Diversity, Science / Tech

Why Women Don’t Code

Ever since Google fired James Damore for “advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace,” those of us working in tech have been trying to figure out what we can and cannot say on the subject of diversity. You might imagine that a university would be more open to discussing his ideas, but my experience suggests otherwise.

For the last ten months I have been discussing this issue at the Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering where I work. I have tried to understand why Damore’s opinions generated such anger and have struggled to decide what I want to do in response. As a result of my attempts to discuss this, our mailing list known as ‘diversity-allies’ is now a moderated list to prevent “nuanced, and potentially hurtful, discussion.” Instead, I have been encouraged to participate in face-to-face meetings that have often been tense, but which have helped me to understand where others are coming from.

I embarked on this journey because I worry that tech companies and universities are increasingly embracing an imposed silence, in which one is not permitted to question the prevailing wisdom on how to achieve diversity goals. I intend to fight this imposed silence and I encourage others to do the same. We can’t allow the Damore incident to establish a precedent. Damore’s twitter handle briefly claimed that he had been “fired for truth,” but really he was fired for honesty. Those of us who disagree with current diversity efforts need to speak up and share our honest opinions, even if doing so puts us at risk.

Saying controversial things that might get me fired is nothing new for me. I’ve been doing it most of my adult life and usually my comments have generated a big yawn. I experienced a notable exception in a 1991 case that received national attention, when I was fired from Stanford University for “violating campus drug policy” as a means of challenging the assumptions of the war on drugs. My attitude in all of these cases has been that I need to speak up and give my honest opinion on controversial issues. Most often nothing comes of it, but if I can be punished for expressing such ideas, then it is even more important to speak up and try to make the injustice plain.

So let me go once more unto the breach by stating publicly that I believe that women are less likely than men to want to major in computer science and less likely to pursue a career as a software engineer and that this difference between men and women accounts for most of the gender gap we see in computer science degree programs and in Silicon Valley companies.

My Diversity Work

My friends advise me that only someone who has fought for diversity can discuss the state of the movement, so let me describe some details of my 32-year career teaching computer science. I worked for ten years at Stanford managing introductory computer science courses, receiving the Dinkelspiel Award for Outstanding Service to Undergraduate Education along the way. I spent eight years at the University of Arizona doing similar work where I won the College of Science Distinguished Teaching Award and the Honors College Outstanding Advisor Award. For the last fourteen years I have worked at the University of Washington where I manage introductory computer science courses, winning the Distinguished Teaching Award in 2014.

I have been a champion of using undergraduate TAs in introductory programming classes. I set up undergraduate TA programs at Stanford and Arizona that continue to this day and we have a thriving program at UW. I was co-author of an IEEE article entitled, “Broadening Participation: The Why and the How.” My work with introductory courses and undergraduate TAs factored into the selection in 2015 of UW as the inaugural winner of the Excellence in Promoting Women in Undergraduate Computing prize awarded by NCWIT (the National Center for Women & Information Technology).

In my years of teaching nothing has brought me more joy and sense of accomplishment than helping young people discover a love of computer science. Many of them have been men but more often they have been women. I have helped hundreds of women to learn to love computer science and for most it has been life changing.

As a result, I am absolutely convinced that for many years there have been—and even today still are—many women who have not yet discovered the bright future they can have in the field of computer science. Half of the women in our undergraduate major are ‘interest changers,’ which means they weren’t intending to apply to the major when they started our first course. For men the figure is closer to 20 percent, so there is a big gender gap.

In short, I have always been and continue to be a strong advocate of many aspects of the diversity agenda.

The Equality Agenda Versus the Equity Agenda

Arguments over diversity have been going on for decades at universities with bitter fights along the way over affirmative action, political correctness, and speech codes. These arguments have acquired renewed urgency as major tech companies have joined the fray in response to increased scrutiny from the media about the lack of diversity in their workforce.

No company has done more than Google to create and share resources in this space. They developed a popular workshop on unconscious bias that has been copied by many other organizations, and they extended those ideas to create a second workshop called “Bias Busters” that many universities have also adopted.

Like most of us who work in tech, I heard mention of these things but didn’t take the time to investigate them. But when Damore was fired, I started looking more closely at the content of these workshops and I found much to criticize. 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.

I favor what I call the ‘equality agenda’ in computer science. 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. For them, diversity involves a commitment to righting the wrongs of the past. Political and religious diversity are not on their list because they don’t represent the immutable characteristics previously used to justify discrimination. They may concede that Damore’s claim that Google has become an echo chamber might be an issue worth addressing, but they will deny that this is a diversity issue. 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. Google’s Bias Busters workshop trains people to intervene when they hear examples of bias. Microaggression training fosters inclusion by preparing people to recognize and eliminate small slights that could make some people uncomfortable. Google CEO Sundar Pichai used the word in this sense when he justified Damore’s firing with the observation that, “It’s important for the women at Google, and all the people at Google, that we want to make an inclusive environment.”

The word ‘equity’ has the most variability in how it is understood. For example, Steven Pinker uses the term ‘equity feminism’ to refer to something similar to what I am calling the equality agenda. But among professionals and activists, ‘equity’ has the specific meaning of working to dismantle existing power structures as a way to redress privilege.

I refer to this combination of ideas as the ‘equity agenda.’ While the equality agenda focuses on equality of opportunity, the equity agenda is concerned with outcomes. Its proponents don’t demand equal outcomes but instead use unequal outcomes as evidence that there is more work to be done. So, unless or until we reach perfect gender parity, they will continue to argue for more diversity programs for women.

Why So Much Anger?

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. My question was labeled an “inflammatory example” and my comments were described as “hurtful” to women. When I mentioned that perhaps we could invite Damore to speak at UW, a faculty member responded, “If he comes here, we’ll hurt him.” She was joking, but the sentiment was clear.

One faculty member gave a particularly cogent response. She said, “Is it our job to make someone with those opinions feel welcome? I’m not sure whether academic freedom dictates that.” She argued that because we know that women have traditionally been discriminated against, perhaps it is more important to support them because the environment will not be sufficiently inclusive if they have to deal with someone like Damore. She said it “is up to us” to decide, but that, “choosing to hold a viewpoint does not necessarily give you the right to feel comfortable.”

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.

Men and Women are Different

As Sundar Pichai said in his memo to employees explaining why he fired Damore, “To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK.” This is a fairly egregious misrepresentation of what Damore actually wrote, but fortunately we don’t need to turn to biology or Damore for evidence that men and women are different. 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. If you attend almost any diversity event today you will hear that ‘stereotype threat‘ and ‘imposter syndrome‘ should be discussed with our students because women disproportionately suffer from these problems. 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:

A critical part of attracting more girls and women to computer science is providing multiple ways to “be in” computer science. Concern for people, family, “balance in life,” novels, and a good night’s sleep should not come at the cost of success in computer science. 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. How is that possible if men and women don’t differ in fundamental ways?

Diversity advocates have also started claiming that diverse teams perform better. In a CNBC interview discussing her book Own It: The Power of Women at Work, Wall Street veteran Sallie Krawcheck said, “It’s the qualities that women bring to the workforce—not better than the men, but somewhat different than the men—where our holistic decision making, our risk awareness, our relationship orientation skills that we tend to bring are becoming actually more valuable going forward, not less valuable.”

The Oppression Narrative

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. Emily Chang’s new book Brotopia asserts that, “the environment in the tech industry has become toxic for women,” and that, “women have been systematically excluded from the greatest wealth creation in the history of the world and denied a voice in the rapid remolding of our global culture.”

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.

Another example of this false narrative comes from NPR’s Planet Money, which produced a segment entitled “When Women Stopped Coding.” They identify 1984 as the year that “something changed” and they highlight a theory that around that time the personal computer revolution was affecting college campuses. Young men were arriving who had used personal computers young women lacked because families disproportionately bought computers for boys. NPR claims that, “As personal computers became more common, computer science professors increasingly assumed that their students had grown up playing with computers at home,” and includes an anecdote from a woman who had a bad experience in her introductory programming class. I don’t doubt that this woman had a bad experience, but the claim that computer science faculty were gearing their courses towards men with prior experience is simply not true.

I ran the introductory programming courses at Stanford in the 1980s 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. We loved Rich Pattis’s 1981 book, Karel the Robot, because it was, as it’s subtitle claimed, “A Gentle Introduction to the Art of Computer Programming.” Many schools were experimenting with new courses, new textbooks, and new programming environments, all of which were intended to make it easier for novices to learn how to program.

The NPR piece also noted that we have experienced a slow but steady decrease in women majoring in computer science since 1984, 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.

It’s Complicated

The more I study the gender gap in computer science the more I become convinced that there are no simple answers. When I hear a claim or encounter a graph, I find that it takes a great deal of effort to drill down into the details and I almost always end up concluding, “It’s complicated.” This article would become a book if I were to drill down on everything, but the NPR graph provides a nice example of what you find when you dig into the data.

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. 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.

We don’t yet understand why men rush in during the boom years and why women turn away during the bust years, but it seems likely that multiple factors are at work. 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.

The Free Choice Explanation

I suggest a variation of Hanlon’s Razor that one should never attribute to oppression that which is adequately explained by free choice. If men and women are different, then we should expect them to make different choices. In 2010, the National Academy of Sciences published a paper entitled “Understanding Current Causes of Women’s Under-Representation in Science.” As in the NPR piece, the authors describe the great success women have had in other fields:

Since 1970, 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. Forty years ago, women’s presence in most of these fields was several orders of magnitude less; e.g., in 1970 only 13 percent of PhDs in life sciences went to women. In the most math-intensive fields, however, women’s growth has been less pronounced.

But they reject discrimination as an explanation:

We conclude that past initiatives to combat discrimination against women in science appear to have been highly successful. Women’s current underrepresentation in math-intensive fields is not caused by discrimination in these domains, but rather to sex differences in resources, abilities, and choices (whether free or constrained).

In 2013, Psychological Science published a paper that explored this question further entitled “Not Lack of Ability but More Choice: Individual and Gender Differences in Choice of Careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.” The authors included Jacquelynne Eccles who is well known for a career spanning decades studying student motivation and gender differences.

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). They write that, “Our study provides evidence that it is not lack of ability that causes females to pursue non-STEM careers, but rather the greater likelihood that females with high math ability also have high verbal ability and thus can consider a wider range of occupations.”

In 2018, another paper explored the same question from a different perspective using international data from the PISA survey (the Programme for International Student Assessment). Olga Khazan summarized the paper well in an article for the Atlantic:

The issue doesn’t appear to be girls’ aptitude for STEM professions. 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.

But when it comes to their relative strengths, in almost all the countries—all except Romania and Lebanon—boys’ best subject was science, and girls’ was reading. (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.) Across all countries, 24 percent of girls had science as their best subject, 25 percent of girls’ strength was math, and 51 percent excelled in reading. For boys, the percentages were 38 for science, 42 for math, and 20 for reading.

The study found that gender differences increased in countries that have greater gender equality as measured by the World Economic Forum’s annual Global Gender Gap Report. They noted that countries with the highest gender equality tend to be “welfare states…with a high level of social security for all its citizens,” which they believe can influence women’s choices. 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. As Khazan says in the conclusion to her article, “it could just be that, feeling financially secure and on equal footing with men, some women will always choose to follow their passions, rather than whatever labor economists recommend. And those passions don’t always lie within science.”

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 1.9 percent versus 8.2 percent for men. 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 18.6 percent, 17 percent, and 15.9 percent female, respectively. These percentages are very close to what we see in the United States.

Where Do We Go From Here?

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 mid-30s 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-10 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 17.6 percent to 18.7 percent.

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 0.9 percent in 2008 to 1.1 percent in 2017. 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 5.3 percent in 2008 to 6.4 percent in 2017.

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. Women are not going to find this message appealing and men will find themselves feeling even more awkward around women than they would be otherwise.

Our community must face the difficult truth that we aren’t likely to make further progress in attracting women to computer science. Women can code, but often they don’t want to. We will never reach gender parity. You can shame and fire all of the Damores you find, but that won’t change the underlying reality.

It’s time for everyone to be honest, and my honest view is that having 20 percent women in tech is probably the best we are likely to achieve. Accepting that idea doesn’t mean that women should feel unwelcome. Recognizing that women will be in the minority makes me even more appreciative of the women who choose to join us.

Obviously many people will disagree with my assessment. I have already been told that expressing such ideas is hurtful to women. But it is exactly because I care so much about diversity that I value honesty above politeness. To be effective, we have to commit ourselves to a search for the truth and that search can succeed only if everyone feels comfortable sharing their honest opinions.

In the last ten months I have taken the time to talk to those who disagree with me. I welcome such conversations. I have strong opinions, but I also realize that I could be wrong. The big question is whether there is room in tech for a James Damore or for me when we question basic tenets of the equity agenda. I believe that the uproar over Damore’s firing underscores how extreme his case was. This article will probably produce a big yawn like most of my other controversial stands over the years. If so, then I encourage all of the closet Damores out there to join the discussion and to let people know what you really think.

 

Stuart Reges is a Principal Lecturer at the University of Washington where he manages the introductory computer science classes at the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering.

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Filed under: Diversity, Science / Tech

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Stuart Reges is a Principal Lecturer at the University of Washington where he manages the introductory computer science classes at the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering.

352 Comments

  1. Jom says

    I can’t risk losing my job in tech by saying some of the things you did in your essay. I’ve got a family to support. I have to go along with all the diversity crap like a good comrade. I feel like one of those pathetic guys that acts like he is Christian so he can please his wife.

    Thank you for your essay. I hope it changes some minds.

    • Sarah says

      herein lies the problem. Jom dismisses the other side as crap. The side hears Jom call it crap and dismisses him or calls him names. What we need to do, on all sides, is listen and really try to understand where the opposite sides comes from and then, and only then, try to address the issue. I agree most strongly with the part of this article that argues we need to expand our definition of diversity, I agree there are differences in men and women as a whole, and I appreciate the author’s attempts to introduce a more balance glance at the fact women are underrepresented in CSE both in terms of education and in the field. I take exception to his conclusion that we have reached some capacity because the implication of that is to just stop looking at the issue. I still think it is more true there are girls who are not going into CS for the wrong reasons, than there are boys. And I think the field could improve by changing in ways that make it a more appealing place for women.

      Sarah

      • Jay Salhi says

        Did biology, pediatrics and veterinary medicine change to make the professions more appealing to women? Why change a profession so that people who currently do not choose to enter it will make different choices? Indeed, never mind whether social engineering of this variety is desirable is it even possible?

        And why is it that we only worry about these things with certain professions? There is no movement for gender diversity for jobs such as sanitation workers and coal miners.

        • Zach says

          That is a great point. Probably because tech represents power money and influence in our age so there is the obvious question of who owns it.

        • pyrrhus says

          Indeed. And the basic fact disclosed by results on the SAT Math test is that women are significantly (about 40 points) worse than men at mathematics. This has been true since the inception of the test. Since math ability is quite important in coding, there are far fewer women choosing coding as a profession…And those who are very good at math are very likely to choose investment banking or some more lucrative profession.

      • Jason Solinsky says

        I don’t think he is saying that we are doing all that we can do. I’m not sure why you are hearing this. At any rate, aside from the obvious (don’t ever discriminate or harass) what should we be doing?

        Also are you Sarah Mei?

      • Muyuu says

        What does “the other side” even mean? I’m on the side of doing the job and ignoring my coworker’s features that aren’t relevant for the job. Women, minorities, identifiable groups of any kind are most certainly not an “opposite side” to male coders.

        If people are given all the chances to join STEM fields and women decide to do something else, nobody should be wondering if they are doing it for the “wrong” reasons. In fact they are being favoured, which up to a certain degree in the private sector is fine, and there is nothing to improve so long as they are not being mistreated in any way.

        Jom is absolutely right, it’s crap. It’s ideological mumbo jumbo that alienates men who have done nothing wrong and wastes their time, while forcing them to pretend they agree with some sort of cult. There are no opposite sides and no power play, except that executed by the ideologues intent to force it on everybody.

        Quotas and compulsory “diversity training” do make the workplace hostile.

        Stop forcing radical post-modern theories on people. Problem solved.

      • Sarah, lots of STEM fields are a lot more “appealing places for women” than M.D. and DVM programs! Do you feel that those fields have changed in order to be more appealing environments for women? I suspect that women enjoy that work more than coding, regardless of whether the environment is female friendly or not/

        When my parents got divorced, my mother needed to get a decent job to support us, fast. She almost had a college degree, and finished it with computer science classes. She never liked it, but she was glad for the stability, good hours, great income, and the fact that her being a divorcee made no difference to anyone, unlike a lot of jobs at that time.

        I majored in math, M.S. in Operations Research. I worked at IBM for my 1st job. My manager was a woman, so was her peer manager, as were two of 6 of the technical staff on our team. I have had a career in STEM fields for years, and am happy. But software engineering, no, I’d rather not. I programmed out of necessity, of course. I loved modeling computer hardware performance at IBM, yet this was also me:

        “Women can code, but often they don’t want to. Why fight it? We will never reach gender parity. You can shame and fire all of the Damores you find, but that won’t change the underlying reality.”

      • Donald Wheeler says

        And we could entice more men into, say, nursing by making the profession into the MMA. But that won’t actually result in more nursing getting done, will it? The women I manage have got where they are because they love what they’re doing and do it well, without asking for handouts, exceptions or special cases; the ones that haven’t succeeded have told me that *everything* needs to change to support *them* – my successful women didn’t want to work with those people.

      • LucianoC says

        that all sounds great, but how can we start to listen and understand, if one side of the argument uses intimidation and goes on a which hunt to silence the opposition and falsify broad consent?

        so for now, Jom is correc in identifying all the ideology shoved down his throat, to which no criticism is acceptable, as crap.

      • > herein lies the problem. Jom dismisses the other side as crap.

        Well, first off, he’s NOT that dismissive at all. Second, maybe he should be. Why shouldn’t he? He’s looked at the facts and he’s being honest, therefore, he has to call it crap. Study after study proves “the other side” to have no merit.

      • patti says

        Very naive. You make statements without a shred of evidence.

        You say the field could improve by changing in ways that make it more appealing for women. Really? In what way would it improve? Would compilers perform in less time? Would algorithm development be more efficient with a female perspective? Do women have particular insights into the syntax and semantics of computer languages that would make the field more productive?

        Or are you just parroting more of the diversity and inclusion crap?

      • Richard says

        Sarah, first, are you in the IT field? Second, your said “I still think it is more true there are girls who are not going into CS for the wrong reasons …” What wrong reasons have you observed? What do you suggest?

    • Bite Me says

      “diversity crap”

      Ah yes, you sound like youre such a swell guy

    • sara says

      All this does is make my workplace more hostile. I already have to deal with men like you every day.

      • “All this does is make my workplace more hostile. I already have to deal with men like you every day.”

        It’s obvious where the hostility is really coming from….

    • Downtym says

      “I feel like one of those pathetic guys that acts like he is Christian so he can please his wife.”

      Jesus. Christ. What a terrible analogy.

  2. “Why So Much Anger?”

    My sense, and I think there is some data backing this up, is that the parts of the culture that care a lot about “diversity issues” got radicalized about 5 years ago.

    • Jason Solinsky says

      There is a lot of actual evil out there. It only takes being seriously victimized once to leave a scar. I feel bad when I encounter someone who has obviously been in such a situation. Unfortunately, some of those victims believe that this gives them the right to direct how our industry evolves.

  3. JHS says

    I’m a woman. I’m a former engineer – former, because in no way, in no world do I consider making better widgets to be more fulfilling than raising my children.

    I agree with you.

    • quidnunc says

      Yeah – most of those jobs are like intellectual ditch digging. Not everyone gets to work on cutting edge topics. Seems rational to avoid if you’re not salary driven. Taking a pay cut was worth the piece of mind I could never get with coding problems always swirling in my head.

      • Benson says

        It’s fairly obvious that women tend to value work-life balance over money and long hours. Biological men seem to be evaluated by their resources and status. They need to achieve. They are Human Doings

      • You seem to have completely misread her comment. She wasn’t “pretending that all women just want to stay home and raise children”; she specifically qualified that she, personally, does not consider widget-making more fulfilling than child raising.

        Comments like yours, I’m afraid, don’t move the conversation forward.

      • Jaime says

        Don’t think she made a general statement about women. Also, raising children is NOT a menial or regressive job. It is by far the most important job that will shape the civilization.

      • “regressive garbage”

        Projection, as usual. You are not in favor of freedom and choice. You want to shame women for acting like women naturally tend to act.

    • sara says

      Well, we can disagree. I find raising children to be frankly quite boring.

      Personally, I find it fulfilling to raise my children with my husband and expect him to pull his weight instead of being an absent father that leaves all the work and reward to me.

  4. Mei says

    “Women can code, but often they don’t want to”

    That’s me, alright. I can do it when I need to, but software engineering seems really boring.

    • Alan says

      Absolutely agree. I work in a back-office niche in the publishing trade which is 90+ per cent male. We do it for the money. Women with good degrees fight for editorial roles where they work their socks off for half as much.

    • AARON says

      Interesting, this is how I feel about child care.

      • Marjan says

        You find charing for your children really boring? That’s really sad.

        • MCA says

          Marjan – AARON never said they had kids, only that they find child care boring. Perhaps they don’t have kids, and that’s why?

          I’m in the same boat. My reaction to 99% of kids is like that scene in Terminator 2 where the T-800 just picks up a toddler and looks at it like it’s a space alien. No kids for me, ever.

        • MMM says

          I’m a woman and never wanted kids, because I find them boring, too.

        • John Stew says

          Coding up a new XML parser, exciting, looking after my kids, boring. If I didn’t feel this way then why would I want to come to work and write code every week day for 40 years?

        • Raven says

          I also really struggled staying home caring for my children. I thought I would love it but I didn’t. How can one know until you are in that space? It didn’t help that other moms were condescending and judgemental saying things like “really sad”. thank

          • Edward says

            Different strokes for different folks. Horses for courses. Etc. I too find it boring. Those other mothers are more than likely full of excrement and hiding loads of problems from themselves.

          • Ada says

            Neither did I. Prior to becoming pregnant as an old mom (late 30s), my passion was coding. After becoming pregnant, I completely lost interest in it and my passion became my family. It was quite odd. I felt like I was taken over by an alien.

            I quit working to raise kids, and recently returned to work – as a bookkeeper. 20 years out of the tech world combined with being a geezer does not exactly do wonders for one’s job opportunities. Was it worth it? You bet.

        • Edward says

          It can be incredibly boring. She is perfectly entitled to that opinion. Also, the other lady is fine to state her own preference. People are different. In the main women and men have common differences that are obvious to most people. It is not that big a deal.

      • sara says

        I think this is how most people feel about childcare. Children are not that interesting.

        • How can children be boring, but AI/ML interesting? How can building a server farm be interesting, but shaping a growing biological server farm boring?

    • What about law? I find law way more boring than software engineering. Yet, a lot of women study law. Do you feel that law is somewhat interesting?

      BTW: I don’t agree with this “boys have worse verbal skills than girls”. I’ve seen the pejorative marks our teachers gave: it’s not just that girls get discouraged to do math, it’s boys get discouraged doing languages — you can work as hard as possible, but when the teacher doesn’t want to give you good marks, you don’t get them. The teachers already know that boys are worse, so they justify their thinking by giving them worse marks, often enough by inventing mistakes that really weren’t there (also seen that done by math teachers on girls). This sort of gender stereotype works in both ways. You better question that assumption, too.

      • harpo says

        Impossible … boys have male privilege … especially the white ones … diminishing girls’ oppression … misogynist

  5. A very good essay. Yes, those of us working at universities should take more risks in opposing the ideological agendas of our institutions.

  6. ga gamba says

    Which explains why it has such a high male:female author ratio.

    Correlation does not equal causation. Any science-minded person would know this.

    Using a univariate analysis, the comment does betray Nancy’s simplemindedness. No one worth their salt would only look at one factor, sex ratio, and then declare it alone explains anything other than an imbalance exists. It offers a quantified observation but not an explanation. But this is the recurring problem with many of our sex and race activists who use the skills common to 7-year-olds. Count the sexes (or count the colours) and divide. Eureka! An explanation.

    … hatred of feminism.

    In and of itself hatred of feminism, if it is held by those Nancy claims, does not mean hatred of women. Too often our activists conflate feminism for women. Not only are they not the same, the majority of women don’t call themselves feminists.

    Moving on, it’s interesting to look deeper into the issue by seeing where women in IT congregate. The preferred fields are database administration, more than 40% female such as Nancy, and web developers, about 32% female, and the least favoured is network architecture, which is about 4% female. Why this is hasn’t been explained. One may think that DBA’s and web devs need to be more social and talk to who use their products, but network architects also need to collaborate with many. It may be who they need to talk to and work with.

    • Herr Ginsterbusch says

      Database administration and web development usually includes a lot of contact with other people, at least if you work in a regular small to mid-sized company environment, or are freelancing. In the aforementioned one, its actually way more important to stay in contact and socialize, even if its just via the interwebs.

      So yes, communication skills (not neccessarily social skills) might be a key figure or at least one of the related factors.

      If “network architecture” means “crawling around on the floor and connecting network cables to routers and computers” and “fixing stuff thats only broken thanks to some Layer-8-problem accidently stumbling over the main power plugs of the local development server” or “some idiot has been using his virus-infected USB drive on ALL old windows systems we need to keep running thanks to some ungrateful dongle interface, and now its DDoSing the local network ..” etc .. then the reason should be pretty obvious 🙂

      cu, w0lf.

    • Apparently my original comment was removed by Quillette. Which is absolutely SOP for Quillette which pretends to champion free speech and meanwhile censors and supports lawsuits as Claire Lehmann did because she didn’t like SPLC’s article about the alt-right which mentioned Sam Harris. You people are a joke.

      Enjoy my comment before it is removed.

        • Nancy, judging by the comments you’ve left here, I’m sure you crossed a line and had it coming. For crying out loud, you’re calling Quillette alt-right. You are an extremist.

      • Mary says

        Explanation please….why was Nancy’s comment removed?

  7. Thank you for taking the time to back up every reasonable assertion you have made. It is a bit sad we are in a time it is necessary, but thanks!

    I still am miffed about why women in the mid 70’s — about the time I was in High School on the teletype machines writing Basic with as many women as men — started to get bored with it in the 1990’s? The “war of the sexes”, and sexual harassment was much greater then than now, IMHO.

    I co-founded a small software company in 1985, through no thought at all about gender, our programming team was mostly female. We were writing cross-assemblers and the attention to detail was important and more of our women candidates were better at it. We hired those that were better.

    My wife, is still a happy programmer, though in management, still very much in the IT world, so I may have a different world view.

    • “I still am miffed about why women in the mid 70’s — about the time I was in High School on the teletype machines writing Basic with as many women as men — started to get bored with it in the 1990’s? The “war of the sexes”, and sexual harassment was much greater then than now, IMHO.”

      This actually fits the trend. Just like it was mentioned that the Nordic countries have both the highest levels of gender equality and the lowest percentages of women in computer sciences, the countries with the lowest levels of gender equality also have the highest percentages of women in computer sciences; actually near gender parity.

      So if we want more women in computer science, we’re going to have to become a society with more gender inequality.

      • Benson says

        It’s not about gender inequality.
        When you don’t have a social security net, you don’t choose your job by passion. You have to choose a job, that can pay the bills and pays for food or else… Tech is currently just the most in need and highest paying.

    • Leah says

      He does not do that, though. For example his claim that LGBTQ people in tech do not face discrimination. That is not sourced and it is blatantly untrue. Take two seconds on Google and you’ll find studies that disprove that ridiculous and frankly damaging claim. Undermining the discrimination that minorities face in tech only makes it harder for them to succeed.

      • Sam says

        I’d say that Stuart likely has a better idea than most about what it is like to be LGBTQ and in tech.

        https://stanforddailyarchive.com/cgi-bin/stanford?a=d&d=stanford19850509-01.2.19

        Regardless, he did a very good job of supporting the most important points in his argument with sources or data. You may disagree with him or his conclusions, but your claim that it is “blatantly untrue” is just as unsupported as his claim otherwise. So either a) you don’t actually believe in the value of sourcing your arguments as much as you claim, or b) people, including both Stuart and yourself, should not reasonably be expected to supply a source supporting every tangential claim they make unless they are prompted for one in further discussion.

      • Northern Observer says

        In my experience LGBTQ are favored in the job market for key sales and admin positions as they are childless and flexible in their work location and hours.
        All the senior sales managers where I work have been lesbians for the past 20 years. There is obviously some coincidence in that but there it is.

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  10. Prepare for the fallout on this one. No matter how well your arguments are buttressed they will villify and try to destroy you. Wrongthink is not tollerated and facts have nithino whatsoever to do with it.

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  12. Elissa says

    If a baker can deny service to a gay couple because of their religion, a business like Google should be able to fire an employee because the employee’s statements were against the business owner’s values and ethics. Fair is fair.

    • Andrew Roddy says

      I am confused. Are you equating denial of service with employment equality? And why would a baker be offended by a gay couple’s religion?

      • R O says

        The “baker”, Jack Philips, was offended by being forced to contribute his creative service, cake decorating, which is a form of artistic expression for those who take it seriously, for a homosexual couple’s so-called wedding, and thus participating in a ceremony for what his religion considered a sinful condition. Note: HIS religion, and their disregard for it.

        He had no problem with selling them a “standard” (i.e. impersonal) wedding cake “off the shelf”, as he had been doing for some time with any such customers walking in off the street.

        They could have found any number of willing cake decorators (likely of their persuasion) who would not care about their relationship. The couple seemed to be determined to make an example of him, and the Colorado Civil Rights Commission joined in their vendetta, which the Supreme Court declared illegal June 4.

      • Brian says

        The baker’s objections had nothing to do with either the gay couple’s religion or their sexual orientation.

    • Jack Smith says

      Agree. Plus Damore causing so much distruptidis and not stopping when asked to stop there was no choice but fire him.

      • Aapje says

        @Jack Smith

        Damore was never told by management to stop. He was just fired. Furthermore, Damore never harmed anyone, unlike a subset of activist Googlers who went after Damore. Google could also have fired them and actually did in one case (that person did get plenty of warnings to stop, but didn’t).

    • Nobody says they (baker, Google) can’t. Everybody says they shouldn’t.

      • Mike says

        Uh…a lot of people say that both the hypothetical baker and Google can’t under the law. The cases are not apples to apples comparisons, in any event.

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  15. Jon ER says

    Pro tip: don’t bother with Hacker News comments, they have an equity activism censuring squad.

    • Billby says

      The consequence of not buying a cake is far less than losing your job and being blacklisted by a whole industry

      • Jack Smith says

        You go to work to work and not push your polictical views. That is why Damore was fired and nobody will hire him.

        • ga gamba says

          Well Jack, your understanding of what happened is very flawed. Damore was required to write a paper after attending diversity training. He did so and received no response. He posted the paper on a small in-house discussion group, received feedback from numerous colleagues, and revised. This went on for many weeks. With still no feedback from the trainers he posted his complete paper on a larger in-house forum. It was here that the easy to outrage expressed their outrage and released the paper to the media, which breached google’s own policies. The paper was published on a Saturday, 5 Aug, after all the academic citations were redacted by someone other than Damore. A complete (unredacted) version was published later, iirc on 6 Aug. Media contacted Damore and he made no comment. He was fired on Monday, 7 Aug.

          BTW, under California law political views are a protected class in ways similar to immutable characteristics. You may be fired if your political acts interfere with your work schedule or performance, but an employer would have to counsel an employee and allow his/her the opportunity to correct. In the rush to fire Damore Google didn’t generate the supporting documents needed to demonstrate it informed the employee that s/he was neglecting work duties and opportunity to remedy the behaviour. Having a paper trail is good CYA.

          Now it’s in the court’s hands.

        • Northern Observer says

          Yeah, did you read Damore’s memo? Not a political statement. He was trying to help his employer. Certain bad actors frame it as a political statement. Don’t fall for that propaganda.

        • Lynolix says

          The equality seminar Damore attended back when he was at Google asked for feedback on their seminar. And being the engineer that he is, he did exactly just that–see what the literature had to say–and not bother to think they wanted to have their views praised and validated.

          He went to a meeting. The presenters asked for feedback. He did as they asked. He got fired for doing so.

          How is that pushing a political view? Unless facts and reality are now just a matter of politics and personal opinion…

        • peanut gallery says

          This is a bad argument, as it’s pretty clear that Google is pushing plenty of politics inside it’s corporate structure. Damore just didn’t meet the purity standard. “This unit is defective.”

        • Andrew Smedley says

          If you call what Damore did pushing a political view (which he was actually asked for), then his colleagues and superiors who equally pushed opposite political views should also be fired, right?

          Also if you go to work to work, why was he attending a diversity training seminar in the first place? This activity seems rather unrelated to the core duties of a software engineer.

          • ga gamba says

            Also if you go to work to work, why was he attending a diversity training seminar in the first place? This activity seems rather unrelated to the core duties of a software engineer.

            Because his employer established a system where employee appraisals and promotions required participation in these training events.

            An issue that’s been skirted is Damore is on the autistic spectrum. This may not not responsible for his views, but he claims it’s a reason why, when told to provide feedback, he did as he was told to the best of his ability – 10 pages with citations, iirc. Appears he didn’t understand he was to lie. “Great content. Learnt much. Respect women. Thanks.”

        • sara says

          He’s having trouble being hired because many people don’t want to work with him. He basically thinks he’s better than all the women he’s worked with. Why would anyone want to hire someone like that?

          • Chris says

            Please point out in the original memo where he said that.

          • Richard says

            Sara, you said, “He’s having trouble being hired because many people don’t want to work with him. He basically thinks he’s better than all the women he’s worked with.” That statement demands a citation.

        • Aapje says

          @Jack Smith

          Google has a culture where they encourage such things, which seems unwise to me, but it was very unfair of them to fire Damore for doing what he was encouraged to do by his employer.

          Damore is also autistic, which means that he has trouble recognizing the unspoken rules that exist. So by firing him without making the rules clear and giving him a chance to conform, they were very ableist.

          Given this comment and your earlier ones, perhaps you should read up more on Damore, because you clearly lack knowledge of the facts of the case.

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  17. I’ve been a software engineer for longer than I can afford to admit (by far the biggest “ism” in the industry is not sexism but ageism), and I’ve worked with many smart, educated and dedicated women. The majority of them have been from Asia but somehow they don’t seem to count in the eyes of the professional outrage mongers even though they are “persons of color”.

    It seems to me the emphasis should not be on heavy-handed enforcement of 50-50 equality in software or any other field, but in ensuring as far as possible that every child has the opportunity to be exposed to a wide range of possible careers, with no-one being forced or steered towards or away from choices just because of gender. Once a student has expressed interest in a given career, they should receive the support and encouragement they need to maximize their chances of succeeding in that career. There will still be differences in representation in some industries because in aggregate, men and women have different interests. And as long as it’s women and not men who have babies, there will be women who decide to drop out of their career track and stay at home to raise the children. I’m getting pretty tired of the outrage mongers (who tend to be uninformed outsiders) screaming that statistics = sexism. No, there is not some vast patriarchal conspiracy to keep women out of STEM, and it is not the case that every guy who works in Silicon Valley ends up a billionaire!

  18. Robert says

    Bravo. Well said. It’s time we come back to reality and start honoring truth again.

  19. Brian F. Will says

    What no one really wants to say – and the cornerstone issue of this insanity – is buried in the first graph. The prevalence of women in anything began in the early seventies, at the onset of mass availability of birth control and the legalization of abortion (1973).

    The oppression narrative is fails when pitted against the fact that – starting in the early seventies – intercourse no longer held the consequence of pregnancy. A 20 year commitment (including a lengthy courtship, pregnancy itself, and the nurturing and raising of a child) was reduced to occasional, single evening events (presumably).

    This freed up decades of time in the prime of a woman’s youth to explore education and a career.

    The oppression narrative is actually harmful to both women and men. Casting men as a sworn enemy in need of drastic behavioral change disregards the fact that men invented birth control, fostered ‘women’s health’ and gave up on this supposed impenetrable patriarchy fairly easily, without much resistance.

    Instead of asking: “how do we get more women into STEM?”, a good hypothetical question ask might be: “What the hell would the current women in STEM do without birth control, planned parenting and long term day care?”

    • JHS says

      Well said. We’d get further into exploring the remnants of actual sexism in our society if we explored the actual effects of birth control on society in general, women in particular, individual women’s health, marriage, relationships, and the overall effects of separating sex from procreation. But given that we are just as unable to face the potential negative effects of birth control as we are the potential negative effects of the rest of our sex/sexuality-based societal engineering of the past 60 years, I doubt we’ll get far.

    • Brad says

      This is a puzzling comment. Are you implying that women owe it to men because of this one invention?
      Consider (1) the women who made significant changes prior to contraception (Marie Curie, Grace Hopper, …) and (2) the inevitability of such an invention in a time of advances in chemistry and 60’s culture of free love.

      What’s more, policy making is forward looking. I honestly don’t care what happened 45 years ago. I worry about what’s smartest now and if technology is missing out on half the brainpower of humanity because of a few toxic neckbeards.

  20. Gary Edwards says

    Amongst the wealthy and well educated in stable, liberal and democratic societies, where one’s career is associated with self-actualisation as much as with social security and advancement, fewer women appear interested tech work. For whatever reason. Therefore, short of ‘forcing women to be free’, i.e. press-ganging them, 50/50 equity is a lost cause (in the ‘west’).

  21. Steven Weiss says

    I think a lot of people get lost in the facts and forget the emotions of the people in these discussion.

    When Damore said “women tend to be more neutotic”, I didn’t care if he was technically correct. I cared that I’ve always heard that stereotype, and I’d seen it negatively affect my friends who are good people.

    Similarly, the statement “men believe in their successes and discount their failures while women believe in their failures and discount their successes” may be true on average, maybe not. But it certainly doesn’t apply to me, and it hurts to constantly hear stuff like that, especially from people who we’re told are smart people.

    I’ve spent my whole life being judged against these stereotypes. So when I hear one, it really turns me off to the discussion. I get angry when people don’t understand this and insist on “sticking to the facts”. That’s missing the point, my problem isn’t with the facts, it’s that you thought they were important enough to invalidate my opinions and views about diversity.

    Honestly, I have a hard time believing people as smart as you and Damore don’t understand that. Ultimately, if this comment doesn’t make it to the comment section of this article, that will have proven that to me.

    • Sam Vee says

      Your comment is right here and your viewpoint is constantly held up as the only valid one by influential individuals and outlets. I would invite you to get some perspective of your own.

      Who cared about Damore’s sense of being judged and stereotyped as a “white techbro”? Who cared that given his age, he has literally never been alive at a time when women were underrepresented at colleges? Not the multitude of articles clutching pearls in response. Did any of them bother to consider the violation of Damore’s autonomy and privacy by leaking his internal memo? Did they consider his safety and ask for his opinion first?

      Of course not, and merely asking these questions invited guffaws and scoffs, highlighting perfectly that all this rhetoric about sensitivity is a red herring nobody actually believes. Being judged by stereotypes is just dandy if the target is a man, and denigrating people is fine if it suits the political agenda that women deserve for free what men have always worked hard and competed with each other for.

      I have a hard time believing that someone who claims to be smart does not recognize the complete and utter lack of consistency in the arguments being made. Feminism gets to elevate its own feelings as facts, and denigrates others’ facts as feelings… and pretends this is for equality and diversity.

      • JHS says

        I agree that Damore should have made it quite clear that he was referring to “Big 5 trait neuroticism” and not just quoting a stereotype of “women are neurotic.” I do agree that to be *effective*, our presentation of arguments must take psychology into account.

        But beyond that, no. I’m a woman who has spent various portions of my life as an electrical engineer, trumpet soloist, mother of 6, lyric soprano, and varsity cheerleading captain. I recognize that most of the things true of most women aren’t true of men, but THAT DOESN’T MAKE THOSE GENERALIZATIONS LESS VALID. Damore explained quite well that masculine traits and feminine traits mostly overlap, but that leaves the extremes quite segregated, some women more aggressive/thing-oriented-strong than some men, and most women in general more neurotic/person-oriented/compassionate than most women.

        Statistics, man. Statistics. You’re certainly proving your point about being more emotion-driven than the typical man, though. But statistics show that some men will be more emotional than others, even while MOST men are less emotion-driven than MOST women.

        • He did. His paper mentions “Neuroticism” exactly once, and directly links to Wikipedia’s

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroticism

          Yes, the Big 5 trait is meant, and if you have trouble understanding what is meant, it had a clarifying link in his document. And it was elaborated that the level of anxiety and stress tolerance was meant. Only an ill-willing reader would read that as a stereotypical “women are neurotic”

          Yes, the first publication had redacted all the links on purpose, to make it look like it wasn’t backed by scientific research.

          Otherwise, I completely agree with you.

    • Jack Smith says

      The execuse now being given by Damore is that he is autistic. Why he did what he did and continued after being told to stop. But then goes on all kinds of media with the same message and he now wonders why nobody will hire him.

      The right wing used him and I do not think he even realizes.

    • I get angry when people don’t seem to understand that general statements about a group don’t necessarily apply to each individual of a group. It isn’t rocket surgery.

    • I understand. If you view yourself as part of the outliers on facts of the majority, it’s harder. It’s like that with a lot of things in life if you are in the minority of any subject, opinion, etc. However, a person can try to make a second person feel inferior, but this second person can resist and simply refuse to feel inferior. That doesn’t mean it’s not annoying, but see if for what it is–not applicable to you or how you form your opinions.

      I appreciate this author’s nuanced points and discussion very much! However, I find it more interesting to look at the Damore outrage in exactly what you bring up: how people react to stereotypes which is kind of an undercurrent in the discussion.

      We all face stereotypes. Women face many different sets of them than men. They can be annoying on differing levels to all women. Some women probably recoil in anger and let it paint their entire worldview. On other extreme, others brush it off and don’t view it as a obstacle to continue doing what they enjoy (computer science?). What makes one woman more susceptible to one reaction over another? The reasons will be as varied as there are people, but I think, again, to find common denominators is most helpful to understanding “the why”. Which is how we end up with facts about a majority again.

      For some entering STEM disciplines I would think it takes women who obviously have a talent and interest, but who are resilient to personal injury from stereotypes to be attracted to the field in the first place. If, in their experiences, they view a STEM field as a battle rife with proving themselves against stereotypes, why put yourself through it if it’s going to bother you all the time (if that’s the type of person you are).

      I agree that many women as a class are probably just not as interested in computer science as men. That’s okay, especially if equality of opportunity is at play. Just curious how many don’t choose it from the get-go because of the reason “meh, why bother” reason above–and I think that is a dissuasion worth looking at.

    • Your problem is that you judge without the facts. “Neuroticism” is one of the standard personality dimensions in the most widely used personality test, the Big-5 (along with extraversion, openness, conscientiousness, and agreeableness). It has long been known that women score higher on neuroticism and agreeableness than men. This result has been so widely replicated that disbelieving is like denying the Moon landing in psychology. This is what Damore actually said.

      • JHS says

        Yes! But I don’t recall Damore actually explaining the big 5 when he said women are generally more neurotic, and he should have. (Maybe he did.) I also think that the trait should be named something else, because neuroticism carries such a heavily negative connotation with it (the other 4 traits do not).

        • Just Me says

          Damore wrote a research paper using the terminology of relevant fields, in this case academic psychology.

          Anyone bothering to read the actual paper would have known that, but most critics just pulled out the parts they found offensive and piled on without bothering to explain this.

          Your beef should be withthe critics who did that and misled you, or, yes, with academic psychology which dares use technical terms you aren’t familiar with but sound like those used in everyday life (happens quite a bit in psych because these are things most people discuss without having studied psychology, unlike say physics.).

    • C Young says

      > I didn’t care if he was technically correct. I cared that I’ve always heard that stereotype, and I’d seen it negatively affect my friends who are good people.

      You don’t have a right to ask others to suppress science because your friends might feel bad about the results.

      Clearly, if you had that right there wouldn’t have been any science as it mightily offended many in the catholic church, early in its development.

    • Chris says

      I worked for others in computer consulting and programming for years and much of that time I was unhappy. (I am male btw). Nobody asked me about my feelings. Why not?

      Because that’s life. A lot of it hurts or isn’t fun. Girlfriends who broke up with me didn’t worry about my feelings either. Why? Because they had other things to do.

      A new generation assumes that they need to be catered to in all things, when in fact the challenge is to grow personal strength and resilience. Life is hard. Get over it and get to work.

      You are not going to be much help to others if you can’t even help yourself. No, help is not screaming and marching and demanding somebody else change their ideas or actions. It’s hard work done by you, yourself.

      People used to be proud of overcoming obstacles. Now they stand in front of a foot high barrier and cry about how unfair it is. Partially it is not their fault. Somebody enabled this weakness. But each person him/herself needs to overcome this orientation and grow strong. Nobody else can do it for you no matter how much you cry or scream.

      It’s a worthy challenge, not a burden. Invest in yourself. Get to work.

      • JHS says

        Amen. I think it’s hilarious that women complain “We don’t do engineering/CS because we don’t feel welcome and there isn’t any support and we don’t have any mentors and there are no women profs to support us and…” Hello, the guys don’t feel welcome, either, or get support, or have mentors (a few exceptions), or have supportive profs (with exceptions, and they seem to be more common now than 20 years ago). That’s part of engineering. It’s tough. You have to make your own way. No one holds your hand.

        Women seem to be assuming that they have a tough, do-it-yourself experience because they’re women. No, it’s because that’s just what it is – for everyone.

        • Herr Ginsterbusch says

          This was along the lines of my thinking as well. That its a harsh learning curve and experience. So why not change the environment, make it more welcoming? But then, one would have to change the mind of society itself, which is not what we want, do we? ^_^

          cu, w0lf.

    • peanut gallery says

      The universe doesn’t owe you anything. Your views wrong or right, do not require validation. Just because you have feelings, doesn’t mean they are valid. This is the common call of the narcissist.

      “I AM OWED SOMETHING!”

    • Mike says

      I don’t think “fact-based statements are hurtful, therefore they should be silenced and/or grounds for termination” is a good working principle.

      However, I do think you raise a good point. First and foremost, people should attempt to address potentially-inflammatory matters with sensitivity. I think Damore did so in his written memo, despite its mischaracterization by Google and the press.

      Perhaps more importantly, I believe that, as a society, we need to spread the mantra far and wide that *even if* some stereotypes are based on legitimate statistical averages, that doesn’t mean they apply to any individual. There is no good reason for people to think that “women are generally more X” should apply to any particular woman, or that “hispanic men are generally more X” should apply to any particular hispanic man.

      By definition, any individual working at Google, or working as a programmer, or in any other particular job, is already exceptional, because most of the people in the world do not work at Google, or as a programmer, or in that particular job.

      Unfortunately, even people tend to want to stamp out potentially hurtful information, rather than to frame that information in its proper, no-reason-to-be-hurtful context.

    • Kerry F says

      I think there’s a personality type, or intelligence type, or whatever we want to label it that leads people to a “pure logic” argument. Folks who get stuck there tend to overlook emotions as a variable. They may have mastered logic, know how to cite facts, aggregate data, and present logical arguments, but by overlooking emotions they miss opportunities. I don’t think it’s intentional, I think they’re just ignorant to this.

      It’s clear the author cares about gender equality. He most likely doesn’t intend to offend. I don’t think he has negative motives writing this article. I do think he’s quite trapped in the pure logic perspective, and has forgotten emotions as a variable. It’s likely why he’s found such strong pushback from his colleagues.

    • Kulak says

      >When Damore said “women tend to be more neutotic”, I didn’t care if he was technically correct. I cared that I’ve always heard that stereotype, and I’d seen it negatively affect my friends who are good people.

      Here’s a hypothetical to consider, based on my own experience: James Damore himself never heard the stereotype that women tend to be more neurotic, or he never paid any attention to people promoting stereotypes. He came across the research finding of women being more neurotic and simply put that forward.

      Regarding applying stereotypes (or group averages) to individuals, I only saw Damore stressing how this must not be done.

      It appears you support the punishment of Damore for the actions of others (who apply stereotypes to individuals) and for things he actively opposed, and most of all for telling the painful truth. THAT is despicable.

    • Muyuu says

      The problem of creating this inquisition is that you are doing the oppressing and the harassment yourself when you ask people and then their relevant answers are heresy to your cult.

      If you cannot hear these honest arguments which happen to be backed by a lot of scientific literature, then maybe you should not be asking. Forcing people to give ideological answers is extremely authoritarian.

  22. Peter Kriens says

    I wish I had written this.

    I’ve worked 40 years in the industry as a consultant in many different countries. The equity movement has drastically changed the ambiance for the worse. According to the popular press developers are sexist, holding women back, while I only see a lot of men looking around before telling a joke that figures a woman. In the corporate culture I’ve only seen sexism where women were helped and favored to make up diversity numbers

    The only thing I do not like in this article is the relative advantage argument. It sounds like boys pick software because they have no choice. I was good in both as well at the top of my class in verbal and math but the choice for me was very clear. This is the same for some other really good software engineers they had many choices but software is the love of their life. Although the women I worked with were probably better than average, it should also be said that the best were invariably male. Being among the best you need to spend tens of thousands of hours behind the screen. These men are rare but I’ve only seen one woman that was really really good and she tuned out after getting a baby.

    • Lorne Carmichael says

      The “relative advantage” argument goes back to David Ricardo in the 1830’s, and is absolutely basic to the economic theory of choice. Economist’s call it Comparative Advantage. The principle is “simple but very powerful. It helps to explain patterns of occupational choice, it gives normative guidance on what those choices should be, and it suggests policies that can help achieve these goals.”

      https://www.universityaffairs.ca/opinion/in-my-opinion/male-female-imbalance-in-stem-comes-down-to-economics/

      • Lorne,

        Peter said “The only thing I do not like in this article is the relative advantage argument.” He did not say that relative advantage as a phenomenon does not exist. It is obvious from how he continues that he questions whether men truly have lesser verbal skills: i.e. men could do equally well in psychology, but are less interested in the topic. So relative interest explains the phenomenon.

        Relative advantage theory would argue that men focus on computer science even though they are inferior to women in that area, because their disadvantage is even greater in say psychology. In this way this theory explains paradoxical outcomes in specialization where we see less talented people nonetheless dominating a specific trade.

        School is an artificial environment that puts a premium on compliance. This makes it hard to judge relative ability based on school performance as the environment gives an advantage to women. (Psychological trait agreeableness).

        I take great pleasure in programming (and engineering which is my profession). Not everyone experiences this pleasure. Once, I Had a really talented female engineer come to my office with a personal question. When we sat down with the door closed she sought my help in making her work more interesting. It was not that her specific work load was sheer drudgery. She was just not feeling it. This is anecdotal. However, I find it significant because it has extreme ability combined with a very serious lack of satisfaction.

        As far as relative talent, I have the same experience as Peter. Really good engineers are typically male (with exceptions such as this lady.) To some extent, I attribute this second finding to the first. People that do not get satisfaction from an activity will seek to go elsewhere no matter how good they are.

    • If you need to look around before telling your joke maybe it’s not a good joke for work. Listen to your gut on that one, it’s trying to tell you something.

  23. As rational economic actors (surely the equity proponents wouldn’t claim that women are irrational?) it makes sense to specialize in areas in which you have an economic comparative advantage.

    Consider the deployment in the economy of those individuals who have adequate IQ for the fields of say: law, medicine, engineering – comparative advantage requires that those with better verbal abilities should specialize in fields that require verbal skills in order to maximize overall productivity and individual reward in a free market.

    The hypothesis then is not that women are under-represented due to discrimination in STEM, but that men are under-represented in legal and medical because they are less able in their verbal abilities. The apparent over-representation in programming is because of a verbal deficiency in men pushing them into the field where that failing is least disadvantageous.

    Lifetime earnings for doctors and lawyers substantially outstrip those of the median tech worker of equivalent IQ, though the mean is skewed by extreme outlier superstar tech performers.

    If the relentless recital of the oppression narrative could be paused for a moment people would realize that geeks (in life as it is in college) are to be pitied not envied.

    I was so excited at parents evening to find out that my daughter (like her dad) was the top coder in her class. “Wow, you’re really acing your class. Will you be taking Computing further then?” I asked her excitedly. “Don’t be silly dad, it’s BORING.” With the full scorn that can only be mustered by a 14-year-old. And I of course, was somewhat lost for words.

    • Ashley says

      You are right, but the amount of education it takes to even be a doctor or lawyer is many times what it is be a programmer. I can see why a gender gap in tech gets much more scrutiny than the gender gaps in construction or other physically demanding jobs that are male dominated.

      • Pirkka Jokela says

        Are you a doctor, a lawyer or a programmer?

        I have seen hundreds of “programmers” in different software companies over two decades now. Their real job titles are something different, but the day to day work is programming… in fact, in these companies nobody actually has the title programmer.

        From this experience, I would say that it takes about 10 years for a person to become a competent independent software developer / programmer / whatever. 3-5 years in college (some do masters) and the rest working in a development team. (Some people actually never become very good at creating software for whatever reason.)

        Doctors and lawyers do not take “many times” more.

  24. Part of the previous lack of interest in the male/female distribution within technology by the rabid diversity kooks is historical. Not too long ago the male dominated targets of lack of diversity would have been Rugby players, Navy SEALS, Roughnecks, and the like. EngiNerds were not on anyone’s list of male dominated sports. Being a computer geek was just the opposite of masculinity. Oh hell, it still is outside of the east/left coasts.

    • ADM64 says

      This is largely true. It’s very interesting that the blue collar jobs that are overwhelmingly male-dominated and physically demanding, dangerous, and largely unglamorous. There is no movement to push women into those. The push to get women into the military and now the tech industry is based on the belief that there is status or power or money, some combination of all three associated with them. That’s all it is.

  25. Jon says

    What? Women want to have children? By George I’m shocked, shocked I tells ya. Whoever would’ve thunked it?

  26. Paul Ellis says

    “my problem isn’t with the facts, it’s that you thought they were important enough to invalidate my opinions and views about diversity.”

    What are your views on the flatness or otherwise of the earth, and how do they relate to the known facts? How were your views formed?

  27. I can explain what my male colleagues (in tech) and I took issue with in The Google Manifesto. People vs Things is a simplistic dichotomy and many projects require collaboration or are customer facing. I specifically thought it was bad math to apply the statistics to Google, which is an elite institution and not representative of the overall population. (Also a mistake that Google’s recruiters are making as well.)

    Damore does make a quality argument, making the assumption that a job will be taken from a better qualified man. This does not take into account degree inflation (i.e. if you limit the pool to those with PhDs, then of course there will be more men because academia isn’t always family friendly), or that you might find smart women in other fields, not just those with computer science degrees.
    The whine about long hours and stressful work environment makes no sense. Versus medicine? Or law? Or parenting? Software engineering is the least stressful part of my day.

    The real problem is the message. There are many who believe that because they don’t see women, that that means that women can’t program (or in my case, do math). Damore does not mention the history of computing, and there are now a few books about how the contribution of women was ignored or forgotten. Being told that you can’t do something (even when you are in graduate school!) is off putting. A relative of mine got the message that she was not welcome, and left. I left academia because my peers were more interested in point scoring than collaboration. This was a feature of where I was, but I doubt this was an isolated experience.

    The reasons for the decline are not singular, but the assumption that women moved towards medicine seems very wrong. What is more likely is that women who were told that they had to be nurses (up until the late 1980s) became doctors. The more mathematically inclined women did go elsewhere, possibly finance or management consulting.

    Right now we are at an impasse. One side is looking for equal numbers and the other is obsessed with People vs Things. All I can say is that my career in the software industry has paid well and been rewarding. I am not in Silicon Valley, so I have no insider view of what that is like now.

    Stuart Reges is an advocate for women in STEM. Thank you. We need more women’s voices in the ethical uses of AI. This is the conversation that we should be having.

    • Sam Vee says

      No thanks, the “conversation” thus formed is indistinguishable from preaching. The “conversation” will continue until everyone who disagrees no longer dares to speak up. “We” don’t need that, and you don’t get to decide for everyone.

      • This conflates two different issues. I didn’t care whether James Damore got fired or not. Google enabled him to express his opinion and then punished him for it. Ouch. I wouldn’t work anywhere that made me do diversity training because it is counter-productive and speaks volumes about their company culture. I didn’t agree with a few of the things Damore wrote, and how he applied the evidence. The differences between the sexes in neuroticism is neglible, and has nothing to do with the capacity to code. I do hope that Stuart Reges is left alone.

        Women should get more involved in tech because of the influence that Silicon Valley has now in the wider social sphere. I agree with the conclusions of Jaron Lanier, Evgeny Morozov, Sherry Turkle and Cathy O’Neill. I am specifically concerned about how autonomous vehicles eliminating millions of jobs for MEN, might have serious consequences. Facial recognition software doesn’t have many sensible positive use cases. Decision making algorithms have to have biases because we do. I was speaking to non-techie women about this well before Cambridge Analytica and Project Maven went public. I happen to believe the obvious evidence that men are more likely to take risks and that women take a position on whether to approve or not. The big tech companies are increasingly taking the role that is currently expected from government. I don’t see how that ends well.

    • C Young says

      > I specifically thought it was bad math to apply the statistics to Google, which is an elite institution and not representative of the overall population

      It was good maths.

      Men and women have identical average mathematical aptitudes but the distribution is broader for men. Thus the numbers of men and women with average mathematical aptitudes is identical. Yet men far outnumber women when it comes to very high, or very low, levels of mathematical aptitude.

      Thus the higher the level of aptitude Google demands the harder it is going to find it to recruit an even mix of male and female. This is another conversation we need to have.

      • It was bad math to apply the overall statistics to Google. It is not a representative sample. And I am making the same point that you are. Of course Google has more men because the company is recruiting mostly PhDs. The biology there is that degree inflation (an ever increasing phenomenon since the 1990s) skews the stats because women mostly have children in their 20s. There is the opposite effect at elite institutions like Harvey Mudd and MIT, who actively recruit women, and many of the top women want to go there, so the ratio is almost 50/50. Who would say that those two universities represent the academy as a whole? No one.

    • JHS says

      “It’s a simplistic dichotomy.” Of course it is. Nowhere did Damore say or imply that men only like things or women only like people. He went above and beyond to explain that the differences between men and women are like two mostly-overlapping arcs, and the similarities are far greater than the differences. He carefully pointed out how even though the arcs mostly overlap, the extremes are almost entirely sex-segregated.

      Nothing about his argument, actually, was simplistic. Neither was it a dichotomy. It was about generalizations that tend one way for women and tend another way for men, but mostly overlap … but perhaps that is not simplistic enough for the masses to understand?

      I was an electrical engineer with a computer specialization, and I couldn’t care less about whether I felt “welcome” in tech. No one feels “welcome” in tech. It’s an isolating field for mostly introverts who mostly like to be isolated. And hey! that’s one of the reasons women don’t like it – they don’t like being isolated. For me, I left tech because I believed raising my children was far, far more important and fulfilling to me (and them) than making a faster internet connection. Even though I like both, and generally am more drawn to things than to people, in the end, my decision was people over things.

    • Just Me says

      “I left academia because my peers were more interested in point scoring than collaboration”

      You do realise that that was actually one of Damore’s points, that women were more interested in collaboration than competition, and different from men that way, and so ways of accommodating women’s needs on that would be a good strategy for the company to pursue?

    • Muyuu says

      Not liking the focus of a letter is okay, so long as you don’t hound people and get them fired just because you didn’t like the focus.

  28. MMS says

    Most people would observe that a larger percentage of young women/ girls have effective communication and social skills then young men/ boys… Therefore, many more young women have many options that do not involve sitting in a dark room in front of a screen for hours on end; more power to them but lets not pretend that this does not manifest itself in choices people make later in life…

  29. Dan says

    Group diversity is imaginary unless individual trait diversity exists. If individuals are diverse, their interests, aims, and aptitude’s will be reflected in their choices and outcomes. The degree to which bias skews those results is therefore a subtler thing to observe and root out.

    Let’s hope we are moving toward a celebration of our differences, because a monoclonal society would be a boring place to live.

  30. C Young says

    Good piece, but probably based upon an invalid assumption. I doubt that many of the Damore-haters in academia are really interested in a cool, fact-based examination of the reasons for the under representation of women in technology.

    They tend to be professional relativists who are impermeable to reason. In their minds, if science indicates that their political prejudices are wrong, its so much the worse for a discipline acting as shill for the ‘patriarchy’.

    From an outside (UK) perspective it seems that a section of the US and Canadian population have simply lost their minds. I would be interested to know how large that population is.

    In the UK only 7% of the population self-identify as ‘feminist’ yet we have gone some way down the road to proscribing the public advancement of any other viewpoint. That process seems to be far more advanced in the US.

  31. ga gamba says

    They identify 1984 as the year that “something changed” and they highlight a theory that around that time the personal computer revolution was affecting college campuses.

    I think understanding the media and cultural landscape of the early 1980s may help. In 1983–84 the big three TV networks’ share of the prime-time audience was 75 per cent; only 36 million of the nation’s 85 million homes had cable service in ’84. The top-rated series were ones like Dallas, Magnum PI, and Kate & Allie; perhaps only Knight Rider was kind of techie, but most due to the car. Summer TV programming was re-runs. MTV was founded in August ’81 but didn’t become profitable until ’84. The Internet didn’t exist; the Mosaic browser wasn’t released until 1992. Eight per cent of homes had a PC in 1984. By and large young people had cinema and FM radio. Mix tapes were a ‘social currency’, a term that had not yet been coined. Young people’s world, i.e their associations, were with their families, peers, schools, and immediate locales. The adventuresome might have had a pen pal.

    Brace yourselves for sweeping generalisations and a cause, not the cause.

    You know what also happened in 1984? The film Revenge of the Nerds was released. It’s prudent to define our terms here:

    When we first started interviewing gifted students about these terms [nerd and geek] in 1982, we found that both terms had very negative ramifications in the gifted students’ perceptions. For example, nerds were generally considered
    as socially inadequate, shy or overbearing, smart, and perhaps too smart as we learned later in our studies. Nerds were also perceived as being very
    focused on academic endeavors, physically weak, uninteresting, unnecessary to society, and ultimately undesirable. Generally speaking, all these things might be categorized under the heading of feeling abhorrent, which was the way most of these students described their experience of being gifted.

    www(dot)files(dot)eric(dot)ed(dot)gov/fulltext/EJ720371.pdf

    Since Mr Reges’s article was about the computer industry, the nerds discussed hereafter are the maths, computer, and technology nerds. Apologies to the Goths and drama club nerds as well as enthusiasts of sports trivia, spotting trains, otaku culture, or extinct languages for erasing you.

    The ngram of ‘nerd’ shows its rise beginning in the late 1970s and skyrocketing thereafter. The films The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, and Weird Science also debuted in ’84 and ’85, and all of these appealed to the teen demographic. These are amongst the touchstone films for Generation X. So many people, especially young people, saw Revenge of the Nerds that nerd image became emblazoned on the American subconscious as a new cultural archetype – based on the average ticket price of $3.35 in 1984, the film’s $41 million gross box office takings means that roughly 12,000,000 people watched the film that summer.

    Of course Revenge of the Nerds didn’t create the nerds (and the geeks). Though the cinematic nerds emerge victorious by defeating the entitled and handsome athletes, and Lewis even wins the heart of the hottest girl who disdained him, anyone viewing the film knew it was a Hollywood ending and not one that depicted the reality for nerds. Intelligence coupled with social ineptness counted far less than, say, physical appearance, charisma, or athletic and comedic ability. In real life most teen girls were the ones who shunned nerdy boys – you had to be a very awkward and marginalised woman to socialise with them, or maybe you needed help with an assignment. To be a nerd was not only social death outside the nerd clique, for many it meant relentless bullying and worse. Unless something amazing happened in puberty, one couldn’t escape being a nerd. It wasn’t until the late 1990s with the rise of the dot com economy that nerd lost much of its stigma; suddenly those who were once the “cool kids” were declaring themselves nerds as a pretense to build investor interest in their ever more barmy business ideas. When very attractive men and women gleefully declared “I’m such a nerd” I saw it like an overinflated real-estate bubble and knew it was time to sell all my tech holdings.

    Much of today’s view of IT (and STEM) is presented through the feminist lens, one that dominates legacy media and many academic departments. And through this lens we see it is true women’s representation in the nerd films of the ’80s and ’90s was less than, yet it is also just as true women were also marginalised in films about doctors, lawyers, Wall St traders, and just about every other profession. Yet this didn’t stop them from pursuing their objectives and achieving the gains they have today, barring careers in plumbing and rubbish collection. How is being a software coder different from being a surgeon or lawyer? I put it to you that it is due to how harshly nerds were stereotyped and mistreated plus nerds own social awkwardness that put off a lot a women.

    Nerds today are not ostracised as the repellent creatures of 20 to 30 years ago – that they’re even smeared as ‘bros’, i.e. techbros, is likely taken as an improvement of their social position. Many of these feminist writers are not in tech, though they often affect a nerd persona because it has a desirable and authoritative cachet. Several activists such as Anita Sarkeesian are poseurs. All too powerful ones because we now have a distorted over demand for female coders by companies who have been coerced to hire with much less regard to skills and wages to beef up their social justice credentials. This is a shake-down racket minus the broken bones.

    Undeniably women have the talent and ambition to create many interesting and wonderful things, Quillette for example, yet all too often rather than do for themselves so many prefer to orbit existing centres of influence and power, making accusations and issuing demands to change what is a successful business model. These orbiters are rarely around at the birth and during the struggles of infancy, but once a company or service is proved and profitable they swarm it. I think they ought to take inspiration from Billie Jean King who, rather than try to change the then-existing professional tennis association, decided to establish the Women’s Tennis Association. Be the risk takers; run your companies to conform with your ideal of work-life balance, year-long maternity leave, on-site preschools, and whatever else you want.

    • Just Me says

      I wish Quillette provided a LIKE button…

      Excellent analysis!

    • Cheester says

      The first thing I do after finishing a Quillette article is search for a ga gamba comment. Uniquely thoughtful, informed and well-crafted writing. Thanks for engaging so actively with this site.

    • Pirkka Jokela says

      Thank you for your insightful comment.

      “How is being a software coder different from being a surgeon or lawyer? I put it to you that it is due to how harshly nerds were stereotyped and mistreated plus nerds own social awkwardness that put off a lot a women.”

      I would like to propose a different answer to your question here:

      Compared to medicine and law, software development is a boom-and-bust field. While there are a lot of opportunities during the boom, you have to hope for the best during the bust. This is very different from the steady need for medical services.

      Compared to medicine and law, knowledge in computer science does not age well and professionals are on a constant relearning treadmill – this may also be true for great doctors, but in software you become unemployable while as a doctor you don’t.

      I would propose that these two points are driving away people (including many women) who have options and want a safe and prosperous career.

      • ga gamba says

        I think yours is a valid reason too. Of course some sectors of the economy such as banking and finance are also more at risk to boom-and-bust insecurity too, and women didn’t shy away from those. And plenty of women also pursued degrees in subjects that have low market demand.

        I think where we differ is the timeline. From the late 70s to the early 90s there was no cultural push proclaiming the ascendancy of computer science, though the number of CS department grew at universities. This was mostly an era of disparagement. As opportunities for women opened in medicine, law, journalism, and many other fields during the timeline highly intelligent science-minded women saw many more opportunities that weren’t stigmatised as nerdy, such as IT, or women’s work, such as nursing.

        The strong push for youth to become IT savvy started in the mid-90s and a few years later the idea of the digital divide appeared (N-gram viewer shows it skyrocketing from 1999), which included women amongst many others. Until Steve Jobs returned to Apple in ’97 the poster boy for computer science was Bill Gates, and Jobs didn’t get the same publicity until the ipod and iphone were released, in 2001 and 2007, respectively. So, we went through the dot com bust and the next boom was mobile telecommunications and social media.

        I suspect the number of news reports asserting computer science and Silicon Valley being unwelcoming to women may have also played a role. “Why should I bother doing that when I can do so many other things with less hassle? And not be surrounded by nerds.”

    • Muyuu says

      The profession also changed towards a more technical and systematic approach than before. It couldn’t have been otherwise.

      Early coding was mostly novel and creative, and while this still does exist to a degree, now 99% of coder-hours go into technical detail and maintenance. Coding is a lot more “boring” than it used to be, generally speaking. The profession is dominated by these skills and patterns, which is why languages like Java (very rigid and designed with large projects in mind) are so popular and languages like Lisp (extremely free-form) are now niche.

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  33. Jenna says

    I’m a woman and I’m also exactly what you just outlined – high math, high verbal scores. I spent 3 years coding, which I found extremely boring and not strategic in the way I’d like to be. Then I worked my way through analysis/UX roles then program management then organizational development. I don’t like to code but it’s helpful to know how and being able to talk to and with the technical people is invaluable. I’m grateful for all the people who have a passion for it, and I totally agree with all your points, thank you for writing

  34. Leah says

    I am a woman in tech and I am floored by how shallow and ignorant this essay is.

    Yes, it’s true that many women don’t want to major in computer science. However, you don’t give sufficient thought to why. There are many factors dissuading girls and women from pursuing or staying in tech, and MANY of those factors are rooted in sexism that can and must be addressed and eradicated. Women don’t avoid tech simply because we “don’t want to code”; there is FAR more nuance to that choice, particularly with regard to societal conditioning in which math is messaged “for boys” and in which girls rarely ever see role models of successful and powerful women in tech to look up to. You assert that women are different but you don’t consider WHY we are different and whether those differences are inherent or a result of social conditioning and a ceaseless onslaught of sexism in tech—which, as a woman in tech, I can tell you is FAR from having been “eliminated” as you so ignorantly claim.

    “Women can code, but often they don’t want to. We will never reach gender parity.” This quote is toxic and ridiculous. Can you imagine if someone said this about people of a different race instead of gender?

    And for the record, you also claim that there is no evidence that LGBTQ individuals experience discrimination in tech. It took all of five seconds to execute a google search and surface a number of studies proving you wrong. As a queer woman myself I didn’t need to do that, though: I live it every day.

    I am frankly astounded by this article and feel very badly for the female students in your department.

    • Lindsey says

      “societal conditioning in which math is messaged “for boys””.
      Is there any evidence for this claim? This boogeyman that women are conditioned by some unquantifiable social pressure seems like borderline religious quackery. All of my upper level math courses in college were majority female. I’ve only ever had one male instructor. I’m a women in Tech and the only people who seem to be relaying the message that math is “for boys” are feminists who do so inadvertently.

      • JHS says

        I’m a female electrical engineer who had almost exclusively male collegiate professors, but who cares? Because engineers don’t tend to be the type of people who need “role models” to look up to for their careers. I saw myself as a HUMAN BEING, so any and all role models worked for me insofar as I needed any (but I actually never met an engineer in my life or saw any in the media until I majored in engineering).

        As for societal messaging about math, nonsense. Girls have been pushed into math and science for as long as I’ve been alive, and I was born in 1976. The pushing has gotten stronger and stronger, and the results are pathetic. My alma mater (Georgia Tech) actually had to introduce liberal arts majors in order to budge the male:female ratio. The ratio in engineering is the same as it was 20 years ago (with the exception of the “helper” major (biochem) and the “people” major (systems engineering, which was largely founded by a woman).

        Further, in the most egalitarian nations on earth (the Scandinavian region), sociologists have found that the more egalitarian they get, the *more* women self-select traditionally female pursuits, not less.

        • JHS says

          And what would we say if someone said that racial equity was impossible? First, I’d say they’re right, that we can’t have proportionate representation of African-Americans in tech until we solve the horrendous underlying systemic root problems keeping them from graduating even from high school well-prepared for college, then I’d say that there is no INHERENT difference between different “races,” and science can prove that, while there are most certainly inherent differences between the sexes (overlapping arcs of generalization, not stark differences), and science can prove that.

          • gda says

            Proportionate representation of African-Americans in tech?

            Let’s assume that tech requires an IQ of 130 for one to be successful

            About 2.3% of Whites have an IQ of at least 130, 20 times greater than the percentage of Blacks who do.

            So what “proportionate representation” of Blacks should we expect to find?

            “The truth is unpleasant and therefore unpopular:
            Humans have invented a social “reality” that denies reality itself.”

      • ga gamba says

        Of course Leah is correct. Just look at the physical science, legal, and non-nursing medical professions, for example. A curriculum tailored to boys, no role models for women (because without a role model of the same sex no ambition may be dreamt and achieved), and the result is there are no women in… oh wait.

        Never mind.

    • Whatever says

      Thats because you are a queer and no women regardless of how you identify yourself. Stop whining and grow some skin like real women do.

    • First of all, do you code? Because “in tech” doesn’t mean that you code, and I think it’s relevant to the discussion.

      I am a cis male, and I’ve been doing a job that is “messaged” for women and where there is sexism against men (flight attendant). That didn’t dissuade me from going through harsh selections (twice) to get the job, and do it for years. And it also didn’t matter in my reasons for resigning. I never had a role model to justify my choice either.
      So are we saying that sexism, the way something is messaged, and the presence of role models matter more for women than men?

      Also, about why are we different, the whole article exactly proves that once we remove the social issue, there is still difference, which by exclusion must be inherent.

      About saying the same about people of a different race, well, if he had such extensive experience and data as he had about gender, why not? He would be just stating statistics anyway, as he is doing now. Why toxic? Facts can’t be toxic. You can dislike them, but then do something to change them, don’t get angry at who merely states them, and by the way also worked all his life to change them more than you, and exactly in the direction you advocate.

      You should be frankly thankful to him, and feel very good about female students in his department.

    • Neither medicine nor justice have female role models (when you think of a doctor or a judge, you’ll very likely think of a man), yet the women in those fields successfully conquered them. The sexism in these fields was quite large; not only from peers, but in medicine e.g. from patients. I’ve heard countless patients addressing the doctor on “my” station (as civil servant) as “nurse”. There are few fields where stereotypes are less present than in those two.

      You have to explain all that away to be conclusive.

      Yes, sexism does exist. Yes, it should go away. But it does not explain why CS has far more troubles reaching equity than other professions that have or had very similar sexism problems.

  35. Josh says

    The part of this argument I feel most unsure about is the claim that most women in the industry are happy. I haven’t seen data on this, but the intensity of the backlash against James Damore suggests to me that many women in the industry feel significant grievances.

    Some of these grievances might reduce to “I have to work with people like James Damore who say things I find offensive.” While Damore’s memo was certainly not written in a sensitive way, diversity programs are an important thing to discuss, so I don’t find this to be a reasonable complaint.

    But other negative experiences such as sexual harassment, not being taken seriously or having your work valued, etc. are serious problems when they occur. I hear anecdotal stories about women experiencing these problems a lot. I don’t have a good sense for how many women in the industry feel they suffer this kind of sexism.

    • John says

      That’s assuming the backlash is coming in large part from people inside the industry, which is definitely not my experience.

  36. Jennifer says

    Oh, man. As a woman coder and former tech entrepreneur, reading this article and the ensuing comments is physically painful.

    I agree that women are less inclined than men to study Comp Sci. I agree that “on average” men and women fundamentally differ (though it is critically important to recognize that there are members of both sexes that run the full gamut of human experience). I do not remotely agree that an 80/20 gender split in tech is inevitable, or that biological differences between men and women are the reason for the current gender inequality in tech.

    I ended up leaving tech and founding a company in another field because I just couldn’t tolerate the working environment. I feel tremendous, unrelenting shame about this, because I know my choice to leave makes it harder for the next woman working her way up the tech ladder.

    I appreciate the author’s open-mindedness in recognizing he might be wrong. And I would genuinely ask him, as an academic, to pursue answers to these questions:

    1) Why do the men and women in your Computer Science program, and in other Comp Sci programs, choose that major? Specifically, what percentage of men vs women mention gaming or other pop culture references as a factor in their decision?

    2) How are the Tech industry, and specifically coders, represented in popular culture? How might this representation affect the inclination of both boys and girls to consider studying computer science, starting from a very young age?

    3) You state, “the women I talk to who are working in Silicon Valley are enjoying their experiences as software engineers.” Do you feel like you have the ability to get an accurate read on this? Do you think it’s fair to project the experience of the few coder women that you know onto all women coders generally?

    4) What reasons do women coders give for leaving coding jobs for other career opportunities?

    • Leah says

      Thank you for this. You put it better than I could. I hope the author answers your questions.

    • C Young says

      You seem to have ignored the content of the piece.

      You believe the ‘problem’ is a social construction. He provides plenty of evidence that this is not true.

      The fact that the freeest women in the world rarely choose to become engineers (Scandinavian women) while Iranian, Bangladeshi and Russian women do in large numbers, chimes with your own personal experience, but not with your representation of it. You should feel no shame at all.

      • Jennifer says

        You seem to have ignored the content of my comment.

        I, in fact, did not make any assertions about what I believe the cause of the ‘problem’ to be, only that I don’t think they’re biological.

        I briefly shared my personal experience, which you apparently feel is invalid.

        I posed three questions–numbers 1, 2, and 4–related to this topic that the author of this article did not discuss. If this ‘problem’ is to be truly understood, these three questions need to be answered in an academic, non-anecdotal way.

        And I posed one question–number 3–directly to the author about the fairness of a generalization that he made in his article.

    • JHS says

      What about the working environment did you hate? That missing piece of information is critical to the reader’s ability to determine whether you left it because of sexism or because of a trait that is more common in women than in men.

      I left engineering because being the full-time mother to my children was far more important to me than making a faster internet connection. I don’t know any dads who felt the same way, including my own engineering husband. I do know some SAHDs, but they all did it because the wife loved working and/or made a lot more money, not because they really loved the idea of full-time parenting more than their engineering career.

      • Jennifer says

        Solid point. I left because I hated the “bro culture” (the jokes, streaming inappropriate and pornographic stuff at work, sexualized images of women in gaming culture, etc), and I was unable to change it, even though I worked in a position of power. As a female exec, I always work in hugely majority male environments, but the only organizations where this kind of “bro” behavior was a problem for me were in the field of Tech. I realize this is just one person’s experience, which is why I think the questions I posed need to be academically studied.

        • Chris says

          Hmm. I’ve never worked in a place where streaming porn seemed feasible or not likely to lead to being fired. Porn and gaming don’t interest me much, although I actually am trying gaming for the first time of my life now (in my 50s). So far it is not as compelling as a good Prolog program or capturing new protocols in the network monitor I wrote. Jokes have always seemed to come from both men and women and, again, are not really my forte.

          But in general I was too busy working to pay a lot of attention to what other people were doing. Maybe external focus vs internal focus is a gender influenced trait. What really annoyed me was politics that stopped me from getting my work done. (“Don’t do that for her. I’m mad at her.” ) I was never able to change that culture either, so I made other choices. There is no need to control everyone around you if you simply can control yourself.

        • peanut gallery says

          Well, men do a lot of things when women aren’t around. These things are of course inappropriate at work, but mostly harmless. I mean, some pretty rude things are said in the military among the troops, mostly guys. Would you go in and tell them to stop their camaraderie building bullshit. Gaming was a very immature enterprise. From what I’ve read a lot of that has been combated or at least made known as bad. I don’t pay much attention what’s going on in the industry, as that’s not what I do. But I do like DOOM.

          They should have had the class to keep it out of sight of the ladies, but not every guy has a lot of sense… Some women also don’t mind. But you never know, so the best CoA is to not do it. I think it was a hard lesson for that industry. YMMV.

        • Soupy says

          Jennifer, I’m so happy you wrote and explained your reasons for leaving. I am a girl happily working in tech and also have experienced the porn, sexy woman posters, attacked by nerf darts, etc. But unlike you, it never bothered me in the slightest.

          Maybe that’s the difference, as others have alluded to in this thread. People drawn to engineering are less likely to have the best social skills. If that bothers you, you won’t be happy there.

          In defense of the men I work with though, when inappropriate things they did were pointed out to them, they changed their behavior immediately. Do you know why your guys didn’t change when you asked ? Am I just lucky that my company screens out (most) assholes?

        • Jay Salhi says

          Men behave differently when they are around other men. A group of 5 men play poker on Friday night. On Saturday, they all go out to dinner together and bring their wives. The topic of conversation at Saturday’s dinner is going to be different than Friday’s poker game.

          The 80/20 ratio in tech may create a culture that makes some of the women in the 20 percent uncomfortable and that culture would change if the ratio were 50/50. But the article does a good job of explaining why the culture is not the reason the ratio is 50/50. The bro culture existed historically in many other professions (law, medicine, etc.). Those professions went from “no girls allowed” to more women than men in law school almost overnight.

    • Chris says

      You feel tremendous unrelenting shame over leaving a job you didn’t like? A guy is not going to feel that. I think we are closing in on one of the differences in tendency that Damore is talking about. I think we are supposed to respect you for this, but I don’t see why. You are either misrepresenting your feelings or you failed to do what you saw as the right thing. Neither impress me. Assuming these are your actual feelings however, and taking into account that it is actually not your responsibility, I’d say this is the kind of neurotic reaction referred to, since you did nothing to feel shame over from my male perspective.

      I also am amazed that you are assigning the writer homework rather than taking responsibility and addressing these questions you find important yourself.

      I see this process: Quitting->Shame->Blame->Demanding others take responsibility

      This is not a process that the average guy (or me, his self nominated stand-in) is going to want to be around or deal with in a work environment. But we do. And you know, we survive and some of us thrive.

      • Josh says

        I feel compelled to say that as a regular Quillette reader and Damore memo mostly-supporter I don’t agree with Chris’s comment. Where sexism exists, it should be addressed. If I was part of a culture that tolerated that, then left the job because I felt unable to change it, I would also feel regret that I was not able to do more. I don’t agree with the characterization that the “average guy” would not care about this. I also agree with Jennifer that this merits academic study.

        • Chris says

          Josh, I agree that sexism, meaning for me unequal opportunities for women and sexual harassment, shouldn’t exist. But Jennifer didn’t make any real accusations of sexism. She didn’t like the work environment. Crap, many or most workers don’t like their work environment. I have been sexually harassed myself, threatened by a psycho coworker, and bullied by the “cool kids” in marketing. I had many deeply emotionally difficult experiences around constant business travel. But I responded the best I could, I made decisions based on my experiences, and as a result I feel proud of myself and in control of my life. I overcame. That’s a good thing.

          Jennifer reports somatic symptoms (“physically painful”) from reading this article. She claims to be deeply guilty over making a totally reasonable decision. Guilt in inappropriate situations is a marker of neurosis in a Freudian sense. (Of course, Freud may have incorporated a sexist viewpoint in his theory.) Also the idea that what she does is going to have a major impact on others (assuming she is not Melinda Gates or similar) is unrealistic and narcissistic. The whole presentation seems to edge on histrionic.

          I hope that she doesn’t actually have issues. Probably not, It seems to me that such guilt-claiming is simply a form of virtue signalling and that overly dramatic presentation is simple a mode of expression that many women feel comfortable with or that gets them the support they want.

          Likewise her questions are fine questions, even though I don’t think statistics and surveys really capture the essence of what is going on, but rather than simply suggesting them as worthy of study she felt that others should do her bidding and research them.

          I don’t think she is an idiot or crazy or a bad person. She is probably a fine coder. Her post may also have been written on a bad day. But I think the psychology of her post captures the neuroticism Damore references. Sexism must go, yes, but along with it should go the idea that feeling bad means the rest of the world must change.

    • Jim22 says

      I don’t doubt that the environment played a role .. perhaps a large role – but I also wonder if the coding was less than an end in itself for female coders who left, female coders who stayed, and male coders who did both. In spare time, night and weekends, were males more likely to be finding time to try a new technology, writing their own apps for their Alexas , tapping an api or writing a slacker or discord bot ?

      I mean, it isn’t that those things are needed to do a steady job (they might even be things people are wasting their company time on secretly offsetting any value of concepts they might learn). But, somehow that “my idea of fun” has got to permeate into how they view the field and satisfaction etc. ?

  37. dirk says

    What the hell all this talk about women and computers, what about women and fashion and culinary things? Women were 500 yrs good in the kitchen and in clothing. However, they never accomplished any new or original developments in these fields, yes, why? And do they feel inferior because of this? I wonder, because, I know, family, harmony and the kids come first for them
    At least, that’s how it was with my mother.

  38. Good ideas very often get pushed beyond the point of maximum value. It seems to me that the foundational question here is this; are girls and women who have an interest in making a career in computer tech and who have the ability to do well, being unfairly excluded from opportunities? If yes, it will be helpful to hear those stories. If not, then there really is no issue here and those who claim there is are simply trouble-makers.

    This reminds me of Gamergate; another situation where males just seemed to lose the plot and go nuts. Maybe their Moms didn’t raise them right, because they certainly went overboard in their reaction!

    As for the writer who has agonized over his views on diversity, I say relax…this stuff is not that serious. Firstly, if you work in a big corporation you are not entitled to your own opinions where they are contrary to stated company policy so just accept that and get over yourself. Secondly, computers are no more interesting than cars were a century ago. Women are very well represented in the more interesting professions like law and medicine. My daughter is maintaining a 4.0+ GPA in her 3rd year of a science degree. She’s in biology because, guess what, a living cell is far more interesting and mysterious than a silicon chip in her view.

    Back to this article; the author is probably correct when he says women don’t write code because they aren’t interested in it. It just is not that interesting generally, except to a few rare individuals. Once in a while guys like Thomas Edison and Bill Gates come along with brilliant ideas and have huge success which attracts people into General Electric or Microsoft. Successes like that attract followers. That’s a good thing. That still doesn’t make a silicon chip more interesting than a living cell.

    Yes, this writer should express himself fully, within his own level of comfort and the level of his need to get along with others. It’s always easy to tell when people strike self-important poses and try to claim the moral high ground on an issue like “diversity” and to then condemn others who hold opposing views. I just ask them to explain where the real injustice lies in the cause they are advocating for and then judge the issue and the advocate on their merits. If they can’t engage rationally, on my level, I just don’t bother with them.

    • OleK says

      “Firstly, if you work in a big corporation you are not entitled to your own opinions where they are contrary to stated company policy so just accept that and get over yourself. ”

      So what the heck is this supposed to mean? Damore was ASKED for his opinion from the class/training he took and posted his opinion on an internal message board. So he’s guilty of not reading peoples’ minds and regurgitating company group think back to them?

  39. Don’t follow your friends’ bad advice. ANYONE can discuss the state of the diversity movement.

  40. A woman I’ve known for years is a successful sales manager, selling high-technology products. I was surprised to learn recently that she started her career as a programmer…she is hyper-extroverted, and it’s hard to imagine sitting and writing code for hours at a time.

    And if she had somehow been encouraged to remain as a programmer rather than becoming a salesman and later a sales manager…would this have been better for her or for the world?

  41. While opinions may vary on the reasons for gender distributions among software developers, it’s worth taking a step back and ask why there is so much political concern about this field. The BLS (https://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat11.htm) provides stats on the % female for a wide variety of occupations in the US, and the gender-skew in computer programming isn’t particularly extreme compared to many occupations where there is much less concern.

    Here are the numbers some of the main computer programming jobs:

    Computer programmers 21.2% female
    Software developers, applications and systems software. 18.7% female
    Web developers 32.3% female

    There are a number of jobs that are overwhelmingly done by women (with much greater skew than computer programming, etc.). But virtually no one says that the lack of men in these fields must be caused by discrimination or hostility towards men:

    Registered nurses. 89.9% female
    Nurse practitioners. 92.2%
    Dental hygienists. 94.9% female
    Speech-language pathologists. 98.0% female

    And there are a number of jobs with much larger skew towards men than computer programming (etc.)

    Electricians. 2.5% female
    Automotive service technicians and mechanics. 2.4% female
    Highway maintenance workers. 2.7% female
    Electrical power-line installers and repairers. 0.6% female
    Roofers. 0.6% female

    Yet we almost never hear about how this is a problem, that it needs to be fixed, that it’s caused by sexist attitudes towards women, etc. My best guess is that it’s because these are blue collar jobs with no political or cultural influence.

    The whole thing leads me to believe that “women in tech” isn’t really about getting more women to become computer programmers. It’s about gender ideologues getting political dominance in tech companies (and the hard sciences), which had previously been one of the few areas of culture where they hadn’t yet gained ideological hegemony.

  42. Just Me says

    The author treats this a little lightly imo:

    “NPR claims that, “As personal computers became more common, computer science professors increasingly assumed that their students had grown up playing with computers at home,”

    I’m not so sure this should be dismissed so easily.

    It seems to me what changed was precisely that with the advent of the personal computer, there were thousands if not millions of boys who spent hours in their parents’ basements playing with them, with video games, discussing them with friends, etc.and they had an advantage later on over the girls who spent those hours talking with their girlfriends about their “relationships”.

    This goes back to “interests” though, I’d love to see stats on how many boys vs girls spent their teenage years in front of a computer at home.

    I’m female btw, and it my impression is no many girls did, only in school do they get interested in the things the boys get interested in on their own. That has consequences down the road in a very competitive field.

    I speak as a female who was somewhat more techy than average, and had trouble finding girls with similar interests.

    • JHS says

      Yes. I spent a little while majoring in mechanical engineering before switching to electrical, and I changed majors when I realized that ALL the guys around me in my major (and none of the women) had grown up assembling RC cars, disassembling engines in real cars, etc. That’s when I realized that I only had an academic interest in ME: I loved the math and the paper science, but I didn’t love actually doing it. I loved book-learning, not the practical implementation of getting your hands dirty on a greasy prototype.

      I don’t know how common this is.

      • Medusae Fossae says

        Me. I was a mechanical engineer. I loved the theoretical side of it and the dynamic systems/controls element. Loved diff-eq. Loved acoustics. Loved heat transfer. Cars were super boring and made me want to gouge my eyes out. Could be a gender thing but then my parents were the kind who would hire a handyman to nail a painting into the wall, so there’s that too.

        I did find the men in my classes pretty off-putting though, which may have influenced my decision to switch to bioengineering. Which I actually like less, but which “culturally” felt like a better fit because the people weren’t so maladjusted.

      • Muyuu says

        This is what sounds natural to me: trying yourself and discovering what do you want to do. Not listening to people telling you what you have to do or the quotas you have to fill. If I worked with someone like you, if anything you’d stick out as being more interesting as a person, being free thinking and all. That’s what the small minority of women who studied with me were like. Who can see this as problematic?

        In STEM I don’t think it helps women at all having some people “feeling physically ill” because of reading – “as a woman” – honest opinions and scientific arguments. If anything creates a toxic environment and a level of paranoia is working with people who push these sort of sermons. When you have to be worried about speaking on the subject, you know it got bad.

        The coming generations are very radicalised in this weird ideology. The competitiveness of the entire sector may struggle as Asian countries are not buying anything of this.

    • Jim22 says

      At the end of the day it makes sense that people stick with stuff they just find fun. 90% of the the coding jobs probably only require top 15% logic ability and at that level of sigma I’m sure it’s pretty close to 50/50% women and I’m not going to speculate on the last 10% as those are esoteric fields where outliers are odd and heck, some types might have more female outlier even if others have more male outliers. Also there are some differences in gender traits that kinda favor women (like, I believe less likely to go off on some wild goose chase for 12 hours(or weeks even ?) because something seemed like a cool idea to them) . A heck of a lot of software is enterprise and build this again and update this – not that there is a bias in the new stuff either.

      But, man, if someone doesn’t ENJOY it, how are they going to stick with it ? I’ve played plenth of online games despite my over 50 age, and the guys building the interface mods rarely make much money on them – I suppose sometimes they make a little, but they spend 100’s and 100’s of hours instead of playing the game they like, and fewer girls like either the game or care to build the mods just because they can.

      I’ve gone to all sorts of coding meetings in the evening and even though the organizers have strictly eliminated all ‘hubba-hubba’ jokes (no slides with girls in bikini’s and jargon is devoid of sex references etc) and really get 25% or more female speakers, if it is more than 10% at these free tech professional meetings it is surprising.. never ever over 20% – we’re talking Alexa apps and front end stuff too, not only backend, db stuff meetings I attend.

      I don’t know those are necessary, but you gotta think that people who are chosing to learn more after 10 hours of work instead of watching TV might actually be having fun?

      I’m sure that with a social environment that was more friendly and more encouragement early that more women would enter and stay with the field – and it might be higher than the 20% in the article yet … in some ways the 20% seems fairly high if you were to compare the “what would I do in my spare time” percentages.”

    • derek says

      It goes further than that. The interest in computers usually manifested itself in games and graphics manipulation. I found my interest more towards the bare metal programming. I found I was very rare, and enjoyed the rare occasion I ran into someone with similar interests.

      I didn’t pursue a career in that industry because at the time it consumed people. It took quite a while before engineers were not purposely burnt out and replaced.

  43. Great article!! Couple of additional points:

    • Most coders do not stay coders their whole career
    In my experience, women who do start a career as a developer drop out of it at a higher and faster rate than men. But men too evolve out of coding jobs. And it makes perfect sense! Staying a developer your *whole* career is hard and hardly desirable for many reasons.
    Stackoverflow’s survey shows that only 7.5% of surveyed developers have coded professionally for 20 years or more. This should be compared to medical / law and other careers that women choose instead.
    https://insights.stackoverflow.com/survey/2017#developer-profile-years-coding-professionally

    • What could be the point of trying to get more women into coding if 50% of developers drop out of coding anyway after 5-6 years?
    My theory on that is that coding is seen as a fundamental skill to participate into the startup arena and potentially become very rich. Coding is a skill that makes it easier to work out of your garage or dorm on the next Google/Facebook. Tech is just the latest field of great financial opportunities and thus it attracts more men. If the next land of opportunities were to be knitting, I bet we’d see more men making more money at it than women 🙂

    • Women are not taking the coding bait and it’s a good thing.
    Women have already been sold a lot of propaganda and brainwashing for the past 40+ years about how they should run their lives. I’m glad that women who are smart enough to pursue higher level education are also smart enough to choose the career and life that will be most fulfilling to them.
    (The trend of childless educated women might be inverting too: http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/05/07/childlessness-falls-family-size-grows-among-highly-educated-women/ )

  44. D.B. Cooper says

    “So, unless or until we reach perfect gender parity, they will continue to argue for more diversity programs for women.”

    With all due respect, no, they won’t. Diversity programs for women or for any other group – yes, including for white males, if they existed – are fronts for group self-interest. Despite what the charter says, reaching perfect parity is not the goal of diversity programs. Institutional power is the goal, even if it vandalizes the church of competence.
    Ask yourself, when was the last time a diversity program enacted a policy for discontinuance? Recriminations will soon follow, I’m sure.

    “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.”

    This is a classic “Last Mile Problem,” no?

  45. A thoughtful and excellent piece. The writer has considered a complex and volatile matter from a variety of angles. If for that reason only — but also for his guts in lucidly speaking his mind — he is to be commended. I would add only that because men cannot reproduce, they/we face an existential issue women do not. Men are highly expendable. Few are needed, and then only glancingly, to maintain a population. Hence the heightened importance to men of career, status, competition, income, advancement, corner offices and so forth, all of which give meaning to men’s lives. Surely we have not failed to notice what happens to men who are neglected or otherwise fail to find their way. They end up living in dumpsters or prisons, or they end up dead, along with some of their fellow citizens. The miscarriage of male lives poses a real danger of mayhem and violence to any society. Men do not go quietly.

    If free women choose differently from their male peers — if they choose family or poetry — how is this a bad thing? There is no greater power in the world than that of bearing and rearing a child. Who among us ever forgets what our mothers taught us? Coding and app writing etc seem like pretty small beer by comparison.

  46. The conceptualization of professional studies having an effect on studies from grad students, influenced from a gender dominating perspective, is the same for professional studies from grad students in online universities influenced from tradional university perspectives; the target of study and the product from the study’s conceptualization and discoveries is the ultimate defining factor in ptesenting the professors forthcomings.

    Could it be that it is true that the guys spent hours and hours of playtime on running computer programming scripts at home that developed into achieving high quality professional study work 24/7. That should not avail the fact that the work presented from studies, when high quality, has nothing genderly or colegic platform oriented about it in when presenting discoveries that are groundbreaking when it is a women or online coordinate presenting this.

  47. Mackenzie says

    Hi there. I’m your former student. I took 143 and 143H from you. Fuck you. You do not get to co-op my story and use it to prove your narrative where you blame the entire gender division in tech on us,and especially not while taking the credit for a large programs successes to try to make thing better. You were my literal hurdle into the Cs major at UW, our reading discussion session 143H was a circle jerk of 8 boys and 2 women and you where you made us try to impress you by spouting whatever technological philosophy would make you happy. Tommy grade is your class was the biggest determine factor in my admission to a highly competitive major. And I did not get in on my first attempt. I had to try a second time after petitioning the department to take a majors only course as a non major. That second application had my entire future riding on it and sent me into a deep depressive anxiety for which I relied on the university therapy center to survive. I got in DESPITE you. I graduated in CSE DESPITE you. I have been working in tech for the last two years as a top member of my teams DESPITE you, and countless other men that have made me feel like I didn’t belong. News flash: imposter syndrome isn’t something we just choose to have. Women choose to not pursue or to leave tech because they are forced out by asshats like you that make their 40 hr work week an exhausting unhappy suck instead of loving doing something they are good at. Go resign already.

    • Go write some amazing code and prove all this disbelievers wrong. What’s stopping you? Github is free, as is every public package repository you can publish to.

      Oh I see, you want to be given a medal for showing up to work.

    • Mike says

      I am not sure if you considered this, but the nature of your comment is more likely to lend support to Reges than to his detractors.

    • Jim22 says

      In your spare time … like when you do not have people around you that you do not enjoy, do you find yourself spending nights and weekends coding stuff for the heck of it ? Trying out a new platform? Building an app to hit an api for fun?

    • Sam says

      Impressive LOLs.

      “impostor syndrome is not something we just choose”

      –No shit. It’s called a syndrome for a reason. And “we”, as in all women? Sexist, much?

      “sent me into a deep depressive anxiety…”

      –I feel bad for you but you’re doing nothing to combat the neurotic stereotype here.

      “you blame the entire gender division in tech on us [women]”

      –But you ARE doing a bang up job combating the ‘women are great at reading comprehension’ stereotype!

      “their 40 hr work week”

      –Methinks I’ve spotted the problem. 40 hours is the minimum work week for competitive fields. It’s telling that you phrased it this way.

  48. waiting4theman says

    I’m a field service engineer working for a major global electronics company. our company is a great example of gender diversity with women holding many high level positions (all of whom are there because of their ability and hard work). But company-wide, the FSEs (the guys who go out and troubleshoot and repair the systems when they break down) are 95% male. Despite the evidence to the contrary our HR department is convinced that this can only be due to rampant sexism in the field service department and is pursuing an aggressive gender diversity agenda. when we advertise for an FSE position generally no more than 2% of applicants are female.. not having a penis immediately gives you a massive advantage when applying for one these roles.

  49. Erik Selberg says

    I’m an alum of UW CSE (PhD 99), where our first-year grad group comprised 20 men, 0 women. I did my undergraduate at CMU from 89-93, where the ratio was 10:1. I assume good intentions on your part and appreciate that you are trying to improve diversity, and from what Ed has mentioned in a separate FB thread with other peers of mine whom I believe all predate you at UW, you’ve clearly had some positive impact. So thank you for that.

    Now, this being said, I did find the conclusions of your article to be inherently flawed, and for similar reasons to the Damore memo, really hurtful to women, especially your students and fellow faculty members. I gather from your article that some have already told you why, so perhaps this is a restatement, but I’ll leave it here for you (if not for you, then for the public).

    You make an assertion that women choose to opt out of CS or coding in general, as opposed to some form of oppression keeping them out. You conclude without facts or even a trend line or stats that the best we’ll see is 20%. First off, I don’t hold you to a lower bar than your peers who teach their students to write conference papers — you’re faculty, the bar is the same. However, rather than use data to show say a line asymptoting at 20%, you expound upon biases and differences between equality and equity, which may or may not be true but again without numbers it isn’t quantified. This is really bad science, the kind of mistake that my advisor told me to never make again.

    I believe another fundamental error you’ve made is to assume we’ve solved more or less solved misogyny, as the experiences from women you know indicate that things are fine. It’s not. First, as a man, you can’t expect women to tell you the harassment they suffer, as it turns out women have been sadly trained that doing so is often a trap that makes things worse. Second, even assuming no harassment, at big companies and small, certainly at a large Seattle tech company I worked at, it is still worse to be a woman engineer than a male engineer in terms of career and salary. While they’ve made some improvements in this area since they became _PAINFULLY_ aware of it some 4 years ago, it’s still not fixed. At the time, the hiring rate of women was lower than the graduation rate. Then, women were statistically given lower ratings then men, which led to a slower promotion velocity and more frequent firings due to an “up or out” culture. I realized to my horror that I was the enemy here, when after a calibration of about 120 people, all “fair” and everyone properly calibrated by a management team of men and women (my successor and top lieutenant was a woman), it turned out all the women were below the median — which meant no promotions and a mediocre raise. Statistically speaking this should not have happened, and yet it did, and upon further review of other group’s results, was not an outlier. Clearly, our “fair” meritocracy wasn’t.

    People talk, and women talk, and if as a woman you were told that in the tech industry you’d progress at a slower pace than your male peers, you might choose a different career path. And when you add on a history of male dominance and misogyny coupled with nerd culture that celebrates being really awkward and crappy socially around women, well, gee, it’s amazing any woman want to code for a living.

    Now to talk about how what you’ve done has really hurt the cause you’re trying to champion, and made life really hard for your students and co-workers. You’ve made the supposition that the industry is not oppressive and thus women are freely choosing other paths, and then provided an opinion of topping out at 20% with lots of specious scientific reasoning. In doing so, you’ve dismissed and ignored very real and very current oppression, and you’ve given license to people that if they hit a 1-in-5 ratio in tech, they’ve topped out and can stop all the efforts to fix the problems. Damore got bounced and is not persona non grata because he stated that it was biological differences that caused women to not be as good at coding as men. Your argument, which is all to close, is that women could be as good, but choose to do other things.The conclusion to both arguments is that we don’t need to do much if anything to fix anything — which for anyone who has experienced harassment and misogyny (spoiler alert: it’s all women) is amazingly hurtful. For your students and co-workers, this means that you are not an ally in helping fix these problems, but instead someone who doesn’t believe there are problems to be fixed.

    I won’t join your student in claiming you should lose your job, but I would recommend you take time to speak again with your female co-workers. I would start those conversations with, “I’m sorry, I’d like to apologize, I really don’t get it, and I really want to,” because I’m sorry to say, you really don’t get it, and what you posted was very hurtful.

    • First: the author used a combination of statistical and qualitative evidence that suggests much of the imbalance in tech is due to differences between interests. Of course, such evidence does not prove anything indubitably; it simply suggests that the feminist narrative may be wrong.
      The author, unlike yourself, actually has the modesty and capacity for self reflection to admit he may be wrong.

      Second: after inaccurately representing the author’s claims as not grounded in statistical evidence, you proceed to make even more outrageous claims based on nothing more than your narrow life experience.

      Your critique is logically incoherent and unconvincing.

    • Sam says

      Your general approach to this subject is completely fallacious and a little pathetic. Statistical representation that differs from your ill-defined ideal does not itself prove discrimination – something YOU YOURSELF proved with your personal anecdote.

      If misogynist oppression truly is “very real and very current” then it follows that it’d be very evidentiary, no? By all means accuse everyone else of asserting without proof, though, since it helps further degrade the toxic feminist agenda.

  50. Heisenberg says

    The patriarchy and the evil men are apparently holding back more women entering STEM! Ermm…2 countries with 100 fold more patriarchy and evil men (cause we’re all evil as we know 😉 )China and India are producing both men AND women in STEM fields at the rate of a machine gun. How are they doing it?

    These are 2016 numbers:

    The US produced 568000 STEM graduates

    India produced 2.6 million

    China a staggering 4.7

    Someone commented, it was the sexist and bro culture that drove her out?? Really. Were your co workers calling you over to their desk to show their porn and whatever jokes and memes? I’m guessing not. So men can’t have fun the way they see fit because women will seek out offence.

    Ever heard of being and adult and choosing what to see and view? I don’t like a billion things…never occurs to me to complain about them. I just avoid them and carry on.

  51. Morti says

    The problem is with the very idea called “equality of opportunity”. It’s obsolete for it relies on a long debunked idea of the blank slate. We’re all born different and are better/worse at different things.

    Moreover, egalitarianism works fine at individual level, but it’s completely unprepared to deal with the differences at group level. If we see the 20% gap between sexes in some profession how much of it is due to sex differences and how much is due to discrimination? 10% (we favor men), 20% or maybe 30% (recruiters may favor women too).

    There are countless, often unmeasurable or unfalsifiable factors which provide enough fuel for diversity industry… ekhm…. activists for decades or even centuries.

    All this propaganda about discrimination or systemic sexism fuels resentment and this won’t help.

    More about egalitarianism here: https://mises.org/library/menace-egalitarianism

    This is the road to madness.

    A few questions to ask:
    1. Even if the gap exists for purely cultural reasons like stereotypes making women not willing to pursue computer science. is it something worth combating? Maybe having culturally defined gender roles isn’t something nearly as bad as people think? Of course they should evolve as the world changes, so this shouldn’t be treated as a support for putting women back in kitchens, but rather letting them choose what they want to pursue. Who cares whether it’s because biological differences or cultural convictions? What’s the difference between an aggressive promotion of STEM subjects for women and brainwashing them to make certain career choices?

    2. If someone wants to discriminate in his company maybe let him do this? The market will eliminate a person who turns away a large portion of customers. Very few will want to buy from someone who’s openly racist or sexist.

    Moreover we’re all racist in a way. Some prefer white, some prefer Asian or black sexual partners. Usually people prefer their own. We discriminate all the time. We just don’t notice it.

    3. What is merit? Who is there to decide which criteria are meritocratic which are not? Recruiters, diversity consultants or the government? Who’ll do it better?

  52. Just Me…”It seems to me what changed was precisely that with the advent of the personal computer, there were thousands if not millions of boys who spent hours in their parents’ basements playing with them, with video games, discussing them with friends, etc.and they had an advantage later on over the girls who spent those hours talking with their girlfriends about their “relationships”.”

    But playing games, video or otherwise, isn’t programming. It may be that a lot of the boys who got computers for game-playing also started experimenting with programming, but I wonder what % it was.

    • Just Me says

      That is exactly my question. Why am I not seeing stats on that?

      As a former tomboy, I know I had an irrepressible inner drive to do things other girls did not, like run and jump and ride my bike and explore and take physical risks and wrestle and compete, etc.

      I was also missing any desire to play with dolls or tend to babies. Despite the social pressure to do so.

      Those of us who have different drives from the majority of people of our gender are a minority, that’s clear.

      And while social pressure may lead more to engage in activities they would not otherwise, it will not give them the inner drive to compete successfully against those who do have that drive.

  53. I’m a woman working in tech. Went to university and tried to major in computer science. I absolutely hated it. I hated the way it was taught – how mechanistic everything was and how little interaction there was with other people. So I majored in history instead, and was much happier.

    When I got out of university, I went to work as a systems analyst, because it paid more than anything else on offer. I hated it, because I spent my entire working life talking to a computer, and none talking to people. I decided to go into web analytics instead (better, because now I was talking to people), and then product management (even better, because now I was both talking to people and using my relationship-building skills to solve social and organisational problems) and then UX (best of all, because now I talk to people for a living and attempt to understand them and their relationship with computers). My interests, in short, are typically female: people, not things.

    So what am I trying to say here? Two things:

    1. Computer programming/software development is not the only tech job available. There are plenty of tech jobs that pay just as well as dev work, but speak more to the interests of the typical woman. Product management, project management, UX and design are all great examples of this. So the notion that women are being “systematically excluded from the greatest wealth creation in the history of the world and denied a voice in the rapid remolding of our global culture” is a confection of the purest horseshit.

    2. You don’t need to major in computer science to get a tech job. In fact, many of the most useless (male and female) programmers I’ve ever had on my teams have been CS majors. Major in physics, or music, or history, or psychology, or whatever you want. If you become interested – even as a woman – in tech later in life, that’s awesome.

    I’ve worked with some very good female devs and female QAs. But you can always tell the women who went into tech because they felt they ought to in order to make money. Don’t do that to yourselves, sisters – and stop pushing your daughters into it if they don’t want to.

  54. Max deWinter says

    I grew up in a parrelel where women got all the perks when younger and drove us spotty, nerdy types into reclusive stem… The pink haired fatties talk nonsense. Women have the choice. They choose not to.

  55. Wilson Hill says

    Just to further clarify the parity idea, and this may go without saying: the agenda only applies to the most lucrative end of the economic spectrum. Camille Paglia said, “There’s no female Mozart because there’s no female Jack the Ripper.” Which is to say you’ll always find more men at the extremes, in the .01% as well as among the homeless, among geniuses and savages, etc. I’d say it balances out but I suspect it MORE than balances out. Men also suffer over 90% of workplace injury and death, for example, but rather than factor that into this discussion the politically correct thing to do is treat it as an entirely separate and irrelevant safety problem, I would guess. And assume that countless men grow up with the dream of dying in a coal mine.

  56. Kes says

    Many people are completely missing the point of this article and using this as a platform to express their horribly misogynistic views. I don’t agree with everything Reges is saying, but I know that this is not an article explaining that women are incompetent. He never says that women are inferior to men when it comes to programming, in fact he claims that women are more well rounded. However he states ” 20 percent women in tech is probably the best we are likely to achieve”, and I know that there is still much that can be done to help introduce girls to programming, especially in high school.

    My main issue with this article is the effect that it will have on young women pursuing computer science, especially at the UW. If I read this before I was accepted into the CS department, back when I’d first been introduced to programming and I wasn’t really sure if it was the thing for me, I think this would have pushed me away. It makes the point that women choose not to code because they aren’t interested in the nitty gritty programmer life, which made me feel like I was boring for wanting to code.

    Reges knew what he was getting into when he posted an article titled “Why Women Don’t Code”. He knew that it would pull a misogynistic crowd, and that the comments would be toxic. But he wants to get a rise out of the department and see if he’ll get censored like he has been in the past, and it’s unfortunate that he put that above the comfort of his female students.

    • Mike says

      So…is it a bad thing if a woman (or anyone else for that matter) decides they don’t want to follow a certain path after hearing a fact-based analysis of sex disparities along that path? Your comment seems to presume the computer programming is inherently better than some other major (especially for women), but why? And even if it is, would an analysis saying women are underrepresented in computer programming because the field is full of misogynist assholes lead to a different result?

    • V 2.0 says

      “he put that above the comfort of his female students”

      Not all of us are delicate flowers. Give me an honest misogynist any day.

    • OleK says

      With that logic, if you’re not crying misandry if someone points out that men are underrepresented in social work, primary education, nursing, and many other fields, then you’re a hypocrite.

  57. V 2.0 says

    I’m kind of over this whole debate. The women’s movement should have been about two things: economic independence and freedom of movement. Basically take away laws that would prevent me from having a good job or walking around in a pair of shorts in the summer and I’m good. Why should we care that most of us choose to be doctors or moms? Worst case scenario would be women like me having to work a little harder to prove we are not going to wander off and have babies in the middle of a data center migration. If we wait around for the world to be ‘inclusive’ and ‘comfortable’ enough to do what we want with our lives we will be waiting forever. And meanwhile the men will be writing all the code and making all the money. Sigh…

    • Muyuu says

      I’ll tell you a secret although I realise you sound like one of the positive ones. We love having women around so long as they don’t try to force weird ideologies on us. The job is the job, and it has to get done, but other than that female presence in itself is nice to have. I’m not being sexist. Same with younger and older people, I like it when we are not all stereotypical nerds all in the same age range, it can be a bit boring during breaks etc. It can also introduce a different perspective.

      This is why I think these sort of “diversity” considerations are not all crazy… it’s just the ones they are pushing that are.

      It’s only the newer generations that are creating a hostile environment, but because of the activism. Before that… not being rude was enough, and treating people like people.

  58. Chris says

    V 2.0 is excellent. I expect great things from the next release V 3.0!!

  59. Sapna Cheryan says

    My research (Star Trek vs. nature posters) was referenced. That research provides evidence for the exact opposite argument. If a simple change in decor can so dramatically increase women’s interest (because it signals to them that they would fit better in CS), women’s lack of interest in CS is by no means not fundamental or fixed and instead depends on the social context. The social context explains why many countries not referenced in this post have a much higher percentage of women in CS than the U.S. Please see these papers for more information: https://depts.washington.edu/sibl/Publications/Cheryan,%20Plaut,%20Davies,%20&%20Steele%20(2009).pdf
    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B55GW-I12cA-aWYzSXFJRjRXQ0U/view

    • Jim22 says

      Interesting article (only the second link worked for me btw).

      For whatever reason I do sort of buy that if computer science seemed more like medical research, biology etc, it would be more attractive to many women. Also I imagine many other coding jobs might be interesting to women if they saw them more like law or accounting – and enterprise systems really are not too far off in day to day implementation.

      Still, I wonder if the “Star Trek” is a sign that “hey this is fun” and it is kinda odd to me that, “lets make the field less fun looking” is needed to prevent bias ? I suppose that is a noble enough goal to take the fun out of it for half the population ?

      Might there be a way to put up “Fun” female enticing posters alongside the Star Trek posters rather than trying to make work “serious” ? Can we make the offices more a ‘playground’ that is equally playful for women ( obviously we still need to eliminate the male sexual references etc… but do the star trek and superhero references really need to go ?)

  60. Chris says

    n.b, I get a Not Found error on your first link.

    Well, if different posters bring in better qualified applicants, changing posters makes sense. I’m pretty sure that I – a male – would have continued programming even if the computer room were wall papered with Paris Vogue. (Tiger Beat might have been a deal breaker.)

    If something so simple increases women’s participation, why not? But isn’t there an element of false advertising in hanging up posters of forests, which speak to an female inclination towards life sciences which has already been noted? A computer room is about as far as you can get from the forest.

    Other suggestions in your paper, i.e. compelling women into computer science classes, seem less benign and sort of sad.

    Your paper seems to largely be a literature survey. You present a model, but I do not see it supported by any experimentation or data collection (although your literature survey definitely references statistics in other studies.) Are you saying that your model is supported by evidence, or that it is consistent with evidence, or that it is simply possible?

  61. Michel says

    Dear Lord. The degree to which you engage in pretzel logic and have to disawow or outright deny the simple logical consequences of your own argument is astonishing.
    You sound like the academic equivalent of a battered woman defending her abusive husband.

    Embarassing. When are we going to awake from that nightmare and evict and ban the SJW crowd from academia and civilized discourse?

  62. Chris says

    Ah, the first paper answered my questions. On a quick reading it seems like a pretty powerful demonstration that apparently unimportant elements of the background environment affect preferences. It also seems like it can be generalized to other situations. I’m no expert, but maybe it will end up in a social psychology textbook one day.

    If jobs can be made more welcoming to a diverse group of people in such a light weight, non-coercive way, it would seem like an ideal way to address participation levels. I wonder if the effect is persistent, in that people remain satisfied with their work choices over a period of years.

  63. Pingback: Women don’t code because they’d rather do something they like – Hector Drummond

  64. But that study doesn’t really measure anything it purports to measure. Parading some students around a CS classroom or abstractly describing a work setting with ornamentation with or without a stereotypical ‘nerd’ theme and then giving them a brief and banal questionnaire about environment preference or aggregate job interest is entirely irrelevant to the broader concerns raised here. That habituation or association with an aesthetic might tip a solicited level of interest in something of peripheral or no concern to them at all in one direction or another is significant but perhaps unsurprising; however, it cannot be taken as assumed that the response of a bored volunteer in terms of on the spot interest to a contrived exercise has *any* relationship to how students with relevant inclinations would make a long-term career choice.

    These students were not pre-selected for interest in computer science- indeed CS majors were filtered out and in at least one case they were chosen from a pool of psychology majors- so you are in effect selecting against any significant degree of investment in the relevant considerations. These students were not taught computer science or indeed anything at all in the settings used to test bias- they were simply administered questionnaires, often on a one-off basis. This has no contextual relevance to how long-term decisionmaking/interest-formation in a field is made- it is possible that the context effects would have been entirely overwhelmed given even a modest degree of formal exposure to the content and tasks, given the choice of subjects from a difficult background milieu, or simply given prolonged routine work exposure to the environment such that the background would….fade into the background.

    If you brought me, someone with zero interest in smelting and ironworking, to two steel mills, one covered in pictures of cats, which I like, and the other covered in pictures of dogs, which I dislike, and then asked me to choose which one I preferred-I would shrug and pick the one with cats. And if you took replicates of me and asked each one as to their level of interest in a profession that they had little to no interest in partaking in, the one exposed to pictures that made him feel rather pleasant vs. even more grossed out would likely respond more positively with interest- but that doesn’t imply that if all steel mills had pictures of cats in them and a culture that worshiped brazen idols of cats that I would be more likely to in fact select that profession. I might be mildly happier in the cat environment than in the dog environment if I had to work in a steel mill long term but it’s all really rather besides the point.

    This is quite aside from more specific complaints concerning methodology and baseline experimental rigor- that you explicitly went in with the the following bias as to the results:

    ‘The second goal of this article was to demonstrate that these
    stereotypes can be communicated (and altered) merely through the
    physical cues present in an associated environment (e.g., classroom)’

    is shamelessly unscientific. Hypothesis bias is a common fault but your logic hardly seems to admit of any other possibility than what is framed as a presupposition.

    • Chris says

      It is very difficult to turn real life into experimental situation. You need to operationalize the variables, meaning turning something that is hard to measure or influence into stand ins that can be measured or influenced. It is not perfect, but there are no other options in a world where you can’t raise people as guinea pigs and where you can’t read their mind. There is nothing unscientific about it. A lot of your discussion just evidences that you don’t know what science is. Your whole story about you and steelworking is not a scientific objection, just a statement of your confirmation bias.

      What you called bias, is what we call science. Experimenters need to state their hypotheses in advance for the statistics to be valid. Yes, experimenters in every field generally have a hoped for result. Was the search for the Higgs Boson invalid because they knew what they were looking for? For those playing at home the answer is no.

      I suspect that you would embrace the study without question if it said what you preferred. I try to have the integrity to recognize science whether I like the result or not. I studied experimental psychology and this is how it is done. Sure, you can imagine objections but if you don’t do experiments to test your ideas you are not being scientific.

      I any case it is just one study. Stuff like this needs to be retested again and again in varying situations. We all read how coffee is good for you one week and bad for you the next. Nothing is the last word. But it suggests an intervention in varying participation that supports women without sacrificing man in any way. Even men preferred the non-nerd environments that the women preferred based on raw data, although this wasn’t as significant as for women.

      • I am a scientist. And guess what- when you go into an experiment, you articulate all the hypotheses not just the ones thst fit the result you want to get. You do not start off wanting to *prove* a result- you are testing the system and evaluatibg the results relative to what you would predict from different underlying explanations. The Higgs experiments did not operate on the assumption that the Higgs would be found- the experiment was a probe of a prediction of the standard model and of the predictions of certain formulations of string theory.
        If you cannot do the experiment then you cannot do the experiment. Rougher work can provide illustrations of limiting behavior for the system or can be suggestive of how to approach the design of more rigorous investigations. This study does not in any substantive or convincing way test the underlying phenomenon it purports to probe- as my example was meant to illustrate short term contextual effects and the inherent bias in sample selection as well as quite likely other plausible midels readily accounts for the observations- the experiment in no way provides an exclusive or incisive test of what the authors claim. Perhaps if the authors had set up proper parallel longitudinal studies in collaboration with CS instructors and companies with actual tests for critical variables like content exposure, path dependency, aptitude, background, etc. as well as controls for other fields with less putative stereotype bias and dose response to the degree and type if stereotype association- with some combination of the above done in a framework actually taking into account anything to do with how people habituate to work and environment and make life choices this work wod have meant something. And if this was impossible for the authors then so be it- the question is beyond their resources and they should not advance assertions based on contrived and superficially relevant experiments. This is but another example of the sort of cargo cult science and confirmation bias that has yielded the replication crisis in psychology.

        • Chris says

          I don’t know what kind of scientist you claim to be, but you know nothing about experimental psychology, and I suspect not much about science either. You can learn something, look up terms like operational variable and hypothesis, or not.

          Experiments in social sciences have challenges that don’t apply to experiments in physical science. For example: In physical science you can make 30 identical portions of something. You can’t make duplicate people. In physical science, important variables like mass and temperature are generally directly available to measurement. In psychology, things like people’s mood or attitudes are not directly measurable so they are measure indirectly by surveys or predefined external criteria that scientists use as stand-ins for internal states.

          If you had ever been in an experimental science department you would know that scientists fall into different schools of thought and are generally interested in finding evidence for their school. This is not necessarily a good thing, leading to what is called the back of the drawer phenomena in which studies that don’t show hoped for results are not published. It makes it hard to do combined analysis (meta-analysis). But people make their careers by demonstrating hypotheses, not by not demonstrating them.

          Unusual things happen randomly, If you don’t state your hypothesis in advance, you will almost always find something statistically significant just from random factors. For example: If I say that a roulette wheel is biased to towards one or any other specific number (my hypothesis) and the next spin is 1, that supports my hypothesis and means something. Without the hypothesis, the spin result means nothing in particular. My hypothesis might be that the wheel is biased towards some unknown number and if I make 1000 spins, I can use statistics to confirm or discount that hypothesis. But if there is no significant bias shown I can’t just look for other oddities and consider them proved. For example, the fact that the number of odd results is low means nothing unless I hypothesized this result. Every real life result is unlikely (Any result for flipping a coin 20 times, for example, HTTHTHTHTTHHHTTHHHTH, happens randomly less than 1 in a million times) but the result is not statistically significant unless it matches a hypothesis I made in advance. If my hypothesis was that the result would be HTTHTHTHTTHHHTTHHHTH then I have significant evidence of precognition or telekinesis or the like.

          Of course the observation that the wheel is biased against odd spins can be turned into a hypothesis and tested in a future experiment. Does the tester want the bias to be true? Yes, because it is an interesting result and other results are boring and don’t break new ground.

          • My problem was not that they stated their hypotheses, it’s that they articulated no *alternate hypotheses*, did not address any alternate models that explained the data, and went into the paper in the introduction, before any enumeration of hypotheses, explicitly articulating a result that they *hoped to prove*. This is fundamentally unscientific. It is a naked embrace of bias. You appear to have little conception of how science works and more importantly of the standards of what comprise good, rigorous scientific practice. if experimental psychology is made up of people like you it is little wonder that most of the modern corpus of psychological research fails to replicate.

            This of course is on top of their lack of controls and their testing of an observable at best peripherally relevant to the phenomenon of interest. I already enumerated several ways in which such experiments could have been done in a context with more correspondence to the system as it ‘behaves in nature’. ‘The system is complicated and unambiguous measurements are difficult to make’ is not an excuse for doing a shoddy experiment and then purporting to draw a strong conclusion from it.

          • Mary says

            Experimental psychology has a poor track record as evidenced by its replication crisis. Experiments tend to be poorly designed although there is currently an effort to improve things.

  65. Phil says

    > I believe that women are less likely than men to want to major in computer science and less likely to pursue a career as a software engineer and that this difference between men and women…

    That is just stating the statstics, which no one argues with, but it misses the point entirely, which is WHY is this the case? The question is whether this is down to biological differences between men and women, or differences in the way men and women are brought up, educated and treated by society as a whole.

    > Damore …. was fired for honesty

    No – he was fired for being a dick. Women have said and shown that they can code and that the reason fewer do is becuase of society and cuilture, and Danmore just say “Nah – it’s just because you’re women!”.

    • OleK says

      Uh, no – Damore didn’t say that and either you didn’t actually read his memo or you are deliberately misrepresenting the views stated in it.

      • Phil says

        Actuakky he did – not those exact words,, of course, but that was the gist of it.

        • Sam says

          “Nuh-uh! YOU’RE a poopy-head!”

          Christ this is tiresome.

  66. Bernd says

    The underlying problem is that stereotypes about certain subjects are preventing girls to get interested in these subjects. If girls building a robot or coding up some stuff would be socially accepted by their peers, then you would not have these extreme gender imbalance. Back in the 70s, CS was a relatively new field, so there were hardly any existing stereotypes attached to it.

    Fighting this is really hard because you can’t force people to behave in a certain way, even if you consider their viewpoints as harmful and anachronistic. Having outstanding female role models helps a bit with that, but getting them is hard when you have strong barriers preventing them to enter the field in the first place. And you should also not forget that there are multiple industries making a lot of money with gender stereotyping, so there are powerful forces that fight against any progress in this area.

    • harpo says

      I take a dimmer view. The anti-intellectual current is so strong that being enthusiastic about things like coding isn’t really socially acceptable for anyone – boys or girls. Bookishness goes down well with teachers and your parents, peer appreciation really doesn’t start until university.

  67. Sybille says

    Why women don’t code could also have to do with the way CS is taught at high school. That might often make girls (especially the ones with above average verbal skills) decide early on there are more interesting subjects to pursue.
    This I (female mainframe developer, retired now) know from my own experience. Despite my excellence in every other subject, I always hated math and CS (taught by the math teacher) at school, and never became good at it. I took Spanish and Literature at university, and when I had my MA, I worked as an interpreter and translator. In 1981 I met an extraordinary male developer who saw coding as translating and teaching a man-made being that is very gifted but (usually) not able to draw conclusions it hasn’t been taught before. That sounded fascinating, so I gave it a try, learned to code Assembler, Cobol, PL/1, later C and Java, and I loved it! I changed my career to software engineering and never looked back.
    So I think courses teaching computer science more like communication, instead of mathematical algorithms, could attract more women into this field.

    • Chris says

      I have taught or tried to teach a lot of people programming and I see something along the lines of what you say. Programming is interesting when there is something you are interested in that you can program about. In the beginning math was the most obvious application for programming. I loved math and so I took to programming. With computer graphics, artistic people had more reason to want to program. Computer games piqued a lot of people’s interest in programming. So did hacking. The translation/teaching paradigm you suggest is similar to the AI / machine learning approach that is coming to the fore now. But I think the bottom line is that programming is a lot more interesting to those who have an application area in mind that excites them.

    • Medusae Fossae says

      This is a really fun way to look at it — except this “very gifted but (usually) not able to draw conclusions” being is actually kind of a jerk. Why can’t s/he know I meant to include that dumb semicolon!!! Humans usually try to meet us halfway in conversation. That compiler could not care less.

  68. dirk says

    I wonder, can you say that someone who says that women are less good, or less represented in engineering, electrotechnics, architecture,top management,math, philosophy, art or whatever, that these persons are thus misogynic ones? I wonder. But for many feminists (as, for example, Cathy Newman), yes, I know, they are!

  69. I’m not sure I agree with: “In both cycles, men disproportionately reacted to the boom part of the cycle and women disproportionately reacted to the bust” by just the graph posted; it depends on how you choose to compare. (If you choose to compare % decrease in degrees by gender against themselves, that’s one thing; but if you do it against the total pop % wrt gender, it looks to me like men lost as much or more by raw %s and totals…). There are multiple contributors here; a more robust analysis would be more valuable.

  70. Name (required) says

    Maybe men are just more susceptible to the sunken cost fallacy?

  71. Ashley says

    What NPR story did the author read? I read the one he mentions in the story and if anything the story highlight the focus and advertising of computers as boy toys that led to women not getting or having as much access when they were young and simply not as prepared when they got to college and attempted a computer science degree. Women dropped out because they were able to keep up with boys that have been playing with them for 10 years by that point.

  72. Karen says

    It’s crazy how some of your colleagues responded to what is simply accepted science. My guess is that most of them misunderstood Damore’s point and believed the narrative that the MSM spun. I long for the day when we can all speak openly about how men and women are different.

    Thank you so much for writing this thorough explanation!

  73. Anonymous says

    As a female student in the UW’s Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering, I agree, and it infuriates me that other members of the Allen school respond in the way described in this article.

    Thank you

    • Jon says

      Thank you for speaking up, even anonymously. Voices like yours need to be heard in the Allen School because a lot of the most powerful staff and faculty do not believe there are women thinking the way you are.

  74. Janine says

    There’s a glaring hole in this explanation. Until the mid 80’s computer science was on track with the other STEM fields. All of these fields require similar skillsets. All require women to work long hours and can come with work-life balance challenges. All are male-dominated and yet only computer science dropped. I’ve been in the tech field for 25 years and have seen a lot of cases of unconscious bias. It’s worth asking where that comes from. Over that same period, I’ve watched the cultural image of what a computer scientist is evolve and solidify, where it may not have had such a clear stereotype initially. It’s developed into a young, sloppy, socially awkward but brilliant guy. Society and media have created an image of what a computer scientist looks like, just like they’ve created an image of what a nurse looks like. If you don’t match this image, you’re probably not very likely to go after a role in that field. There aren’t a lot of male nurses for the same reason. From an early age we all see TV shows that portray female lawyers and scientists and doctors. I haven’t seen many that portray female computer scientists. See the TV show Silicon Valley as a reference if you need one. Women are choosing not to go into this field because society is telling them they aren’t what a computer scientist is supposed to be.

    • Has it occurred to you that computer science and applied software engineering itself has changed dramatically since the mid 80s?

      The field of coding pioneered remote work and collaboration, decades before other industries were thinking about it, and did it by developing communication and tracking tools that allow people to get an amazing amount of work done without ever needing to interact face to face. This goes against a backdrop of software going from a highly specialized field of purpose-built on-site software to a global cloud of commoditized SaaS that can get you an IT department for a monthly subscription < $100. It would be no surprise if that was paired with a shift where only those with a real passion and interest in the field for its own sake still go into it, whereas everyone else just uses off-the-shelf solutions instead.

      Your example of nursing is also quite poignant. If you look at the typical ads and messaging around it, it's aimed at men, saying that they need to adjust their attitude and should not feel that a caregiving role is less masculine. With women in tech, the blame is also on men, namely that they need to make the workplace more welcoming to women, and change their attitudes and crudeness to suit the "softer" feminine work style.

      Flip that around, and you get female nurses being told they need to be more welcoming to men and stop being so catty, while women in tech are told to adjust their expectations so they don't feel a job creating tools and solving hard problems is unbecoming of women. or that they always need to turn every job into a coffee klatch.

      The fact that you don't hear the latter arguments credible pushed highlights the double standard, and the real source of the malaise: tech has gone from an undesirable janitor job for nerds and outcasts into a prestiguous and lucrative power house. And people with an abundance of social skills want in on it, and are willing to throw every man under the bus to do so.

  75. Stephanie says

    When I was an undergraduate physics student at UC Davis, I was required to take an intro level CS course. I did really well in the course; I remember the boys asking me for hints on the assignments in the computer lab. The TA sent me an email saying I had a natural talent for programming and should consider changing my major to CS. I was flattered but there was no way I was going to change my major to CS, I was going to uncover the fundamental laws of the universe like the idealist I am, not write code so I can make lots of money. Certainly my experience didn’t make me feel unwelcome in tech. I do programming as a scientist, but it’s a part of my job, and I’m happy with that. I do’t think I’d be happy as a full time coder.

    • Chris says

      How do you like being a scientist? Do you work in particle physics uncovering the fundamental laws? I love physics. The quantum class I took was an amazing experience, with the professor open to exploring and arguing and running white boards of calculation according to students’ interests. I am teaching myself advanced quantum
      and quantum field theory. The math is hard but satisfying. I’ve always wondered what it would have been like being a real physicist.

      Most programmers make good money but not great. For every genius writing cutting edge code there are 10 drones maintaining old accounting systems or designing boring web pages. (When I started in the late 70s/early 80s programming was largely a blue collar occupation akin to electrician!) Physicists in industry probably get paid well too.

  76. I just retired from engineering after 40 years in it. I agree totally with you. The present black eye (certain) women are giving the men in technical field is despicable. Despite being non-white, I found every company I worked for a welcoming environment. And yes, I do thing biology plays a huge role and women engineers are indeed different than a typical male engineer in their drive, commitment and ambitions.
    Here you may see my further thoughts on the topic. http://complextoreal.com/blog-2/#.WyxPr6dKg5s

    • ga gamba says

      You are a remarkably determined and formidable person, Ms Langton. Well done on your book, too.

    • I completely agree – as a female physical chemist I see women’s priorities in general differ greatly from their male colleagues in STEM. Interestingly, I feel that I have much more freedom in STEM than my husband (who is in the same field).

  77. harpo says

    Quillette please, please, please find someone to pen an article on whether men face discrimination/obstacles somewhere, anywhere or not and if they do what are the ramifications personal and societal and what might be done about it.

    Men in psychology comes to mind. Maybe it matters that men are underrepresented in a field that hopes to understand the human condition, alleviate mental suffering and promote thriving? Are there enough male counsellors? etc.

    • harpo says

      Meant to add: Why are men underrepresented in psychology? etc.

  78. KV Reges says

    When you are enveloped within a racist and sexist organization, you can’t look to others in that organization for answers and understanding. Step outside your building and talk to people who know more about the topic. UW has amazing scholars that can help you learn about systemic sexism. You are ignorant.

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  80. Of course things won’t change if past injustices aren’t accounted for. That’s why you have work to do, but it sounds like you don’t want to do the work. That’s a shame.

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  84. kellyi jiang says

    How you can judge the essay fairly, when the author himself let you think he is sort of bias against woman.

    I am a female former UW CSE student who never know / learn CS before I attend CSE 142.
    Stuart, as a lecturer mainly teach CSE 142 & 143, never taught me for these two classes.
    However, I did attend one of his class called CSE 390 which is a honor section for CSE 143 @2014 Spring Quarter.

    In that class, I thought I will get in touch with more algorithm / fun facts about CSE. Yes, We did talk that, HOWEVER, as I remember very correctly, in one of class (total 9), stuart did use part of the class mentioned how he thinks woman has less impact in the “high level society”.
    His word in class implied (at least make me think) that most of women babysit & do not involve much brain-consuming work in the current society. I did raise up my hand in that class and told him some of the Russian family (as i know), are woman supports family but man babysit. He said he thinks it is not a common example. (do you actually know what you are talking about?)

    After class, I talked to my friend who also took his class, she said she also thinks he is sort of bias against woman from his word. In addition, some of my other friends who took this class in later quarters also report that he still teach this (“his own think”) to the student.

    Are you kidding me? you are a lecturer, and you will be responsible if you influence other people left. As a human being, you have freedom to spread out your idea and express your own think but NOT IN CLASS. They are still teenagers, ok?

    Come back to the article itself, I feel like the data just show me woman is not suitable for coding. if you do code, you may be regret to do that in your future life. It is a strong discourage for woman who never codes before. Do you know how much it will influence people if you said from beginning that they are not suitable for this? Sir, it is called psychological implication. I hope you know that when you did your college.

    However, I do agree that we should not hire / admit unqualified girls if school / company just wanna increase diversity. unqualified people will lower the efficiency (no matter whether you are a boy / girl). I also admit that nowadays, male programmer has a greater ratio in Tech Company than female programmer. But it does not mean woman is not fit for programming / do worse than man. We also has some male programmer who code bad / gradually lose their interest for computer science. Hope you know that.

    In general, what i disagree here is, do not define woman / man group. Even 99% data still can not define the group of people’s common behavior, ok? when you wanna define woman, please let 100% woman think about that, otherwise, you will make psychological implication to that 1% people and make bad impact on them. In addition, as a lecturer, please stop spread out your own idea, your mission is just teach the lesson. if you wanna public your own think, do it out of class and let the others judge you.

    • kelly jiang says

      my name has a typo before sorry for that

  85. “Those of us who disagree with current diversity efforts need to speak up and share our honest opinions, even if doing so puts us at risk.”

    Thank you for this. A few weeks ago I would have posted this under a pseudonym, but I agree with you that it is well past time for those with reasoned objections to current diversity policies to come out from the shadows.

    One of the difficulties of this debate is that the proponents of “diversity” have managed to present it as the unimpeachably moral side. Those who take issue with an individual policy are thus on the back foot, forced to say, “Of course I agree with diversity, but…”

    There’s a strong argument, though (that often goes unspoken) that opposing “diversity” efforts is often the more moral thing to do. What we should be doing is giving people equal opportunities and freedom of choice. Arbitrarily expecting that 50% of every field will be male or female imposes various sorts of costs on the men or women who may not want to be engineers, nurses, or whatever.

    Another argument I haven’t seen is that imposing equality of outcome in specific areas actually decreases the “diversity” of society as a whole. If we force every workplace, club, etc. to have a 50:50 gender split, nobody will have the option of going to an all-male club, or an all-female gym. The sort of precise social engineering that would go into making absolutely everyone equally comfortable would be the death of a lot of activities that many people enjoy. No more sports bars (too male) or nail parlours (too female); no more chess clubs or baby showers.

    The obvious solution is to make sure that everyone can choose what career, club, party, etc. they want to be a part of or go to, regardless of their sex. That’s a noble project that’s consistent with fairness and freedom. If anything, I think it’s people who argue against that who should have the burden of showing that their proposals won’t be harmful.

  86. Redliana says

    I am a female with a PhD in a mathematically intensive field (physical chemistry based in quantum mechanics), and anecdotally I have seen women self select out of this field and others that require mathematical rigour. For those women that do choose these fields attrition plays a big role as child bearing and care giving becomes a higher priority than their career. I manage a group of physical chemists and when attempting to hire I cannot meet the new requirements of a “diverse candidate pool” if I only use merit and skill set to screen applicants.

    Scientific and technical endeavors are doomed to failure if the best and brightest are set aside in favor of nonsensical phenotype based diversity.

    As an aside, my verbal GRE was 98th percentile, math 78th percentile; I choose chemistry purely for economic reasons (much like males), but if money weren’t my main concern I would have chosen behavioral economics.

    • kelly jiang says

      agreed,do let the standard & grade to select people.
      no bias to woman / man side

  87. cifoy says

    THANK YOU 🙂 finally someone says it, I cannot support anymore this situation in my current job (the company is Cloudreach, I don’t fear to name it).

  88. I notice that this article is already being misrepresented as suggesting “men are better [than women] at math and technology” (https://twitter.com/pinkhairedcyn/status/1010519544081809409), when in fact Dr. Reges never makes any such assertion. A similar thing happened to Larry Summers at Harvard, when he spoke about differences in “interest” between men & women regarding career choices, and was widely misquoted as having spoken about differences in ability. I saw many similar misattributions to James Damore.

    It’s almost as if certain elements in the media and in “progressive” academia are not operating in good faith, and are willing to fabricate falsehoods in order to drum up indignation.

    …Why is this? Wouldn’t it be more constructive to debate the merits or deficiencies in Dr. Reges’ essay on their own terms?

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  90. Your opinion on the this matter is both cliche and completely misses the point. Please do everyone a favor and stop writing on things you willfully know nothing about. Woman don’t need to be told by you why they’re not pursing careers in an absolutely toxic industry. Funny how you totally ignore expounding on what most women complain about when they talk about their experiences in the sciences and tech.

    Many people of color are also incredibly underrepresented. It must be because they’re better at reading, right? Obviously not, you fool, you rube. They’re are many societal reasons for this that require us to think more about the society we live in and biases we hold. Funny how white men like yourself, who benefit handsomely from these never really like to confront them head on, in detail. Instead you want to talk about a reading test someone took.

    The best part of all is the weeping for your messiah Danmore. God knows how many woman were pushed out of careers for sexist reasons. One white man gets fired for, let’s be honest, pissing off his coworkers and being an asshole about it, and apologists like you come out of the woodwork to defend this most terrible of injustices under the guise of “honesty” and “truth.” Please stop perpetuating this BS.

    The next time you’re so convinced you understand the truth and need to tell women why they don’t pursue tech/science/whatever, step away from the computer and just go for walk and think about this: maybe you should spend your time better understanding and defending the people who benefit the least from how our society is structured. Instead of defending the people who benefit the most who (shockingly) are just like you.

    • https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/02/the-more-gender-equality-the-fewer-women-in-stem/553592/

      One of the salient points of this dispute is that the ratio is context independent as far as the Western World goes. European countries with both very large and very small gender pay gaps and ranging from very progressive Scandanavia to quite traditionalist (or less charitably, backwards) parts of Eastern Europe exhibit STEM graduate %s in the 15-30 range, with many of the most progressive states with the most assertively anti-gender bias (and anti-racist) policies (e.g. Sweden and Norway) exhibiting the lowest female stem graduate %s in all of Europe.

      The countries that exhibit the highest female STEM graduate %s are without exception those with openly repressive cultural or legal policies towards women and often likewise towards ‘undesirable’ religious or ethnic minorities (a hypothesis being that STEM jobs are a comparatively reliable, employable, and ‘objective’ pathway towards financial autonomy and respect and are favored for practical reasons, though it may also be a function of how the economy works in those countries in a broader sense). Of course you could try to argue that middle eastern and southeast asian women are fundamentally more talented in STEM than their European and American counterparts, but it does in fact seem reasonable to postulate that there are different average weightings in interests or reward cycles between the genders (the results were noted to be independent of average female STEM test scores).

      Naturally there may be some persistent environmental biases due to slow turnover of the professoriate relative to the cycling of generations etc. (the degree %s themselves are from 2012 to 2015 and are not directly affected by historical biases in gender degree pursuit from past cultural eras) but the results are striking nonetheless- and moreover I believe this is with averaging in the biosciences, which in the United States at least have more female than male graduates in the present day.

      The point at the end of the day is that the article’s argument and arguments specific to the United States are tangential to the most striking results on the subject. Now it is possible that cultural biases in computer science are still larger than in most STEM fields own to the comparatively recent explosion of that job market and a lack of ‘equilibration time’ with cultural mores- but it is worth keeping in mind that the international evidence is that even with very, very egalitarian gender norms a large gender disparity in aggregate professional interest in STEM tends to persist.

      • -And as it might come up, one significant difference between the biosciences and most applied/logical/physical sciences is the closer conceptual or practical proximity to matters of human or animal health (women are likewise more liable than men to pursue careers as physicians these days, if I recall correctly). Going by a ‘differences in overarching interests/conceptual sympathies’ hypothesis, a more ‘humanistic’ exposure or at least overarching purpose to the work might be important for long-term career motivation in these areas- the stereotype that women are liable to be more intuitively attracted to that sense of reward/purpose than men may in fact hold a grain of truth. Of course, the life sciences are as averaged together often weighted more towards verbal skills in the conceptual manipulations involved than most of the other science. I don’t really buy the comparative advantage arguments as in my experience that’s not how people who are strong in two areas wind up weighting their decisions; an alternate hypothesis is that despite performing as well as boys on quantitative skills (and better than them on verbal skills) on average, women again by some dint of interest-wiring are on average more liable than men to derive more enjoyment from verbal rather than quantitative exercise of their mind.

        Of course it’s still possible that the apparent differences between all of the European/Western states considered are much, much smaller than they superficially seem and cultural biases are so deep-rooted that nothing anyone has tried in the past two generations has made more than a small dent (and that Southeast Asia and the Middle East have qualitatively different cultures whose repressive characteristics somehow do not interfere with the confidence and initiative of women in the sciences there). This does seem less likely to me but I think it is worth trying to figure out what we can learn from and how best to do finer-grained international and inter-population comparisons of scientific interest, graduation rate (ideally by field this time), etc. and with relation to long-term historical trends in each country.

        • And I suppose it’s worth considering what % of biology degree holders in the States are going in as pre-meds as it is overwhelmingly the most popular major for that application, but if memory serves the gender ~parity for the life sciences persists even at the graduate student level.

      • AJS says

        Perceived Social Status of STEM roles

        I agree with Ga Gamba’s comment earlier that “The Revenge of the Nerds” negatively influenced the perception of STEM in the social fabric of western society. And as girls are more socially aware than boys, they would have felt this negative impact more than the boys and possibly been dissuaded from any career perceived as being nerdy or geeky. The rise of the “cool to be dumb” culture in western societies seemed to start around this time, a culture which infuriates most people in STEM.

        “The big bang theory” is a more recent TV show that also highlighted the undesirable, stereotypical social awkwardness, weakness in physical endeavours and failure in relationships for nerds / geeks, and they made these traits funny. “The big bang theory” seems to have become more popular and cooler in pace with the rise of the positive perception of big tech firms (although the tech firms have taken an image hit due to data privacy issues finally coming to light).

        This “cool to be dumb” culture does not exist in China or India (or it is significantly lower), as there is so much competition to get a good job and improve their quality of life. In those countries the school “cool kids” are the ones with the highest marks and we can see this reflected in the high priority that the Chinese and Indian parents put on their children to achieve high marks in education in order to climb the social status ladder.

        STEM jobs are also seen as high social status in their respective countries. So this can partly explain why there are a higher % of females in STEM roles in India and China. The other is that the traditional view that females should only focus on having a family is changing in those countries as well.

        Social Interaction required in STEM roles

        My own personal observation – I work in the software QA engineering area and have noticed that in western medium to large Tech companies, the UX / Business analysis roles are predominantly occupied by females, Software engineers (coding) roles are predominantly occupied by males and QA roles about 50/50 split (slightly favouring females). Many of the QA engineers are ex-coders, when I asked why they got into QA, they said they didn’t like coding as much.

        My engineering brain has always wondered why the split, and the best I can come up with (lacking data and statistics) is that UX / Business Analysis and QA roles have more social interaction required than coding roles.

        I think the social interaction of these roles appeals to the females more than the coding on your own, which appeals to the males. QA is midway that requires both social interaction and technical skills, as you have to understand customers and business people by talking to them, as well as the technical design to test.

        Software engineers, especially in the older days love solving a problem on their own, although, nowadays this is harder as working in a team is absolutely a requirement. The rise of agile / lean development principles requires working as a team and is an opportunity for the girls to help lead the way.

        The amount of social interaction in a role is reflected in the jobs across other industries I’ve seen mentioned here, nursing – high social interaction, high female participation, garbage collector, low social interaction – low female participation. When you couple social status of these roles, it may show more correlation to female participation.

        Social Support in STEM roles

        Last observation, we are seeing women in engineering support groups in companies, which is a good thing if it promotes an inclusive and equal culture, not so good if it is exclusive to females. Female preference for social interaction means that support groups are something they need to feel more comfortable working in a company, especially if there are a large amount of males (who are not usually talkers).

        These support groups are relatively new to some tech companies and can actually help the boys as well. Male depression and suicide rates are high (Australia has the highest) and I think that female support groups can be extended and play a role to help the boys talk about and deal with their issues / depression. Traditionally, males are expected to toughen up, even when the pressure / depression gets too much.

        The companies which before ignored work / life balance and put huge pressure on the software engineers to work long hours, are having to rethink their approach to work culture. Specifically, make sure that the everyone can achieve work / career goals and are supported while they prioritise their social / family needs.

        Companies now realise they need to do this if they want to keep the best talent, and to keep the best female talent, they have to support them while they are prioritising starting a family / looking after their families (as the mother is usually the centre of the family). It’s ironic that big companies want to have a start up culture, when women typically start up a family at some point… does this qualify as a start up?

        There are differences between males and females, which are social rather than ability to code, but I see this as a good thing as their skills and preferences are complimentary, that can actually help build better companies with better leadership, which we sorely need.

        Note – I have not found any scientific studies to support my observations, they are just my own.

        That’s my fifty cents worth… the length of reply maybe a dollar fifty worth sorry.

    • Chris says

      Yawn… Yes dear, yes dear… Oh my, I need to get some milk. Don’t wait up…

  91. WhatisUWThinking says

    A more important question is about UW: “Why did UW hire someone (Prof. Stuart Reges) who has admitted to taking cocaine, MDA and speed on campus and was fired from Stanford for doing that and paying for alcoholic beverages for students under the legal drinking age of 21? What was UW thinking? Are our kids safe at UW with someone like that teaching?”

    http://articles.latimes.com/1991-05-11/news/mn-1260_1_drug-policy

    • Chris says

      Yeah lets run background checks on everyone and fire or not hire anyone who shows any sign of being interesting. I hope someone does the same to you because I smell hypocrisy. Not that there is any chance of you being interesting.

  92. Max says

    Men are underrepresented in many fields, like social work, education, psychology, healthcare, and veterinary medicine. Where’s all the hand-wringing about how men are being excluded?

    There are lots of other gender gaps we can try to close. Men surpass women in homelessness, being victimized by violent crime (including homicide), suicide, and workplace fatalities (92% male, last time I checked.) Can you imagine the hullabaloo if 92% of workplace fatalities happened to women?

    But its 92% men so nobody cares.

    • If you bother to do a spot of research (I hear men are great at science, so this should come easily to you) you will find that indeed there is quite a bit of handwringing about the lack of men in K-12 education, psychology, as well as healthcare. Not as much in vet care, because that one is blatantly obvious (it takes as much education as being a doctor and pays terribly.)

      I agree that we need to work on attracting men to the medical profession (especially nursing), education (especially K-6), as well as counseling. Having a huge gender disparity does not do anyone any favors.

      But if you ask women why they leave the sciences, their answers tend to revolve around sexism, ageism, and lack of life balance. If you ask men why they do not go into the fields we mentioned, it comes to salary issues. I’m not sure how you’d address that, since society doesn’t set salaries systemically.

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  95. Anastasia Janovic says

    Dr. Reges,

    Thank you for saying this. I personally never understood where James Damore was wrong. His words were grotesquely twisted to mean “women are not smart enough to code”, whereas this is far from what he was employing.

    Maybe he was an asshole and did not express it as well, but I feel you said exactly the same thing, albeit with gentleness and empathy, backed by stellar credentials and testimonies in the area of gender diversity. I’m surprised at so many academics whom I otherwise respect, repeat the same fallacies in trying to counter your arguments. Shrill arguments from some quarters that you be fired are even more shocking, and only further strengthen your claim that some topics have become too sacred for contrarian positions to be discussed. I want to counter some rebuttals that followed this article:

    1. A professor of Indian origin claimed that women are represented equally in Indian CS courses. This claim is absurd.

    I graduated much later than the good professor, and can attest to the fact that top Indian engineering colleges have gender ratios of 1:5 to 1:10. CS does better than, say, Mechanical Engineering in that the ratios are somewhere between 1:3 and 1:5, but hardly any notion of equal representation the professor claims. Of course, India still has a ways to go before removing the systematic barriers to women’s education that you talk of, so it’s hardly a good example.

    In any case, women in relatively poorer countries are more likely to have external constraints while choosing CS. The difference between CS salaries and regular job salaries can be significant here, easily between 3x-5x, so women are less likely to make choices out of absolute free will.

    2. A female Big-4 engineer made a couple of points, of which only one made sense to me. It said that you can hardly claim that systematic barriers to women’s entry have been removed, when she and her female colleague had personally experienced a wage gap of USD 10,000 compared to their equally qualified male colleages. Further, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that sexual harrassment is not all that rare in workplaces.

    This is hardly a good rebuttal since this does not talk about women’s preferences for coding/software engineering. Is there any evidence to suggest that women as coders are more like to be sexually harrassed or relatively underpaid, compared to women HR, or women doctors, or women lawyers? While these are issues that need addressing, they do not explain the reluctance of women to opt for CS.

    I believe the merits of your arguments stand unchallenged for now.

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  98. Peter from Oz says

    I find it interesting that no-one seeks to find out why women dominate in some of the sciences and psychology, but somehow we have to focus on a lack of women in computer science. I suppose the feminists will tell us that the fact that 70% of Psych Phds are now female is because women are more interested/have more aptitude for that subject. They won’t jump through hoops of logic to try and show that there are political or societal reasons for the bias in women-dominated fields. But in any filed where men excel they will try their hardest to come up with stupid reasons why women are being excluded.
    In Norway they passed a law that required companies to have 40% female board members. The performance of the companies imediately declined once the appointments to the boards were made by quota.

    • In the unlikely case that you’re actually interested in the research, there is quite a bit of it about the rise of women in the psychology space. You can start here: https://www.apa.org/monitor/jun07/changing.aspx And then read here: https://www.apa.org/gradpsych/2011/01/cover-men.aspx And then you can move right to this article: http://psyciq.apa.org/women-outnumber-men-psychology-not-fields-top-echelons/

      I find it interesting that people make such arguments without spending 30 seconds looking to see if their assertion has a basis.

    • harpo says

      As a sign of good faith it’s time diversity advocates make a principled stand and vigorously defend equal gender representation in some field of endeavour. As it happens such an opportunity has now arrived in the US: There are now ever so slightly more female than male medical school enrolments:

      https://news.aamc.org/press-releases/article/applicant-enrollment-2017/

      However, as we all know the hypocrisy of equity activists knows no bounds and absolutely nothing will be done by them to maintain gender parity here or anywhere else. Show me a field with equal gender representation trending towards female over-representation and I’ll show you an equitarian who could care less about their principles.

      Prediction: If medicine enrolment continues to trend female the equity crowd will shift the narrative to a lack of women in leadership roles, etc. We will never see the day that an equitarian lifts a finger to maintain gender parity in the pipeline of a once male dominated field. Equal entrance to a field is only a goal so long as females are under-represented, once that’s achieved the equitarian is no longer interested. If enrolments trend female so much the better for them since a core goal of theirs is to do nothing for males at the same time as unironically holding equity as a principle – gleeful, masochistic cognitive dissonance.

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  101. nicky says

    Excellent article by Stuart Reges.
    It also lead me to re-read “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber”, by James Damore.
    What was all the drama about? There is nothing sexist or misogynist in there. It is honest and -as far as I can judge- quite factual. I can find nothing wrong in there. If you read the article for yourself you will see that most of the criticism is cherry-picked and often opposite of what Damore was actually contending. He, of course, did not only state facts, but gave some opinion/advice too, which could have been taken or left.
    I think Google’s decision to fire him was not only unconscionable, but self-defeating in the long run. What becomes of a company that cannot handle constructive criticism? Not just not able to handle, but firing the one who delivers it, and delivered at request to top it.

  102. Anon80 says

    Prof Reges,

    Thank you for a thoughtful and well-researched essay. I stayed up a good portion of last night reading all thr comments. Wow, just wow. This is the most civil discussion I have seen on this topic. I learned several things. I wondered how I had stumbled on such a reasonable, articulate, and well-spoken corner of the Internet.

    Thank you to all the people who commented, I felt like this could be the script to a dialogue-driven movie like e.g. A Man from Earth. Nice to see the well-expressed mix of perspectives (even from the strong opposers) rather than the pandenonium of a flamewar.

    When Damore was fired I thought it’d make the problem he described worse for fear of reprimand. At the time I really wanted to hear more reaction and thoughts from the women in tech, but it certainly was a topic that was off limits at work… and I have now thanks to these comments.

    Will post more later. Just wanted to express my gratitude now.

  103. Ann says

    I do not have the time to read all of the incredible posts, so I am not sure if this was brought up or not. But as the mother of a young man who has Aspergers (now called Spectrum Disorder), it is easy to see that coding is one of my son’s strong gifts. It is not interpersonal, it is logical, and he can spend untold hours doing it without losing focus. Spectrum Disorder people also tend to love and invest a great amount of time playing video games. As such, they develop a desire to create and code games as a first entry into coding at a young age. And, considering that spectrum disorder disproportionately affects boys, it is pretty obvious that this is a profession that they would be drawn to and succeed at.

  104. nik says

    First, this essay assumes that computer science is coding. Computer science is not all coding. There are many aspects of computer science, many areas of computer science where the focus is not only on code. Coding is just a means to an end. If you can code, this does not mean you can do computer science.
    Second, programming is often divorced from the very real problems of the world. Perhaps a change in the teaching strategy may get more interest, and motivate people to code so as to solve a problem.
    And finally, saying we should be happy with equity and not worry about equality because we have reached some equilibrium may be false, and does not take into account cultural narratives. For instance, you do not account for countries where women make up 50% or more of the students studying Computer science, or in the past , in this country, where women were the majority in Computer Science. Our country has a cultural narrative being sent to women about their abilities in math and science. This narrative has changed over the years to become more and more excluding of young women. This has also affected their treatment in the workplace negatively. This essay appears to ignore the existence of this narrative, or at least, downplays its effects on attracting and keeping women in computer science.

    An interesting essay, but does have a few holes.

  105. FiboNatti says

    Lack of interest is the exact problem we are trying to solve. When I was a young girl, there was something intriguing about robotics and computer programming in general. But at every turn, there was something that made me realize it would never be something for me. I can think of several instances where I could have been interested in robotics, computer science, circuits, etc., but something pushed me away.

    I remember distinctly one day when I wanted to join the Lego Robotics club at my elementary school. I passed by the school’s trophy case, and saw that the picture of the robotics team next to every trophy was all boys. I knew, then, that it would be hard to make friends, but I knew one of the members of the team because he sat next to me in class, so I decided to ask him what it was like. As he told me about it, I realized it wouldn’t be for me. It sounded a lot more like boys playing around together than learning about how to make robots, so I stopped caring about that.

    Another time, I was required to make a science project for a class. I came up with a great circuit game, and I was fascinated with the electricity and how I had made an electronic game. I definitely wanted to do something similar again. After I showed my game to my class, I realized my friends were uninterested in it, when I thought it was the coolest thing. I asked what they thought of it, and they told me it was boring. As I talked to them more, I realized circuits are supposed to be boring, and that was that.

    The last story I have to tell is the first time I thought programming was boring. I was in early elementary school, and I had heard about BASIC from one of the kids in my class. It sounded interesting to be able to make computers do what I wanted. My parents owned a software company, so when I got home, I asked them about it. My parents started using too many words I didn’t know and I thought that it was a thing for nerds and not kids like me. So then I went back to my room and played computer games, never to think about BASIC again.

    These kinds of situations result in girls never pursuing passions in computer science. Yet, I was very interested in biology from the time I was 3 years old, and my parents, friends, etc. supported that, even if I got bullied from other kids for it. I would have rather had people who supported my passions and also haters than just have everyone disinterested and only be around boys. I didn’t become interested until my brother did and my mom pushed me to, in my junior and senior years of high school. I am now typing this from my desk as an intern at Microsoft. But I do still wonder how things would have turned out if I had started learning about computers from the time I was a child when I first showed interest.

    This is why I believe girls should be not only taught these subjects in schools, but encouraged to do so together. Would I have joined Lego Robotics if there was another girl on the team? Probably. Would I have done more circuit projects if my friends showed interest? Probably. Would I have wanted to learn BASIC if I had a friend who was also learning it? Probably. I will never know. But I guarantee this- girls being isolated in their interests in these subjects will always result in girls never wanting to think about them again, unless they are forced like I was. Girls being interested in these things together from a young age will result in them pursuing computer science.

    Last paragraph, I promise. Recent studies have come out that in elementary schools where computer science was taught to all students and all students were encouraged to pursue it, 48% of the future computer science graduates from those schools were women. If girls are taught CS in high school, the average percentage of CS grads being women is 37%. The earlier girls are taught and encouraged, the higher the percentage of CS grads that are women. This is the ultimate problem in the fight for women in tech. This is the only way to truly get equal representation- encouraging interest from elementary school.

  106. I’m a woman and a former engineer. Why former?

    Maybe it was the professor who told me that I would never been a good engineer, because women’s brains just don’t work that way.

    Maybe it was the different professor who accused me of cheating off my boyfriend because I got the highest grade in an exam.

    Maybe it was the coworker who accused me of “sleeping my way to the top” when I got the promotion he wanted.

    Maybe it was the boss who told me that he doesn’t understand why I work late, I should be home making dinner for my husband.

    Maybe it was the conference where someone groped me, and people saw and didn’t say or do anything.

    Maybe I just don’t want to pay the daily cost of being a female engineer, though I enjoy technology. Maybe we should address this cost before declaring that women just “don’t want to code.”

    • Do you think no man has ever had to deal with assholes, jealousy, gender expectations or grabby hands? The only thing you’re saying is that you consider the unfortunate realities of daily life to be an unacceptable cost, which you opted out of… which is a choice that society eagerly lets you take.

      And then there’s this: “People saw and didn’t say or do anything”

      So it’s other people’s jobs to defend you? To automatically side with you, and intervene based on what is undoubtedly a very limited knowledge of all the facts?

      Consider the opposite… if a man flirted with you willingly, and a bunch of strangers immediately jumped in to “protect your honor”, would that be any less patronizing?

      If you don’t want to pay the daily cost of being a professional in the real world, that’s your choice, but the idea that engineering or tech is a particularly nasty environment for women is poppycock of the highest degree. It is exactly because men in tech tend to be more reclusive and introverted that women have such great success dictating how everyone else should treat them.

      • You wouldn’t last 30 days, my dear man, in a world where you were physically groped and accused of not being smart enough and told that your ideas have no value (until they are repeated by a man).

        Is it other people’s job to defend me? No. Do we in civilized places expect that someone will step up when they see sexual assault? Yes.

        Why do you think sexual assault should be the “daily cost” of being a woman in tech?

        Why do you not understand that THIS is why so many women leave the field? Not only the fact that there is such a cost, but the fact that people like you make the assumption that if you aren’t willing to put up with it then it’s a personal failing.

        It’s very handy that so many comments in this thread demonstrate exactly this kind of willful blindness, which conclusively shows that the author’s assertions about why women leave the field are poppycock.

    • Nope says

      Unless you were an engineer in the 60s I doubt any of that happened.
      I would love to know the name of the professor who told you, you will not be a good engineer because you are a woman.
      What utter garbage

      • This happened in the early 1990s through mid 2000s when I left tech. And I’m far from the only one it happened to. Have some conversations with women in engineering, or who have left engineering, and you will find dozens of stories. Heck there was a relatively recent thread on Twitter with women talking about the sexism they encountered.

        So here’s the question. Assume I am not lying. Is this an acceptable “daily cost” to being a woman in engineering?

        If it’s not, does that impact the assertion of the author that the problem is just that women “don’t want to” code?

    • LaurieColvin says

      Dear Astraea, Why would you let any of that stop you from being in tech? Except for the groping, all of those things happened to me at one time or another. I certainly ran into sexism and some males considered themselves to be superior to me. Some were and some were not. A few nay-sayers are to be expected in life. Would you expect to never run into any obstacles?

      All these claims about groping and the toxic environment… I can only say that of all the companies I’ve worked at (I’m a consultant) I’ve never seen or heard of anyone getting groped. There is not much opportunity given that most work environments are open and visible to others. In today’s environment of heightened awareness, I find it hard to believe that anyone would put his or her job on the line. Now maybe you are considering an arm around the shoulder to be groping, I don’t know. We’ve reached the point where a kiss on the cheek is a sexual assault. It saddens me that so many people are invested into the narrative of unfairness and victimhood. It becomes an identity that just re-enforces the narrative.

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  108. Chris Lowe says

    As is often the case in such matters, this “debate” is really a case of parallel assertions, that rests on caricaturing constructed categories of opponents by reference to the most extreme cases within the categories. While Professor Reges tries to position himself as “moderate” in the sense of not arguing primarily on the basis of biological determinism, he still engages in parallel assertion that does not engage with the actual arguments of the opponents.

    He shares the underlying assumption behind accusations of “political correctness” going back their increasing emergence in the late 1980s, that the opposing viewpoints are advanced in bad faith: that they are so wrong that no one could honestly hold them, and that the “politically correct” know this themselves in their hearts of hearts. A corollary of the bad faith imputation is that the actual arguments advanced by those bad faith p.c. people need not be engaged.

    Also in these areas, the argument is often reduced to binary choices with huge undistributed middles. In this case, if there is an element of choice involved, that is treated as sufficient to say that choice is the only factor that matters, and excludes all other explanatory factors. Any degree of choice precludes any possible oppression, or institutional practices or population characteristics of the large male majorities in CS faculties and departmental student bodies that obstruct joining, or staying with the major or graduate programs to completion, or that might influence patterns of difference in individual choices.

    In fact Professor Reges is remarkably incurious about *why* women and men make the choices they do, and *why* the distribution of those choices differs in each sex/gender population. It can only be “because men and women are different,” a difference primarily proved by the distribution of those choices. Apart from tautology issues, the problem with this is that it does not explain historical changes both in CS and in other professional fields that Professor Reges himself documents.

    So take the first graph. *Something* happened in the mid-1980s that created the sharply differentiated pattern between CS majors and several other professional majors. I tend to agree with Stuart Reges that the “personal computer” hypothesis is prima facie implausible. But just saying “the growing availability of other choices means that choice is in itself is an adequate explanation” won’t do either. It not only fails to address why the CS curve turns downward except by quite unspecific hand-waving that presumes the choices involve only gendered differences in internal consciousness and motivations, again close to tautologically. More specifically, it fails to address that the data show CS had a quicker, steeper upward curve than physical sciences starting in 1973 and than either law school or medicine starting in 1976, although medicine was fairly close in steepness and was never overtaken by CS unlike the other fields.

    There are a couple of other factors and interactions that might contribute to such an explanation. One is that men have choices too, and apparently, like women, men tend to like to be in fields where their sex/gender has a large and in men’s case predominant presence. There is a well-documented phenomenon in which there are two tipping points. One is when a field comes to be seen by women as comparatively open to women, resulting in a growing female proportion. The other is when that proportion grows enough that men perceive the field as becoming “feminized” such that many of them flee it. Early examples of this were in teaching, and in personal secretarial and more general clerical work. While sometimes there has been a technological element, it’s mostly social, and can be connected to re-divisions of labor and redefinition of jobs to decrease the autonomy, relation to advancement pathways, and authority of the “feminized” occupations.

    So it’s plausible that the growing female presence in other fields gave women more choices that they might prefer. The unasked question is whether more men who were bothered by the increasing “feminization” of physical sciences (and even greater as reported in biological sciences not shown on the graph), law school, humanities and social science fields in academia, and medicine moved into CS, creating a re-masculization of that field. If that were true, it might involve self-selection by men who were least comfortable working with women and maybe more intense forms of misogyny. and psychological projection of male sex/gender anxieties back on women (though that’s a general presence in our society and culture still).

    A related phenomenon involves questions of occupational culture. It is notable that Professor Reger does not engage at all with widely available reports from women in the field of frequent toxic attitudes toward women, and even more of fear of speaking out due to vicious retaliatory attacks by Social Hierarchy Warriors if they do so, as well as more subtle obstruction in careers on the basis of “troublemaker,” “not a team player,” and “wrong kind of woman (shrill, bitch, hard to get along with etc. etc.).” But there are enough of those reports and voices that they deserve to be considered and not just dismissed as somehow only coming from professional or avocational diversity advocates and SJWs. And to require consideration of aspects of occupational culture that might make CS

    Of course in many fields gaining female plurality or majority presence, there are sub-fields where that effect is less prominent. Female predominance in primary school teaching does not extend to the same degree to middle school or high school teaching. Principals and superintendents while in flux skew more male. Sub-fields of law and medicine may have different sex/gender proportions. The comment made by someone above about CS/coding being a subfield of a main field defined as “tech” is supported by this observation.

    Still, toxic masculist culture needs to be considered. I graduated from Reed College in 1982. When I went there, all first year students had to live in the dorms, and the overall student body population was 55% male and 45% female. Dorms were in short supply having not kept up with growing overall size of student body as the college nearly went bust in the late ’60s and early ’70s, so nearly all sophomores and a very high proportion of juniors (like 80%) were forced to live off campus, and chose to do so, both. But of the juniors and seniors elegible to take part in the dorm lottery (segregated by year), about 2/3 of those who applied and also of who won were men including many who were emotionally immature and not skilled at taking care of themselves. This meant that the dorms the first years moved into were 60% or more male, producing a general dorm culture that was often unpleasant or worse for women and contributing later to less interest in applying to be in the dorms. That pattern no longer exists, as like other schools Reed now has a 57% female majority, and the school has built new dorms with many new rooms as affordable off-campus housing even in shared communal housing is less and less available and more distant from the campus where it exists.

    Professor Reger’s second graph may reflect a similar kind involuting cycle to Reed’s dorms in my undergraduate days. He uses it mainly to make a point about waxing and waning popularity of the field and the broadly parallel shape of the curves for % share of bachelor’s degrees earned by men compared to % share of bachelor’s degrees earned by women from 1975 to 2016. It’s another one of his interesting points that is certainly worth thinking about. But he neglect to mention that the gap in in share grows wider continuously each year, whether shares are going up or going down in the shapes of the curves.

    Penultimately, I believer Professor Reger either misconstrues or ignores the import of a quote he relies to back up the “choice model,” from the National Academy of Sciences paper of 2010:

    “We conclude that past initiatives to combat discrimination against women in science appear to have been highly successful. Women’s current underrepresentation in math-intensive fields is not caused by discrimination in these domains, but rather to sex differences in resources, abilities, and choices (whether free or constrained).”

    The first bit would have to be supported by evidence that the past initiatives were pursued as intensively in CS and other “math-intensive fields” as in the fields reporting greater success (and one hopes might also address the continued growth of women’s share BAs in “physical sciences” like physics and chemistry which are pretty math-intensive, compared to decline in women’s share of BAs in CS/IS in graph 1). I’ll assume that NAS provides at least some such evidence.

    The second sentence however refers to sex differences in resources, sex differences in abilities, and sex differences in constrained choices. In other words “free choice” is not the only source of explanation under-representation. In fact generalized sexist culture and social structure are strongly implied by sex differences in resources, and by constrained choices not reflecting (intentional?) discrimination in CS/IS. Sex differences in “ability” might mean “native ability,” or biologically determined relative distributions of intensive math abilities within each sex. But they might also reflect broad societal and cultural obstruction and inhibition for women as a class to develop abilities that perhaps they could and would under different conditions. It’s not really clear. The success of intentional programs to remedy discrimination against women in science also implies social malleability in sex differences in resources, socially determined aspects of “ability,” and removing constraints on choices in other fields.

    Finally, there is this puzzle. Professor Reger is proud, apparently justifiably so, of work he has done over several decades, directly in teaching and presumably in collaborating with department or program colleagues on other measures, that have achieved about 30% female majors. That’s well above the 15% to 20% level on which he nails his fatalism flag. Why then does he set his standard for a supposedly inherent limit on women in the field beyond which any effort is futile and energy wasted so low, when he himself has been involved in which efforts that have been much more successful than that, and knows of still other examples?

    An answer may lie in several failures. There is failure to even entertain the possibility of problems of sexist culture among teachers and male students constraining women’s choices, making the character of available choices dramatically different for women and men as classes. There is the neglect to even raise, never mind pursue, questions about possibly hostile to women culture and practices. There is the failure through either avoidance or neglect to engage widespread reports from women about their experiences in the field that raise issues of culture and practice.

    In this light it is hard to avoid thinking that there is an underlying unwillingess to engage in any critical thinking about sexism and misogyny being problems in the field that might be reinforced by strong sex/gender imbalance. To be very clear, I don’t see any ill will or intentional bad faith in the issues I’ve commented on.

  109. Kat says

    Alright, sir, how about we play a game of poker. At the beginning of the game I have $1000 to play with and you have $100. Who do you think is more likely to win? Yeah, it could be that you’re an amazing player and I’m horrible or that you hit a streak of great luck and I get horrible hands, but both are unlikely scenarios. Most probably due to the fact that I can afford to wait out unfavorable hands and you can’t plus the fact that when I do get a good luck (or decide to bluff) I can outbid you tremendously every time I’ll win and take your $100.

    Well that was clearly an unfair game, now let’s start a new one, you get $250 and I get $250. Now we’re equal! Of course I still have my original $1000 plus $100 I won from you last time and you’re starting with nothing, but well let’s not focus on “righting the wrong of the past”, let’s not keep bringing up old history, let’s focus on the present: presently you have received $250 and so have I and it’s all fair now. Let the best player win!

    Ops, I win again, I now have $1600. Do you want to play again? Oh, but sir, poker is a game of skill, you know that, you’re whining and complaining because you are a sore loser and you don’t want to admit you’re not a good player. Giving you extra money at the beginning of the next game would be unfair to me! The games should be won based on merit, not handouts.

    So now I have an opinion: you’re a bad player and I’d like to follow you around wherever you go and remind you that you suck, write articles about how mediocre you are, discuss them with your peers, give speeches about your inadequacies and I’d like you to figure out a way to make me feel welcome to express my opinion because freedom!

    Oh, oh you don’t like that? You’re angry? My my, anger is a negative emotion, you know if you weren’t this emotional and if you controlled your feelings better you’d be a better poker player! You’re welcome. There should not be a moral dimension to this conversation at all. Poker is about luck and logic and ability to read people, why are you trying to bring morality into it? Oh, i know because you want to justify just how bad of player you are by blaming it on other people.

    You, my friend suck at this game. And you know what, another thing that is important to win at poker is confidence. Not sure why you lack it, but I have plenty, that’s why I am a good player and you are a bad one.

    What? It’s unfair? How? I have clear evidence of games we played in the past where you and i were given the same amount of money at the start. Your claims of unfair rules are discredited by the fact that those games happened.

    So, how about another game? No? Oh you see, you choose to not play. “One should never attribute to oppression that which is adequately explained by free choice.” I’d like to remind you once again that I think you suck. I’m delightful to play with though, so if you choose not to play with me the only explanation is that you suck and you know it. Your choice not to play is proof that discrimination does not exist.

    Look: if we were to play checkers now both you and I would have equal chances of winning. This proves that unfair rules do not exist and the only reason you continuously lose at poker to me is that you’re just not that good at poker, it’s not your game man. Given an opportunity to play either game you choose checkers: it’s therefore the matter of motivation, not discrimination.

    To conclude: you are bad at poker. I value honesty over politeness, that’s why I keep reminding you of that. You should play checkers, that’s your game. Yeah, there’s no money in it, but oh well. You should go play checkers because if you try to play poker I’ll always have an upper hand and I will make your life miserable by constantly telling you openly as well as subtelly how inadequate I think you are. So choose checkers.

  110. Regularly I see in such posts missing the timeframe of childhood. Its an area I did experience most intense myself and saw how just this few years can mark the way for someone.
    I got to hear, how parents told their daughters they should not sit all the time in front of a pc, but go out and make sport, else they will not find a boy to marry them.
    I regularly saw, how boys got their own PC, gaming consoles and so on, while girls had to do housekeeping, babysitting their younger silblings. This did in some insane cases even extend to the time after they already moved out from home. Not because they liked to, but because they felt like they did not have another choice.

    Best current example how this is still manifested in parents is to see in the Fortnite hype, which only attracted an equal share of girls, when its mobile phone version did launch. Because its socially accepted for girls to have an expensive mobile phone, but still not to have an expensive PC or gaming console.

  111. jimmy johnson says

    Another right-winger with a victim complex. Honestly, yawn.

  112. harpo says

    If white heterosexual males sympathetic to right of centre politics and unconvinced by gender social constructivism (WHMSROCPUGSC) were to pursue careers in Liberal Arts/Social Science would they be more or less likely to be stereotyped, obstructed, ignored, ostracised, harassed, vilified, humiliated, etc. than females pursuing careers in Software Engineering?

    Which Liberal Arts/Social Science department is the least hostile to WHMSROCPUGSC? Would it just be plain stupid to enter Gender Studies? But if there are females who can tough it out in CS despite all the institutional efforts made to recruit and encourage them maybe it’s doable? Sure evolutionary perspectives on gender are anathema, conservative politics is evil, masculinity is suspect at best and males are inferior to females at anything of value, but at least WHMSROCPUGSC wouldn’t be a vilified minority in Gender Studies like girls who code are.

    Would the wiser move for WHMSROCPUGSC be to pursue CS instead but stay in the closet about politics, gender, etc. enthusiastically pretending to be on board having no qualms whatsoever about equity, diversity and inclusivity and never committing the heresy of wondering out loud why this tripartite good isn’t an explicit policy goal backed up by comparably funded and endorsed gender parity initiatives in any sector with female over representation?

  113. anon says

    There is a silent majority that cannot speak out of fear of losing their jobs and being alienated. Imagine what would happen to you if you shared this well written article on linkedin.

  114. duder says

    I’m a man who’s worked in the tech industry for over 15 years, and my experience is that it’s a toxic environment for women. If you don’t see it, you’ve either been very lucky in the organizations you’ve worked for, or you’re blind to it and part of the problem.

    Some of the things I’ve seen:

    Sexual assault where the culprit is fired and then promptly re-hired at a competing company. I’ve seen this several times, including executives.

    Sexual harassment in many different forms.

    Tons of “unconscious bias” in even the “best” organizations that have diversity hiring plans and take sexual assault and harassment seriously:

    Professional engineers referred to as “girls”.
    Mixed gender groups referred to as “guys”.
    Women repeatedly assigned to administrative tasks such as taking notes and ordering food.
    Women being interrupted and talked-over in meetings.

    I’ve seen many awesome female engineers pushed out into other roles such as UX or product development. Sometimes these were deliberate actions, other times not.

    It doesn’t matter what the pipeline of students looks like as long as the environment is toxic enough that women don’t want to enter the pipeline in the first place and get pushed out once they are there. I haven’t had to face any of these issues as a man in the industry, and I don’t see it happening to other men either, it is 100% a problem of discrimination.

    • Nope says

      I am guessing by your logic there will be a sharp decline in actresses after Hollywood’s tree face was exposed by MeToo movement.
      But you and I both know that will not be happening. And you will only look a fool to contend that tech industry is worse to women than hollywood

      • That’s some impressive whataboutism you demonstrate.

        Are you asserting that what this person describes (1) didn’t happen or (2) doesn’t matter?

        • Joseph OConnell says

          “Are you asserting that what this person describes (1) didn’t happen or (2) doesn’t matter?”

          I mean, neither person has presented much empirical data, just unsourced anecdotes and then an attempt to extend the logic. So 2 is a pretty good answer for both comments, in terms of the larger questions of the article.

  115. Scott says

    I think there’s a different explanation for that first graph. Before the 1980s, computing was simply a career like accounting, with people going to tech school to work for IBM or whoever else. There was nothing really gendered about it, it was just a job you could train for. I’ve met plenty of female computer programmers and CS faculty from that generation, and I’m old enough to have gotten a CS degree where a bunch of the faculty were women. A big part of the panic about diversity comes from the fact that this generation is now retiring, and the younger faculty are overwhelmingly male.

    Indeed, a bunch of biological arguments about women in computing fall apart when you consider the fact that we used to have significant female representation among programmers. Obviously today’s severe gender disparity is not biological, unless that biology magically evolved in 1985.

    The big question is: what happened in the 1980s? In the 1980s, computers landed in the home, and they became tech toys that we put in front of children. Those children became the next generation of college students, who now went into CS not because it was a possible career like accounting, but because they were totally into computers from playing with computers. One way or another, those kids were overwhelmingly male. Computing became a gendered thing right about the time we put computers in front of children.

    The second graph illustrates a bust in the 1980s, but that’s a separate phenomenon. The computing bust in the 80s is well documented, as fly-by-night companies rushed in to capitalize off the huge growth of computers and gaming consoles in the home. That didn’t drive women away from computers at all, it was just a bubble correcting itself, and it had nothing to do with the subsequent gender disparity that developed among young people interested in computers.

  116. wow thanks to this site and thanks to you for honest discourse that doesn’t appease to save face (and career etc!). i hope some day the differences and complementary elements of each gender can once again be celebrated, for there’s a balance struck – including in the exceptions and high/low extremes of each – that, like absolutely everything in nature, is part of an order that myopic limitations of the general human condition/perspective call chaos and slap-label as plain ol’ “bad.”

    on other hand, we now have coder Barbie to fix it all for us

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  119. Angela Merkel says

    The comments section reflects why the “mambo-jumbo” trainings are needed.

  120. Dave says

    This is an incel circle jerk. Women can code, and men need to respect women in the workplace, and not justify the status quo by peddling crank biological theories of skill.

  121. AesopFan says

    Liberty Unyielding linked a story about complaints from students (aka snowflakes melting in the heat) who just can’t handle logic, reason, or data.
    https://www.campusreform.org/?ID=11073

    I am a retired computer programmer and college instructor in said art & craft, cisfemale since we all have to do the identity thing these days, and I knew in grade school that I didn’t think (or feel) the same as all the other girls; that never changed, but now I can “fake it” enough to get by.
    Loved programming and coding — more into debugging as a specialty — and this comment at that post sums up my thoughts as well.

    “Well, no one stopped me from programming. Actually, I have been highly encouraged by men to get into programming and it most certainly was MY choice, I would never have thought it related to anything oppressive, just never experienced that in this career field. Computer Science is not easy and most women don’t understand it or even want to understand it. That’s not oppression, that’s brain design. What’s even more ironic is most women I talk to give me the “what are you thinking” look when I do tell them I program.”

    And from another teacher, about my vintage; I don’t know about the any crash; the classes I taught in a 2-yr tech college in the eighties were not wildly unbalanced (my top students — and they were very good — were often women, plus an auto mechanic and a cop):

    “I taught Comp Sci at a state research university from 1974 until 2011. When I started at Clemson, CS was taught in the Math Dept and there was no CS degree. The CS Dept and undergrad CS degree came to be in 1978. Until the late 80’s the male and female popluations were well balanced (nationwide). Female enrollment crashed in the late 1980’s. AFAIK nobody knows for sure what the specific cause was but the effect persists to this day. The emigration of female students correlated closely in time with two events that may be at least partially causal:
    (a) the migration from the near exclusive focus on the IBM MVS “mainframe” computer in the curriculum to a mix of minicomputers running Unix and VMS along with personal computers running MS DOS and primitive versions of windows.
    (b) the release of the “Revenge of the Nerds” type movies and TV shows portraying males with interest and skills in STEM exclusively as geeks/nerds.”

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  125. You are far less controversial than James Damore — even though he only said “maybe” women were less capable coders. Because he used the word ‘biology’ he can be interpreted as saying, bluntly, that it is possible the female brain is biologically inferior at coding. You say women are “Less likely to want to code”, and “less likely to pursue coding” — far less contentious claims — especially when you don’t mention biology. You imply they could if they wanted to, whereas Damore is saying maybe they can’t, even if they wanted to. I go further than Damore and say there is a biological difference, and the preferences simply acknowledge the fact.

  126. fitzc says

    Odd that an imbalance in coding attracts such passionate debate. There are imbalances all over the place. Males in nursing. Female airline pilots. Etc… I could understand if coders were positions of social power, but they are anything but that.

    • I think that coding stands in for science and modern technology in the public eye — despite it being nerdy and mind-numbingly boring. Hence these proposals to get everybody to do some coding. It’s as if the advent of the car meant that everybody had to become a car mechanic — a complete misconception to me. For as long a coding has this status, misguided women will be jealous of men’s superior ability.

  127. Sorin says

    Great article, right to the point. I think that all these diversity and inclusion policies are good intentions on the way to hell. Communists tried this in Eastern Europe and are still resisting in China. We should learn from humanity’s mistakes and make sure that protecting freedom of thought and speech is the main concern for state as well as private entities.

  128. Laura MacMurchie says

    Having a daughter who is acing AP calculus as a sophomore in high school, I will offer my insights. It has been her drive and my advocacy that have thus far defeated the not-so-subtle sexism smart girls face in middle and secondary grades. There seems to be a specific mold into which girls are expected to fit. A math teacher told her at age 13, “I don’t know what to do with a student like you”, as in a girl who is three years beyond grade level. The administration battled its own preset policies at every turn when we asked for acceleration to suitable levels in math and science. Boys were freely moved forward, but administrators expressed that she would “break from the pressure”, “likely have gaps in her knowledge”. There is not a widely, socially reputable version of the smart, mathy, brainiac person who is female. These girls do not have that identity personified in their accessible vision for themselves, and just from my own experience parenting a daughter, it takes a Herculean level of dedication and effort to maintain an environment in which a girl remains true to her “math head” if she has one. Even the female teachers are not encouraging about how female students are received in college, advising her to seek female math professors in next year’s Running Start program. At this stage, she has specific interests in science and engineering as well the mind for these pursuits. The question isn’t can she, but will she pursue a computer science degree and study coding. She is looking for where women before her are setting themselves on par with men, not in equal numbers, but in actual depth of involvement and responsibility. She is looking for the connections of minorities within specific programs, and weighing heavily the institution’s determination to diversity. Reges’ highest value being honesty, as he clearly states, I will say honestly that I see as seriously flawed his understanding of intelligent females.

  129. Svetlana Gladycheva says

    Thank you for your article! While diversity and inclusion are definitely good intentions, how they are implemented often painfully reminds me of USSR communist doctrines we were subjected to… There were nothing wrong about them per se – “all men are equal and deserve the best and the party is doing everything to ensure it happens” – but when exaggerated, uncontrolled and with no other opinions allowed – look what they turned the society to..

  130. P. says

    You seem to be deliberately missing a point to avoid confronting a contradiction in your views, Elissa.

    No one is seriously questioning the legality of the Damore termination, the discussion is about the self-destructive hipocritical irrationally of the policy underneath it. The cake is just a cake.

  131. Mr Peterson says

    Let me make this very clear.

    THE AUTHOR IS A WHITE MALE MISOGYNIST. WHAT”S NEXT?? An argument to tolerate racism??/

    • Wanting to put women in their place does not make one a misogynist — women do it all the time the other way round, blaming the ills of the world on men, especially patriarchy. Women simply have got to get used to the fact that the female brain is inferior at doing science (based on Doreen Kimura, 2001, “Sex Differences in Cognition”). Women are superior at dealing with people, men are superior at dealing with things — get used to it. Racism is an entirely different subject, since there are relatively few racial differences compared with the sex differences.

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  133. LaurieColvin says

    I am a woman in my 60’s who has worked as a computer programmer for over 35 years. I ended up working in this field by default. A college education was not a given in my family but my parents realized they probably needed to send me somewhere. It was recommended that since I was good at math and there was likely to be a need for computer programmers, I should go to a local technical college offering a data processing degree. Not knowing what I wanted in life I went with it. A few years later I needed a job and landed one coding RPG. Today, I have decades of experience in IT and I am a very good software developer. But here is the thing I’ve observed. I don’t love computers and software. I never have. The men that I work with embrace their profession in a different way than I do. I would have preferred to be a landscape designer! In my spare time I sew, refinish furniture, decorate my home and tend my garden. I do not tinker with writing software or writing articles about technology. I’m not saying some women might not like to do just that. But in my observation, it is mostly men who have a passion for what I do for a living. Women are perfectly capable of course and in fact, I would say I write better software than most men and my brain is definitely suited to the task. But my preference is to do other things.

    There has never been a time in history where women had more opportunity to do anything they want. It is disturbing to see so much energy being put into emphasis on females as victims and even more disturbing to see the denial of obvious differences between men and women.

  134. Ola says

    This was a very good, nuanced and balanced article. It convinced me that the biggest, maybe only reason why women (in USA) wouldn’t go into tech is because they don’t find it interesting.

    Then I started reading the comment section.

  135. Gary D. says

    I bought and built a short-wave radio kit when I was about 14 years old. No one coerced me into doing so. Certainly no one influenced me. I just wanted to take on the challenge and accomplish it. The challenge for me was so interesting. I’m still proud of how well it works to this day.

    It was an accomplishment.

    I recently built my own stereo amplifier made up of tubes, resistors, capacitors, and massive transformers (no transistors). Nobody coerced me or even influenced me into doing so. I really, really wanted to see if I could do it. And I did. It isn’t a work of art but I’m so proud of it.

    I got into computers because they fascinated me. That’s it. That’s the only reason. To this day, application programming has been my hobby, even at work. I thoroughly enjoy the challenge it brings.

    When I successfully build an application business system that my customers work successfully with, I am very pleased and satisfied.

    What motivates me as a man is accomplishments and intellectual challenge. That’s what IT provides for me and what influenced me into working in the field.

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