In talking to professional staff who work in this area and students and faculty who are deeply committed to this issue, I have found that there are two visions of diversity and inclusion. Advocates of the equality agenda want to see the most talented and passionate individuals joining us regardless of their life circumstances or unalterable characteristics. For us, diversity has its usual dictionary definition of having a variety of individuals, which implies racial, ethnic, and gender diversity but also political and religious diversity.
Inclusion involves welcoming a broad range of individuals to consider pursuing computer science as a career. The equality agenda, then, is about encouragement and removal of artificial barriers. Professionals and activists who work in this area tend to see it differently.
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For them, diversity involves a commitment to righting the wrongs of the past. By contrast, working with the LGBTQ community is important because of the historical oppression they have experienced even though there is no evidence that LGBTQ individuals are currently discriminated against in the field. Their understanding of inclusion is also quite different. Inclusion is about culture, and in a twist worthy of Orwell, inclusion often demands the exclusion of ideas and opinions.
Microaggression training fosters inclusion by preparing people to recognize and eliminate small slights that could make some people uncomfortable. So, unless or until we reach perfect gender parity, they will continue to argue for more diversity programs for women. When I tried to discuss Damore at my school, I found it almost impossible. As a thought experiment, I asked how we could make someone like Damore feel welcome in our community. The pushback was intense. One faculty member gave a particularly cogent response.
As Damore mentions in his essay, this issue has acquired a moral dimension, which is why the response is often anger. Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind , has described this as elevating certain ideas to a sacred status. In this case, suggesting that men and women are different either in interests or abilities is considered blasphemy. So let me commit some blasphemy.
The gender diversity movement itself has spent the better part of 30 years cataloguing differences between men and women. Indeed, the entire goal of achieving gender diversity makes no sense unless you believe that men and women work in fundamentally different ways. One of the earliest ideas I encountered was that men believe in their successes and discount their failures while women believe in their failures and discount their successes.
Lack of confidence, therefore, is held to be a particular problem for women. The diversity literature also discusses how men and women have different priorities, as in this passage from the seminal book Unlocking the Clubhouse by Jane Margolis and Allan Fisher:. But the full acceptance of this proposition cuts across the dominant culture of the field.
They claim that men have created a culture that matches their values and interests. Diversity advocates have also started claiming that diverse teams perform better. A dangerous narrative has been taking hold in recent years that the gender gap is mostly the fault of men and the patriarchal organizations they have built to serve their interests. Chang and I clearly know different people because the women I talk to who are working in Silicon Valley are enjoying their experiences as software engineers.
Certainly there are bad actors and companies where the culture is broken, but the vast majority of women work at companies that make significant efforts to provide a supportive work experience. Young men were arriving who had used personal computers young women lacked because families disproportionately bought computers for boys.
I ran the introductory programming courses at Stanford in the s and I met regularly with faculty who taught introductory programming at other schools. We were on a mission to make CS1 a universal course taken by a broad range of students.
The NPR piece also noted that we have experienced a slow but steady decrease in women majoring in computer science since , as indicated in the graph below. Pictures help to tell stories and this one drives home the point that even as women were taking a greater share of slots in medicine, law, and the physical sciences, they represented a decreasing percentage of computer science degrees.
This is consistent with the idea that women simply chose to pursue other interests, but NPR chose to highlight the suggestion that professors teaching introductory courses were creating courses unfriendly to women. The more I study the gender gap in computer science the more I become convinced that there are no simple answers.
blachyvinemal.cf To better understand the level of interest by gender, I used data from the same source, the Digest of Education Statistics put out annually by the National Center for Education Statistics. I computed separate statistics for the percentage of men and women obtaining computing degrees, comparing men against other men and women against other women. A new pattern emerges in the resulting graph:. Graphing the data this way allows us to see a phenomenon that those of us who lived through these years understand all too well. Computer science has gone through two major boom and bust cycles in the last 40 years.
The idea that men drove women from the field is not supported by the data.
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There has been no period of time when men have been increasing while women have been decreasing. In 48 of the last 50 years the trend was the same for men and women with the percentage of women going up at the same time that the percentage of men went up and the percentage of women going down when the percentage of men went down.
But while the trend has been the same, the magnitude of the response has differed significantly. In both cycles, men disproportionately reacted to the boom part of the cycle and women disproportionately reacted to the bust. And as the graph illustrates, men are once again responding faster and more forcefully to the new boom we are experiencing today.
The cumulative effect of these differences has been devastating for the goal of increasing the participation of women in computer science. Men disproportionately respond to economic incentives, so they are more likely to respond favorably to reports of high salaries for tech workers. Women tend, on average, to be more risk averse, and are more likely to respond strongly to negative stories about dwindling job prospects in tech. Perhaps women also react differently to changes in messaging as departments desperate to meet demand during the boom part of the cycle shift from an attitude of welcoming prospective students to one of pushing them away.
If men and women are different, then we should expect them to make different choices.
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Since , women have made dramatic gains in science. Today, half of all MD degrees and 52 percent of PhDs in life sciences are awarded to women, as are 57 percent of PhDs in social sciences, 71 percent of PhDs to psychologists, and 77 percent of DVMs to veterinarians. We conclude that past initiatives to combat discrimination against women in science appear to have been highly successful.
They concluded that women may choose non-STEM careers because they have academic strengths that many men lack. They found that individuals with high math ability but only moderate verbal ability were the most likely to choose a career in STEM 49 percent and that this group included more men than women 70 percent men. By contrast, individuals with both high math ability and high verbal ability were less likely to pursue a career in STEM 34 percent and this group had more women than men 63 percent women. In , another paper explored the same question from a different perspective using international data from the PISA survey the Programme for International Student Assessment.
In looking at test scores across 67 countries and regions, Stoet and Geary found that girls performed about as well or better than boys did on science in most countries, and in almost all countries, girls would have been capable of college-level science and math classes if they had enrolled in them. That is, even if an average girl was as good as an average boy at science, she was still likely to be even better at reading. For boys, the percentages were 38 for science, 42 for math, and 20 for reading. They describe this as a paradox because it implies that the more progress we make towards achieving the equality agenda, the further we are likely to be from achieving the equity agenda.
I was curious to see how this relates to computing degrees, so I checked out the data for the top ten countries in terms of gender equality.
Of the eight countries that include statistics for undergraduate degrees, the average percentage of women majoring in computing was 1. Taking into account the higher number of undergraduate degrees received by women, the Nordic countries which have the highest scores for gender equality Iceland, Norway, and Finland are producing computing graduates who are These percentages are very close to what we see in the United States. I believe we have reached a significant crossroads in the campaign to increase the representation of women in tech.
We have harvested the low-hanging fruit by eliminating overt discrimination and revamping policies and procedures that favored men. Now we more often focus on minutia such as replacing Star Trek posters with travel posters. And yet, the campaign has stalled. At the University of Washington, we have managed over the last ten years to increase the percentage of women taking our first course from 26 percent to 41 percent and to increase the percentage taking the second course from 18 percent to 31 percent.
In the early years, we were able to go from 16 percent women in our major to 30 percent, but we have made no additional progress since. I have heard from friends at Stanford that they have been stalled for several years at 30 percent and a colleague at Princeton reports that they are stuck in the mids for percentages of women. CMU and Harvey Mudd have reported percentages at or above 50 percent, but they have a highly selective student body and have put special emphasis on tweaking admissions criteria and creating special programs for women in computing.
The sad truth is that UW, Stanford, and Princeton are among the best performing schools and part of that success is likely due to being a top department. For most schools, the percentage of women is much lower. Over the last ten years the percentage of undergraduate computing degrees going to women nationwide has bounced around in a tight range, varying from Computer science departments have never put more attention and resources into the diversity campaign than they have in the last few years, and we have seen a small but steady increase in the percentage of women choosing a computing major, going from 0.
But at the same time, and with no special encouragement from us, the percentage of men choosing a computing major has also increased, going from 5. I worry that lack of progress will make us more likely to switch from positive messages about women succeeding in tech to negative stories about men behaving badly in tech, which I think will do more harm than good.
Women will find themselves wondering if they should resent men and men will feel guilty for sins committed by other men.
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