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The Hidden Engineering Gender Gap

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the tech-needs-women dept.

Education 807

ifindkarma writes "Joyce Park, CTO of invitation site Renkoo.com, has written a two-part essay exploring why there is no pipeline of self-taught female engineers entering the tech industry via Open Source or other individual efforts. In The Hidden Engineering Gap, she asks why there are so many self-taught male software engineers in startups, but no similar pool of women. In A Modest Proposal, she discusses a potential short-term fix to the problem: a one-year, co-op, certificate-granting program for women set up and sponsored by Silicon Valley companies."

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facial hair (3, Funny)

User 956 (568564) | more than 7 years ago | (#17638850)

Joyce Park, CTO of invitation site Renkoo.com, has written a two-part essay exploring why there is no pipeline of self-taught female engineers entering the tech industry via Open Source or other individual efforts.

There are, but they don't look much different from the men, if you know what i mean.

Re:facial hair (5, Insightful)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 7 years ago | (#17638964)

There are, but they don't look much different from the men, if you know what i mean.

First Post confirms that a big part of the problem is that women are judged by their appearance rather than engineering skills.

of sex and gender (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17639234)

First Post confirms that a big part of the problem is that women are judged by their appearance rather than engineering skills.

Obviously, their strategy is that if they blend in, they'll be judged the same as men.

Re:facial hair (4, Funny)

badboy_tw2002 (524611) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639290)

Please, its a compliment: Who would you rather trust your system with? The clean-shaven guy from ITT Tech who knows how to install Windows and that's pretty much it? Or the bearded overweight dude from his mom's basement from whom Linus stole the original source code (or so he claims?) Bearded dude for the win!

And here I thought it was ... (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639448)

Joyce Park, CTO of invitation site Renkoo.com, has written a two-part essay exploring why there is no pipeline of self-taught female engineers entering the tech industry via Open Source or other individual efforts.
There are, but they don't look much different from the men, if you know what i mean.

And here I was thinking it was simply because there aren't as many women nerdy enough to get excited by the fact there are genders to connectors, which means .. gulp .. female connectors!(!!!)

oh gosh, oh golly, gee whillikers!

let's condescend to women (5, Insightful)

yagu (721525) | more than 7 years ago | (#17638856)

I think complaining there aren't emough women in tech is disingenuous and a little condescending towards women. There has been a wide open door for women for years, self-taught, or otherwise. To claim otherwise ignores so many other attempts and programs.

The reason there aren't more women in tech, self starters or otherwise is because they don't want to be and aren't interested! No program, encouragement, coersion or other methods will change that.

Consider a telcom I worked for... In the mid-80s a memo was circulated admonishing IT for the "underutilized" women. An IT policy was thus implemented picking women from myriad other jobs (call centers, anywhere!). These women were given free training, often at universities and were given 6 weeks and more to be trained. Most of these women were looking at more than a doubling in salary, all they had to do was "participate"...

Even with that policy, we could not even approach fifty percent of women in the IT work force.

(As an aside, an unexpected (to management) side effect of this monumental effort was a flood of women (those that signed up), only a small fraction of whom had any interest at all in tech, and only a fraction of those hitting stride in any reasonable time join It without even close to the skills necessary to contribute. We burned a lot of money to skew a population and saw productivity tank.)

It is no reflection of women's abilities. I know it's really cliche, but some of the very best IT people I worked with were women. But, as in the male population, many women were incompetent as were men. The difference isn't in ability, it's in the proportion choosing a field... For some reason men choose computers, women don't.

Ultimately, if you build it (the program), they will come, but not in droves. Like it or not, there seems to be a difference in wiring between the sexes. And, as in any large population, there will always be exceptions. IT welcomes (at least in my experience) women as much as men.

In the meantime, these old harangues only condescend to women who have chose not to enter IT as a career choice. They do have the options today... they're still not choosing it. Nudging them with these initiatives somehow implies their non-IT choices weren't valid, or good.

This hand-wringing is as silly as wondering why more police officers don't enter the tech fields (and some do as a recent /. article pointed out -- a state trooper wrote a traffic ticket application). They didn't/don't because they like being police officers better.

Re:let's condescend to women (5, Insightful)

KermodeBear (738243) | more than 7 years ago | (#17638950)

To be more blatant, males and females are different; physically, emotionally, intellectually, men and women are not the same. It is silly that people are constantly trying to treat them as if they are. Certain types of work are going to be more appealing to the different genders. Just because the general population is close to half male, half female doesn't mean that every discipline and job needs to be the same way.

There is no crisis, there is no emergency, there is no problem. I wish people would stop trying to force a non-issue onto the rest of us.

Don't paint engineering pink! (5, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639398)

Quite. As a generalisation, boys and girls are wired differently and when we're talking % of populations then it is the generalisations that matter. Modifying engineering to appeal to a bigger % of girls will completely change what engineering is. Some of the best engineers I have met are female.

How is it that nobody bitches when there are so few female trash collectors?

Re:let's condescend to women (2, Insightful)

bill_kress (99356) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639476)

You are right that men and women are very different. I totally agree that women are not choosing certain careers due simply to tastes... However, in response to this:

It is silly that people are constantly trying to treat them as if they are. Certain types of work are going to be more appealing to the different genders.

No matter how different they might be, you MUST treat them as equal. Just because women generally don't choose tech careers, doesn't mean we should in any way discourage individuals from doing so if it appeals to them. Recognizing difference in another race or sex is not prejudice-using that preconceived difference to change how you treat any individual absolutely is.

Going out of your way to promote workplace diversity isn't bad either. I would respect any company that tries to lure a few more women into technical careers, as well as other races you may not see as often in our lines of work. Perhaps even if they aren't the absolute perfect person for the position. We make value judgments about each person we interview--does it hurt to give a little plus to someone who's nationality, race or gender is underrepresented in your group?

Truthfully, I'm just tired of working with a bunch of nerdy white guys like myself.

Re:let's condescend to women (2, Interesting)

sp3d2orbit (81173) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639034)

The reason there aren't more women in tech, self starters or otherwise is because they don't want to be and aren't interested! No program, encouragement, coersion or other methods will change that.

There are, of course, exceptions to every rule. One can't say that all women are not interested in tech. But, in general, you're right.

However, I would ask, why incite them to join? So what? There are many more women than men in law school and medical school. For years, it was the other way around. Incentive programs and scholarships helped tilt the balance. No reason to fire up programs now to incite men back into the fields.

Its not a zero sum game, there are plenty of high paying jobs (medicine and law) that women are clearly interested in. No reason to pull them away just to make the IT world seem "gender equal".

Re:let's condescend to women (4, Insightful)

rdean400 (322321) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639046)

One of the problems with society today is that there is a cultural imperative to look equal, even if that equality is totally superficial. Many so-called "diversity" initiatives judge an organization, at least in part, on how well it represents a cross-section of the population. It doesn't matter if every single one of them were raised on the same city block in Podunk, Arkansas, as long as there are a variety of skin tones and a roughly equal number of each species propagation device.

I see this study as another of these wrong-headed assertions that because there aren't equal numbers, something must be wrong.

Re:let's condescend to women (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17639190)

Some people, ideas, policies, religions, etc. are simply different from one another and I think it's dishonest to pretend otherwise.

Re:let's condescend to women (2, Interesting)

rsclient (112577) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639108)

Well, on the one hand we can pretend that there isn't a problem. Hey, maybe we'll get lucky, and it isn't a problem. Or, maybe our profession is, in fact, lousy for women-in-general, and there might even be something we can do about it.

Now let's look at probabilities and some history. Lots of other professional bodies that discouraged women have discovered that letting women do traditionally male work has worked out just fine. I can't think of any where allowing women was later decided to be a mistake. Most of our best universities started off explicitly not allowing women; now all of the major universities are integrated. The older generation had a big problem with letting women in; the current set of students thinks it's normal. In the sciences in general, women are a steadily advancing percent of the workers -- except for computer science, where the percentage is declining.

Which is it? Are we (as a profession) are being jerks? Or is it that women "just can't do it". Personally, I know which side I'm on: somehow, we're being jerks. And I wish the rest of you would stop it!

Re:let's condescend to women (1)

NDPTAL85 (260093) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639268)

Hey idiot,

Women don't need to be "let" into the IT field. They already are. They just don't WANT to be in IT. How the hell are we supposed to raise the number of women in IT if they themselves couldn't be bothered?

Re:let's condescend to women (1)

OzRoy (602691) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639140)

But why aren't they interested??

Look at the industry, it's extremely broad. Two people can say 'I work in the IT industry', but their job descriptions would be completely different, and they may not even have any idea how to do the other person's job. Why does an industry so varied drive them away?

You can't say "It's because women aren't interested in Maths type jobs", because that is crap. There are plenty of other Maths/Logic/"Male Oriented" jobs that have plenty of females. I can't think of any other profession where the ratios are so unbalanced.

Re:let's condescend to women (2, Informative)

maddskillz (207500) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639530)

I can't think of any other profession where the ratios are so unbalanced.

Nursing

Re:let's condescend to women (1)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639152)

Your statements are obvious. Why did you stop there? When you determined that the girls weren't interested, does it occur to you that there's a further question, such as Why are the girls not interested?

Keep asking why, and eventually you'll get to something you don't know. That's where the interesting stuff lies.

-So, Why are girls not interested in computers? Is that a bad thing?
-Are girls in general worse off because they don't have the interest?
-Are we guys worse off because they don't have an interest?
-Can we change something to cause more female interest in computers? Should we?
-Should we discourage girls from getting into computers? How do we know they won't mess it all up? (I ask this because it's uncomfortable. Uncomfortable questions are sometimes very interesting. Don't let social convention prevent you from asking uncomfortable questions. Only the idiots will assume that a question is a statement, don't worry about them.)

Seems to me like you stopped asking questions too soon, and are too ready to draw a conclusion.

Re:let's condescend to women (1)

mochan_s (536939) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639282)

Gah, you're missing the point. Women can be as good (or even better) at these things. Just look at college classes. Girls almost always top every class and a large percentage of all girls walk away with 4.0 GPA.

Why they don't continue on is because they don't have to. It's up to the men to do jobs where you sit on your ass all day without talking to anyone else and come up with stuff no-one will care to even understand how you did it.

I wish there were some girls in these cesspool IT departments I've seen. They can fucking manage an entire office and all bullshit paperwork and inane regulations by working as secretaries but don't even want to move to IT where it's the same bullshit in a different plane.

Anyway, to all the girls, choose IT. Every change you make will be felt and appreciated by the entire department and you will be helping people all day.

Re:let's condescend to women (2, Interesting)

aafiske (243836) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639434)

I have multiple female computer science friends. They all have repeated experiences where they were seen as lesser engineers, or needed a slower explanation simply because they were female. Someone who is new to the job would be normal to the guy he worked with, and condescending to the girl.

It's not just because they don't want to. It's because there is often an unpleasant atmosphere. How would you feel if all your fellow engineers suddenly got all quiet and reserved when you joined them at the bar after work? No one wants to be the buzzkill.

Re:let's condescend to women (0, Troll)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639454)

It is not about being 'wired' differently. The reason there are more men in IT, especially self taught ones, is because men simply don't have the choices that women do when it comes to making a living. Most women know that they can choose to have sex for a living, and most women at some time or another have done so. It is often called 'getting married', or 'dating', but there are far more couples where the men pay the bills, and women stay home, or earn spending money, than the other way around. This takes a huge number of women out of the pool of people who are working in technical fields. When the pool of people from a particular demographic are pulled into other ways of making a living, you are not going to get as many in the field. If the option for men to marry a good provider started becoming common (it is getting better all the time), you would likely see an evening out in technical fields.

As for self taught... The stereo type of the nerd in his mom's basement sitting at a computer, didn't come from looking at guys that just didn't WANT to go out and get laid. They were at home teaching themselves because they didn't have a way with the ladies.

I can't believe it (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17638860)

I cannot believe it. This is truly shocking news.

Cultural or Biological? (1)

smilingman (942304) | more than 7 years ago | (#17638886)

This is purely subjective and anecdotal (this being Slashdot), but haven't males always tended to be the ones who liked to play with complicated, shiny toys? Even in an era with scores of brilliant female scientists in many fields, the majority of inventors still seem to be male. I have no idea if this is cultural or a difference in the way male/female minds work. Any ideas?

Re:Cultural or Biological? (1)

alshithead (981606) | more than 7 years ago | (#17638958)

Maybe the male geeks and nerds scare them away! :)

My wife has no interest in any technology other than what it can do for her. She prefers to have it remain inexplicable magic. The same goes for all of her female friends.

Re:Cultural or Biological? (2)

jotok (728554) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639090)

Interestingly enough, there was a comment to this effect in the Cap'n Crunch discussion earlier today. It seems as if a lot of engineers enjoy technology and tinkering for its own sake, whereas many others value it for its usefulness--it just has to "work."

Re:Cultural or Biological? (4, Interesting)

raehl (609729) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639032)

I think some of it may be cultural.

I'd like to take 200 newborns, and divide them into two groups of 100, 50 of each gender in each group.

One group is only allowed to play with dolls and easybake ovens, the other group is only allowed to play with legos.

As a society, we TEND to encourage our female children to play at SOCIAL situations ("Let's have Tea!") and we TEND to encourage our male children to play at building things. This happens when we are really young, when our brains apparently have a much easier time at learning to do things (like languages).

Maybe the problem is that if you don't give a one-to-three year old a chance to play with things like legos and teach their brains to think in three dimensions when the brain is young that they never will be very good at it. And maybe we just happen to provide that education to boys more often than we do to girls.

Re:Cultural or Biological? (4, Interesting)

The AtomicPunk (450829) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639174)

I used to think there was some truth to what you say. However, I'm about to have my third girl, and I'm here to tell you that, as many studies have shown, females generally tend to want to do things like play with dolls. Neither my wife nor I buy them any frilly clothes, dolls, etc ... but if they find a doll, they immediately take care of it like it's their own baby. Kids also tend to use their same-sex parent as a roll model, so girls tend to do things like their mothers, and boys tend to do things like their fathers.

Usual disclaimers on generalizations apply. :)

Luckily, my three year old also likes to help me work on the car. :)

Re:Cultural or Biological? (5, Informative)

Bluesman (104513) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639248)

This type of study has been done, ad infinitum. And any parent will tell you what will happen:

Most of the time, with no prompting, the girls will cuddle and mother the trucks that you give them, and the boys will throw the dolls.

There are inherent differences between girls and boys. And why wouldn't this be true? Every other species on the planet seems to recognize this fact.

Think of it this way. If the differences between male and female humans were arbitrarily decided by society, then how is it that every separate human culture on earth arrived at a similar result?

The experiment you describe happened thousands of years ago before there were baby dolls, footballs, and ovens. You can see the results of it by looking around you.

Re:Cultural or Biological? (1)

burndive (855848) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639460)

I think some of it may be cultural.

Some of it is, but not most of it. A thousand years ago, everyone thought that all celestial objects were perfect spheres. This comes from Plato's Ideals, and the idea that the heavens were more perfect than the earth. For centuries, scientists and theologans struggled with the fact that their models for the heavens needed to be increasingly complicated in order to remain accurate.

This all stemmed from their aesthetic assumptions that their idea of how it should be actually was the way the world works. They were wrong.

It is simply incorrect to assume that there are no fundamental differences in the psychological makeup of males and females. The feminist movement tried to create equality by telling men that being manly was bad, but all this accomplished was men who had been taught to be unhappy about how unwomanly they were.

Men, on average are poorer at some things that women are better at, and vice versa. It makes perfect sense that men are on average more prone to technological skills and desires than women are. It is a demonstrable fact that the female physilogy is made for having babies and taking care of them, and that the male physiology uses its resources to more efficiently design and use complex tools. The most basic principles of economics tell us that labor specialization is more efficient than homogeneity. Almost every other species behaves this way, why not humans?

This is not a value judgement that men are better than women. That's simply not true, and anyone who thinks it is implied by the above has their priorities out of whack.

Re:Cultural or Biological? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17639474)

As a society, we TEND to encourage our female children to play at SOCIAL situations ("Let's have Tea!") and we TEND to encourage our male children to play at building things. This happens when we are really young, when our brains apparently have a much easier time at learning to do things (like languages).

There is a joke that both little girls and little boys will play with dolls, it's just that little girls will dress them up, and little boys will run around holding them by the legs and shouting "Bang! Bang!"

It's strictly anecdotal, but my sister had four older brothers. All of the "hand-me-down" toys she got were practically stereotypical boys' toys -- Tonka Trucks, Lego, Lincoln Logs, chemistry and electronics sets. Despite all of these cool toys, she would beg my mom for dolls.

On the plus side, though, she was able to take a punch without crying, and eventually went into the Air Force. :D

Self-taught? (2, Insightful)

Lithgon (896737) | more than 7 years ago | (#17638896)

Wouldn't co-op and training defeat the purpose of being self-taught? I think it could be that men are typically more interested in engineering than women are and so they are more likely to go out of their way to teach themselves.

Re:Self-taught? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17639222)

What is so great about a self-taught programmer?

IMHO, self-taught programmers are the worst kind - producing poor-quality, inefficient code. The usually have a chip on their shoulder about "not needing to go to university" and complain if you point out the short-comings in their code, usually retorting with the reply "It works, doesn't it?"

What is needed is not more self-taught programmers, but more university-taught programmers - be they male or female.

Why is it women need...? (0, Flamebait)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 7 years ago | (#17638910)

" In A Modest Proposal, she discusses a potential short-term fix to the problem: a one-year, co-op, certificate-granting program for women set up and sponsored by Silicon Valley companies."

Geez...why is it women seem to need a special program, book or group session to discuss shit to do ANYTHING??!?!

If men can take the self initiative, or just be interested in something enough to devote time to it and learn it...why can't women?

Re:Why is it women need...? (1)

muridae (966931) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639048)

If a woman goes into a job interview and says she is self educated in engineering subjects, she is laughed at. If a man does the same thing at the same interview, what do you expect the result would be?

I'm just guessing, but I would suspect that there are more women geeks out there tinkering with things. For them to get a job in the field, a program like this might be very useful. It won't get the numbers up to 50% of the work force, but if it increases the numbers why bash the idea?

Re:Why is it women need...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17639422)

If a woman goes into a job interview and says she is self educated in engineering subjects, she is laughed at. If a man does the same thing at the same interview, what do you expect the result would be?

I'd be laughed at, too. If you interview for an EE job without an EE degree, you had better have some impressive personal/professional projects under your belt to make up for the lack of sheepskin. Women, for whatever reason, don't spend that much time obsessing over that stuff on their own time.

There are exceptions, like Limor Fried [ladyada.net] from MIT. (Disclaimer: Limor is my girlfriend. She just doesn't know it yet.)

Re:Why is it women need...? (1)

jorghis (1000092) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639428)

I think any employer would be wary of someone who claimed to be self taught with nothing to back it up regardless of gender. Self taught programmers can usually ace a technical screen if they are any good.

What makes you think that a male would be taken at his word that he is self taught and knows everything but a female would be laughed at?

Broad generalization (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17639106)

I take issue with your statement that all men can do what you say. This only applies to Whites, Jews, and certain types of Asians. Males of the lower races are just as helpless - if not worse - than women.

Hidden? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17638912)

What's hidden about it? I am a heterosexual male who just recently finished my B.S. in computer science and I can certainly say there were almost no distractions whatsoever in any of the engineering classes I took. The gap does not qualify as "hidden" in my opinion.

Better question: (4, Insightful)

raehl (609729) | more than 7 years ago | (#17638940)

Why does it matter? What is the business reason for developing more female engineers?

Do computers designed by women run quicker?

Does software written by women take up less memory?

Do processors designed by women emit less heat?

Certainly we shouldn't do something that inhibits a particular gender's ability to participate in the profession of their choice. But an engineer is an engineer - why should we care what their gender is?

Maybe there are not so many self-taught female engineers because women mature socially earlier and thus don't spend as much time talking to their monitors. Maybe women tend to be emotional thinkers and engineering doesn't jive well with emotional thinking. Maybe there's just a shortage of women who are nerds.

And maybe there's nothing wrong with that.

Re:Better question: (3, Funny)

quenda (644621) | more than 7 years ago | (#17638992)

Do computers designed by women run quicker?
Does software written by women take up less memory?
Do processors designed by women emit less heat?

No, no and no.
But they do come in a wide choice of clours, not just beige.

Re:Better question: (1)

spaceyhackerlady (462530) | more than 7 years ago | (#17638994)

Why does it matter? What is the business reason for developing more female engineers?

Easy.

To develop great products, to find the innovations that make things better, we need all the help we can get. Writing off 51% of humanity means that 51% of those possible innovations may never happen.

...laura

Re:Better question: (3, Insightful)

raehl (609729) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639228)

To develop great products, to find the innovations that make things better, we need all the help we can get. Writing off 51% of humanity means that 51% of those possible innovations may never happen.

This would be a good example of emotional thinking. I see that you read "Women being underrepresented in engineering is not a problem", and you responded with "Writing off 51% of the population is not acceptable!"

Unfortunately, this does not make any logical sense. Your response appears to be based on a rather poor assumption - what if developing great products, and finding innovations that make things better, also involve professions OTHER than Engineering?

Clearly this is the case. Let's take the converse of your statement. What if EVERYONE was an engineer? How well do you think the world would function then? Not very well, I'd imagine.

Engineers should be people who choose to be engineers. If women choose to be something other than an engineer, it's quite possible that maybe, just MAYBE, they're BETTER AT SOMETHING OTHER THAN ENGINEERING?

Maybe to develop great products, to find the innovations that make things better, you shouldn't write off the 99% of the population that arn't engineers.

The fact of the matter is, there are many professions, and all of them are important. We should allocate people to the professions they are best suited for, regardless of gender. And again, if women WANT to do something OTHER than be an engineer, what is wrong with that? Just because YOU wanted to be an engineer doesn't mean every other woman should want to.

Re:Better question: (4, Insightful)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 7 years ago | (#17638996)

What is the business reason for developing more female engineers?

The potential doubling of your talent pool.

Re:Better question: (1)

raehl (609729) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639298)

The potential doubling of your talent pool.

Not possible. The only way to double the talent pool is to double the population. Otherwise the only thing you can do is move the talent pool around, from something else to engineering.

And if you move people who are better suited to something else to engineering instead, you're actually SHRINKING the talent pool.

Re:Better question: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17639452)

SWOOSH!
Your parent post was talking about the engineers reproducing with each other and raising more engineers.

Re:Better question: (4, Insightful)

AusIV (950840) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639024)

Why does it matter? What is the business reason for developing more female engineers?
I suspect they hope products designed and developed by women might appeal more to women, and bring in more revenue.

Re:Better question: (1)

Divebus (860563) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639030)

YEAH! What he said!

I've known a couple of geek chicks that are total knockouts and smart as a whip but I'd hate to work for them.

Re:Better question: (5, Insightful)

ChatHuant (801522) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639092)

Why does it matter? What is the business reason for developing more female engineers? Do computers designed by women run quicker?

Computers designed by women may be more attractive to women; that will let you tap a market currently underserved and increase your customer count. That directly translates into more cash, so it matters.

Re:Better question: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17639466)

Nonsense. This is the same inane marketing that makes companies try to claim "designed by a woman" means some feminine product is better than the alternatives, apparently _just_ because it was designed by a woman. You don't have to be a woman to know what women want, the idea is laughable.

Re:Better question: (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639210)

Here's one very real reason: So the male engineers don't get discouraged by the remarkable lack of females around the place and leave the company, or even the industry. (Or, perhaps, never even join.)

Re:Better question: (2, Interesting)

Reverberant (303566) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639236)

Why does it matter? What is the business reason for developing more female engineers?

Because the more diverse the workforce (gender, race, ethnicity, socio-economic background, etc), the more potential for innovative ideas. I constantly see posts on ./ and other tech sites bemoaning the lack of innovation in GUI's and other CS areas in recent years. Could that be because everyone thinks alike?

Not to mention that the potential market for software products in the U.S. (in the aggregate) is 50% female. Do you think that men really know what women want? If so, you should write a book, I'll buy it ;)

Maybe there are not so many self-taught female engineers because women mature socially earlier and thus don't spend as much time talking to their monitors. Maybe women tend to be emotional thinkers and engineering doesn't jive well with emotional thinking. Maybe there's just a shortage of women who are nerds.

True. And maybe there is nothing wrong with it. On the other hand, maybe it's because women see tech as a "good ole' boys club" and they're indoctrinated from youth to pursue other areas. And there is something wrong with that. What's the harm in encouraging women to get into tech? It's not a zero-sum game.

Re:Better question: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17639394)

"engineering doesn't jive well with emotional thinking."

well there you go! Just create a computer that processes emotionally instead of rationally and you'll have 93% female users!

What's the big deal? (1)

Zetta Matrix (245803) | more than 7 years ago | (#17638944)

Are we still trying to prove that the sexes are equal? I'm sorry, they aren't. Male != Female. It is noble to make them indistinguishable by most measures, like compensation (equal pay for equal work) and so forth. Even so, the efforts mentioned in the story summary are too little, too late. What is not already accounted for by genetics ("nature") is well programmed in by external factors (parents/family, education, all other inputs, mainly the cultural ones, i.e. "nurture") long before such programs would make a difference. See what you can do about that if you actually want to be successful (but wait... that's much harder, isn't it?).

Theory: What I think will ultimately be determined is that a great deal of what the sexes are good at and therefore want to do with their lives are already defined by nature... many generations of tuning that made it more desirable for the existing stereotypes to prevail.

Simply put, women aren't quite as geeky... (2, Interesting)

rdean400 (322321) | more than 7 years ago | (#17638952)

Men and women are different. If you look at geek-dom, which populates most of the pool of self-taught software engineers, you will find many have been interested in the concepts for years.

Although efforts like this are well-intentioned, I have to question whether the result will pan out. Proposals like this may turn up individuals with the talent to program, but they probably lack the interest level. Most self-taught software engs have a genuine interest in the art and science of the craft. These folks have an interest in continued training.

So, the question isn't whether programs like this would be useful. The question is how do you find the type of woman who could use an opportunity like this as a launching pad into a life-long learning exercise?

it's all configure's fault (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17638954)

julie@ElRambo:~/src/omgponies-0.3# ./configure
checking for a BSD-compatible install... /usr/bin/install -c
checking whether build environment is sane... yes
checking for gawk... gawk
checking whether make sets $(MAKE)... yes
checking whether to enable maintainer-specific portions of Makefiles... no
checking for g++... g++
cheking for penis... ERROR: Penis not found.

Sad, but true (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17638956)

Sadly, a lot of women really aren't interested.

I think this is wrong: this is interesting stuff, but there is so much garbage floating around on the subject, up to and including the ridiculous notion that computer stuff is intensely mathematical (say what?!), and that mathematics is Something To Be Avoided (BULLSHIT!).

Another sad truth is the fact that self-taught women generally need not apply for jobs that might use their skills. Somehow, self-taught men are OK, as is. But self-taught women need a piece of paper with magic letters on it.

Sigh.

- somebody who wishes things were different

Problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17638962)

Why is that if women are not exactly like men in all areas it is considered a 'problem?' Who is going to fix the 'problem' of me not being able to have a baby?

You insensitive 3lod! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17638968)

May weel remain dIsturbing. If you

It's just one industry (4, Insightful)

willy_me (212994) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639006)

If the IT industry actively discouraged women from entering then such measures would be appropriate. But as it stands, the majority of university graduates are now women. At my university there is a 4:1 women to men ratio in their medial program. So the real problem is that women do not want to go into IT. They would rather make more money as, for example, a doctor. I can hardly blame them...

And a side note - regardless of gender, if you don't want to do IT you won't do a good job. You have to have a certain passion for the work. No amount of financial incentive can change this..

Re:It's just one industry (2, Interesting)

KillerCow (213458) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639126)

At my university there is a 4:1 women to men ratio in their medial program.


I think this raises a good point. Why are there so many more women in medicine than men? What is being done to decrease this gender gap? What programs are being created to get more men into medicine?

I propose a one-year, co-op, certificate-granting program for men, set up and sponsored by hospitals.

Why is it that only women get these special programs? Where are the programs trying to get men into nursing or childcare (both having major shortages in my nation)?

Lack of proper documentation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17639074)

Seriously, there are only manpages in unix, no womanpages.

Its Software Programmer! (1, Insightful)

catisonh (805870) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639076)

I am so sick of hearing about software 'engineers'. An engineer is a graduate of an engineering school. Their degree will sound something like mechanical engineer, electrical engineer, or chemical engineer. A graduate of the computer science department is not an engineer, they are a programmer. Now we have the whole software part being completely stripped away from the faux title to simply 'engineer'. Can you possibly call anyone an engineer who has no training at all in anything close to an engine?

/Mad ChE

Re:Its Software Programmer! (3, Informative)

jgeeky (974074) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639192)

You're looking at the wrong meaning of the word. Engineer doesn't come from the word engine as in Internal Combustion Engine, it comes from the latin word for creation. So, an engineer is one who creates something. Since software engineers create programs, they are, in fact, engineers.

Re:Its Software Programmer! (1, Interesting)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639272)

I disagree. While programmers aren't trained to do everything an EE may do, many of the problems that programmers solve are similiar to the kinds of problems EEs solve (particularly in digital, embedded and scientific projects). If this were not the case, it would be impossible for software implementations to be traded against hardware implementations. They are often working in the same problem space.

Re:Its Software Programmer! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17639274)

Hate to burst your bubble, but there are universities with ABET accredited curriculum that produce Software Engineers. MSOE [msoe.edu], RIT [rit.edu], University of Michigan [umich.edu] and many others [msoe.edu].

Engineering has nothing to do with engines, and everything to do with a methodology of design and implementation.

mod parent up! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17639496)

The grand parent is correct that Computer Science is different than Software Engineering but SE is a valid engineering field. Now stop insulting the engineers who went through a degree program every bit as valid as your own.
 
//on the other hand feel free to complain about non-engineers insisting they deserve the same title.

Hate to rain on your parade... (1)

raehl (609729) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639404)

But at least at my school, Computer Science was in the Engineering college.

Re:Its Software Programmer! (1)

Umuri (897961) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639420)

I disagree. (disclaimer: I'm a Computer Science major, within the University of Oklahoma's College of Engineering, Department of CS)

Saying that a software engineer is just a programmer is complete and utter crap. As is saying that a software engineer is the same as a computer science graduate. I am assuming you lack a lot of the subtle knowledge of the difference, so let me try to point out what little I believe i've learned, at least how it applies at OU.

Programmers, henceforth referred to as codemonkeys, in my eye are people who can code things that are put before them, with very little real understanding of how their systems work or the real ideals behind the principles of what they program. A codemonkey is named such because it is reminiscent of the thousand monkeys at the thousand typewriters. They will eventually produce a good working product.

A computer scientist is not taught how to code. A computer scientist is taught logic, then how the world around them, in this case, the digital and analog computer, acts and reacts, and the rules thereof. A CS is then taught how to visualize and alter one's view of problems to allow them to be implemented in such a world. Then they learn the theoretical limits and current assumptions about how that world works, as well as projects about how they think it should work and how current situations can be changed to allow for new opprotunities in the future. If all you are getting out of ANY cs degree is just some new tricks to program something, you need to go to a votech, because you are not learning what is important about your degree, whetehr it's your fault or the fault of your college. CS majors are language, and for the most part, situationally independent. You give a CS major a set of rules and logics, whether it be real or imaginary/digital, and a problem, and they should be able to give you a solution with why it is the way it is.

Now you tell me how that isn't an engineer. Just because most of the work of a CS major is with bits and electricity doesn't make it any less of an engineering degree. The argument that it is just because we work under a different set of rules besides gravity and force interactions does not hold water.

Can you call someone an engineer who has such an obviously smallsighted view of the world around them?

Re:Its Software Programmer! (2, Interesting)

mkiwi (585287) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639426)

You make an excellent point.

Many engineers today have to use C, Fortran, Python, or some language of MATLAB to come up with mathematical models for what they use. The requirement of knowledge in a specific area is so high very few people posess the talent and insight needed to write a really good engineering application.

It is possible, though, to be a software engineer in this respect- if you are in Engineering and you have a genuine interest and ability to program, then you can be a "Software Engineer" if you choose to learn more about programming.

Re:Its Software Programmer! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17639442)

Actually it is "Software Engineer" when you have graduated with a degree in Engineering (Software), like myself.

One of the problems with Software development in the past (and today) is that there have been too many Software Programmers and not enough Software Engineers, which often means badly planned and designed software. Software development has a lot to gain from using Engineering principles.

Re:Its Software Programmer! (2, Insightful)

NovaX (37364) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639486)

I agree! However, the term has been so horrible misused and generalized that those who apply it to software now feel justified to do so. A traditional engineer is rooted in mathmatics and science. All their techniques have a direct relation to properties that exist in nature. The term "Software Engineer" grew out of trying to make software development sound more professional, and thus unjustified title inflation.

I have degrees in both CS and EE (computer specialization). The two are incredibly different, and everyone I know with a traditional engineering degree (and in the software field) resents the abusage. I may have the title "Software Engineer", but I'd prefer "Software Developer" since it fits my job desciption far better. In becoming a better developer, I have never once had to use scientific research. As an graduate student in engineering, every bit related. Even for very logical aspects, such as designing high speed adders, intimate knowledge of physics was necessary (e.g. VLSI, logical effort). You can't escape nature as an engineer.

So to everyone replying to the parent saying 'nay'.. how many of you actually have an engineering background and the ability to make a fair comparision?

Re:Its Software Programmer! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17639512)


I am so sick of hearing about software 'engineers'. An engineer is a graduate of an engineering school. Their degree will sound something like mechanical engineer, electrical engineer, or chemical engineer. A graduate of the computer science department is not an engineer, they are a programmer. Now we have the whole software part being completely stripped away from the faux title to simply 'engineer'. Can you possibly call anyone an engineer who has no training at all in anything close to an engine?


As a computer science major, I say fuck you, buddy! Get off your high horse!

1) I'm required to take physics, engineering, and an assload of mathematics courses just like every other engineer. I'm also required to take several CS courses that make me wonder "isn't this supposed to be electrical engineering?".

2) The computer science department, at least here at the University of Oklahoma, exists within the College of Engineering, and as such is subject to the same standards common to all engineering departments, be it EE, ME, ChE, IE or whatever.

*deep breath*... A valid objection that you might have is the tendency for people in the IT field to call programmers "engineers". They are business majors. They are people who major in Management of Information Systems or Library Science. Maybe they have an MCSD or perhaps whatever Sun's equivalent is. Insult them all you want. They develop e-commerce solutions and create new paradigms in accounting. Just lay off the Computer Scientists! We ARE engineers!

And, yes, I have had to work with engines. You're dilusional if you honestly believe that most engines are designed or produced by human hands.

because women are selfish and lazy (1)

the0ther (720331) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639130)

as far as a woman is concerned, if there's nothing in it to be gained then what's the point?

Affirmative action is the way to go (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17639166)

I think choosing less qualified/talented people on the basis of their gender/race is the solution, especially in fields such as medicine where talent and ability aren't really that important.


Having a piece of software work or surviving an operation are less important than Diversity(TM)

She answers the big question. (4, Interesting)

stimpleton (732392) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639170)

In TFA, the author notes:

Women often seem to gain self-confidence by pursuing institutional affiliations, credentials, and clear career goals -- rather than simply pushing forward as "lone wolves" driven by individual curiosity.

Firstly, I think this statement discredits the true innovators of this world(past & present) who are driven by a passion to solve problems(sometimes at significant personal and social cost). These people are not just fulfilling some curiosty.

Secondly, and this is the crux of the whole article, females, by "pursuing institutional affiliations, credentials, and clear career goals" are giving themselves the access to a future raising a family.

By exposing themselve to this environment enhances the chances of finding a more desirable mate.

Why does this matter? (5, Interesting)

brendanoconnor (584099) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639176)

Every single time I see this exact same kind of story posted, I always wonder, what does it matter? Is it so hard to accept that maybe women are not as interested in the engineering fields as men are? I don't see why there is this cry to bring women into the loop when the doors are wide open. It is not like they are not allowed in.

Also, if we really want to think about gender gaps in professions, why are there not more male nurses? I had to spend a decent amount of time in ICU when my father was hospitalized because of his heartattack. He is very overweight and it was no small challenge for the staff there to help move him when it was required. I think there was one male nurse there who helped but he wasn't always on duty. Would it not make sense to make this position more appealing to men since it would be a boon to both patients and staff alike? Just something to think about.

Brendan

Simple (0, Offtopic)

JasonEngel (757582) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639200)

Computers are a significant means of escape for social misfits without a sex life. Since even an ugly woman will find it easy to get laid with the proper application of alcohol and sufficient display of willingness, there's less need for women to escape in this manner. The same behavior seen in men usually ends with said men in jail.

You might as well ask... (3, Insightful)

NerveGas (168686) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639204)

... why more wearers of pink clothing are women, or why more violent crimes are committed by men.

  Men and women are different. Anyone who thinks otherwise is delusional. And those who think that men and women need to be exactly equal in every area of life need to get over it, and stop trying: There's a few hundred thousand years of evolution working against you, and you're going to lose.

steve

Two Words.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17639242)

...he asks why there are so many self-taught male software engineers in startups, but no similar pool of women.

New shoes.

Why do women need preferential treatment? (4, Interesting)

jorghis (1000092) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639280)

Why do women need special treatment? Everyone acts like there needs to be sort of 'affirmative action' type of deal. What advantages do men have that women dont?

When I was an CS undergrad in college I remember hearing constantly about how 'women have it tougher in cs' and so forth. In my view exactly the opposite is true. I never once saw a female getting a worse grade because of her gender. I did however see one of the schools deans go ask professors for explanations when a female was doing poorly in a class. The result of that was that professors were under pressure to make sure that female students got through which resulted in unfair grading.

If women want to become engineers they should be allowed to and have the same opportunities as men, but preferential treatment just makes the ones that are legit look bad.

Re:Why do women need preferential treatment? (2, Funny)

raehl (609729) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639438)

Why do women need special treatment?

Because they're not as smart, duh.

It's obvious why there is a disparity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17639296)

Men like computers because they do what you tell them to.
Women dislike computers because they don't do what you want them to.

Men and women are not the same (3, Insightful)

koreth (409849) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639312)

I would love to see more women in engineering. But I think it just ain't gonna happen, at least not to the point of anything resembling equality. Uncomfortable as it may make the "every human is born precisely equal in all possible respects" crowd, men and women are not the same. Our brains are wired differently. Obviously we don't know nearly enough about neuropsychology yet to say for sure, but it doesn't seem impossible that those physical differences might result in different interests and inclinations.

The paucity of women in engineering is not solely an artifact of lack of opportunity, nor of cultural conditioning, though both of those things obviously have an impact. In a typical Silicon Valley tech company, you'll find far more Chinese and Indian women than white women in engineering, even though the white population is much larger than the Chinese or Indian populations in the area. So clearly culture matters, and to that extent there's a problem we can and should address. But you'll find even more Chinese and Indian men than women in those same companies -- it's not clear that culture alone can explain the gap.

So by all means, provide good opportunities for girls and young women who would be interested in engineering (or physics, or...) but for the lack of exposure. We all benefit from that. But please don't try to force the issue beyond the levels they'll naturally settle at when everyone has the appropriate opportunities -- even if those levels are still male-dominated.

My personal experience, again. (1)

turtledawn (149719) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639354)

I can point today at exactly the reason I did not go into electrical engineering. I attended a two day long university-sponsored Women in Engineering outreach program, and it was nothing about the program that scared me off, it was THE OTHER POTENTIAL FEMALE STUDENTS. Good lord, they were a pushy, stuck-up, title and prestige obsessed lot. I made the mistake of showing active interest in the electron microscope demonstration after the other girls in my tour group made it more than clear through whispering and shifting around restlessly that they thought it was incredibly boring, and no one in my group spoke to me again the rest of the day- which made the mandatory team-building engineering project contest later that evening more than a little awkward. (Do guys have mandatory team-building at their engineering recruitment events?)

So I went into biology instead, because I liked trees, and for some reason it was more OK to be a reclusive female biology student than engineer simply because these young ladies were so obsessed with breaking down stereotypes.

YMMV, of course.

Not a lot of self-taught Software Engineers (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639378)

"Joyce Park, CTO of invitation site Renkoo.com, has written a two-part essay exploring why there is no pipeline of self-taught female engineers entering the tech industry via Open Source or other individual efforts."

I'm not sure about the male vs. female angle here, but I think it's a myth that there's a lot of self-taught individuals who have established a viable, sustainable career in software development without a college education (at least for those under 50).

Females (1)

hackus (159037) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639392)

Why does our society insist on making women do things more like men?

There seems to be some sort of predisposition by the academic elitist camps that are always suggesting, if women are not doing the same things as men they are repressed or are not given the chance.

I am getting tired of listening too it primarily because the topic always seems to be about how much STUFF a women can purchase vs a man can as a comparison to wealth. I think we have enough consumerism thank you very much to draw my own opinions.

Which is quite simple, women do not enjoy analytical thinking as much as men do. Men also do not enjoy organizing social groups as much as women do.

Thats my experience, and this fact has nothing to do with how much a women can buy to make her happy.

I would like to suggest, perhaps there is a DIFFERENCE between men and women, that is fundamental here in thinking styles and that what men enjoy isn't what women enjoy and vice versa.

I tried pointing this out once while I was an undergrad at the UW Madison campus and I was almost kicked off campus.

-Hack

Why should one be forced into fields they dislike? (1)

iamacat (583406) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639462)

A woman who doesn't enjoy math problem, doesn't naturally feel like tinkering with computers and enjoys lots of social interaction will be neither productive nor happy as a programmer. Or if she feels she must become an engineer to support herself and her family, let her enroll in college and apply for a scholarship like anyone else. I don't see how society or most individuals benefit by setting up programs that encourage people to go into fields they don't like and are not good at.

The real reason (1)

dokhebi (89124) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639468)

I will be blunt: the real reason why there aren't more female techies, self taught or trained, is because most girls are raised to be image consious and being a techie is thought by most non-techies that same as being a nerd. Male techies don't care about how we are percieved. We're too busy showing off to each other to be bothered with how "normal" people view us. It's the same in Science Fiction Fandom; a vast majority of SciFi geeks are male.

If you want to have more female techies you need to destroy the pre-conceived notions about techies on the global level (tell Mattel to stop making the Barbie dolls, etc) and wait for society to catch up.

Just my $0.02 worth.

ARRRRGH (1)

redshield3 (647661) | more than 7 years ago | (#17639508)

Get this through your head:

Software engineering != Engineering!

You didn't take anything related to thermodynamics, you were barely required to take physics. How many labs do software engineers take in their department (Not physics; not chemistry, etc)?

Isn't self-taught engineer in the purest sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17639526)

an oxymoron? Im assuming that in the U.S. atleast our institutions are the ones with the authority to declare who is and isn't an engineer.
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