Thursday, February 27, 2014

You can give a woman a CS degree

But you can't make her program. A woman in technology observes a dichotomy in the current push to get women more involved in programming:
When people talk about supporting women in tech, they look at Girls Who Code  and Black Girls Code, both of which I’m sure are very worthwhile programs. What troubles me, though, is the assumption that we need to focus only on young girls – in short, we, the oh-helpful ones, are the mentors and the solution to increase the representation of women in technology is 5 or 10 years out when these girls finish college or graduate school. WHAT ABOUT THE WOMEN WHO ARE HERE NOW?

If you are overlooking the women who are here now, what does that tell the girls you are supposedly bringing up to be the next generation of women in tech that you can overlook 15 years from now? Why do we hear about 16-year-old interns far more than women like me? If it is true, as the New York Times says, that in 2001-2 28% of computer science degrees went to women compared to the 10% or so now – where are those women from 12 years ago?
They dropped out. They dropped out because programming demands single-minded focus, mathematical skill, logic, and most of all, individual accountability. They dropped out because they didn't belong in the field and encouraging them to pursue it was doing them a serious career disservice. As a general rule, women don't like competitive jobs where they are held to an objective standard, particularly when they cannot easily pass off their work to others and still take credit for it.

Throw in the fact that male programmers tend to be competitive and socially graceless, which means that relatively few of them are inclined to do a woman's job for her in return for the well-practiced flash of a big smile and a few smug coos of appreciation, and it should be no surprise that even intelligent and well-trained women don't tend to last long in the industry.

(The stark contrast between the sweet expression presented when a woman is attempting to convince you to do her work for her and the rage-filled one that inadvertently appears when she hears you tell her to "do your own fucking job" can be hilarious.)

There were two female programmers at my first place of employment after college. One was attractive, athletic, married, and competent. She wasn't a star, but she calmly went about getting the job done. The other did literally nothing for two years. She never completed a single job, rotated from task to task on a regular basis, passed off her work onto others, and somehow managed to stay employed until her complete lack of productivity finally caught up to her.

Both women had CS degrees. I very much doubt the latter is still employed in any programming capacity.

This is why Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code will fail, just like every other women-in-technology initiative before it has failed. Eventually, all the training has to come to an end and the trainee has to go out and compete with the self-motivated young men who have been coding like banshees since they were in their early teens. And remember, these are smart women, so it is little wonder that they take one look at their prospects for competitive success and promptly go in for marketing, human resources, and management.

Programming is like writing. If you CAN be discouraged, you SHOULD be discouraged.

65 comments:

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JP said...

Oh come on! As a software developer with 7 years in the industry, I fully support women in technology. I mean, who doesn't like being offered finger snacks by a gorgeous model at a tech conference?

Jim said...

I work in a semi-niche field on a product that a lot of people use but not one that a lot of people are experts at. I like to encourage women out of college to get into this field. I know that most of them will drop out of the workforce and this career path. Since they are dropping out and had also displaced guys who would have had these jobs in their career-formative years this means fewer people getting in the 10 years of experience necessary to be as good as I am and less competitions as I get older. Companies that want to make the EEOC hire can't find anyone with the right experience to even interview. Girrrl power!

cailcorishev said...

Heck, I wouldn't recommend that anyone, boy or girl, pursue programming as a career in the age of Zuckerberg and Gates. If you enjoy it, by all means learn it in your spare time and find projects to do, some of which might even make you money. But don't expect to settle into a 9-5 corporate programming job that will pay you a good wage, and definitely don't waste the money on a CS degree.

One quibble, Vox: most of the geeks I've known (including me when I was younger), though certainly socially graceless, were easy marks for any cute girl with a smile and a request. I think the main reason they don't get taken advantage of more often is that the cute girls find them *so* unattractive that they can't bring themselves to keep up the pretense of liking them long enough to get many favors. And I suppose an ongoing workplace situation would be harder. It's one thing to sweet-talk a repulsive nerd long enough to get him to install Office on your laptop for free; it's another to keep him on the hook long-term so he'll do your hard work for you.

Doom said...

Thanks for the discouragement. Man, woman, doesn't matter. Discourage away. Still, since I won't be discouraged, or go for a degree either, no real thanks to you, I am curious about programming. What is the dirt cheapest way to get a reasonable foot in the door as to beginning to learn to program? I'm using Win XP, currently, still. I just want to get in, nose around, and decide if I can use anything in there, whether it is worth digging in more. Anyone have any ideas?

Athor Pel said...

"cailcorishev said...
...
It's one thing to sweet-talk a repulsive nerd long enough to get him to install Office on your laptop for free; it's another to keep him on the hook long-term so he'll do your hard work for you.
February 27, 2014 at 5:41 AM "



There's another thing going on as well. If your male programmer was any kind of good student in school he will have had to deal with people wanting help with their school work, maybe even help cheating.

From personal experience I resented that kind of thing. If they can't figure it out on their own and are unwilling to put in the work to understand it then I can't and won't help them. If I had to put in the work to get the grade then so do you. But I also wasn't in any kind of desperate straits in regards to female attentions.

Luckily, so far, in the jobs I've had I haven't run into any women that wanted me to do their work. The worst I've run into were women that didn't want to be taught anything. In fact they resented the training I was offering, the same training I give to every new employee. I just let them twist in the wind when they run into a problem.

"Hmm, can't get it to work? That's too bad. I wonder why that is? Well... good luck." (walks away)

Athor Pel said...

"Doom said...
Thanks for the discouragement. Man, woman, doesn't matter. Discourage away. Still, since I won't be discouraged, or go for a degree either, no real thanks to you, I am curious about programming. What is the dirt cheapest way to get a reasonable foot in the door as to beginning to learn to program? I'm using Win XP, currently, still. I just want to get in, nose around, and decide if I can use anything in there, whether it is worth digging in more. Anyone have any ideas?
February 27, 2014 at 6:07 AM "



First suggestion, use an interpreted language, like Python. Use google to learn what 'interpreted language' means. There are plenty of free development environments out there. There are also plenty of free resources for learning programming. Thing is, once you learn certain programming basics learning another language becomes a trivial thing.

For most folks, they learn programming by looking at existing code. The easiest way to do this is to decide on a project to do, go look for code samples on the web that does something close to what you want to do and then modify that code into something you can use.

If you use Excel you could learn VBA by messing around with macros. You can even get Excel to write some VBA code for you by recording a macro while you do stuff inside Excel. Once done you go look at the generated code by using the VBA IDE (integrated development environment) accessible from inside Excel. If there is something in the code that you don't understand you use the help files of the IDE to find out what it does.

jaericho said...

I disassembled Excel macros and Access modules until I dove into vb.net. I'm not a programmer by trade (I'm a network admin) but I nearly switched to programming after building something useful for the first time. It's a nice change from always fixing things.

Unknown said...

@Cail and any prospective engineers out there: Engineering is still a great field. It is one of the few male-dominated job sectors that is still growing, and it will be one of the last jobs to be replaced by some form of automation.

The outsourcing trend of the 90's is actually reversing. It turns out that inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent have an average IQ of 85, their degree-granting universities are a clown circus, and their conformist culture hurts innovation. In short, they're bad programmers, and they're not worth the 1/10th white person salary that they're paid. The costs of doing business in India further exacerbate the problem: bribery, expensive private infrastructure requirements, the time zone difference, and airfare all contribute to the trend.

The fact of the matter is that there are not enough smart people in the world to meet the demand for engineers, and this will be true for a long time.

It's by far your best option if you are smart enough to hack it.

swiftfoxmark2 said...

Having been a software developer for almost ten years I can say that I haven't been impressed with most of the female coders. Very few do more than what they are told. Yes, they know what they are doing, but they don't know how to innovate. I remember sitting through an argument with an older female developer who couldn't accept that using SQL Server to process data was slower than just setting up a simple multithreaded console application. (For you seasoned developers out there, the product in question apparently worked better that way when it was first developed.)

As for the comments about outsourcing, yes, I'd agree that it is one the decline. It was a business fad, but what most idiot execs in the US don't realize is that third world countries have very little in the way of resources. In fact, it would not surprise me if most of the developers there learned how to code using a pencil and paper. The only major usage for outsourcing I've seen is to simply dump the bugs of your product onto them. Even then, it is not necessarily fixed correctly.

newrebeluniv said...

If the purpose of those programs is to provide executive-level jobs for women who run those programs and never have them help accountable for results, then the programs are certainly successful.

cailcorishev said...

Unknown, everything you said about foreign programmers is true, but the corporations seem determined to make it work by throwing larger and larger numbers of code monkeys at the problem. Employers are very resistant to the idea that it might be worth paying more to get a better class of coder except for the high-level stars, so it remains to be seen how long it will take for them to catch on about outsourcing, if ever.

I don't want to discourage anyone from programming; I've done plenty of it just for fun myself. I just think people need to understand that the old "career" paradigm pushed by the schools -- go to college, learn the skill, then spend 40 years applying it for a middle class salary -- doesn't apply to programming (or most jobs) anymore. Things move too fast, and the languages you learn in college will probably be superseded by the time you graduate -- by languages written by guys who were doing that while you were in class.

My suggestion for how to get started: if you want to keep your Windows system, install Virtualbox and then a Linux/BSD guest OS inside that. Windows was designed for users; Unix for programmers. That'll set you up with a variety of languages you can tinker with, all for free, and learning the OS and how to use the command line will help train your mind in that direction too. If you decide you want to program for Windows after all, you can still go back to that once you've developed some basic skills.

Markku said...

Things move too fast, and the languages you learn in college will probably be superseded by the time you graduate -- by languages written by guys who were doing that while you were in class.

Every new language I've had to learn, I've learned in three days to get at the point where I'm already coding working stuff for production. Of course you'll learn new things about the language for a long time after that, but it happens pretty automatically at that point.

This is not a real issue.

cailcorishev said...

Back more directly to the topic: Steve Sailer has pointed out that there were actually quite a lot of female programmers back in the COBOL days, when it was more about writing similar code over and over to do similar tasks. I suspect that one reason there are so few now is that need to keep up with changing languages and tools. How many women want to keep studying something and learning more about it, year after year, just to keep up with the field? Even for those who don't find it too difficult, it doesn't seem like something many would enjoy.

Athor Pel said...

"cailcorishev said...
...
My suggestion for how to get started: if you want to keep your Windows system, install Virtualbox and then a Linux/BSD guest OS inside that. Windows was designed for users; Unix for programmers. That'll set you up with a variety of languages you can tinker with, all for free, and learning the OS and how to use the command line will help train your mind in that direction too. If you decide you want to program for Windows after all, you can still go back to that once you've developed some basic skills.
February 27, 2014 at 7:46 AM "



Now why did you have to go and bring religion into this? (snicker)

cail,
You're talking to someone that is just getting into coding. Setting up something like a dual boot system is not learning how to code. Learning how to use a command line is not learning how to code, at least not in the strictest sense.

You're suggesting that he do the equivalent of moving across town in order to get access to a giant workshop and the myriad of never before seen tools inside. What he is asking for is how to start learning a skill while using the accessible tools immediately or easily available to him.

I had classes in college where I had to learn the class subject matter while also learning a new operating system and specialized programming language. I did this in several classes, yes, that is a different operating system and maybe a language in every class. The situation made things harder than they needed to be. I don't recommend it to anyone.
_____________________________

Now, for those that might not have noticed. This drift off topic is a perfect example of the difference between how men and women think.

In any comment thread concerning programming, here or at VP, there is usually a guy asking questions about learning how to code. Now think hard, were there any women asking how to code?

I'll wait while you think.


As for me, I don't remember any.

josephofjackson said...

More likely than not, they will expand the degree to include things that women can do easily as well, so that practically anyone can get the degree. When having to choose between asking women to do something and simply changing the system to accommodate them, it's usually faster and cheaper to simply change the system.

cailcorishev said...

Markku, that's true, it doesn't take that long if you have the aptitude for it, especially once you have a few languages under your belt. I still think I was better off spending ages 18-22 tinkering with shell, Perl, C, BASIC, and others, rather than staying in college and plugging away at Fortran and Pascal on an old mainframe, which is where they were at the time. Doing that wouldn't have been a total waste, because I still would have learned some things about algorithms to apply in any language, but I'm sure I was better off jumping into what was current in the real world and learning by doing, while not racking up college debt.

Which leads back to the point: how many women have both the ability and the interest to learn a new programming language one week because it just became useful to know?

Athor, those are my suggestions because that's what I know. Also, I spend time on programming forums, and it seems like people trying to set up programming languages and environments on Windows (at least for web development) spend a lot of time just trying to get it working correctly. But someone with more Windows experience might give a more optimistic and helpful answer on that. I don't think anyone with the ability and aptitude for programming would have trouble setting up a virtual OS (not a dual-boot), though -- that might even be a good filter for keeping out the unable. If we've learned anything from the first few versions of PHP, it's that it's not necessarily good to make it *too* easy to write programs and unleash them upon the world.

Markku said...

Which leads back to the point: how many women have both the ability and the interest to learn a new programming language one week because it just became useful to know?

Well, for me, it's not so much a case of becoming useful to know, as me having said "sure I can do that!" to a client without knowing the first thing about the language.

When you have to learn, you will.

IrishFarmer said...

The main reasons I don't want them to push women in programing (as a programmer).

Women generally don't want to do it, and people pushing to get more women into the field lie to them about what the career field actually is and make it seem like it's a magical wonderland of greatness when it mostly isn't. It's writing cryptic code for eight hours straight even though half of the time you'll have a headache and brain-drain from all of the abstract problem solving, it's dealing with people who have poor social skills, people who are intellectually snobby, people who are protective of the elitism of the field and refuse to help others around them because they expect you to just know what you're doing because you should have sacrificed any chance at socializing in order to be the very best like they are because any sign that you don't know what you're doing will be seen as a threat as if you're using them to do your job because when they went to school people were always trying to cheat off of them. Don't get me wrong, I love the field, but it has some major downsides in my limited experience and no one is going to explain this women and most women wouldn't want to deal with it anyway.

Wages will go down, and this is one of those fields that's still male-dominated which means it still potentially pays wages that allows someone to support an entire family....for now....

You can't be a normal male when women are around, according to some people I personally know. When a woman comes to the office (it's always only one because most women don't want to be in the IT field) you get the inevitable closed-door speech about how you're going to have to watch your jokes and what you say because otherwise lawsuits and hurt feelings. I've been given this speech behind closed doors, and it's borderline humiliating in how patronizing it is. Also, it's embarrassing to see an office full of men who are basically afraid of a woman for some reason.

Patrick Kelly said...

My first full time programming gig was supposed to be 80% sound design, 20% coding. Turned into 100% coding in a gnu PS1 development environment. Shipped code that passed Sony QA the first time, but a painful experience. I swore I would never take another programming job...

....but here I am, in my code monkey cage for the last 6 years....at least it pays better than flipping burgers....digging ditches........I do enjoy it....most of the time...

josephofjackson said...

"You can't be a normal male when women are around, according to some people I personally know. When a woman comes to the office (it's always only one because most women don't want to be in the IT field) you get the inevitable closed-door speech about how you're going to have to watch your jokes and what you say because otherwise lawsuits and hurt feelings. I've been given this speech behind closed doors, and it's borderline humiliating in how patronizing it is. Also, it's embarrassing to see an office full of men who are basically afraid of a woman for some reason."

We had this same thing happen in my office. We called her the SheBA. One girl and the entire vibe in the office changes. Where there was once cooperation and teamwork, suddenly there is competition and infighting. The woman reveled in watching the destruction of the great work environment we had created.

Patrick Kelly said...

"Well, for me, it's not so much a case of becoming useful to know, as me having said "sure I can do that!" to a client without knowing the first thing about the language.

When you have to learn, you will."

Yep, when asked what languages I use, I say whatever is in the file I have open at the time.........it's just one big blur to me...........an old timer asked me if I had to find my old "manuals" for a language I had not seen for a while... "what manuals, that's what Google is for...."...heh....I do have hard copy references on my desk......they don't get use much any more...

cailcorishev said...

Joseph, I'm sure they'll try, but I think they'll find it difficult. Higher-level languages have made programming harder, in a way, by abstracting away a lot of the rote stuff and leaving you with the hard parts. It used to take lines and lines of code just to put a dot on the screen or move something around, and you might write code as fast as you could type for a while, because there were a lot of lines per concept. Now it takes far fewer lines, but each one is far more powerful, requiring more logical thought.

They could change the degree to require other things, but that won't make them programmers, and I don't think the languages are going to go back to being less abstract. If they want to redefine CS to the point where they can push women through it and then send them off to non-related jobs like HR, I guess they could do that, but that won't get more women into programming. I'm not sure what their real goal is, other than complaining.

cailcorishev said...

Well, for me, it's not so much a case of becoming useful to know, as me having said "sure I can do that!" to a client without knowing the first thing about the language.

Heh. Did that once with Java when it was at about version 1.0.alpha, and I wound up having to make my app work on 16-bit browsers, no less. Brutal.

jaybeespancakes said...

We had someone who looked like she'd be good at being a front end developer run away and join Girl Code It as a mentor because she found that having to meet deadlines didn't give the work-life balance she wanted. These girls-in-tech groups are awash with expropriated tax money and foundation money, because they get a good feeling about helping the group without helping any individual member of it. Apparently the glamour of saying "I'm a coder" didn't meet with the idea of having to ship code. (And, it was an intro project, and, we gave her a month extension, and we even offered to increase the contract pay amount because, well, we had an outside deadline and I of course got to spend Christmas to New Year's doing it when she bailed.)

I think too many of these girls who get drafted in under the "MOAR GIRLS!" banner never see real work, then bail when they encounter it. Who will be at a technical conference debating the fine points of something technical, or the fine points of a pun, and who will be taking selfies in a mirror with a sign like "I am doing programming!"?

I remember women coders from the past - a high school diploma, a wiry frame, always smokers, appreciative of a bawdy joke, who would just quietly go about doing the job and not expect anything from anyone.

cailcorishev said...

Apparently the glamour of saying "I'm a coder"

Where'd they ever get the idea that it's at all glamorous in the first place? What happened to the stereotype of the unwashed geek pounding down Jolt to stay awake for 48-hour basement coding sessions? Even guys who get filthy rich like Gates don't qualify as glamorous. I'll bet there are more romance novels where the woman falls for a guy who mucks out stables than ones where she's swept off her feet by a coder.

It must have taken quite a feat of salesmanship to sell girls the idea that becoming coders would impress anyone.

josephofjackson said...

@cail

I don't think they will actually become programmers. In my current office, they use the more generic term of developer so that all the women who can't program feel on equal level with the men who can. It's not about them having equal skill, just equal "credentials".

Bob said...

lol it's fantastic here in England they have this ambition to have all kids be fantastic coders etc. It's more of a way of mind than a skill you can just pick up. Oh and of course they feature pics of young girls staring at a computer in every bit of media about it.

Best bit is, it's being headed up by a PR woman, who has no idea how to code whatsoever

cailcorishev said...

Joseph, good point, I'd forgotten about "developer"; that's a much more glamorous position.

Bob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob said...

Here we go, an article on it with some vids too, the lass is absolutely clueless. Thinks teachers who are used to teaching MS Office and unrelated stuff can be trained to teach programming in a single day: http://politicalscrapbook.net/2014/02/tory-boss-of-government-coding-education-initiative-cant-code-lottie-dexter/

Seriously watch the vid clips, they're hilarious.

Also lol someone tweeted:
"As Dir of Code thinks teachers can learn to code in a day, why is she only committing to learn it herself 'over the next year'?"

Bob said...

Typical media shot: http://news.bbcimg.co.uk/media/images/72923000/jpg/_72923560_624_year-code2.jpg

Sorry for the spam about this, but it's exactly what this sort of article is talking about. English government are trying to introduce it into the national curriculum, taught by general teachers who will be "trained up" rather than I.T experts.

The only result is that girls will come out of school being told that they're fantastic and to never give up etc, and any boys who might have had an interest will be put off completely by pure incompetence, and not receiving any help at all due to all the attention being focused on the girls to try and prove a point. Most women at my business go into being analysts rather than devs, and then sit crying to the boss whenever things get too stressful or they actually get assigned some responsibility.

papabear said...

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/innovations/wp/2014/02/26/im-an-engineer-not-a-cheerleader-lets-abandon-silly-rules-about-gender-roles/

Unknown said...

I've seen dedicated and competent women programmers in my years in the field, but not many, and these few are very different animals than, say, the HR snakes. The article mirrors my experience in the field: the ppl in IT are often socially underdeveloped introverts (I'm an INTP) who don't understand female wiles. When they have a GF at all, she's a shy, giggly, sweet, chubby girl almost as socially untalented and scurfy as they are. I can code but I've never been a really good coder, and that possibly has to do with me having also never had women like those I've with seen some of the good coders and admins

As for the "quality" of india-made software, I'm sure most people know the Adobe creative suite - well, if that hadn't been designed by whites it would fall apart: I've worked with it and it's just rickety. And another one: I get some Postgresql subscriptions on Google+ and the breathtakingly gormless questions posed by Indians there are nothing short of astonishing ("How do I install Postgres" is one of the more intelligent ones).

Eric said...

I know a few women programmers who are quite good at what they do. But I've been at this for decades, and the number of competent women I've run across can't be more than five or six as compared to hundreds of men. And two of that handful went into management.

Oh, and the reason manipulating the guys into doing your work isn't effective is men in the 20-30 age bracket are already working 10-12 hour days, for the most part. They simply don't have time to carry the women like they did in college.

Eric said...

WHAT ABOUT THE WOMEN WHO ARE HERE NOW?

As always it boils down to MEEEEEEEE.

CarpeOro said...


"Where'd they ever get the idea that it's at all glamorous in the first place? What happened to the stereotype of the unwashed geek pounding down Jolt to stay awake for 48-hour basement coding sessions?"

They saw Angelina Jolie in "Hackers". Honest.

Russell Snow said...

"I just want to get in, nose around, and decide if I can use anything in there, whether it is worth digging in more. Anyone have any ideas? "

I have been a programmer for 25 years. Dump Windows, go straight Linux, learn C++ embedded and get in the defense industry. Cannot be outsourced and US citizens only.

Akulkis said...

"Learn Unix (now Linux), and you learn computing. Learn Windows, and you learn that VERSION of Windows."

redlegben said...

@CarpeOro, exactly.

N. said...

You drew all of these conclusions on the basis of two women at your first job out of college? One of whom was competent?

8to12 said...

1) I have known a number of good female coders.

2) I have noticed a trend among the women I've know in IT (including the good coders) is to not stay in the "hard-core" coding positions, but to quickly move into the more (for lack of a better phrase) "touchy-feely" IT positions: management, business analyst, product owner, scrum master, etc...

Heads down coding is in may ways like trying to complete a math problem and assemble an erector set simultaneously, and (other than the recent trend of pair programming) it's a solitary activity. While the idea of learning to code may sound good to many women in theory, the reality (sitting in a cubicle, banging away on a keyboard for hours without any human interaction) is not appealing to many people (male or female).

It takes a specific social-mindset/personality-type to be a coder and to BE HAPPY doing it. That mindset is isn't that common among men, and it's outright rare among women. That's why you don't see many women coders. It isn't that women can't do it; there just aren't many women who WANT to do it--at least not over the long haul.

Benjamin Ylvisaker said...

Wow. The amount of misogyny flowing here is... disheartening... to say the least. For anyone who's tempted to flatly say "women can't code" with a straight face, a couple examples:

Post-PhD I worked for three years at a company that makes software reliability and security analysis tools. This is very intense math and logic heavy code written in a complex mix of C/C++, Scheme and Python. One of the best hackers on this code base is a woman. I'd say she's probably #2 out of about 10 coders, several of whom have PhDs in CS and decades of industry experience.

I am now teaching and know several students who went to a local hackathon recently. The three top teams at this particular event were majority-woman and one of them was all women.

For anyone who's tempted to say "Okay, a few women can code, but they're a tiny minority". I encourage you to do a little research about why more women don't choose careers in computing. Here's a great starting point:

http://www.pgbovine.net/tech-privilege.htm

A little more anecdotal evidence: I'm teaching an intro CS class right now and the top three students are all women.

Benjamin Ylvisaker

rycamor said...

Benjamin... it ain't misogyny, it's just recognition of prevailing likelihood. Anecdotal evidence is meaningless here. Yes, there are some very good female coders. Statistically speaking they are complete outliers. Don't even try to say it's because women are "discouraged" to do these things. Most men are discouraged to do all kinds of things, their whole lives. The successful ones go ahead and do it anyway. If "social discouragement" can keep women from doing something, then that automatically makes them less capable than men who ignore social pressures and do what they want. How can anyone not see this? Anyway, the world has been bending over backwards to make science and technology available to women for at least a couple decades, and the result has been anything but a resounding success.

And we're not impressed by academic credentials here. Academics do not have real skin in the game when it comes to making things happen. Companies who make their money via raw intellectual firepower do not give a damn where that firepower comes from. They don't care about credentials, ethnicity, sexual preference, and certainly not gender. They would hire a semi-sentient shellfish if it could code well enough. Becoming a coder is anyone's game, if that person has the ability and the dedication. It's as simple as that.

Benjamin Ylvisaker said...

The idea that companies aren't biased in hiring and promotion decisions is nonsense:
http://www.chicagobooth.edu/capideas/spring03/racialbias.html
http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/09/14/1211286109
http://www.amren.com/news/2013/04/swedish-study-confirms-foreign-name-cv-bias/

And I know anecdotes are just anecdotes, but this is a well written story anyway:
http://whatwouldkingleonidasdo.tumblr.com/post/54989171152/how-i-discovered-gender-discrimination

Phil Guo (whose essay I linked to in my previous comment) addresses the question of "social discouragement" more eloquently than I can, so I'll just paraphrase him briefly: There are a handful of all-stars in any field, but most professional coders are not super-hard-core-Navy-Seals. For the majority of good-but-not-great folk, social pressures _are_ important. And statistically speaking, men get way more approval for pursuing a career in computing than women.

Benjamin Ylvisaker

rycamor said...

Benjamin, didn't you get what Vox was saying? This is a field from which people should be *discouraged*. Just as Flannery O'Connor said budding authors should be discouraged: “Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. There's many a best-seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.” The ones who will do it anyway are the only ones worth hiring.

And try to wrap your head around the whole of history. If women were "every bit as capable as men", then how did men *get* the power to start companies and deny these poor women their rightful place? The physical advantage of male strength only matters in lowbrow work and soldiery. The mere presumption that women need to be encouraged more, and need more doors open for them--and in fact *preferential treatment* even to get hired--as most of us involved in tech companies have seen repeatedly... all this does is agree with the assumption that women can't make it on their own... that men in fact rule the tech world. I mean... no one's stopping women from just starting their own companies. The grants and business loans will gush forth. Most men in technology started with nothing except maybe a little seed money from friends or family, and a LOT of hard work.

As it stands right now in the USA--and in most western nations, if you are a member of ANY minority, especially women and blacks, and you show even the slightest talent in technical fields, universities and businesses will fall over themselves to give you scholarships and apprenticeships and inside tracks to employment. These advantages are denied to all but the most elite of white males who show talent in these areas. Ergo, when these proteges enter the actual employment field, you will see the top-of-the-line white males competing against women and minorities who have not had to work nearly as hard to reach that position. What do you think will be the eventual outcome? Reality sets in quite fast in these situations.

The only answer that works is to keep hands off, and let anyone who wants to prove themselves... prove themselves. All have that right.

John Sweet said...

Never have I seen such a bunch of ignorant, chauvinist crap.

I've been programming for almost forty years now, professionally for thirty. Three of my college professors in CS were women, two of those (Edwina Rissland and Wendy Lehnert) were at the top of their respective fields. In my career, I've worked with and for women, and I've had women working for me. Exactly ZERO of those women were interested in getting other people to do their work for them.

My experience of nerd culture is that at its most effective, it's the exact opposite of competitive. Everyone is eager to share what they know, because when we all know more, we all win. Everyone works hard, everyone knows who's slacking, everyone knows who to go to for which arcane knowledge. No statement goes unchallenged, so nobody makes a statement they can't back up with facts.

Every single time I've come across a blustery, pompous ass who doesn't know what he's talking about, it's been a man. Every time I've heard someone complain about minorities and women getting special treatment, it's been a white man, and a stupid one at that.

Most of my co-workers have been other white men, but I've seen plenty of Indian, Asian, Black and Hispanic people in the profession, and none of them have been cut any slack for it. The one thing we've all shared is the love of a good puzzle, and an honest desire to keep learning more. People who don't get it, don't last long. People who do get it come in every color and gender.

Dick-waving, hyper-competitive, prima donna bro-coders are the darlings of the media, and of certain very small startups. But they are a giant pain in the ass to work with: all they really want is money and glory. No team that gets real stuff done, month after month, wants them around.

Boys: grow the fuck up.

Signed,
Your Grampa.

Chuck Reeves said...

"Programming is like writing. If you CAN be discouraged, you SHOULD be discouraged."

you should not be a programmer

Sophia said...

"coding like banshees," eh?

Vox said...

I've been programming for almost forty years now, professionally for thirty. Three of my college professors in CS were women, two of those (Edwina Rissland and Wendy Lehnert) were at the top of their respective fields.

Those who can't do, teach.

Vox said...

A little more anecdotal evidence: I'm teaching an intro CS class right now and the top three students are all women.

And the chances are all three will quit within five years of their first programming job. They'll move into management or some other non-programming quasi-technical role.

Post-PhD I worked for three years at a company that makes software reliability and security analysis tool

Three whole years! I've been doing software development of one sort or another for 25. You're a classic clueless academic. Try actually developing something for once yourself and hire an all-female team of programmers to do it.

Then come back and tell us how good they are....

swiftfoxmark2 said...

Your Grampa.

Both of my grandfathers are dead you ass. Apologize for your insensitive remarks now!

Marie Claire said...

Thanks John Sweet and Benjamin for standing up for girl programmers. These other assholes have no idea how difficult it is for a woman to build a career in a traditionally male dominated position. Why are there so few girl programmers? Not because we're stupid or "just cannot code". But because we've been surrounded by this type of arrogance since childhood. Most girls just choose not to be associated with this. Some girls, like me, love programming so much that we go ahead and study CS. Just to start working again in a workplace filled with these chauvinists.

After 15 years of programming in a corporate environment, I have now given up. I've resigned and will start freelancing from home. Not because I want to be with my kids, or don't want the stress of corporate life. But because as a girl one needs to be extra special and extra thick skinned to survive.

Vox said...

After 15 years of programming in a corporate environment, I have now given up.

I'm so shocked. A woman with a CS degree giving up on programming. That's certainly not exactly what was being described. Do feel free to stop in one year from now and tell us how much freelancing you've actually done.

Or, you know, you could focus on your rather more important responsibility of being a mother to your children.

jaybeespancakes said...

It's amazing how they've chosen to edit my comment to remove the first and third paragraphs to give it a meaning it did not have. I didn't even recognize the words as mine outside the context. Now, to make it absolutely clear:

First, the rhetorical question tweeted was not answered “Men”, “Men”, “Women” by me. The whole topic is women programmers. The question for an individual is: who do you want to be?

In the first paragraph (untweeted), I recounted how I'd lost a woman who was really good on paper because she wanted to teach instead of code. This happened a second time, and it ended in tears for her as she rethought her whole college life. I really felt bad for them, and, I really wanted them to succeed. They would have been employees #1 and #2 that I hired. The common thread I found was that they had gone through one of these girls-in-programming workshops - which I suspect paints a far rosier picture of things, because, let's face it, work is always hard. I looked it up and, after getting some flak from one of the coordinators for asking her questions about their outcomes, all I saw was social media and pictures but no content. I question because I've seen programs before where I've said to the people in charge - you are not thinking of the best interest of these individual attendees - and they say (off the record) they just have to check the box.

In paragraph #3 (untweeted), I give you a combined picture of two classic women programmers I’ve known who quietly went about doing their work - one was actually the one who taught me to how to do the job my first three years lo 20 years ago; the other I've successfully worked with on a previous project and I'm trying to hire in now. These were two women who would be in the first category in my question.

I must have struck a nerve to be the pull, but it's the usual chicanery to pretend that my paragraph says something it doesn't: I wanted those two women to succeed; it would have helped me greatly in getting my work done to have had them become solid members of the team; I wanted to know why their expectations were so wrong when they didn’t - because it wasn’t just that they wanted more money (we threw money at them); it was total cognitive dissonance. I'd like everyone to maximize their happiness, but, to do that, you have to give somebody the real ugly of the choice as well as the rosy side.

Ten years ago when I taught kids programming, I made sure they had real projects with real deadlines and real deliverables for real customers; it's true that not all liked that and they went on to happily do something else, and I'm happy for those that stayed in the profession and happy for those that found their bliss elsewhere. I want programmers who want to do the job and can do the job under pressure - regardless of what category they check - and you do that by being the one who can be the first of the three in my question.

And that’s it from me on this.

Will said...

Wow, this is one of the biggest male privilege circle jerk's I've ever seen on the internet and thats saying something.

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Anton Chigurh said...

Hahahahahahahaha the second I see someone pushing the word "privelege" it's a giant flag saying "Look at me for my typical retarded liberal whiny rationalization and hurt feelings". Love it.

Jordan Kovacs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jordan Kovacs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jordan Kovacs said...

Your ignorant post provided a great laugh over at http://getoffmyinternets.net/alpha-game-says-coding-is-too-hard-for-girls/

Jordan Kovacs said...

This is quite offensive. What does me being a girl have to do with my ability to program? Who cares what gender they are? Just make sure the work gets done. No need to think in a stereotypical manner and put people down. Shall I say that all engineers are overweight and killing themselves slowly because of their poor health habits???? NO- BECAUSE BEING STEREOTYPICAL IS WRONG!

I have a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science and am currently getting my Master's Degree in Cyber Security. I work full time and go to grad school full time. I work for a government contractor. I am a programmer. It is what I do. It is what I love. I do so well at it that I teach others how to program, both guys and girls.

I work on a team with guys and girls...the girls pull their own weight just as much as the boys, are just as innovative, and possess the knowledge and endurance to stay here long term.

Who cares about gender? Just do the damn job!

But I love you boys that say girls cannot code and will not last in such a job....it is people like you that give me added adrenaline to succeed in this field. Maybe you should worry about yourself instead?

Why are people saying that this field pays nothing? THAT BLOWS MY MIND! People that can code can easily get jobs that start at $50k if they have a bachelor's degree in a related field. GOOGLE IT. Get with the times, you ignorant people.

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daisy said...

I've been coding since I was ten years old and now I'm a teenager. I enjoy coding, a lot. You can even say I "code like a banshee", whatever the heck that's supposed to say. Call me a rare gem if you want. I found this on my own, because my mom was an idiot and gave me computer access when I was eight. To say women cannot be self driven, or that they don't have to ability to think mathematically or logically is completely bullshit. You think that all women who get CS degrees drop out? Feel that way. I don't know the numbers, maybe you're right. But this girl? This girl doesn't like hearing you count her out. This girl has heard too many people count her out. Don't tell me I can't. Don't tell anyone they can't. Even if what you say makes them stop, don't assume they didn't want it enough. Not everyone is as strong willed as an ox (excluding me, because I once stayed outside my brother's room for a night until he agreed to lend me his Back to the Future -the hell was wrong with him-). Just one push towards something they may like, might set them in a direction for success. Imagine what they could have accomplished if they were told they could do it? Maybe they would have accomplished even more than the pretentious fop who owns this blog... *blows raspberry like a frustrated child because that's who she is*

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