EppsNet Archive: Decisions

Two Reasons For the Low Number of Women in Computer Jobs

15 Jan 2018 /

I saw this chart on LinkedIn with the heading “Chart: Women in tech continue to face uphill battle” and the hashtag #STEMSexism.

Chart

The first reason for the low number of women in computer jobs is that we rarely hear about women in computing except in the context of pay gaps, harassment, discrimination, “uphill battles” and #STEMSexism.

It’s self-perpetuating. “Computing is a terrible profession for women in so many ways.” Followed by “Why aren’t there more women in computing?”

You’ve answered your own question. If you think computing is a hostile profession (I do not, btw), why do you want more women to go into it?

 

The second reason for the low number of women in computer jobs — sometimes the simplest explanations are the best — is that women prefer to do other things.

Men and women are different and make different choices about their lives, as a result of which, women are underrepresented in some professions and overrepresented in others.

Women, for example, are overrepresented in nursing, family counseling, speech pathology, social work, education, to name a few.

Do we hear about a diversity crisis in speech pathology or social work? We don’t, right?

I worked with a nursing organization for five years. About 90 percent of nurses are women, but in five years I can’t remember a single instance where gender bias was cited as a crisis, a dilemma, a problem, or even something as mild as a cause for concern.

Women being overrepresented in certain professions is not widely considered to be a problem. But if women being underrepresented in computer jobs is a problem, then their overrepresentation in other professions is also a problem.

In fact, it’s the same problem. Because where are the women in computing going to come from?

On the safe assumption that the number of women is constant — that a large number of new women are not going to just appear out of nowhere — the women will have to come from other professions that they seem to prefer, the professions in which they are overrepresented.

Sorry girls, we can’t have so many of you working in healthcare, education and other helping professions because we need to boost the computing numbers.

Or — we could calm down about the computing numbers and leave young women to make their own choices about their own lives.

TL;DR -> Women are capable of making decisions for themselves. For the most part, they choose to do things other than work in computer jobs, which is okay. It’s possible that none of us really knows what is the “right” percentage of women in computing and it’s possible that none of us really knows what other people should be doing with their lives.

Thus spoke The Programmer


Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

12 Dec 2014 /

The notion that we have limited access to the workings of our minds is difficult to accept because, naturally, it is alien to our experience but it is true: You know far less about yourself than you feel you do.

 

A reliable way to make people believe in falsehoods is frequent repetition, because familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth.

 

It is the consistency of information that matters for a good story, not its completeness. Indeed, you will often find that knowing little makes it easier to fit everything you know into a coherent pattern.

 

The exaggerated faith in small samples is only one example of a more general illusion — we pay more attention to the content of messages than to information about their reliability, and as a result end up with a view of the world around us that is simpler and more coherent than the data justify.

 

Narrative fallacies arise inevitably from our continuous attempt to make sense of the world. The explanatory stories that people find compelling are simple; are concrete rather than abstract; assign a larger role to talent, stupidity, and intentions than to luck; and focus on a few striking events that happened rather than on the countless events that failed to happen.

 

Hindsight bias has pernicious effects on the evaluations of decision makers. It leads observers to assess the quality of a decision not be whether the process was sound but by whether its outcome was good or bad. . . . This outcome bias makes it almost impossible to evaluate a decision properly – in terms of the beliefs that were reasonable when the decision was made.

 

Stories of how businesses rise and fall strike a chord with readers by offering what the human mind needs: a simple message of triumph and failure that identifies clear causes and ignores the determinative power of luck and the inevitability of regression. These stories induce and maintain an illusion of understanding, imparting lessons of little enduring value to readers who are all too anxious to believe them.

 

For some of our most important beliefs we have no evidence at all, except that people we love and trust hold those beliefs.

 

Confidence is a feeling, which reflects the coherence of the information and the cognitive ease of processing it. It is wise to take admissions of uncertainty seriously, but declarations of high confidence mainly tell you that an individual has constructed a coherent story in his mind, not necessarily that the story is true.

 

We know that people can maintain an unshakable faith in any proposition, however absurd, when they are sustained by a community of like-minded believers.

 

The idea that the future is unpredictable is undermined every day by the ease with which the past is explained. . . Everything makes sense in hindsight . . . And we cannot suppress the powerful intuition that what makes sense in hindsight was predictable yesterday. The illusion that we understand the past fosters overconfidence in our ability to predict the future.

 

[Philip Tetlock, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania] interviewed 284 people who made their living “commenting or offering advice on political and economic trends. . . . In all, Tetlock gathered more than 80,000 predictions. . . . Respondents were asked to rate the probabilities of three alternative outcomes in every case: the persistence of the status quo, more of something such as political freedom or economic growth, or less of that thing.

The results were devastating. The experts performed worse than they would have if they had simply assigned equal probabilities to each of the three potential outcomes. In other words, people who spend their time, and earn their living, studying a particular topic produce poorer predictions than dart-throwing monkeys who would have distributed their choices evenly over the options. Even in the region they knew best, experts were not significantly better than nonspecialists.

 

Rehearse the mantra that will get you significantly closer to economic reality: you win a few, you lose a few.

 

Nothing in life is as important as you think it is when you are thinking about it.

 

During the last 10 years we have learned many new facts about happiness. But we have also learned that the word happiness does not have a simple meaning and should not be used as if it does. Sometimes scientific progress leaves us more puzzled than we were before.


More People I’m Sick Unto Death Of

6 Jul 2014 /

Riptide warning sign

The worst thing you can do to people, aside from physical injury, is give them the idea to blame their failures on vague impersonal forces or the actions of anybody but themselves. It doesn’t promote success or happiness. I don’t know any happy people who think like that.

For example, I read this in a New York Times article about an impoverished area of West Virginia:

John got caught up in the dark undertow of drugs that defines life for so many here in McDowell County.

That is just awful. I live in Southern California, not too far from the ocean . . . I’m familiar with undertows (although I’ve never heard of a “dark” undertow). First of all, sorry to be pedantic but undertows aren’t dangerous . . . they’re just after-effects of individual waves. What’s dangerous is a riptide . . . a concentrated flow of water that can jet you offshore in a matter of seconds.

Maybe John got caught in a riptide of drugs.

Some beaches post signs warning swimmers of riptides on high-risk days, but in general, getting caught in a riptide is an unfortunate but unavoidable event. Drug abuse is optional. It’s a decision you make about your life.

(I’m assuming here that no one sticks a funnel in your mouth and pours drugs into it against your will . . .)


A good outcome is not the same as a good decision.

Posted by on 18 Feb 2013