. :-) User Interface design (including website design) is graphic art, and the artists are normal (for artists :-) . Maybe some of these should be spread over other disciplines, and some should not.

I left out "software engineering" because I'd like to hear opinions from current Professional Engineer holders as to whether software engineering is engineering. Whatever it is, it's a management discipline, about as far from science, design, or plumbing as you can get.

All of these disciplines interact and inform each other, so if we part some of them out it's still important to have a common identity overlay for them all so that all the practitioners still talk to each other now and then.

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Showing messages 1 through 5 of 5.

  • So this
    2007-09-06 15:04:51  lauras [View]

    "Computing science" is a branch of mathematics, and properly so. "IT" is running wires and installing and fixing stuff -- it's construction and maintenance, like plumbing. Programming is like commercial art except the artists have their brains installed backward. :-) User Interface design (including website design) is graphic art, and the artists are normal (for artists :-) ."

    Yet is computer science properly relegated to a branch of mathematics only? Does not that inherently limit the potential horizons of CS itself? In other words, while the existing academic hierarchies may be convenient for academia, is it really useful in the real world?

    Recently one of our developers spoke at a meeting of a CS club at a major university in the area. Out of 15 people, only 3 knew anything about open source. That shocked me when I heard it -- and this was a club, where the students were not just CS majors but hobbyists. That leads me to wonder whether CS as a field of study is well served in its ivory tower.

    (More OT: I'd also say that user interface design is a lot more than graphic art. That misconception seems to be why so many things may look good but don't function well. Doesn't proper user interface design involve architecture and human behavior understanding, too?)
  • So this
    2007-09-06 10:10:13  dmarsh26 [View]

    Can you really measure it? How should the survey be conducted, what should you ask, who should you ask, how big should the sample be, how many countries ? Will the stats tell the truth ?

    I would say the overlap between computer science, software engineering and programming is significant. All these aspects and more were taught on my degree and you could choose modules.

    Many people draw many different analogies, people say programming is part art part engineering/science. I've heard it labeled a cottage industry and liked to carpentry. These analogies are just that, analogies sometimes they add value and shed light on the argument, sometimes they do not.

    So again, I say 'So What?' how does any of this help ?

    There are probably more ways into IT than many other professions, you can become a lawyer without taking the bar exam, anyone can become a programmer/IT support/DBA etc.

    Its probably more of a meritocracy than many other professions, yet women still chose not to enter the profession.

    If I had I would guess its probably because yes it has an engineering bias, and engineering is tools based and maybe something in the hunter gatherer makeup influences this ?

    Maybe the traditional nest builder nurtuer types see it as irrelevant ?

    Of course I'm not a physc expert and I've seen no research so this may just be pish just like the article !

    One book does not a representative sample make !
    • It's not that mysterious
      2007-09-06 14:55:58  lauras [View]

      It has been measured in the sciences, and a lot of that was raised recently in the aftermath of Lawrence Summers' unfortunate remarks of speculation as to why more women weren't sticking with sciences.

      Macho culture can be a turn-off. It doesn't have to get down to genetics or Jungian analysis. I wish I had some links handy, but just some googling should reveal some results for anyone interested -- especially the remarks of women in science academia.

      Is it the same thing in CS and related professions? I don't know, but there certainly was plenty said along these lines in the Deeply Geeky session at BlogHer last year.

      I do feel that the assumption that CS and IT are meritocracies is a rather limited view, though. It reflects a rather narrow view of what these fields really are about. While there's an element of mathematics, yes, they are also inherently creative, and what you create and how you choose to create it is not something that is easily objectively measured. Have 10 people program a module to achieve x and you will get 10 different programs going about it in different ways ... even if it's all guys. Add women in there and you get even more diverse results.

      So how does one measure merit in such a field?
    • Selena Deckelmann photo There is research.
      2007-09-06 10:44:31  Selena Deckelmann | [View]

      Here's one place you can start for reading:

      Another is:

      Perhaps a bibliography is called for in this series to help educate readers about what research is out there. The research I'm aware of appears to conclude that there is systemic bias in the industry that specifically discourages women.

      Certainly, more research is needed! I would love for this series to inspire further academic discovery.
      • There is research.
        2007-09-08 13:15:16  Anna Martelli Ravenscroft | O'Reilly Author [View]

        For example:
        The Encyclopedia of Gender and Information Technology is the only reference work that provides an all-encompassing perspective on the way gender and information technology impact each other. Hundreds of leading international experts have compiled their research about the role of gender in human interaction with IT and the IT profession. Special attention is paid to the contributions, challenges, issues, and experiences of women in the IT field. This innovative encyclopedia contains more than 1,450 key terms and their definitions, supplying readers with the most complete understanding of the subject. These two volumes include 213 entries with over 4,700 references to additional works on gender and information technology in order to stimulate further research. The Encyclopedia of Gender and Information Technology is a must-have publication for every library."