Discouraging data: women in CS and IT

In making my mark in the realm of data and information visualization, it will probably do me good to become a better and more knowledgeable coder. I am now looking into pursuing a little more CS education, and am excited about diving into edX MOOCs in computer science (remember when edX was OCW?).

I’ve never shied away from things technical. I enjoy every opportunity I get to learn new software and programming languages, and nothing sucks me into an-all absorbing work cave as effectively as a new Javascript, HTML or CSS coding challenge. I’m even considering diving much deeper into CS than just the basics. After all, the entry level pay for a computer scientist or software engineer is at least 1/3 higher than the entry level pay for people in my current line of work.

However, these data give me pause:

Looking at the BLS numbers, it is interesting that these professions attract more women (as a percentage) than software engineers (20.2%):

  • Bailiffs, correctional officers, jailers (26.9%)
  • Chief executives (25.0%)
  • Database administrators (35.3%)
  • Biological scientists (45.1%)
  • Chemists and materials scientists (30.0%)
  • Technical writers (50.4%)

Even the professions that are said to have a glass ceiling (such as CEO) have more women in them than software development. Based on the number of science positions listed in the BLS data with substantial numbers of women in them, it is clear that the myth that women are afraid of math or science is just plain wrong (even if less than 1% of mathematicians are women). And given the bizarre outlier of DBAs at 35.3%, and technical writers at 50.4%, we can see that women certainly do not dislike computing fields in general.

IT gender gap: Where are the female programmers? by Justin James

Now I remember why I wasn’t attracted to CS at university. I would try to strike up conversations with computer geeks, and then get shut out of the weirdly intense technobabble tournament that every computer geek conversation eventually turned into. My work is now and was then a huge part of my life; but I learned very early that the people I surround myself with are at least as important as the work that I do. At the time, a choice of major seemed like a choice to surround myself with people like the people in that major for the better part of my adult life.

I can’t be the only woman who looked at the majority culture of computer programmers and thought, is this it?


Gender bias in science – the links

Gender bias in science – collected links

Collecting my favorite stories and peer-reviewed studies of gender bias in science. Please ping me at @sandramchung if you have more I should add.

Storified by Sandra M. Chung· Wed, Feb 20 2013 16:29:50

“Male-organized symposia have half the number of female first authors (29%) that symposia organized by women (64%) or by both men and women (58%) have, and half that of female participation in talks and posters (65%). We found a similar gender bias from men in symposia from the past 12 annual meetings of the American Society of Primatologists. The bias is surprising given that women are the numerical majority in primatology and have achieved substantial peer recognition in this discipline.”
PLOS ONE: Stag Parties Linger: Continued Gender Bias in a Female-Rich Scientific DisciplineAbstract Discussions about the underrepresentation of women in science are challenged by uncertainty over the relative effects of the lac…
“That he could be treated differently by people who think of him as a woman, as a man or as a transgendered person makes Barres angry. What’s worse is that some women don’t recognize that they are treated differently because, unlike him, they’ve never known anything else.
The irony, Barres said, is that those who argue in favor of innate differences in scientific ability do so without scientific data to explain why women make up more than half of all graduate students but only 10 percent of tenured faculty. The situation is similar for minorities.
Yet scientists of both sexes are ready to attribute the gap to a gender difference. 
‘They don’t care what the data is,’ Barres said. ‘That’s the meaning of prejudice.’ “
Transgender Experience Led Stanford Scientist To Critique Gender DifferenceBen Barres has a distinct edge over the many others who have joined the debate about whether men’s brains are innately better suited for …

WTF? American childrearing edition

Profession women friends, do you remember being seduced and inspired by a picture of Licia Ronzulli in the middle of the European parliament wearing her six-week-old-daughter in a sling? No? Let me refresh your memory.

Did you smile and sigh? I did. The smile was for the “you go, woman!” sentiment that came from my gut. And the sigh was for the realization that I’m still having to constantly choose between my career and having children – and that there are no signs that that will change until long after my ovaries have dried up. Hardly a week goes by when I don’t catch another career vs. family discussion. The prospects are especially stark in fields like academic science and corporate management, where ridiculously long work hours are an expectation and culture and incentives change at an evolutionary, not a revolutionary pace.

But let’s not forget that anti-parenting workplace culture isn’t just a workaholic problem; it’s an American problem. Here’s another picture that puts American mothers in their place:
The US is one of only eight countries in the world without a paid maternity leave policy.

Are you, too, feeling your hopes and dreams for a family and a career drip away like menstrual blood as your prime babymaking years zip by with nary a sign that the professional world is becoming less hostile to parenting?

Many of us are channeling our rage and frustration over the persistent gender gap into glass-ceiling talk. But as Stephanie Coontz points out in the NYTimes story that goes with the second image, the remaining barriers to true gender equality are more political and economic than social. That is, we as individual men and women have done much to spread gender equality norms throughout society (note that I’ve had the “>career vs. family conversation with just as many men as women); but we’ve failed to change any of the fundamental rules of the game. We’re trying to live by 2013 values in a world with 1953 workplace incentives. As Coontz writes, we’re now to the point where we’re rationalizing the trap:

Women are still paid less than men at every educational level and in every job category. They are less likely than men to hold jobs that offer flexibility or family-friendly benefits. When they become mothers, they face more scrutiny and prejudice on the job than fathers do.

So, especially when women are married to men who work long hours, it often seems to both partners that they have no choice. Female professionals are twice as likely to quit work as other married mothers when their husbands work 50 hours or more a week and more than three times more likely to quit when their husbands work 60 hours or more.

The sociologist Pamela Stone studied a group of mothers who had made these decisions. Typically, she found, they phrased their decision in terms of a preference. But when they explained their “decision-making process,” it became clear that most had made the “choice” to quit work only as a last resort — when they could not get the flexible hours or part-time work they wanted, when their husbands would not or could not cut back their hours, and when they began to feel that their employers were hostile to their concerns. Under those conditions, Professor Stone notes, what was really a workplace problem for families became a private problem for women.

Do you find yourself settling for much less than you originally dreamed of as far as career and family are concerned and rationalizing it as a “choice”? We have Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook preaching “Don’t leave before you leave,” with her Harvard economics degree and Facebook COO salary and stock options, and Anne-Marie Slaughter talking about the chicken-or-egg problem of getting more women to the top in a culture where there are few or no realistic paths to having both a great career and a healthy family.

Licia and Vittoria Ronzulli making an appearance in Eurocratland was like Ellen DeGeneres coming out in 1997. Do you remember what a big deal that was? And do you remember Zachary Quinto coming out fourteen years after Ellen did? It was a nonevent. Someday, a father-to-be asking for paid paternal leave will be a nonevent. But that day’s not coming soon enough.

Latin for “testicles”

From a NYTimes interview with Katie Couric, “Katie Couric Has a Few Regrets“:

At your first job at CNN, the head of the network, Reese Schonfeld, famously said you just didn’t possess the gravitas to be in TV news.
Which I think is Latin for “testicles” by the way. But to give this some perspective: I was 23 years old.

For the 15 years you co-hosted “Today,” no one seemed capable of writing about you without using one particular descriptor. Tell me about your current relationship with the word “perky.”
It used to bother me because I thought there was a sexist undertone to that word. It meant shallow and cute, but not somebody who had any depth. It did become a pejorative word, but listen, it’s better than “bitchy.”

-Andrew Goldman

No unwanted babies, just neutered pets going into heat

First I see this story:

When Hormone Creams Expose Others to Risks (NYTimes, 2010 Oct 25)

Veterinarians around the country are reporting a strange phenomenon: spayed dogs and cats, even some puppies and kittens, are suddenly becoming hormonal.

In female pets, the symptoms resemble heat: swollen genitals, bloody discharge and behavioral problems. Male animals are showing up with swollen breast tissue and hair loss. Standard treatments and even repeated operations have had no effect.

Now vets have identified the culprit. The pets were all owned by women who used hormone creams on their hands, arms and legs to counter symptoms of menopause. Animals who licked or cuddled their owners, or rubbed up against their legs, were being inadvertently exposed to doses of hormone drugs.

Okay. Note to self: pets and hormone lotion don’t mix.

But not 24 hours later this story appears:

Daily Rub-On Contraceptive Skin Gel Could Replace The Pill(Popular Science, 2010 Oct 26)

Birth control I can spread on my skin like a lotion, without the side effects associated with the pill. Yay!

Wait a second …