This conversation stays interesting, and for me, has started to get very close to home. [Update: If you care about this, there is lots of juicy input (much of which I disagree with) in the comments. Also check out the contributions from Dave Megginson and especially “gamehawk”.]

Beautiful Bigotry · As in, check out Shelley Powers’ Women Evidently Don't Program, motivated by the discovery that the about-to-be-published Beautiful Code, to which I am a contributor, is an embarrassingly almost-100%-male operation. Check out the dialogue with the editor, and then some of the comments are worth reading too. My take-away: Depressing.

On the Practical Side · There were some reactions to that big devChix post I mentioned earlier. In Tech Women Lauren Wood writes from the perspective of a women who’s always been a singleton among professional males.

For me, the most engaging new contribution is Jeni Tenison’s How to get women into computing, which offers a lot of thoughtful clarity, along with some practical suggestions.

Speaking of Close to Home · Now that I’m down at the bottom of an article that probably few will read, I guess I can raise one of the issues I had with the devChix piece. It goes on at some length about how if we want women as co-workers, we shouldn’t ever even think about approaching them romantically.

Er, um, hmm.

When my first marriage broke up in the Nineties, I pretty quickly decided I didn’t like being single and set out to fix the problem. Most of the women I happened to meet, I met professionally. I asked lots out and romanced a few and married one ten years ago and have two children. The process seemed to have a satisfactory outcome.

So I’m not neutral at all. I really hope that “gloriajw” over at devChix is wrong about this. Obviously you have to be able to take “no” for an answer, and shouldn’t be pushy or slimy. But look, dammit, we don’t have church socials and matchmakers any more. If we can’t date the people we meet at work, the species is gonna bloody well die out.



Contributions

Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Steve Loughran (Jun 21 2007, at 01:26)

I think the problem may vary in scope by country...you'd need data from places like france, germany, italy and india to see if there are regional variations -and then we'd have to work out why.

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From: Jacek (Jun 21 2007, at 02:12)

After going through all the comments of the devchix article, and even contributing one, I'm guessing that the author has gotten sensitive by getting too many approaches (or reports thereof from other women), especially annoying from "married men". Is there anything about IT that would attract married men who like to flirt (or more) outside their marriage? Perhaps: assuming IT people are more liberal in their views (seeing and accepting how the world changes fast), they could have a relaxed view of marriage, not shared by the women?

That's only one of the things, though.

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From: Chris Smith (Jun 21 2007, at 04:49)

Bigotry?

There is an observation, a curious fact, even, but Bigotry?

Some wish to see bias as badly as others wish to enforce it.

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From: Scot (Jun 21 2007, at 05:33)

According to the devChix article, I'm being "harsh" and "destructive" but there was a lot more to take issue with than just the "no-romance" position - the entire article was one anti-male (misandronist?) stereotype after another.

My biggest issue was the hypocrisy - women only/women friendly groups are just fine and dandy ("shelters of refuge"), but the mere thought that some men might like men only groups (which is something that I have never seen any evidence of, so I have to suspend disbelief for a second) is treated as a heinous crime against women.

As for the no-romance argument - are men in the tech departments some how worse then men in the sales, marketing, legal or finance departments for making romantic attempts? And as for "Some men mix up their incoming signals", it's never even mentioned that it might not always be the men mixing up the signals - it may be that some women occasionally give off mixed ones.

If those really are the reasons why women stay out of tech, then I find it hard to imagine that women aren't staying out of other major sectors as well. If tech is competitive, then what about sales? If tech is combative, with long drawn out arguments over technical points, then what about law?

How do you defend yourself from such articles, without falling into the the "destructive, harsh criticizer, therefore your argument is invalid" trap that the article sets up? I am harshly critical of the article because it deserves harsh criticism due to the assertions it makes. I not some form of misogynist, and my harsh criticism doesn't make me one, no matter what the author of the devChix article may think.

If the species comes to an end, it will be because of shrill man haters convincing other women (and some men) that almost all men are a bunch of combative, Neanderthal, would-be committers of sexual assault with serious communication problems.

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From: Jason McIntosh (Jun 21 2007, at 06:19)

Can I say amen to "no church socials and matchmakers"? The only friends I've really managed to make have been at church functions, and no longer being heavily active there, meeting women has become very difficult. Bars as any single guy will eventually learn aren't the best places to meet women. Sadly, the workplace ends up being a major option. Now, hopefully online dating will help some of that, but it seems today very difficult to find a way to meet women! (I'm sure btw it's the same in reverse, hard to meet decent guys)

Let's add to that one other major factor particularly in the computer world - geeks tend to be a bit "different" thinking wise. Most of us think in abstract thoughts or come up with odd ideas. Often, we could be more associated with artists considering our temperments, and it usually takes another geek to appreciate that. Further, I know personally I LOVE the thought of having my girlfriend play around with me with program code or video games or star wars or any of the other "geeky" subjects, and it's hard to find someone like that without working with them or talking to such a person who's half way around the world ;) Thus, the advantage and disadvantage to meeting people through blogs and the web.

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From: Bob Haugen (Jun 21 2007, at 07:21)

I just returned from a technical conference that was more women than men: http://www.aisvillage.com/rea25/conference.html

The subject was accounting information systems. Highly abstract, often technical, sometimes competitive.

The atmosphere differed from some conferences I have attended in that many people active promoted interconnections between people and ideas, and the sense of a unified movement rather than a set of competing interests.

I am not sure that the percentage of women caused the difference in atmosphere, nor am I sure why that conference included so many women in leadership. The subject may have something to do with it, or the fact that many of the women were college professors.

But nobody had to beg women to participate.

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From: John Cowan (Jun 21 2007, at 07:27)

One of the companies I used to work for described what I think are the right rules in their sexual-harassment guidelines. "Requests for a sexual relationship" (a.k.a. "slimy") or "repeated requests for a dating relationship" (a.k.a. "pushy") are unacceptable. (I don't think "repeated" is interpreted strictly as "more than once" here; probably more like "more than thrice".)

As for matchmakers, they are all over the Internet. (One could make money on eBay selling the descriptions and one-time-only email addresses of various women, hopefully obtained with consent.)

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From: John Cowan (Jun 21 2007, at 08:38)

Nastygram: This is one of the occasional posts where the comment form overlies the right-hand column even in Firefox/Win32. I don't know why this one and not, for example, "Oops!", but it be so.

Still hard to read. Still annoying. Pkease fix.

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From: Shelley (Jun 21 2007, at 09:45)

I appreciate that you shared the depression, Tim.

I have to stop responding on these things, writing on this topic. The more I do, the more I see so many men who would be just as happy if the field were completely male, in addition to women in tech who say that they don't see this is a problem.

What good does it do to write on tech, to create code, to do anything if it's never recognized?

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From: Kevin Scaldeferri (Jun 21 2007, at 10:41)

I suspect more will read this than you might think. I was definitely disappointed not to have any of your reaction in your first post on this, and glad to see this post.

I also thought the bit on not dating in the workplace was a bit over the top. In my experience, most workplaces have plenty of romances, some out in the open and some kept quiet. It seems like there's actually less of this in the tech departments than elsewhere.

I'm not sure what to make of the repeated concerns about married men. I wonder if the author might be mis-reading people herself. I find that being in a committed relationship makes it easier for me to talk to and be friendly with other women I come in contact with, precisely because there's no potential romantic interest. But, I do occasionally worry that a woman might mistake simple friendliness for something more and get offended. Perhaps that sort of misunderstanding happens more often that I would have thought.

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From: Dan (Jun 21 2007, at 11:01)

I'm very happy to be married to my former co-worker (who happens to be a developer, by the way).

One thing about my wife--she's a very good developer, but she doesn't like to attend conferences, write articles, etc. I've never talked to her much about *why* she doesn't do those things--she does other things in her free time.

I wonder how many other "invisible" women developers are out there--working, but not actively attending public events with other developers...

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From: David Nesting (Jun 21 2007, at 11:29)

For many men, the workplace is the only place they have the opportunity to meet women. In a workplace with extremely few women, simply speaking statistically, it should be obvious that the few women that work there will be approached more often than they would elsewhere.

Many tech teams are male-only, and they learn to work together in ways that take advantage of that, just as I'm sure teams that are women-only adopt work relationships that don't involve the "extra work" of having to deal with men. Add a woman to these male-only teams, and the team dynamic is upset far more than adding another man would. This isn't a bad thing, but it is something that should be expected.

I did not appreciate some of her later comments that suggested that men that don't function perfectly rationally (like women?) and allow their instincts/hormones to influence their behavior need to be medicated.

But I'm criticizing too much here. Her post was excellent in that it was very informative about the woman's point of view, and I suspect it will be very helpful for a lot of men to read. Unfortunately, it's too focused on feminizing men and not focused enough on meeting halfway.

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From: silvermine (Jun 21 2007, at 11:58)

There's appropriate asking out, and inappropriate asking out. Former is good. The latter is bad.

If the girl geeks don't go out with the boy geeks, who on earth will they go out with? :D

Personally, my biggest issue is that I have kids and I can't work 80 hours a week. I love coding, but I can't neglect my family.

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From: Andrew Phoenix (Jun 21 2007, at 12:21)

I work at a University and we actually have a not-terrible ration of men to women. In fact, the team that I am on is precisely 50-50. However, I'd say that not many of the women have really hard-core technical jobs, even though we're the computing department; they're more support than development (in general). Both our VB people are women, though.

On a completely unrelated note, Happy Birthday Tim.

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From: Lauren (Jun 22 2007, at 00:27)

If women really wanted to be into tech, they would be. I wanted, and am, and fortunately for me, the community I'm involved with and the company I work for doesn't suck in the ways these articles describe.

But, I also realize that where I ended up is a major exception to the norm.

Why don't women want to write articles, or work on OSS projects, or etcetera? In my own case, because it's not something I really want to do during my free time.

I think Tim mentioned at one point that geeks tend to be pretty obsessive, which powers things such as coding by day and working on an OSS project by night. Something that I, personally, completely abhor - I'd rather spend my time on diverse interests when I have the chance.

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From: anina.net (Jun 22 2007, at 06:55)

i really appreciate how much you support women in technology with your voice. i too believe that there would be a ton of happy nice geeky guys who would love to show my fresh model friends how tech can help them build great future careers. think of all the great conversations girls and guys could finally have, if they both spoke technology--not to mention if they spoke over better technology (gizmoproject vs skype). every hot chic should have a geek sidekick ;D i will send you an email with more thoughts. i was really moved by your support. it's very rare. thank you.

anina

www.anina.net

www.anina.fr

www.360fashion.net

www.360fashion.tv

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From: William Newman (Jun 22 2007, at 12:41)

Lauren writes "Why don't women want to write articles, or work on OSS projects, or etcetera?" For me, too, such questions loom large.

It is common for people to focus on the aspects of technical organizations that they believe keep women out of this or that technical activity. But if the pattern of underrepresentation is mirrored outside the organizations, in unorganized activities that seem to draw a similar pool of people, it seems unlikely that the pattern is caused by the organizations.

I play the game of Go, and I have tinkered with robots, and played Chess, and founded a reasonably successful free software project. All of those activities attract a lot of the same people that commercial programming does, and I find similarly skewed sex ratios in all of them. If most of the people doing such things were hostile to my minority group (short people:-) then I'm pretty sure I could start my own group to do them. I could also even as an individual enter contests like the ICFP programming contest. I *did* start my own free software project over a disagreement, though a technical one, not one about stature. And I was once Busman's Holiday Club, go 1-person team go! And while I've never started my own Go-playing group, I note that even in a minor Go-playing city like Dallas, separate groups spontaneously form for different linguistic groups (Korean and Chinese and English). I don't see any mechanism for excluding women from programming that is nearly as strong as the language and custom differences (like not gambling on the game...) which one might say "exclude" the Koreans, if one believed one could exclude Koreans from Go.:-|

It would make sense to blame something upstream from all these patterns of underrepresentation of women: perhaps the educational system (of every single country in the world, as far as I know). But does how much sense does it make to assign most of the blame to the software organizations? Even pointing to university CS programs, as Jeni Tenison does, seems insufficient, unless you think it's clear that what keeps women out of the software industry has nothing to do with what keeps high-school girls out of free software, out of correlated brain games like Chess, and out of correlated amateur tech activities like building little robots for the heck of it.

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From: Aristotle Pagaltzis (Jun 27 2007, at 20:56)

If you check out the gamehawk profile, you’ll find this:

> This is mostly a so-I-can-reply account. The real Gamehawk blog is syndicated as gamehawk_news or some such.

And if you follow the syndicated account to its source you’ll find the entries are written by Karen Cravens.

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From: will (Jun 29 2007, at 09:20)

A couple of comments:

1) Workplace dating is totally ok, with the caveats that you have to move very carefully at first and accept possible rejection even more graciously than usual, and that the breakup will require a higher-than-normal level of maturity from everyone involved.

2) I certainly think that women in technology is a laudable goal, but I wonder if the problem is not so much that women are missing from technology as it is that prestige is missing from technology. After all, the medical profession places many of the same demands on women as the technology field does and comes from a history of being just as much a male-dominated field, and yet if you visit any major medical school in the U.S. you will see plenty of women. I think qualified women are not entering the technology field in the U.S. because frankly being an engineer is not held in very high regard in our country these days.

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From: Jeremy Dunck (Jun 30 2007, at 20:31)

So there's a Web 2.0 startup of questionable value (shocking, I know). The novel thing here is that a founder is a female.

Read this reddit thread and weep:

http://programming.reddit.com/info/229gj/comments

I've considered specifically trying to hire female developers, but the latest SCOTUS decision doesn't give me much hope:

http://www.scotusblog.com/movabletype/archives/2007/06/court_strikes_d_1.html

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