EppsNet Archive: Diversity

To Young Women Considering a Career in Technology

30 Aug 2017 /

You’ve probably read a lot of articles about how sexist and awful the culture is for women in technology.

I think if anything deters young women from technology careers, it’s this glut of articles saying how sexist and awful the culture is.

Young female technologist

I’ve worked in software development for 30 years. In my experience — and feel free to discount this because I’m not a woman — the culture is not tough for women. If anything, men give women the benefit of the doubt because they’d like to have more women around.

As Holden Caulfield used to say, “I like to be somewhere at least where you can see a few girls around once in a while, even if they’re only scratching their arms or blowing their noses or even just giggling or something.”

Yes, I have seen bad things happen to women in tech, but I’ve seen bad things happen to men and I’ve had bad things happen to me. I’m also aware of bad things happening to women in other professions. We’ve all had our ups and downs.

How to explain this? Bad things happen to women because they’re women and bad things happen to men because — what? We deserve it?

You’ve probably also read a lot of articles about a “diversity chasm” in tech, usually written by women who work in tech and can’t understand why every young woman in America is not making the same career choices they themselves have made.

Women, like any group, are under-represented in some professions (like tech) and over-represented in other professions — education and health services, for example.

Is a software engineering career objectively better than being a nurse or a teacher or a therapist or any of the careers that women seem to prefer?

I’m happy to admit that I don’t know what the “right” male-female ratio is for any given profession and that I don’t know what other people should be doing with their lives.

Programming has been a pretty good career for me — I like to build things and I like to solve hard problems — but I’ve spent most of my life alone in a room or cubicle staring at a computer screen. It’s not for everyone. There are pros and cons like any other job.

I don’t have a daughter but my son never took an interest in programming and I never pushed him to do so. He graduated college with a degree in business. I have no reason to think his life will be less fulfilling because he’s not working in a technology job.

TL;DR:

  • Don’t pursue a technology career because someone else thinks you should.
  • Don’t pursue a technology career to make some point about gender roles in society.
  • Don’t be scared off by inaccurate (IMO) generalizations about anti-female culture.
  • Follow your heart.

Thus spoke The Programmer.


We Know We Have to Improve

9 Aug 2017 /

Saw this on a tech company blog (not Google) :

We know we have to improve the diversity of our teams and the balance of representation amongst our colleagues. We do not want to miss out on the contribution of a potential colleague merely because they are in some way different from the rest of our people.

Yes, that seems obvious. Do you want to miss out on the contribution of a potential colleague merely because they don’t improve the diversity of your teams?

Tags:

One Thing I Can’t Tolerate is Intolerance: The Google Memo

8 Aug 2017 /

The now-famous Google memo was first published by Gizmodo under the headline Here’s The Full 10-Page Anti-Diversity Screed Circulating Internally at Google.

If you’re interested in the topic, you should read the memo yourself, otherwise you’re going to get a terribly slanted second-hand judgment, e.g., “anti-diversity screed.” I’ve read it and I don’t think it’s “anti-diversity” and it’s definitely not what I’d call a screed.

I’ve seen that word — screed — used by multiple sources. That’s one way of dismissing and declining to engage with an opinion you don’t like: give it a label like “screed,” suggesting that the author is angry and irrational and not fit to have a discussion with.

In my reading though, I found the original memo to be academic and clinical, much less screed-like than the responses I’ve seen.

As usual (in my experience), the most intolerant people in the mix are the ones presenting themselves as champions of tolerance, diversity, acceptance and mutual respect. They love people of all genders, skin color, hair color, eye color, etc., but they have no tolerance at all for anyone who doesn’t think exactly the way they do.

If you have an opinion that doesn’t fit the preferred narrative, you are harmful and stupid, you shouldn’t be allowed to hold a job and you shouldn’t feel safe in giving voice to your opinions.

The argument against expressing an opinion like the author of the Google memo is, as I understand it, that it’s considered hostile and unwelcoming to women who might want to work in the field of technology.

Google chief executive Sundar Pichai said in firing the memo author: “The memo has clearly impacted our co-workers, some of whom are hurting and feel judged based on their gender.”

If it’s hurtful to judge people based on their “gender,” why isn’t it hurtful to say that the percentage of males working in technology is unacceptably high and should be reduced? (I know nobody says it that way. They say “increase the percentage of women” but it’s the same thing.)

Why isn’t it hurtful to implement policies to reduce the percentage of males working in technology? Why isn’t it hurtful to hire “diversity” personnel whose job it is to reduce the percentage of males in technology?.

Depending on which groups you’re in, you’re either not allowed to be discouraged by anything or you’re entitled to be demoralized by absolutely everything.

Thus spoke The Programmer.

Related link: Where are the additional women in technology supposed to come from?

 

Irony alert

“By ‘diverse mix of voices,’ we mean non-white females. Look at the picture. Oh, you thought it meant a diversity of opinions?! Well, in that case, you’re fired.”

 

TL;DR from Google memo

  • Google’s political bias has equated the freedom from offense with psychological safety, but shaming into silence is the antithesis of psychological safety.
  • This silencing has created an ideological echo chamber where some ideas are too sacred to be honestly discussed.
  • The lack of discussion fosters the most extreme and authoritarian elements of this ideology.
  • Extreme: all disparities in representation are due to oppression
  • Authoritarian: we should discriminate to correct for this oppression
  • Differences in distributions of traits between men and women may in part explain why we don’t have 50% representation of women in tech and leadership. Discrimination to reach equal representation is unfair, divisive, and bad for business.

One Thing I Can’t Tolerate is Intolerance: Margaret Court Edition

1 Jun 2017 /

Margaret Court is being vilified and stigmatized this week — “racist,” “homophobe,” ‘blood on her hands,” name should be taken off the Australian Open arena, etc. — because she opposes gay marriage and homosexuality in general.

Margaret Court, 1971

If you want to position yourself as a champion of inclusion, diversity, respect, tolerance, you’ve got to extend those things to other people as well, and not just people who see the world exactly like you do.

You want tolerance and respect for sexual preferences? What about religious preferences? Margaret Court is a Christian pastor. A lot of people believe that God frowns on homosexuality. I don’t believe that myself but it’s not a weird fringe opinion.

Yes, Margaret Court introduced Satan and Nazis and Communists into the conversation, but Margaret Court isn’t presenting herself as an advocate of inclusion and tolerance. She’s saying this is right and that is wrong.

You can’t position yourself as an advocate of tolerance and oppose Margaret Court if you’re engaged in the same name-calling and bashing that she is: As an advocate of tolerance, I say that people like Margaret Court should not be tolerated!

If you were to come out and and say, “Look, I’m just as intolerant as Margaret Court but in the opposite direction. That’s the only difference between us. Whereas Margaret Court says these people are bad and these people are good, I say these people are good and these people are bad.”

That seems like a consistent, respectable position to have, but not intolerance in support of tolerance. That doesn’t make any sense . . .


What Can Be Done About Gender Diversity in Computing?

6 Oct 2015 /
Gender

That is the question posed in, among other places, the October 2015 issue of Communications of the ACM.

Since gender is no longer a biological imperative connected to one’s physical anatomy, there’s now a simple answer to this. Men (and women, but that’s not relevant to this question) can identify as either gender, independent of reproductive organs and chromosomes, and a thoughtful consideration of the uniqueness and validity of every person’s experiences of self requires a societal stamp of approval.

Google or Facebook or any organization that wants to improve its gender diversity metrics can offer some modest incentive (could be financial, could be you use the women’s locker room at the company gym … use your imagination!) for workers to identify as female. Have a 50 percent female workforce by Friday!

Now that I’ve written this down I’m thinking that maybe I should be starting up a diversity consulting firm rather than giving the idea away for nothing. Room for expansion: Racial identity is fluid now as well (see here and here).

Thus spoke The Programmer.


Carjacking Diversity

20 Mar 2015 /

Female carjacking suspect

Carjacking is like STEM in that it’s a profession in which women are seriously underrepresented so I celebrate this woman as a champion of diversity and inclusiveness.


When is Diversity Not a Dilemma?

26 Feb 2015 /

I just read yet another brief — Solving the Diversity Dilemma — regarding lack of diversity in the STEM workforce.

If members of Group X are underrepresented in some professions, they must be overrepresented in others. For example, I used to work with a nursing organization . . . women far outnumber men in nursing but for the five years I worked there I never heard anyone talk about the shortage of men in nursing being a dilemma, crisis, etc., or suggesting that anything be done to change it.

I work in a STEM field. It’s a good job for me but not for everyone. My son (age 21) for example, never showed any interest in it and I don’t think he’ll be any less happy in life because he’s not working in STEM. There are pluses and minuses like any other profession.

Simple but possibly valid explanation for STEM demographics: Not everyone wants to work in STEM.


Women Need to Get Into New Professions Where They Can Be Shot

30 Oct 2014 /

Robbery headline

A man in Texas shot two people breaking into his home, which probably wouldn’t be terribly newsworthy except that the two people were both women.

Armed robbery is like technology and engineering in that it’s a profession in which women are seriously underrepresented so I endorse this as a step forward for diversity and inclusiveness.


Teaching Computer Science: Diversity for Girls Only

27 Oct 2014 /

NCWIT photo

I called the class’s attention to the NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing, which honors young women at the high-school level for their computing-related achievements and interests. Awardees are selected for their computing and IT aptitude, leadership ability, academic history, and plans for post-secondary education.

The website features a photo of a black girl, an Asian girl, a white girl, and in case you’re not in any of those groups, there’s an ethnically ambiguous girl on the left you can probably identify with. Diversity and inclusiveness for all. All are welcome.

You still have to be a girl of course, they’re not that inclusive . . .


Teaching Computer Science: Diversity Takes a Hit

24 Sep 2014 /

They told us during teacher training in the summer not to scare off the students. But programming is difficult. There’s a lot of complexity and detail to master. The first couple of programming classes I took, we started off with around 50 people on the first day, and had around 12 left for the final exam. Entry-level programming classes have very high dropout rates.

One of our students dropped the class this week, a girl. So much for promoting diversity in computer science . . .


If There’s One Thing I Can’t Tolerate, It’s Intolerance

23 May 2014 /
Phil Robertson

NEW YORK (AP) — A&E has declined to comment on new video of “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson reviving past anti-gay remarks.

His comments are included in a sermon delivered at his church in West Monroe, Louisiana, on Easter Sunday. Robertson includes homosexuals with other groups such as thieves and adulterers as hell-bound sinners.

Oooh, new anti-gay remarks. I’m trying to get appropriately offended about this but I can’t do it:

  1. As previously noted the last time he said the same thing, he’s not ad-libbing those remarks, he’s quoting a bible verse:

    Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God? Be not deceived: Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor the effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners shall inherit the Kingdom of God.

    — I Corinthians 6:9-10

    He’s giving a sermon in a church and quoting scripture. If scriptural quotations offend you, stay out of churches. That’s pretty simple.

  2. There are a lot more adulterers than homosexuals. Why aren’t people offended by anti-adulterer remarks?
     
  3. “Going to hell” is not a real thing that happens to people. It’s a fairy tale. Calm down.
     
  4. There’s an old joke: “If there’s one thing I can’t tolerate, it’s intolerance.” If you see yourself as a fan of tolerance, diversity, “live and let live,” etc., apply it to everyone, not just people who think exactly like you.

I’ve Solved the Problem of Economic Inequality

18 May 2014 /

Instead of “economic inequality,” let’s call it “economic diversity.” Then it’s a good thing, right?


We’re Still Smarter Than You Are

7 Dec 2013 /

Teens from Asian nations dominated a global exam given to 15-year-olds, while U.S. students showed little improvement and failed to reach the top 20 in math, science or reading, according to test results released Tuesday.

Harvard emblem

Why am I not shocked by that?

Because Americans on the whole are dumb and lazy. We have lots of dumb, lazy parents raising dumb, lazy kids. The average American kid doesn’t compare well academically to the average kid in an Asian country where academics and hard work are valued, or to the average kid from a small, homogenous European country where it’s easier to get everyone pulling in the same educational direction.

The U.S. is a big, diverse country and the average academic results are pulled down by a lot of dummkopfs.

But still, the smartest people in the world are Americans. Our smartest people are smarter than the smartest people in other lands.

You don’t think so? I’m looking at the list of winners of the 2013 Nobel Prizes . . . out of 11 recipients (I’m omitting the winners of the literature and peace prizes because those aren’t academic awards), eight are from the U.S. The other three are from Belgium, the UK and France, and the Frenchman is affiliated with Harvard University.

No one in Asian countries is winning any Nobel Prizes. Q.E.D.


More People I’m Sick Unto Death Of: Diversity Flacks

10 Mar 2013 /
Jon Provost and Lassie

Jon Provost and Lassie

A new study from the American Council on Education shows that the percentages of black, Asian and Hispanic provosts have declined over the past five years.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports this story under the headline “Falling Diversity of Provosts Signals Challenge for Presidential Pipeline, Study Finds.”

FALLING DIVERSITY! LOOK OUT BELOW!

Ha ha . . . but seriously, who even knows what a provost is? I don’t. I’ve vaguely heard of it as an academic job title but that’s about it.

I know that Jon Provost played little Timmy on the Lassie TV series. I know that Marie Prevost was a one-time Mack Sennett bathing beauty and leading lady in the 1920s whose screen glory had faded by the time she died of acute alcoholism in a small Hollywood apartment at the age of 38.

By the way, I notice that Asian students are continuing to excel, even in the absence of Asian provosts. Go figure.


Underrepresented Minorities in the UC

22 Jan 2012 /

The University of California is prohibited by law from considering race in the admissions process, but they are allowed to identify certain ethnic groups as “underrepresented minorities.”

Here are some freshman enrollment numbers at UC Berkeley for Fall 2011. The first four groups on the list are considered underrepresented; the others aren’t.

Ethnicity 2011 Fall
African American/Black 130
Mexican American/Chicano 325
Other Hispanic/Latino 150
Native American/Alaskan Native 33
Pacific Islander 11
Chinese 936
Filipino 108
Japanese 68
Korean 250
Other Asian 45
South Asian 324
Vietnamese 142

Engineering is Serious Business, Says Engineering Major

6 Dec 2011 /
English: Campus of the UC Berkeley in Berkeley...

Image via Wikipedia

The dean of UC Berkeley’s College of Engineering expressed support today for a recommendation from a student group that the college create a recruitment and retention plan for women and underrepresented minority students.

It sounds like the dean might be up for lowering the engineering standards to meet diversity metrics. Bad idea. Engineering is serious business.

Also: Preferential treatment by a public institution based on race, sex or ethnicity is prohibited by California law.

I’ve got a better and more legal idea: How about if the women and “underrepresented” minority students suck it up and meet the same academic standards as everyone else?

Or apply to a different school? If they can’t meet the standards at Berkeley, they might do fine at a less demanding institution like Stanford or UCLA.

I’ve attended engineering school myself. We had diversity admits. After one semester, maybe two, they weren’t there anymore. Who was helped?


It’s All White Kids

10 Apr 2011 /

This screenshot is from the Yale University home page.

It’s refreshing that, unlike most schools, they don’t even pretend to care about diversity.

Yale University


Diversity in Practice

19 Nov 2009 /

This is how “diversity” works in practice: Intellectual contention is drowned out in a sea of emotion, much of it phony. Members of designated victim groups respond to a serious argument with “pain” and “shock” and accusations of “hate,” and university administrators make a show of pretending to care.


The Beauty of Cultural Diversity

24 Mar 2009 /
Baseball player

My son’s one-eighth Japanese on his mom’s side and the student body at his school is about 40 percent Korean, so when he comes into my room yelling, “YES! I am going to shove it” — punctuated with a fist pump — “at those Koreans tomorrow,” it doesn’t take long to figure out that Japan must have won the World Baseball Classic . . .