I just read a very well-intentioned, heartwarming talk about girls who code that, sadly, I think, is missing the biological forest for the cultural trees.
It’s this: Teach girls bravery, not perfection. Read it, It’s short
I like the woman who voiced those thoughts in that way. Well, except for the part about growing up to be Hillary Clinton; do we really want to encourage girls to sleep their way to power and then cover up for their husband’s serial rapes?
That’s not the big problem with teaching girls to be brave rather than seeking perfection, though. That’d be nice if it could be done, but I think it will run smack into an evo-bio buzzsaw.
Reshma Saujani argues, accurately I think, that (in general) boys are brave risk-takers while girls are cautious and risk-averse. She thinks this is how we teach then to be, and that teaching girls differently can solve the problem.
I, on the other hand, look at this and see the bioenergetics of human reproduction. Women have only a limited number of ovulations in their lifetime and, in the EAA (environment of ancestral adaptation) pregnancy was a serious risk of death.
Contrast this with men, who have an effectively unlimited supply of sperm – any individual male is far less critical to a human group’s reproductive success than any individual female.
Do the game theory. It would be crazy if women weren’t instinctively far more risk-averse than men. I’m not saying the ranges are disjoint, but we ought to expect the distribution means to be way, way different.
It would actively surprise me if this difference could be socialized away. I think the attempt is as doomed as the early kibbutznkis’ attempt to raise children in creches. Traits close to our central mating strategies are pretty strongly conserved across cultures and resistent to social engineering.
Sigh…somewhere out there, an idiot will read this and jump to the conclusion that I’m saying this because I’m a reactionary sexist who wants to keep women out of coding. Couldn’t be less true; I like having women in my social and professional networks, they look pretty and they smell nice. My senior apprentice is female.
But if we’re going to fix what we perceive as inequities, we need to have clear eyes about what causes them and to what extent fixing them is possible. If we proceed on mistaken beliefs, such as the premise that every problem can be educated or social-engineered away, we will fail and do iatrogenic harm.
We should be looking in different directions. Here’s one; if we want to encourage girls to code, maybe instead of trying to increase their risk tolerance we should be working on lowering the actual (and perceived) risk.
I don’t have a clear idea how to do that, but at least it’s a strategy that doesn’t seem foredoomed from the start by biology.
FWIW – the actual perceived risk of what?
>FWIW – the actual perceived risk of what?
Coding. Learning to code.
I think one big win for this would be the death of Windows; using an OS prone to breaking and viruses and so forth cultivates an aura of be-very-careful-when-using-this around the computer that runs counter to the sorts of experimentation you go through when learning to program.
>>FWIW – the actual perceived risk of what?
>Coding. Learning to code.
I don’t understand. That’s like saying ‘the risk of drinking water’, which is nonsense. The risk in that situation is in *failing* to drink water, i.e. choking, etc.
So the risk would be in *trying and failing* to code.
Which I think is made worse by the typical modern feminist ‘I am grrrrl hear me roar, I can do *anything* at least as well as men’ idiotic propaganda. Setting more attainable goals is a key way to manage risk, and brainwashing like that is the exact opposite.
Maybe working with an approach of building a ‘culture of competence’, and taking small incremental steps in skill building (hey that sounds like apprenticeship) might be more effective in encouraging the relatively risk-averse to stretch themselves.
Fits in with my general observation in working with technical folks, successful females rely/have relied on mentoring more often than their successful male counterparts.
Downside is that the encroachment of third wave feminists/intersectionalists/SJW’s makes mentoring dangerous. Ironic that so-called supporters of women in tech would create an environment that destroys a necessary component of the environment needed for women to *succeed* in tech, but that would be far from the first time leftist behavior created the very sickness it ostensibly existed to fix.
@esr: “It would actively surprise me if this difference could be socialized away. I think the attempt is as doomed as the early kibbutznkis’ attempt to raise children in creches. Traits close to our central mating strategies are pretty strongly conserved across cultures and resistent to social engineering.”
I don’t think Ms. Saujani is proposing to “socialize away” risk averseness in women; merely to encourage women to modify it enough to encourage women to take some reasonable, relatively minor risks. I was raised to seek perfection. The result was that there were many fewer things I was ready to even try. In my opinion, *reinforcing* female risk-averseness makes women less rational. Showing girls that some kinds of risk can lead to good results will make them more productive and happier as people.
“we should be working on lowering the actual (and perceived) risk.”
Be careful, lest ye encourage the SJWs who want to make the programming world into one of their special “safe spaces”. After all, to them, being hassled by men is a risk they should’t have to bear.
@Greg: When I started to code I had a slight advantage over my classmates due to early exposure to certain subjects (logic, how computers work, networking).
I would freeze when I wasn’t sure some code would work; I didn’t try some things for fear of a compilation error.
I’ve since learned, but it took a teacher telling me “Why are you afraid of having an error in the code? What’s the worst that could happen?”
So I agree with ESR in general that showing that risks are small would be helpful. TDD desensitizes people from errors, by making “stuff is broken” the status quo. Helped me, anyway.
As for how to minimize the real risk? Teaching about keeping code and data safe (version control, separate development environments, etc.)
Another direction to take this is to throw away the gender part. In general, risk-preference seems to be somewhat culturally tweakable. If a lot of people (male, female and otherwise) who could be doing great things aren’t because they’re afraid of messing up, that’s a problem we should be paying attention to.
> Sigh…somewhere out there, an idiot will read this and jump to the conclusion that I’m saying this because I’m a reactionary sexist who wants to keep women out of coding. Couldn’t be less true; I like having women in my social and professional networks, they look pretty and they smell nice.
I’m pretty sure “because they look pretty and smell nice” isn’t the right way to not seem sexist though. It’s like you want them in your networks for selfish reasons, instead of because it’s unfair that women are discouraged from those careers.
> It would actively surprise me if this difference could be socialized away.
Arguments from evolutionary psychology always seem to me like they are just clever-looking reasoning without actual scientific backing. It’s not like we can design any experiments to prove them.
I think that the impact of the biological sex on psychology has been historically overestimated for many centuries in most cultures, and still is for many people.
That would mean that on average we still are more likely to generate theories that comfort our existing biases.
This is either tone-deaf writing or A+ trolling. Either way, the predictable mocking has ensued. (I hope it was trolling, because then the joke’s on him.)
Y’know, Disney just released a wonderful animated movie that has, among other themes, not letting evo-bio just so stories do the thinking for you.
The fact is that as sapient civilized beings we can, and routinely do, train ourselves out of whatever hardwiring the “ancestral environment” put into us, and we as individuals and as a civilization are better off for it. Humans and even chimpanzees, for example, have a certain genetic predilection towards xenophobia, yet we still teach our children that racial prejudice is wrong and we should not be quick to judge others different from ourselves. We do this not by trying to socialize away the impulse of our instincts, but by introducing other impulses that together override our instincts. We may never get rid of racism, but by gods that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it to fight racism wherever it is found.
Add to that the fact that we sometimes get “evo-bio” hilariously wrong. Take, for example, the idea of “alphaness” which was developed by zoologists studying wolves. Except the wolf populations they studied were captive packs of random wolves; in the wild, a wolf pack consists of a mating pair and their adult children, the parents being the “alpha pair” of the pack. This suggests that alphaness is quite the opposite from what is suggested by PUA types who are quick to cry “evo-bio!” in defense of their sexism: if you want to be alpha as fuck, the best way to go about it is to find a girl you really like, marry her, make babies, and stick around to raise the family.
(Confining random wolves in with a bunch of strangers, unsurprisingly, leads to vicious dominance struggles as they figure out who “owns” their limited territory, and is probably not bad as a model for human behavior as well — in extremely pathological environments such as a U.S. prison. Or high school, which explains a lot: I’d lay long odds that the typical PUA is still working out issues they had with not getting laid in high school.)
If we think that brave women — that is women who stand beside men as equals in competence and social standing, for such requires bravery of them — is a social good, it behooves us to find ways to teach them bravery. It’s not really about trying to squelch the instinctual signal through socialization. It’s about introducing other signals that outcompete it.
I think this is misunderstanding your enemies. They can accept that you want more women in coding and still think you’re a reactionary sexist for considering “looking pretty and smelling nice” to be relevant.
That wouldn’t even be all that unreasonable. Someone with whom you share a goal but not the motivation for it isn’t as reliable an ally. If I were a feminist, I’d be wondering if you’d drop your support as soon as you’re dealing with women who aren’t attractive and don’t smell nice.
I sort of wonder if a similar dynamic is behind the open source/free software friction.
(Just to be clear, I’m not a feminist and I don’t believe you think that way; I read the comment as somewhere halfway between tongue-in-cheek and ha-ha-only-serious)
From the linked article:
I’m not a psychologist so I don’t know what the correct word is for this sort of mental approach…but if the anecdote is accurate, I think this might be a large part of the problem right here. Shame is a pretty powerful disincentive.
Maybe Programming 101 should include an intro to the effect of “you will never be a great programmer until you accept that you will always be a terrible programmer.” (not sure who I’m misquoting there, I didn’t come up with it). Emphasize that failure is normal and our jobs are often to find new and ingenious ways to fail until we run out of ways to do so. Then we ship what’s left over.
>I’m pretty sure “because they look pretty and smell nice” isn’t the right way to not seem sexist though. It’s like you want them in your networks for selfish reasons, instead of because it’s unfair that women are discouraged from those careers.
What difference does it make? Isn’t it the result that’s important? How are you going to read everyone’s mind to make sure their reasons for working to involve more women in coding are pure and without reproach? Isn’t it enough that they are in fact working to involve more women in coding, regardless of their reasons?
>Arguments from evolutionary psychology always seem to me like they are just clever-looking reasoning without actual scientific backing. … I think that the impact of the biological sex on psychology has been historically overestimated for many centuries in most cultures… That would mean that on average…
1) The conclusion is only tenuously connected to the premise. Additionally, the premise suffers from the same problem set out in that premise: a lack of evidence. Evo-psych theories, like any scientific theories, are only as good as their predictive value. If the theory predicts observable behavior accurately, then it’s got something good going for it. If it doesn’t… then subscribe to a better theory. “Better” in the previous sentence maps to “more accurately predictive of observable facts,” as opposed to “more accurately predictive of how I wish things worked,” or “makes me feel good about myself to believe this.”
>>FWIW – the actual perceived risk of what?
>Coding. Learning to code.
I find it interesting that you phrased it this way; most of what I see about risks to women in tech involve aspects of the workplace rather than aspects of the occupation itself. What do you see as the actual or perceived risks of women learning to code?
>What do you see as the actual or perceived risks of women learning to code?
Did you read Saujani’s article? I think she explains it well.
“they look pretty and they smell nice”
There are some ugly and smelly people on this planet, and a nonzero subset of them are female.
What bugs me about this talk is that it perpetuates the myth that men live a charmed life where everything goes their way. No mention, for example, of the documented discrimination against male students when it comes to grading. No recognition that men also have their own version of “you have to be perfect”.
The flip side of “it’s okay to be brave” is that, for men, it is *required* to be brave… and smart… and capable.. and physically strong… and mentally strong… and able to earn a good income. For a man, if you aren’t all of these things, you’re not worthy of love.
I wish I could edit that last. I should have asked that question of your female readers.
Seeing some of the other comments leads me to point out – for whatever reason, men are much more accustomed to dealing with failure without breaking.
That helps a lot.
Women, fix yourselves (individual) first.
Next, stop blaming other (people, culture, politicians)
Third, repudiate Feminism. Straight up.
Until then, not taking you seriously.
Statistics I find indicated that about 40% of CS degrees in the early 1980s went to women.
I was in a CS department myself then and that’s about what I remember. We were transitioning from 80-column cards to terminals about that time. I don’t remember frightened females quivering at the spectre of a compilation error.
So what changed?
@ Jay Maynard: “Be careful, lest ye encourage the SJWs who want to make the programming world into one of their special ‘safe spaces’”.
I agree with you, Jay. Making it “safer” for women to code is just a different way of reinforcing the idea that they need to be perfect and safe all the time. The better approach is to encourage women to take appropriate risks.
1. Why is it that Other People are expected to fix a group/person? If that group/person isn’t interested enough to stand up and take responsibility, then why should/anyone else?
2. Why is it that Other People know more about – know BETTER – what a person/group wants than that person/group? Do we go by wishes/words or actions? Whose wishes or words or actions? What they say they want or what the show they want?
3. “But if we’re going to fix what we perceive as inequities, we need to have clear eyes about what causes them and to what extent fixing them is possible.” How is it that we are supposed to worship “Diverisity” and make everyone all the same at the same time? And again, see #2 , above. And #1, since it remains critical.
All sorts of things would be better if people remembered the “person” part of the above and for forgot the “group”. Groups are constructs, individuals are real. Of course, this requires accepting responsibility for choices and actions, not using externals for blame.
Ridiculous. I was a rambunctious, risk-taking girl and now am the same as a grown woman. I plenty of such females and plenty of cautious males. Shame on you for perpetuating such foolishness.
>Ridiculous. I was a rambunctious, risk-taking girl and now am the same as a grown woman. I plenty of such females and plenty of cautious males.
There needs to be a name for the failure of perception or logic that equates “The mean of trait X differs between populations A and B” with “All As have trait X and no Bs have trait X”. You just committed it.
Anyway, argue with Saujani about the facts on the ground, not me. I’m just the messenger on that part.
> I’d lay long odds that the typical PUA is still working out issues they had with not getting laid in high school.
Knowing a couple pretty closely, this isn’t far off. Both of them were nerds who decided they were sick of being lonely and put their brains to work at getting them what they wanted(i.e., female companionship). Both bailed after a few years once they’d worked it out of their systems and found a girl they wanted to marry.
I came to a similar conclusion when I looked at that (terrible) NPR story about “When Women Stopped Coding” that was doing the rounds about a year ago. (Never trust stories which report percentages. They almost always use a misleading denominator.)
See: Women in Computer Science
The dominant factor in comp sci enrollment for both men and women are the two “bubbles” that occurred in the mid-80s and late-90s. But each gender responded to the bubbles differently. More men than women jumped into the field when it got hot, and comparatively more women started avoiding the field when the bubbles burst.
I think that many women simply do not see software development as a stable career choice. And that is not entirely wrong. I graduated into the teeth of the 90s Internet bubble exploding, and it was rather difficult to try and find work as a new grad then. And even now, many software developers expect to change companies every two years or so.
@ Eidc – “Arguments from evolutionary psychology always seem to me like they are just clever-looking reasoning without actual scientific backing. It’s not like we can design any experiments to prove them.”
Actually, there is real science to substantiate the evolutionary nature of observed memetic traits. This is most clearly demonstrated in animal behavior studies which link to very specific gene encoding.
As to Eric’s OP, we live in an era of unprecedented affluence and a concurrent deficiency of genuine hardship. This change has occurred over a very short time interval versus our EAA, and one side effect is that we now overemphasize minor hardships in order to fill the void. Our ancestors routinely confronted existential challenges and that gauntlet made us stronger as a species.
We do not benefit the species by trying to make men and women equivalent in all respects. For example, I imagine that there will soon be a TED talk about re-engineering males with uteri so that we can continue to do all the things that evolution has endowed, plus handle the reproduction chore as well. Sadly, there is likely a large cohort of our population that will not see the above speculation as satire.
Have you ever considered that the massive push for women to enter fields like computer science. (or, «coding» to normies) is keeping some of the girls who like to keep their heads down out of it?
If I ever see someone spouting “we need more X in Y” and I’m in group X, I usually stay out of it so I don’t risk drawing attention to myself. (in case of failure, or other)
That said, most people in my country go into higher education (if they finish second-level). Likely purely out of an expectation on them, so I’m probably wrong about this.
Isn’t this Althouse’s law? Stories must be framed in ways that compliment women? “Women are too concerned with being perfect to code.”
First, coders are often perfectionists—perfectionism is where you work until something is perfect (or never stop, because it never is). That’s not at all the same as “I can’t ever make a mistake or be wrong or admit I don’t know everything.”
Second, failure lies along the path of all learning. The very point of learning is that you don’t know. Therefore you err. If girls are able to reach 5th grade with some illusion of perfection, it’s because nobody’s ever asked them to do anything—or nobody’s ever corrected them.
How is coding different from any of the art fields, in this regard? Learning to draw, you make mountains of crap. Learning to play music, you make constant mistakes. Sports? Even the most natural athlete fails more than he succeeds. Any sort of craft? Knitting, quilting, sewing, woodworking? It’s pretty easy to make edible food with cooking, but if you’re going to be a chef, there’s a lot of trial and error.
So what, exactly, are these girls doing where they’re perfect? Memorizing the nonsense their teachers feed them and regurgitating it on tests?
Maybe that’s the damn problem.
As a side-note, my momma was a coder. In the early ’60s. I told her about that recent study that showed women don’t get into STEM fields because they’re not interested in the sorts of MEN who are in STEM fields. Her exact words: “You got that right.”
Just a couple of typos:
3rd paragraph: s/expect/except
5th paragraph: s/then/them
@A – the word you’re looking for is solipsism, the tendency to place oneself at the center of everything.
“They can accept that you want more women in coding and still think you’re a reactionary sexist for considering “looking pretty and smelling nice” to be relevant.”
But you can get lots of competent male programmers/EEs without all the drama. Female programmers/EEs need to bring something to the table to counteract the downside of drama. Lots of people can program competently; in male super-majority environments, women have the best odds of looking pretty and smelling nice. In my experience, especially that last one, in male programming environments.
With two tragic exceptions.
I’d rather sniff burning formvar.
>How is coding different from any of the art fields, in this regard? Learning to draw, you make mountains of crap. Learning to play music, you make constant mistakes. Sports? Even the most natural athlete fails more than he succeeds. Any sort of craft? Knitting, quilting, sewing, woodworking? It’s pretty easy to make edible food with cooking, but if you’re going to be a chef, there’s a lot of trial and error.
>So what, exactly, are these girls doing where they’re perfect? Memorizing the nonsense their teachers feed them and regurgitating it on tests?
There’s a difference between the perfectionism you’re talking about, which is basically a stubborn iteration of failures until success is achieved, and the risk averse mindset the article talks about. The latter causes you to only do things you’re good at *right away*. Very brittle. I know people like that, and I was at least party raised to be that way and had to deprogram myself later.
They restrict themselves to whatever activities, for them, have a VERY particular learning curve (exponential rise to limit). Things they ‘pick up quickly’, are ‘instantly good at’. They never get much past that, though. You seem to have no understanding to how *limiting* that can be, and that’s probably (for you) a good thing.
If women had the workplace mortality stats of men, it would be a crisis.
If women had the low college enrollment of men, it would be a crisis.
If women had the suicide rates of men, crisis.
If women had their children taken away as much as men, crisis and riots.
Reverse the military service ratio of men and women, crisis.
Reverse who does the jobs you have to take a shower after doing, crises.
Reverse the life spans of the genders, crises.
With any OBJECTIVE analysis, first world women are the most privileged people to have ever walked the earth.
“boys are brave risk-takers while girls are cautious and risk-averse”
The problem with feminists is their inferiority complex. What’s wrong with being cautious and risk averse? Does anyone really want their daughter to be rash and risk loving?
> Women have only a limited number of ovulations in their lifetime and, in the EAA (environment of ancestral adaptation) pregnancy was a serious risk of death.
I state the mechanism thusly: The combination of high rates of death due to complications of pregnancy/childbirth (which affect the expected number of pregnancies an individual woman can have) with high infant/child mortality rates (which affect the number of those pregnancies that result in girls who live to be women themselves make the number of healthy pre-menopausal females the limiting factor for reproduction. They must be protected from risk of death or any severe bodily harm that could leave them prematurely infertile and/or produce a miscarriage. But men are expendable.
>We do this not by trying to socialize away the impulse of our instincts, but by introducing other impulses that together override our instincts. We may never get rid of racism, but by gods that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it to fight racism wherever it is found.
But we don’t do it by pretending the instincts don’t exist, which is what “gender is a social construct” people do. We get mitigate racism by training ourselves to recognize Others as members of our (human) race, not by pretending the instinct to care more about one’s own tribe than outsiders doesn’t exist.
>The problem with feminists is their inferiority complex. What’s wrong with being cautious and risk averse? Does anyone really want their daughter to be rash and risk loving?
“If it feels good, do it.”
Apparently, yes. Though when you put it that way, having rash, impulsive, risk-taking women is a recipe for societal disaster.
@Tom: I don’t know about the averages, but none of the (admittedly few) women in my own workplace are noticeable sources of drama.
(also, even if you’re correct, I’m not sure how it contradicts my statement)
@brian: That’s not what I’m getting at — I mean the tendency to think in terms of “I’m a failure” (and probably shouldn’t be here) as opposed to “I failed at something” (so how do I fix it).
@esr: I did read it, but the message I got from it was something like “learning to program inherently involves a lot of failing and women are socialized to avoid the risk of failure.” You’re explicitly opposing the idea that socializing women to take more risks will be effective, and I can’t really see you putting forth “make learning to program less failure prone” as a serious solution either. Either I missed something important in her essay, or your post, or there’s more to say.
@Eric: “Does anyone really want their daughter to be rash and risk loving?”
I wanted to comment on other stuff (the importance of Kobayashi Maru scenarios in training…) but your question sent me off on a tangent, because I realized that for me, the answer is “yes, and I’ve raised them that way”. They’re out of the house now, mostly doing fruitful stuff, but I definitely taught them to take lumps and keep on ticking, to try stuff that looks like it can’t be done and that just might end your life.
So yes, some of us really want those kinds of daughters. To a socially useful degree, anyway. In a candid conversation with some college-roommate-parents a while back we were discussing my daughter in the Army and the topic of the wind-down in Afghanistan came up. They said I must be relieved that the likelihood of sending my daughter overseas would diminish; I replied instinctively that I was worried that she would miss her chance. It would be a bummer to train for a job and never get to do it.
The world needs risk-takers. To be sure, where possible, we should engineer things to require less risk-taking (e.g. fewer wars if possible at acceptable tradeoffs), but for the residual risk (there will always be residual risk) we need takers, and we need parents who raise their daughters to step up where others might step away.
I just don’t get it. Women are afraid of coding? There may be reasons they’d rather do something else but I don’t think fear is one of them…if you can concentrate and focus and think logically you’re in. Give it a shot. If it’s not for you you’ll discover early and can back out the door. No feelings hurt, no shame.
I formally got work coding almost 35 years ago. As a woman I had no trouble at all getting into the field and wasn’t the only one. I really can’t imagine it’s that much different today.
I have to say that the actual risk of leaning to code pales in comparison to the insane policy of the US government in putting women into combat. Nobody’s going to get their legs blown off by a compiler.
“…yet we still teach our children that racial prejudice is wrong and we should not be quick to judge others different from ourselves.”
No, we *try* to teach them these things. When they know nobody’s looking, they go straight into tribal Lord Of The Flies territory. Which is kind of the whole point.
> My senior apprentice is female.
OK, now I’m utterly confused: I thought you didn’t accept would-be disciples. :S
>OK, now I’m utterly confused: I thought you didn’t accept would-be disciples. :S
There’s a difference between “disciple” and “apprentice” that is directly relevant. Susan Sons made friends with me and then asked me to teach her systems-architecture skills as a natural extension of that friendship. If she had come out of nowhere asking me to teach her, I would have turned her down.
There’s a reason for this. In a craft like programming at the level I do it, taking on a student is a large investment of time and attention that is easily lost if the student approached you on a whim and loses interest later.
What helped was getting to know Susan well enough to be certain that her interest was genuine, would be sustained over a lifetime, and the knowledge would be passed on to others.
It strikes me that the speaker could be seen to be advocating a method of lowering the perceived risk. She does this by lowering the perception of the consequences of making an error, which necessarily lowers the perceived risk, because risk as an operational concept is useless if not associated with consequences. I suspect that perceived risk is the larger component, so what she advocates would probably have some some effect in the direction she desires. However, your analysis strikes me as the more cogent and she would probably devise more effective strategies were she to adopt it.
I have a different take: what if (on average) women are simply less interested in coding than men? Making a formal system dance to your will requires a certain orientation towards learning arcane lists of if-this-then-that rules, which is something that (on average, in my own experience, and so on) the guys just seem to gravitate towards for its own sake.
So perhaps this is not a question of capacity (although the more you do something, the better you get) but of basic interest levels.
My own perceptions: I grew into computing in the ’80s, when there was little of the current cultural validation around it; there was no pressure either way. The women, by and large, simply couldn’t be bothered. There was no fiscal pull: those who got into coding did it because it had a magnetic pull for them. Personally, after spending far too much of my school days writing games in assembler, I took time out from computers for my entire time at university because I was *worried* about how much I enjoyed programming.
But I don’t see this as a fear thing. What on earth is the danger in coding? Perhaps there is a big bias in the gender average of who-likes-what, and the rest follows.
:::There’s a difference between the perfectionism you’re talking about, which is basically a stubborn iteration of failures until success is achieved, and the risk averse mindset the article talks about.:::
This is also known as the difference between the actual meaning of the word “perfectionism” and “perfectionism-used-as-a-way-to-turn-a-shortcoming-of-women-into-a-virtue.” That’s what I meant by Althouse’s Law.
:::The latter causes you to only do things you’re good at *right away*. Very brittle. I know people like that, and I was at least party raised to be that way and had to deprogram myself later.
They restrict themselves to whatever activities, for them, have a VERY particular learning curve (exponential rise to limit). Things they ‘pick up quickly’, are ‘instantly good at’. They never get much past that, though. You seem to have no understanding to how *limiting* that can be, and that’s probably (for you) a good thing.:::
Oh, no, I’m quite familiar with it. My children, who were certainly not raised that way, have all been like that to varying degrees. The only cure I’ve found is having them find something they really care about enough to objectively observe. Then they tend to cultivate their own (actual) personal perfectionism.
As (yet another) side note: Perfectionism isn’t a real thing. It’s usually used to mean “having higher than expected standards” or “having arbitrarily unreasonable standards”. And perhaps that latter (unofficial) definition is what is meant here, though I still think it’s mostly Althouse’s law in play. We can’t say “women fret over the failure of things that don’t matter” so we say “perfectionism”.
That to me is the shortcoming both of this talk and ESR’s evaluation. In no wise is a woman’s reproduction at stake from coding, no matter how badly. If we were to actually assess the issue in terms of biology, how is it women can do anything? Is it the velocity of failure? Are women plagued by spell check? Crossword puzzles?
I think we’re looking in the wrong direction.
Leonard Sax has a book about gender differences in children that makes an argument that kind of combines these two positions: he presents evidence and makes the argument that in general (but not universally) girls are naturally risk-averse, and boys are naturally risk-seeking. Typically, boys find taking risks exhilarating, while girls find it unpleasant (the research he gives for these things looks pretty solid, and is frequently entertaining).
He then argues that, in general, boys need to be trained to identify and avoid serious risks, while girls need to be trained to identify and not be intimidated by trivial risks. This won’t level everything out, it just avoids letting peer feedback exaggerate these natural tendencies to the point of becoming dysfunctional.
He also has stats and arguments about gender differences in math and CS, e.g.
(factoid and some background here), but he doesn’t seem to apply the issue of risk-seeking/aversion to that at all.
On the other hand, if girls are now being raised to be little Hermione Grangers who tremble at the thought of an A-, the risk issue could come into play in any subject where not “getting it” right away is normal even for diligent students (especially since avoiding such subjects will give you a higher GPA, if avoiding them is an option).
I don’t think women are socialized to avoid the risk of failure so much in itself as they are socialized to avoid the risk of any failure that could lead to public humiliation, most especially if that humiliation is in a context where it will earn additional backlash from one’s peer group. I speculate that the single most dreaded thing a young girl can hear is not, “Well, that’s stupid,” from an authority figure, but the all too common followup from friends of, “Yeah, dammit, you made us all look bad with that move!”; authority figures can be placated, but expulsion from the group is a traumatizing thing.
Most women I know are willing to put in astonishing amounts of trial and error learning so long as nobody, or at most a very few people they trust implicitly, gives them a hard time over the errors and fumbles, and this is perhaps the area where some behaviour modification on men’s part might help. When a man fumbles something badly in public, the natural reaction of even his closest male friends and colleagues tends to be a burst of laughter, banter and japery; men are socialized to deal with this reaction much more often than women are, and tend to see it as a challenge rather than a condemnation. Simply easing up on this reaction if you happen to know that the erring coder is female might help.
I would venture to guess that you can tell who the women are who have succeeded in coding by looking at how they respond to making a mistake in public; if they can laugh it off along with everyone else, they will be a good coder. If they can’t, nothing will stop them from writing excellent code if they put in the effort to compensate, but their ability to function in the coding community will be impeded.
To follow my previous post with an example: Saujami’s most poignant line in the article is, “When we teach girls to be brave and we have a supportive network cheering them on, they will build incredible things!” Poignant, because it is true and uplifting that girls can build incredible things, but sad because in itself it misses its own key point: the very act of teaching girls to be brave requires teaching them not to need that cheering-on — or at the very least, to learn how to recognize the “cheering-on” in the form men naturally tend to give it rather than the form in which women tend to instinctively respond best to it. Saujami’s tragedy is that in her exhortation to bravery she unconsciously adds as a prerequisite the one thing guaranteed to prevent people from developing it — the ability to trust in their own abilities without needing encouragement.
Innate gender differences are real and their effects cannot be eliminated though changes in socialization. It does not follow, however, that changes in socialization are useless in this context, for two reasons.
First, socialization can mitigate the effects of innate differences. Second, and more importantly, the starting point is not the effects of innate difference. It is the combined effects of innate difference and the socialization and social expectations that develop around those differences and turn them into socially enforced requirements. A couple of examples are the expectation that the man in a couple will be taller than his female partner and the bias against women engaging in body building.
For the Lisa MsCues of the world sprinkle a bunch of “on average” and “in generals” in here to make yourself feel better. The rest of us understand distributions, outliers, genetic mutations and freaks. Mostly because we are one of those.
As may have been previously noted on these pages my wife home-schools our daughter, and has for her entire life (because when you home-school school is never really out).
Now, I’m pretty conservative guy about most things (what? Really? Never would have guessed…) but it is an “intellectual” conservatism, not a religious one.
We don’t push our daughter towards stereo typical gurl things–when I was a stay-at-home dad I dressed her in trousers and t-shirts mostly (she was 9 to 18 months at the time), we never drew the line between “gurls” activities and “boys”, and we’ve pushed her into traditionally “boy” things like Archery and Martial Arts (Krav Maga) at a fairly young age. Heck, she’s already got a BB gun, which we are about to start training in.
Of course, being that neither her mother nor I particularly care about these things means SHE has to. She routinely refuses to wear long pants, preferring dresses (the sparklier/fancier the better) with bike shorts under them.
Even for hiking.
A few months ago I started working (mostly) from home and I noticed a trend in her school work, she would *routinely* refuse to do her math work, stuff she was perfectly capable of doing, but she would the REALLY upset and just refuse to put pen to paper.
Apparently this is fairly common for girls and young women. They *are* afraid to make mistakes, so rather than put themselves out there they try to avoid the risk.
This is (part of) why they’re so quiet in schools and it’s so hard to get them to speak up in class–they have to be certain they are right.
The notion that this is mostly or primarily socialization is utter baloney It’s been 2 generations of trying to turn little gurrrrls more aggressive and turn boys into bois, and it’s been and continues to be a complete an utter failure.
Which is to say that the author of the piece, as is usual for a progressive, sees a behavior they wish wasn’t so and blames it on the White Patriarchy or some nonsense instead of trying to understand it.
It’s not that little girls are perfectionists–you should see my daughter’s room, you should see her writing and such.
It’s fear of being *wrong*. Now, I don’t know why little girls are so afraid of being wrong, or why little boys aren’t, but this is sufficiently a thing that apparently people who have taken a hard look at girls and education know about it. Or maybe it’s just parents who have girls they are trying to push who notice that they simply won’t perform at/to their limits because they’re afraid of being wrong.
It’s not (just) that women are risk averse, they’re afraid of being *wrong* even when that wrong has minimal real life consequences.
But I think that is utterly orthogonal to why women avoid programming as a career. I think that women want steadier jobs. Programming and IT jobs are stereo typically not 8 to 5 jobs, and layoffs and reorgs are a fact of life. You go be a nurse, and you might have to work a 12 hour shift, but you know when it starts and you know when you leave. And if you work 4 12s this week you work 3 12s next week. Steady, reliable.
This isn’t just women, this is also half the men out there. I have a buddy who left IT to become an accountant because he wanted to go home every day at the same time and not get woke up in the middle of the night. He’s almost as bright and almost as capable as me, but he’s making less than half of what I am right now because of his choices (he also just got laid off. Again.)
Oddly enough my brother is someone who is mildly risk averse–he’s worked for 2 companies in the last 18 years and is out of work for the 2nd time. Me, I’m almost risk-unconscious and I’ve been out of work more times than I care to count.
Anyway, Reshma Saujani is–like the #blacklivesmatter crowd–wrong that we need to teach our girls bravery. We need to teach our *children* bravery. Boys go into most STEM fields because the FIELD interests them, not (generally) because it’s high paying. These fields are high paying not because they are hard. Ditch digging is hard. Being a nurse is hard. Being an iron worker is hard. Being an IT guy is *easy*, but it’s not simple, it’s difficult. And difficult means you’re often wrong about the choices you make. At least until you learn more.
Boys may pick specific *degrees* because they pay better, but if you don’t have a passion for your work, if you don’t LOVE it you’re not going to do well. (Note loving your work isn’t the same as loving your job). My dad *LOVED* being a salesman in his field in the 1960s and early 1970s, and for a long while did relatively well at at for a while (until his industry changed and he didn’t). I love doing what I do, and I make 2-3 times the national average salary for doing it *despite* having a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.
But I got where I am through working 50+ hour weeks, then going home and doing more computer stuff, by *being* a computer geek most of my day for a LONG time.
By getting *good* at my craft.
Heck, I’m *still* taking classes and getting better after 20 years in this industry. And that’s what we have to teach our little girls and little boys–that they are the ones holding themselves back, that they get to make choices, but those choices have consequences, that yeah, not everyone is going to like them, that not everyone is going to think their s*t don’t stink that they are going to have bad days, bad months and maybe even a bad year or three, but it’s not the fault of the patriarchy, it’s not anyone BUT THEMSELVES keeping them down.
So yeah, we need to teach them to be brave, have integrity and to be the best they can be in what they *want* to do. Nothing sucks more than being stuck in a field you hate because some dim bulb wanted a quota filled.
“If you only do what you can, you will never become more than you are.”
—Master Shifu (Kung Fu Panda III)
 Well, the government in general does a good job of depressing the economy these days.
It used to be that women were more prone to drama than the men were, but the last 10 years or so, the men seem to be catching up.
I do think that a lot of it IS taught – and now we are teaching men to be ‘sensitive’ and all that. Not good in a business environment – for either sex.
That said, I’m not a coder – more of a code tweaker – I take things that almost do what I want, then change them till they do exactly what I want. But I never saw coding as risky at all. It’s just a matter of trying different things till it works. And I am somewhat of a perfectionist – I think she had that part right.
I just never thought perfect had to be instant.
An interesting study on gender differences in risk tolerance: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2741240/
> this is perhaps the area where some behaviour modification on men’s part might help.
Yeah, because being treated equally means being treated differently.
> When a man fumbles something badly in public, the natural reaction of even his closest male
> friends and colleagues tends to be a burst of laughter, banter and japery; men are
> socialized to deal with this reaction much more often than women are
It’s not socialization (at least not entirely) there are *lots* of men (especially those “on the spectrum”) who can’t tell when it’s banter and japery, and when it’s…when it’s not camaraderie. For them it’s incredibly painful. Some of them become utter failures in life, suicide, drugs etc. because of that sort of thing.
But they generally don’t matter because there’s not enough women in STEM.
Kathy Kinsley on 2016-03-09 at 18:15:10 said:
> It used to be that women were more prone to drama than the men were, but the last
> 10 years or so, the men seem to be catching up.
> I do think that a lot of it IS taught – and now we are teaching men to be ‘sensitive’ and all that.
It’s not that we’re teaching men to be “sensitive”. Men have *always* been sensitive, we just knew better than to display it.
It’s that we’re teaching “men” that that is the way to get what they want (or at least they think so).
When you reward something you get more of it.
> Not good in a business environment – for either sex.
Not good *anywhere*.
Lets also consider the kinds of people selecting themselves into these professions. Programming boys (not the giants, the intake) tend to be NOT the risk-takers and leaders. They tend to be nerdy, weedy and self-select OUT of the major male competition. See ‘you got that right’ above. So they build a matchbox boxing ring and go all out fighting beetles in it.
How is it that being risk averse keeps girls (not giants among women) out of THAT environment?
That’s not female timidity. That’s called being smart. Hiring managers won’t even return your calls unless you can meet 100% of the qualifications. To get the job you need to exceed them by a wide margin.
“That’s not female timidity. That’s called being smart. Hiring managers won’t even return your calls unless you can meet 100% of the qualifications. To get the job you need to exceed them by a wide margin.”
Jeff: You need to start looking at job postings again. It’s quite typical for HR departments to take the actual requirements and double them. Generally the hiring manager has an actual list of what they want and a list that goes in the posting, the two rarely match (A good example is university requirements. Few managers actually care, it’s HR that requires educational requirements in the posting and they are routinely ignored)
>Knowing a couple pretty closely, this isn’t far off. Both of them were nerds who decided they were sick of being lonely and put their brains to work at getting them what they wanted(i.e., female companionship). Both bailed after a few years once they’d worked it out of their systems and found a girl they wanted to marry.
That’s not *bailing* – that’s the culmination of the project.
I too like women around because they smell nice and look good. Odd that.
I’m in a technical trade and have apprentices. We have a discussion before hiring; it will seem really interesting for the first little while, then it will get very hard. You will be in a constant state of confusion. You will be grasping at anything to find some order. You will be corrected all the time, and be just plain wrong. You will find out things about yourself you will not like. New learning causes a physical reaction; confusion, even physical discomfort. You will either learn to enjoy that place, or find that you don’t like living like this and find something else to do. If I see you struggling the question will be do you have what it takes to stick it out, not how can I help. Better move on before wasting too much time. About half make it, a good number don’t get offered.
Encouragement? Wading through a complex codebase for bugs requires bloodymindedness.
Too boring, didn’t read. The comments, I mean. The post was great. The comments are largely inane and tiresome.
Also, love all the Progressives who loves them some evolution when the goal is to disparage is Western religious faiths but despise evolution when it very clearly exposes hard-wired differences between genders and cultures.
If we lived in an environment which provided routine episodes of non-trivial danger, then likely no one would be inclined to escalate an embarrassment or grievance into a raging social movement. Hypersensitivity is a psychopathology that is acquired when we lack opportunities to test ourselves against natural hazards. Civilizations fail when too much comfort undermines the evolutionary mechanism that instigates robustness.
Women don’t lack instinctive bravery (just observe a mother defending her young against attack). And socializing the workplace to eliminate hazard is actually abusive and anti-evolutionary because it further diminishes the hardship gauntlet that we desperately need more of. We are institutionalizing a vicious cycle that incentivizes weakness, and it will be our doom.
First read http://www.slate.com/articles/life/education/2016/03/algebra_ii_has_to_go.html
It isn’t courage or risk. It is approach.
There is a natural course of the river, but it can be altered.
Males are (active) aggressive, Females are passive-aggressive.
I will give one positive to the article, it suggests that Women should change instead of Men. Women need to become brave. Radical. We don’t need men to be more UNIX.
The other error is that behavior – means – has an end, a telos and that might be what is programmed, not the means. Expendable sperm (men are needed for a few minutes) v.s. eggs and milks (Women are needed for 2+ years).
If very smart women don’t have time for pregnancy or breastfeeding, it would – unless you are something well beyond a creationist – insure that the genes don’t end up in the next generation, so you get dumber women who actually reproduce (Larry Niven’s Kzinti females are the logical end – they aren’t sentient).
Really smart women seem to have no time to find a smart man, mate with him, pass down the genes to a baby, then insure nutrition and intellectual development.
One practical argument AGAINST evolution is that if you consider those who believe in it slavishly, they don’t have children. Typically ANY children. Much less a very large family. Ayn Rand? Eugenic dead end. Assuming no unknown bastards, what of Dawkins and Hitchens? Atheists don’t breed – but the memes don’t always spread.
Stephen Molyneux https://freedomainradio.com/ is honest and incisive and discusses some of these.
> It’s quite typical for HR departments to take the actual requirements and double them.
I think we’ve all seen job postings requiring x years’ experience in a language that hasn’t even existed x years yet.
> Women don’t lack instinctive bravery (just observe a mother defending her young against attack).
That’s reacting to a situation once it exists, not volunteering to create the situation in the first place. .
Also note the child-specific trigger. There are countless tales of women enduring horrible abuse personally, who demonstrate no willingness to take action to end it, right up until the abuser makes the mistake of doing something she perceives as an attack on her baby. Then the Mama Bear subroutine in her DNA triggers.
Emphasize that failure is normal and our jobs are often to find new and ingenious ways to fail until we run out of ways to do so. Then we ship what’s left over.
I believe that’s about right. I was always told that the goal of computer science is to write something that lasts long enough to make it into production. And the non plus ultra of computer science is to write something that lasts until it is obsolete.
If you lower the risks, do you not also reduce the potential? Because great advances don’t come from being cautious all the time.
“Women have only a limited number of ovulations in their lifetime and, in the EAA (environment of ancestral adaptation) pregnancy was a serious risk of death.”
Actually, the women behave evolutionary “standard” for animals. It is the men that are overly risk taking (for the reasons you allude to).
It is the same as with the physiology. Men have oversized anatomical features (length, hands, shoulders, chin, beard, vocal folds, higher metabolism) to impress competing males and potential mates. Women conform more to the evolutionary optimum of animals with our ecology (it is even more extreme in gorillas). This anatomical “boasting” is complemented with behavioral risk taking. It is boys that get culled by doing stupid things (see the Darwin Awards, or your local newspapers), much more than girls.
In this particular case, it is conformism and a “oil and dirty rags” image that likely prevents girls from aspiring technical jobs. What is needed is a way to make coding look as a clean and “caring” job.
Historically, the image of a clean job you can do at home, while caring for your children, made Computer Science a woman’s job in Malaysia (and made men think it is not masculine enough). 50-60% of CS employees are women in Malaysia.
We would not be having this conversation if hiring women in the male predominate field of programming/engineering did not bring drama.
Please note I did not say or imply the individual women themselves were by their choice the origin of the drama.
“Actually, the women … more than girls.”
Poppycock. Males are appropriately proportioned for their role in the environment we evolved towards, which is a dominate male or pair of brothers ruling a harem while other males roamed the periphery of the group and were a meat shield against threats, and quite a number of males never successfully reproduced or did so only furtively without the alpha’s approval, whether by stealth or rape. Since the groups all had similar DNA “selfishness” in those genes promoted a willingness by the males to hang around and do the protecting of the familial gene pool. Of course like similarly sexually dimorphised primates, a good number went wandering to see if they could find a harem to takeover.
The willingness to take risks is a net positive, especially as technology and the rate of payoff increases. Hunter gatherer never had much, but inasmuch as it seems they likely garnered their dietary needs in a fraction of the day, they were a bit less stressed than the first agriculturalists.
They were stressed. And they were using technology about knowledge of what they could get nature to produce as opposed to what would they could happen upon in nature to live. They could have a much higher population density, but a fire in or rain/animals getting into a food store meant starvation. Innovation might increase yields a few percent, but a mistake meant death. They produced very conservative societies for good reason, innovation was looked down on.
Now we can commonly do math. Innovation can be engineered. Technical success can be seen ahead of time and failure does not mean 100% loss of the familial group, or even necessarily anyone’s death (any given projects mileage may vary, no one knew SS2’s feather would be unlocked early that day).
Young males who decide to take their cardboard wings and fly of the roof gable should be watched for and discouraged (and in that case likely stopped). But male characteristic risk taking should be applauded and taken advantage of in society in order as a foundation for bottom up, unplanned for disruptive innovation.
You know, the kind of innovation which produces the re-distribution of wealth certain and top-down designed societies obsolete before the first mono-rail goes in.
“which produces the re-distribution of wealth certain”
“which makes the re-distribution of wealth certain”
There’s no editing comments here, is there?
“One practical argument AGAINST evolution is that if you consider those who believe in it slavishly, they don’t have children. Typically ANY children. Much less a very large family. Ayn Rand? Eugenic dead end. Assuming no unknown bastards, what of Dawkins and Hitchens? Atheists don’t breed – but the memes don’t always spread.”
It’s not an argument against either evolution or atheism. It’s recognizing it is genetically a self-limiting problem for people to make more of thsee concepts than they should.
> Learning to draw, you make mountains of crap.
The difference between drawing and coding is that code has to work. But if you’re connected, crap drawings sell just as well as good ones.
>> Assuming no unknown bastards, what of Dawkins and Hitchens? Atheists don’t breed – but the memes don’t always spread.”
What makes you think Atheists don’t have children?
My father had two, I had one.
Most of my friends and family are some degree of athiest/agnostic and have plenty of children.
Christopher Hitches, one of your examples, was survived by three children.
“He is survived by his wife, Carol Blue, and their daughter, Antonia, and his children from a previous marriage, Alexander and Sophia.”
“Males are appropriately proportioned for their role in the environment we evolved towards, which is a dominate male or pair of brothers ruling a harem while other males roamed the periphery of the group and were a meat shield against threats, and quite a number of males never successfully reproduced or did so only furtively without the alpha’s approval, whether by stealth or rape.”
Men evolved to battle other men and impress women. Compared to species where males do not battle each other (c.f., gibbons), men are over-engineered. Basically, you can predict the size of females of a species quite reasonably from ecology. Much less so for the males.
“The willingness to take risks is a net positive, especially as technology and the rate of payoff increases.”
Risks are costs, so this is a cost benefit balance. Young men take big risks because the benefits used to be large and not taking risks might lead to no benefits (i.e., children) at all. But that is driven by competition between males. In modern society, the evolutionary benefits are minuscule. The number of children rich and successful males leave behind is often smaller than that of unsuccessful males.
For the individual, the benefits of taking risks can be big, see rock-stars in all stripes of life. But for every rock-star, there are a thousand failures and bankruptcies. And then we even ignore all those who drive into a wall trying to impress their peers. And for society? I think people should first make sure they survive themselves before they should care about making progress for society.
Again, these are balances of costs versus benefits.
“But male characteristic risk taking should be applauded and taken advantage of in society in order as a foundation for bottom up, unplanned for disruptive innovation.”
Sadly, “male characteristic risk taking” is too often sitting in a window sill drinking Vodka or urban free climbing. See the Darwin Awards. There is a reason more boys are born than girls. That has to make up for the men that do not live into adulthood.
> what of Dawkins and Hitchens?
Juliet Emma Dawkins may also take exception to your assertion.
“They had a daughter, Juliet Emma Dawkins (born 1984, …”
“Really smart women seem to have no time to find a smart man, mate with him, pass down the genes to a baby, then insure nutrition and intellectual development.”
Do you actually get out much?
Oh, and evolution is like general relativity. The average American has never seen it happen, nor understands what it is. But that is no reason it is not real.
As David Letterman remarked:
“America is the only country where a significant proportion of the population believes that professional wrestling is real but the moon landing was faked”
Anyhow, my experience is that those who seriously question evolution are generally trying to dispose of science itself. Mostly, because they think their (interpretation of their) holy scripture should be the only recognized truth.
> Do the game theory. It would be crazy if women weren’t instinctively far more risk-averse than men
The math doesn’t, however, show that a biological mechanism is either available, or would necessarily have evolved when a cultural mechanism (and the biologically evolved capacity to have such cultural mechanisms) is entirely adequate.
The entire “point” of humans having such a long childhood is to trade biological behavior instincts for the ability to learn behavior from one’s parents. Since natural selection applies to cultural behaviors as well as genetically ingrained instinctive ones, you’re going to need a much better argument than it merely being needed in the EAA to say that some particular behavior of interest is genetic/instinctive.
@ Winter – “Oh, and evolution is like general relativity. The average American has never seen it happen” plus the Letterman joke
Like all nations (and it’s people), the USA has it’s problems and deficiencies, but we can’t be as inept as your sneering ridicule implies because twice in the last century we have had to come across the pond and save your ass during WWI and WWII. Please put aside the focused condescension in your commentary. Stupidity is also on the rise in Europe.
“Like all nations (and it’s people), the USA has it’s problems and deficiencies, …”
I have yet to meet a non-American (USA) that wants to assert that atheists do not procreate. Also, the whole Creationism hoax is an invention from the USA.
“Stupidity is also on the rise in Europe.”
Stupidity has become more vocal. Whether it is on the rise anywhere in the world still has to be proven. Personally, I would only assume it is on the rise when education is deteriorating. This seems to happen in a few countries, e.g., the USA. So maybe it is on the rise in the USA.
The whole idea would only make sense if it is was generally true that programming tends to attract risk-takers. It doesn’t. I mean, what is the typical programmer stereotype? Timid, nerdy, introverted Jewish guy? Or loud, high-T surfer and diver and extreme sports aficionado? I think it is actually one of the most risk-averse jobs. It is sitting in an office and using a very generic skillset that could be equally used to make games than to make medical diagnostics. What is the unemployment rate amongst programmers who are any good?
The tough, risk-taker guys go into law and finance. Yet, aren’t there plenty of female lawyers?
The first time a programmer faces any risk is when the question arises to quit the job and work on the startup or stick to the job. But even that is not so risky – at least I have heard that Valley employers are very, very forgiving about failed-startup backgrounds.
No, it must have different reasons. I think the primary reason is that women are more social and communicative on the average. They want jobs that involve more about talking with people and less about staring at a screen alone. Software companies often end up putting the women into the customer facing consultant, presales consultant, support consultant roles and the men into the “shut them in the back room and slide pizza and specs in under the door” programming roles.
Women like to work with people. Men with things. As a general average. And is that bad? Aren’t there enough “people jobs”, even in tech? Why make women unhappy pushing them into jobs where they would feel lonely and cut off from human contact? I saw a million times how a woman is happier training a customer using payroll software rather than writing code to customize it. So why not share the work this way?
BTW I think a lot of women are saving up their courage for childbirth. When my wife started talking calmly about what should I do if she would die during birth I was basically frozen because I never thought about this in those terms. To plan pregnancy knowing that is one of the possible outcomes… I respect that a lot.
One further thought. Millions and millions of programmers all around the world are doing unglorious and unimportant jobs, like polishing turds at a bank or insurance company in RPG/400. However, there is one sole exception, a few thousand people in the Silicon Valley who are treated a bit like stars. This subset, this 0.1% of the programming world is today considered cool and high prestige. Pushing women into tech in general just to have part of this prestige is extremely short-sighted, because the vast majority of the programming profession does not share it.
I mean, pop singers have very high prestige so. So more and more people should go into a singing career? Regardless of their talent or the size of the marketplace or that how very, very few singers make it and the rest are doing boring gigs in shitty bars? And yet, I think this is what Saujani is practically pushing. Push a less than well talented woman – or man – into it and you have yet another unsatisfied person customizing a Magento webshop for rude small business owners.
Women being too worried about imperfection is a real thing, though, and it probably comes from being too judgy with each other, especially in a mother-daughter relationship.
@Jeff I would bet good money xenophobia/racism will win in the longer run. The reason is very simple, it originates in predicting threats. If you live a very safe life, basically your threat-prediction atrophies, or never gets developed. Thus the heuristics, such as xenophobia, neither. But if and when things get unsafe for any reason, it comes back with a vengeance. In fact, I would bet money that if we ran an experiment where we would simply jack up the stress levels, like injecting cortisol, people would react far more xenophobically to e.g. photos.
And it is kind of obvious that safety is going to go down and stress up.
Hm, you are doing a very good job of verifying certain Dark Enlightenment theories. Namely that all this progressive stuff is about signalling a certain kind of holiness. I mean you wrote a pretty standard, actually fairly moderate progressive comment and in the middle of it you dropped the bomb “selfish”. I mean, don’t you find it entirely normal that people behave selfishly? Why would people not be selfish? Well, one good reason to not be selfish is holiness-signalling.
But it is really interesting how easily you are taking it for granted that people should behave in unselfish ways. For example, how many people in your circles don’t donate to charity? Do you find it normal to not donate to charity? I don’t, because I don’t give half a damn about who is starving in Haiti, they are far outside my Dunbar number, and I am not living in social circles where signalling you care gets you prestige, so I don’t have to pretend to.
Anyway, what I am really curious about how much these progressive views depend on this unselfishness? Should selfish people be still mostly progressive about matters like this or they can get a break? Suppose Bob is really, fully, honestly selfish. How much unprogressive do you think Bob is “allowed” to be then? If he is honestly selfish, is it OK if he is sexist? Racist? Classist? How much?
BTW we can test evo-psy. While brain structure also matters, still it seems hormones, chemicals matter a lot too, and they can be injected. For example this is an absolute classic: http://www.nytimes.com/2000/04/02/magazine/the-he-hormone.html Transsexuals taking hormones also have interesting reports, Jenny Boylan: “Estrogen makes you want to eat salad and talk about relationships, testosterone-blockers make you dislike the Three Stooges.”
Risk-taking is strongly associated with testosterone, but my opinion is that the real reason is that women tend to be more social and communicative and work with people, not code. As far as I can tell that is rooted in brain development, a more developed language center: http://www.columbiaconsult.com/pubs/v52_fall07.html
>>The difference between drawing and coding is that code has to work. But if you’re connected, crap drawings sell just as well as good ones.
A child, unless thoroughly indoctrinated, knows what works and what doesn’t. You can’t fool him with “modern art”.
Speaking from close to 40 consecutive years as a successful software developer, technology has very little to do with successful coding, or design, or architecture, or almost any other aspect of software. Improving technology creates the opportunity to attempt to solve problems that previously were beyond the art, not to manifestly alter the nature of the mental processes that lead to success.
The single greatest factor, perhaps the overarching factor, is the ability to think effectively about the task, and to correctly identify the crucial aspects that separate a successful from an unsuccessful approach.
Despite investing billions of dollars, and increasing the number of people in the technology workforce by well over an order of magnitude, the percentage of successful developers in the workforce remains largely unchanged. Quality development is hard, and requires a skill set that is still not well understood.
If a higher percentage of men who enter the field become successful coders than women, which I suspect is not true, it is most likely a result the fact that boys are placed in circumstances that lead to evaluation of logical thinking and results, rather than emotional validation.
Over the years, I have worked with large numbers of both men and women in the software field. While the number of men, even today, significantly out number women, the percentages successful codes have been found equally in the male and female work force. Success is rare but, measured as a percentage of their workforce, falling equally across gender.
>While the number of men, even today, significantly out number women, the percentages successful codes have been found equally in the male and female work force.
You could be right. I’m a little doubtful only because I think IQ is a good predictor of “doesn’t suck” in programmers and the male-female difference in IQ dispersion is therefore likely to mean a smaller percentage of females don’t suck.
I think this ties in closely to what you were talking about with the “Delusion of Expertise” – the idea that being good at mathematics is a prerequisite to learning how to program is probably steering away some people who could otherwise be great hackers. I think I’ve lost more than a few students because they couldn’t shake the idea that not knowing what they’re doing early on is a sign that they just don’t “have what it takes” to learn how to program.
I can easily imagine this disproportionately affecting people who are more risk averse. Trying to convince people to be less risk averse might be worthwhile, but I think it will be more easier and more effective to convince people that not quite knowing what you’re doing early on or not knowing a lot of advanced mathematics early on isn’t a sign that you can’t be a good programmer.
unfortunately for us all, the current narrative is that “women shy away from the risk of learning computer science” because “nerds are creepy and guys in STEM will constantly sexually harass or rape women because they are so misogynistic, they just hate women in [x].” women see this narrative, and double down on it, because men are disposable (see also, family court cases and father’s rights).
women do not want to work alongside men in STEM fields. they want to eject the men first, and then take over the jobs, preferably anointing themselves as CEOs and vice presidents. or, as someone in the know once said to me: they want jobs as candy tasters with CEO salaries.
now that the STEM sector is paying impressive wages, it’s not just a feminist imperative that women are pressured to get STEM jobs, it’s a big patriarchal conspiracy that needs to be resisted so that women can take these jobs.
> the “Delusion of Expertise” – the idea that being good at mathematics is a prerequisite to learning how to program
I don’t think it’s one bit delusional. People who have trouble thinking “mathematically” are at a huge disadvantage in programming. “Mathematical thinking” includes not just such obvious things as algebra and calculus, but also Boolean logic, probability, statistics, etc. Math is the language of science (true science, not “social sciences” that are non-falsifiable ex-cathedra pronouncements of The Annointed, which dare not ever produce any politically-incorrect results) and engineering, and Information Technology/Computer Science involve these branches of mathematics.
Perhaps the word “prerequisite” isn’t justified literally, but if you can find someone good at coding, they have the mindset to learn mathematics, whether or not they happen to have learned a particular advanced mathematical concept. You don’t have to have already learned the math, but you without the aptitude to pick up some of it, you’ll be severely hobbled.
According to John Medina in Brain Rules, females tend to focus on details while males tend to focus on the big picture while under stress. If you want females to learn to program, consider showing multiple examples of a programming pattern as opposed to expecting them to understand an algorithm that emphasizes the big picture.
The concept that males and females are different is one that I agree with. Taking advantage of females’ preference for details over big-picture, might be helpful to teaching programming.
Thanks for clarifying.
> There’s a difference between “disciple” and “apprentice” that is directly relevant.
So, what term do you use for those of us who learn from you through your writings? (*)
And (somewhat) more on-topic: since you base your arguments on the EAA, I suppose you reject Nicholas Wade’s claim that “human evolution has been recent, copious and regional”. However, you seem to agree with him about “the genetic basis of traits we associate with intelligence, such as literacy and numeracy, in certain ethnic populations, including the Chinese and Ashkenazi Jews” (from the relevant book’s Amazon page). So, on the whole, what do you make of his thesis?
* Shameful confession: although I’ve read several of the pieces in your website, such as “Dancing with the Gods” and “Ethics from the Barrel of a Gun”, I still haven’t read the seminal “The Cathedral and the Bazaar”. I intend to read it after Hayek’s “The Use of Knowledge in Society”, but I keep postponing that. Oops! :$
>So, what term do you use for those of us who learn from you through your writings?
Not something I’ve thought about. Would it matter which term I chose?
>So, on the whole, what do you make of [Wade’s recent-evolution] thesis?
In general I agree with it. I think there’s room for a lot of interesting debate about which traits have been subject to rapid evolution in recent time, though. The Ashkenazi show that IQ is one of them. It is also known that the genes controlling gamma globulins in the immune system gave undergone lots of recent changes in response to various epidemic diseases.
On the other hand, our homeobox genes have been stable as a rock. Some parts of the human genome are strongly conserved; for many of those there is no difficulty in speaking of them as products of the EEA.
> I still haven’t read the seminal “The Cathedral and the Bazaar”. I intend to read it after Hayek’s “The Use of Knowledge in Society”
I think that’s a good plan. I owe a lot to Hayek; much of my work is a fairly straightforward application of his ideas. I find it curious how few people understand this, even among those familiar with Hayek.
> I don’t think it’s one bit delusional. People who have trouble thinking “mathematically” are at a huge disadvantage in programming.
There was a claim a while back that it’s not a failure to think “mathematically” that causes people to not understand programming, but rather a failure to grok the concepts of assignment, iteration, and concurrency.
I’m not so sure that it’s a failure to understand mathematics, or a failure to understand assignment, iteration, and concurrency, but rather an inability to take a problem and break it down into pieces, over and over until the pieces correspond to what you can tell the computer directly.
“Men evolved to battle other men and impress women.”
We are in agreement there then.
“Young men take big risks because the benefits used to be large”
They are not merely still large, the ability to be assured risk does mature into loss is far greater–that’s what engineering is.
“Sadly, “male characteristic risk taking” is too often sitting in a window sill drinking Vodka or urban free climbing. See the Darwin Awards. ”
All the more reason to applaud it, to give males good role models for it, so it can be better taken advantage of.
In which domains or subfields does mathemathical ability really matter?
Let’s make a general model. Programmers are spec-translators. Any programmer who for a 10 day programming task needs someone to spend 6 days on writing a detailed spec is not very efficient, the ideal programmer knows the domain so well that he can start working after a five-minute description of the problem. While the ability to write efficient code quickly also matters a lot, that is a general skill, and there is also the ability to not need detailed specs because the programmers knows the domain, and that is always a particular skill.
Therefore we can categorize programmers based on what kind of non-algorithmic knowledge they have, what kind of domain knowledge cuts down on the time to write specs for them. One possible categorization would be:
– technical programmers primarily know computer hardware
– standards programmers primarily know things like HTTP, HTML or SMTP
– API programmers, like Android
– rules programmers e.g. if they develop payroll software, they know payroll legislation
– process programmers know how something is done manually e.g. writing a customer a payment reminder, and thus can automatize it
Which of these subfields looks the most mathemathical?
Note: basically one could say that programming evolved out of technical programming, all the rest are possible largely because the higher-level tools and languages built on top of them. So it used to be more or less taken for granted that a programmer knows hardware, not on the solder iron level but has an idea of how a CPU works. Therefore there was this stereotype that programmers are computer guys, guys who really like computers. The same kind as the gamers who brag about their ultra-hyper fast graphics card. This is no longer true although of course the “computer guy” and “programmer” demographics still overlap, but the link got weaker now. But I suspect this plays a role when women find programming boring. If someone really cares about getting women into tech, maybe he or she can explain that something like SnapChat does not really require hardware skills, it’s not really about the computer (phone) as such, it is about the API. But the real success of the company depends on understanding the psychology of their users. And that requires precisely the opposite of the classic introverted nerd stereotype.
>Let’s make a general model. Programmers are spec-translators.
Most of my programs are not spec translations. They tend to do things that there’s no spec for because nobody imagined doing them before I did them.
I also think your taxonomy is wrong, or at least incomplete. Most systems programmers are like me in that they straddle your “technical” and “standards” categories. And do other things, too; GPSD mostly fits in your “technical” and “standards” categories, but (say) reposurgeon does not.
None of the subfields you describe looks particularly mathematical to this ex-mathematician. You can bring a mathematical turn of mind to any of them; what that affects is the style of design and implementation that you execute. A mathematically-minded programmer is likely to dig deeper into the application domain’s core abstractions, and make more use of strategies like knowledge capture into a declarative markup.
Women, in general, are not very good at these strategies for the same neurogenetic reason serious mathematical talent is rare among them. (I’ll be delighted when we have our first female Fields Medalist, but I agree with La Griffe du Lion’s conclusion that we can only expect about one per century.)
That’s OK. A lot of programming does not require mathematical aptitude. There is plenty of room for women to do good work without it. Myself, I think it is adaptively smart that female programmers often gravitate to UI design; this is an area where the female-typical mind probably has a slight edge over the male-typical one. I would also expect women to do better than men at what you call “rules programming”, and perhaps at process capture.
“There is plenty of room for women to do good work without it.”
As I wrote above, in Malaysia women make up the majority of the ICT workforce and CS studies. So, indeed, there is plenty of room.
Most of my programs are not spec translations. They tend to do things that there’s no spec for because nobody imagined doing them before I did them. […] Most systems programmers are like me in that they straddle your “technical” and “standards” categories.
“We write specs and program them simultaneously, and our mind does this so well that we don’t even know its happening. That allows us to get right in the middle of that process.”
> A mathematically-minded programmer is likely to dig deeper into the application domain’s core abstractions, and make more use of strategies like knowledge capture into a declarative markup.
> Myself, I think it is adaptively smart that female programmers often gravitate to UI design; this is an area where the female-typical mind probably has a slight edge over the male-typical one.
The former is Science/Technology/Engineering (the first three letters of STEM), and I’ve yet to meet anyone doing real science or engineering without mathematical aptitude. The latter is largely art/aesthetics and “social sciences”. There is some math (think: Golden Ratio) involved in these, but it’s quite possible for people who don’t know about that math to have a good intuitive feel for them.
But at some point, you start quantifying things like “how many items can I have on a menu before the cognitive overload means it’s time to move some things into sub-menus?” or “this edge is a pretty close fit for a Bézier curve, described by the parametric equation…” and this is where mathematics aptitude is, if not necessary, very helpful in finding the most efficient representation for the information.
Maryam Mirzakhani (2014). Hope your delight is retroactive.
>Maryam Mirzakhani (2014). Hope your delight is retroactive.
Investigating….ah, that is interesting. I missed the 2014 announcement.
My delight would be unmixed if not for the fairly high likelihood (under current political conditions) that she was an unworthy diversity hire. Against that dismissal: her research areas are genuinely difficult stuff. On the other hand, the Iranian name raises the prior on the political-gesture theory.
On balance, I think it over 50% probable that Mirzakhani actually deserved the Fields and will celebrate accordingly. But my estimate will fall if the frequency of female Fields medalists goes way up. I hope it doesn’t, as I’d actually much prefer to believe the political fix is not in and Mirzakhani was in fact deserving.
“Rushing to the bins”: of course I’m thinking of binning in the mathematical sense, but the ur-analogy, sorting stuff using bins, and being in such a hurry that you use too few, works too.
“Faxing up the argument”: detail is lost from a document when a fax machine eliminates the shades of gray and renders it in black and white…
“Saving the argument for web”: in the same vein, people who make this mistake are basically hosting a crunchy, low-res version of the original argument full of lossy compression artefacts.
“There are no funnels here”: people fall all over the spectrum, and they land where they land, they don’t land in a funnel and slide along to the mean.
Further research is needed!
>“Rushing to the bins”
I like that one. It conveys a sense of sloppiness and haste to jump to a conclusion.
We already have a word for this.
We call it stereotyping.
>We call it stereotyping.
Not specific enough. Stereotyping is the prior assumption that all members of the category will fall into one bin. “Rushing to the bins” is imposing that kind of thinking on data that actually says the opposite.
>As I wrote above, in Malaysia women make up the majority of the ICT workforce and CS studies. So, indeed, there is plenty of room.
The inquisitive reader is encouraged to consider the connection between this feminist success story, and the demographical realities of Malaysia. See for instance:
>Malaysian Chinese are a socioeconomically well-established middle-class ethnic group and make up a highly disproportionate percentage of Malaysia’s upper middle class, with a record of high educational achievement, and one of the highest household incomes among minority demographic groups in Malaysia. Malaysian Chinese are dominant in both the business and commerce sectors, controlling an estimated 70% of the Malaysian economy.
>The inquisitive reader is encouraged to consider the connection between this feminist success story, and the demographical realities of Malaysia.
I am not clear what you are driving at.
Are you asserting that the female CS-studies population in Malaysia is dominated by ethnic Chinese? If so, what do you think this means?
(Note to others: having traveled in Southeast Asia and Taiwan, I would find this assertion entirely credible. But I’d still like to see evidence.)
>Are you asserting that the female CS-studies population in Malaysia is dominated by ethnic Chinese? If so, what do you think this means?
I don’t have the evidence, only the hypothesis. If you mix tall and short human populations, you get a higher density of women in the upper percentiles in the mixed group than in either of the original populations.
>I don’t have the evidence, only the hypothesis.
I have myself experienced, when travelling in Thailand, that ethnic-Chinese women are different from Thai women. Boy howdy are they different.
Now this is just my hindbrain and my wired-in preferences talking, but when I landed in Thailand I noticed almost immediately that the distribution of attractiveness was not the bell curve one generally expects. What I saw was sharply bimodal: 90% women who looked (to me) childlike, underdeveloped, and unattractive, and 10% drop-dead gorgeous.
The gorgeous 10% turned out to be the ethnic Chinese. Taller, more curves on ’em, better complexions. They didn’t quite look like Han Chinese, being darker-skinned and not having quite the typical Chinese facial structure. But they were different. Quite different. Enough so that I noticed the divergence well before I had any clue what it meant, and wondered what I was seeing.
I wouldn’t be astonished if the same pattern obtained in Malaysia.
There needs to be a name for the failure of perception or logic that equates “The mean of trait X differs between populations A and B” with “All As have trait X and no Bs have trait X”. You just committed it.
“Analog to digital conversion”
“Casting float to bool”
Thank you. It was definitely my front-runner… I only persisted in thinking up the other ones because brainstorming is fun.
Spoil my fun, why don’t you? 😝
>I have myself experienced, when travelling in Thailand, that ethnic-Chinese women are different from Thai women. (…)
I had a somewhat similar experience, but with the so called Vietnamese boat people in Europe, who are much more Chinese than they sound.
> Would it matter which term I chose?
Not much, I suppose. What certainly matters, though, is that you are a prolific purveyor of knowledge; indeed, John D. Bell has described you as “mentor to hackers all over the world”, and you’re also a mentor to non-hackers like me. So there is a pedagogical interaction going on beyond your small group of apprentices, even if it’s an informal one.
I’ve called you “teacher” at least once (warning: long thread), and it wasn’t a joke (not entirely, anyway). So you could call us “pupils” or “students”.
> In general I agree with [Wade’s recent-evolution thesis].
So your agreement with Jared Diamond’s geographical determinism is only partial? That’s interesting.
> I think that’s a good plan.
Thanks, but I can’t take the credit for it: it’s what Jimmy Wales did. You helped originate Wikipedia! :-)
(FWIW, I have read Leonard Read’s “I, Pencil”.)
> women who looked (to me) childlike, underdeveloped, and unattractive
What do you suspect: is this rooted in nature or in nurture?
>What do you suspect: is this rooted in nature or in nurture?
I don’t know. Might just be what the receptors in my hindbrain are used to – maybe Thai men think European women are unpleasantly large and grossly overdeveloped.
It was kind of weird to see women with children and the kind of figure that in the First World you’d associate with a 13-year-old. There was a lot of that. Poor nutrition, maybe?
@Jorge Dugan –
> indeed, John D. Bell has described you as “mentor to hackers all over the world”, and you’re also a mentor to non-hackers like me.
Please don’t read too much into this – I was being hyperbolic in an attempt to do funny snark.
More seriously, Eric has written (and continues to write) things that I (and it seems, you also) find entertaining, informative, and thought-provoking. So I’ll keep reading and learning.
@Jorge Dujan –
Woops! Sorry I misspelled your name!
Please don’t read too much into this – I was being hyperbolic in an attempt to do funny snark.
And yet…. he is.
I’ve worked around STEM women a good part of my adult life. I’ve observed lots of reasons why women avoid or depart these kinds of jobs.
This is the first I’ve ever heard that it’s because it is somehow “risky”?
I think the whole idea of it being risky is a bunch of hokum.
That is, unless you redefine the word “risky” to include a whole bunch of things that aren’t risk in any meaningful sense and kicking the definition into the realm of absurdity. (But then, redefining words in that way is what feminists are good at.)
But I submit you’re not giving women enough credit.
On the large, women avoid or depart these kinds of jobs because they’re smart enough to know beforehand or soon realize that they simply won’t like the job. And on that I have to complement their sensibilities. There are plenty of reasons to not like being a developer.
“I’ve called you “teacher” at least once (warning: long thread), and it wasn’t a joke (not entirely, anyway).”
I think “sifu” or “sensei” would be more appropriate, myself. No idea what the word for “pupil” or “student” is that would correspond to those.
>I think “sifu” or “sensei” would be more appropriate
Er, yes, using the latter word with the full range the Japanese do rather than the naturalized English sense of a martial-arts instructor.
I report that when in Japan I was in fact routinely addressed as “sensei”.
esr wrote: “…is missing the biological forest for the cultural trees.”
That line gets the “understatement of the decade” award.
That woman’s opinion piece is so riddle with fallacies and misconceptions that it just hurts to read it.
ESR, as a hacker and long time programmer, you know a little something about what drives men into the hacking scene, we go above and beyond the code, the board, the oscilloscope. It’s a male trait the desire “to be in control”, to completely master the ins and out of the things we deal with.
Every single male hacker and programmer I knew, mostly the best ones, went a million layers beyond the “assignment” the teacher gave. They dumbfounded the teachers (also male most of them) with extra code, extra hacks, out of the box thinking and strategies, problem solving techniques and much more.
This has been true in the realm of computer sciences from the beginning. We men, for the most part, crave the need to feel in control of our present, and if possible, our immediate future. That’s why we love and put so much effort in hacking, we bust our heads programming in assembly or we take on that difficult task no one wants.
On the same token, that’s also why I felt uneasy when flying. I realise early on, that it wasn’t the act of being in a plane what gave me stress or anxiety, it was the fact that I was NOT the one on the controls. That why I learned to fly. Yes, most of us are control freaks. But that’s not even half the story.
I assert that 99% of our male uncertainty goes away when we understand what we are dealing with. We take things apart, we put them back together, we tinker, we explore. We certainly do NOT just stick with what the teacher tells us to do, we love going the extra mile. (The best I knew and admire always went the extra thousand miles, with no effort at all).
Lastly, is typical from the female perspective to conflate temerity with bravery. If a man leaps “head first” into the void, with little to no regard for his well-being, that’s being anathema to basic natural instincts of self preservation. Darwin tends to take it from there, in most cases.
When you see us diving from planes, in all kinds of extreme sports, in martial arts, excelling in computer science or in any other craft, it’s because we put in the time to FIRST and FOREMOST understand the nature of the game we get into. And we hack and hack and pound and pound, until we get good at it. Really good. So good it becomes not even second nature, but first.
People who do NOT put in the work, or who do not even take the time “to read the god damn user manual”, (both male and female), only see the final product, the picture with the man and his proficiency at what he does. And their default nature is to conflate and complain. And look outside/elsewhere for culprits: my mother who didn’t teach me to be “brave”! my teachers, my family, my community, my society, my country! Anybody, everybody BUT ME!!
GIVE ME A FUCKING BREAK!!
Get your ass down, sit up, grab your copy of the Kernighan-Ritchie’s C fucking Bible and make the god damn screen puke a “hello world!”. And then make it add, subtract, sing and read out loud Tolstoy’s War and Peace. And after that figure out how to write a script to shut the PC down. Yes, all of that when you get the chore of writing a “hello world” program.
It has nothing to do with bravery but everything to do with commitment, discipline and the thirst for knowledge. If women don’t want to engage in these pursuits STOP TRYING TO FORCE THEM INTO IT. IT’S COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE. It only brings them more sense of guilt, insecurity and inadequacy.
There are a lot of amazing women in stem, in CS, in Math, etc, all of them who I fucking admire and I could never even dare to clean their keyboards.
But my god these pseudo-failures with their half-baked conclusions and narrative. Anyway, rant over.
It is amusing that people claim that women do not take risks.
The problem is that women can be risk takers when you consider the correct domain. In my experience some women are quite prepared to take risks when it comes to acquiring a mate.
Similarly, men are not risk takers in all fields.
Finally, when it comes to intellectual endeavors, you also need to understand the differences in the variance in IQ among males and females, because it exists and is a cause of the relative paucity of females at the highest levels of IQ.
> Poor nutrition, maybe?
That was what I had in mind when I asked the question, but kept it to myself for fear of being awfully wrong. Moral of the story: like the women mentioned in the article, I need to become less risk-averse.
And regarding Chinese ladies: Mandarin gowns are lovely. Women, Chinese or otherwise, tend to look great in them. :-)
@ John D. Bell
> Please don’t read too much into this – I was being hyperbolic in an attempt to do funny snark.
Heh. I understand, but your description of our host was both truthful and eloquent.
> More seriously, Eric has written (and continues to write) things that I (and it seems, you also) find entertaining, informative, and thought-provoking.
And occasionally moving.
> Sorry I misspelled your name!
Don’t worry about it; I realize my surname is very unusual, even in my own country. Besides, due to American demographics, it’s only natural that the Irish surname Dugan should be much more familiar over there.
Factoid: my surname bears a disqueting resemblance to one of the names of a certain terrorist organization. However, my paternal family is not Arabian, but Jewish (the Dujan, from Ukraine; others, from what was then Bessarabia). Maybe their surname was slightly altered when they arrived here.
@ Jay Maynard
> I think “sifu” or “sensei” would be more appropriate, myself. No idea what the word for “pupil” or “student” is that would correspond to those.
I like “grasshopper”, but it seems to work only as a vocative. :-(
>And regarding Chinese ladies: Mandarin gowns are lovely.
Entertainingly enough, this iconic Chinese garment – which only developed in the 1920s – was probably more influenced by Western military dress of the Victorian and Edwardian eras than anything else. There’s no precedent for that high, tight collar in native Chinese garb! The general idea of a shirtlike top for women has native precedents, but none of them were as close-fitting as the cheongsam.
OT: A couple of liberals who oppose “The Regressive Left” talking about Kafkatrapping (without knowing the name). ESR, if there’s any way you can get on Dave’s radar to talk about this, I think it would be a Good Thing. (He’s interviewed Milo Yiannopoulos, good stuff too.)
>ESR, if there’s any way you can get on Dave’s radar to talk about this
I’ve sent him email.
“Look pretty and smell nice” is perhaps a Heinlein reference? It sounds like something one of his teenaged characters would say.
What strikes me about this is the part about “Boys, on the other hand, are taught to play rough, swing high, crawl to the top of the monkey bars and then jump off head first.”
What, no! We were taught NOT to do those things. Those are the things we did when we thought we could get away with it.
Have we made coding so complex and fragile that only the exceptionally intelligent (and therefore almost exclusively male) can succeed at it?
Compare coding to cooking. As described above, the difference between success and failure in writing code can be as simple as a missing semicolon. But I can make a perfectly serviceable peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a wide variety of breads, peanut butters, and jellies. The acceptable ratios are quite wide too.
Compare digitally-controlled robotics to training a dog. A single missed corner case in a robot control routine can cause a catastrophic failure, or even serious injury or death when the robot controls enough force and energy to weld car parts together. In contrast, the “operating system” of a sane dog makes it highly unlikely that a German Shepherd will snap and kill your child because you mispronounced the command “sit”.
The Von Neumann stored program model of computation is inherently fragile. Single bit errors in data or instructions cause massive errors because they cascade so rapidly. In contrast, mammalian brains can tolerate incredible levels of damage and failure before they lose their ability to handle novel and unexpected situations.
Perhaps there’s more to the fear of coding than we smart guys like to admit. Could there be wisdom in the gut feeling of aversion so many people have to traditional digital systems and how they’re constructed?
ESR: do you want a Von Neumann machine between your trigger finger and the primer of your 1911 45 ACP pistol? If not, why not?
>ESR: do you want a Von Neumann machine between your trigger finger and the primer of your 1911 45 ACP pistol? If not, why not?
“You wanna know what comes between me and my 1911? Nothing.“
Everybody knows that there is a dearth of women in the computing field, but contrariwise they are absolutely killing it in biotech, an arguably “higher risk” field because developments such as CRISPR have profound implications not only for us but for entire planetary ecosystems.
Maybe computers are just not the female preferred form of hacking?
Further support for this theory comes from personal observances and statistical data that suggest male programmers and female bioscientists pair off with remarkable frequency.
> male programmers and female bioscientists pair off with remarkable frequency.
This is me being as unsurprised as is possible in the universe.
I’m noticing a tendency here to claim “women are evolved to be risk-averse” and mean that women are genetically impelled to avoid all types of risk.
What if this is too general? Is risk that homogenous a thing? Or are there different kinds of risks? If the latter, what if women are genetically impelled to avoid only certain risk types, but not particularly impelled to take on others? After all, many risk types do not threaten childbearing.
And if that’s so, maybe this is the path of least resistance to having more women in coding, if EEA really is playing a role: noticing and publicizing the extent to which learning to code does not threaten bearing of children. Might be the key to opening many other currently arbitrarily closed activities to women as well.
>After all, many risk types do not threaten childbearing.
That is true. I think the kind Ms. Saujani was implicating was social risk, that of being seen to fail by one’s peers. Women are very sensitive to that. I think they’re in general more conservative in the presence of social risk than men are (again, I’m suggesting a difference in means, don’t anybody rush to the bins).
The obvious evo-bio story here is that loss of status among female peers means you are less likely to be able to recruit “aunts” to protect your offspring. If, as seems likely, the female-centric African family structure is older than the Eurasian version with higher paternal investment, this was a more serious threat in the EAA.
This does suggest a strategy: anything we can do to de-stigmatize failure or hesitation during learning is lkely to be particularly helpful to girls learning to code.
@esr “This does suggest a strategy: anything we can do to de-stigmatize failure or hesitation during learning is lkely to be particularly helpful to girls learning to code.”
I really just don’t “get” it.
Could there be a less risky endeavor than learning to code? What could we name that is any less clean, sterile, and safe than coding? Knitting is more risky … you might stab yourself in the eye with a needle.
That said, yes it can be highly intimidating the first time you go to send a message/patch to (e.g.) LKML, Debian, or the mailing list of some other warlike tribe.
So, if you know some girl with an interest in coding and a promising aptitude for same, you give her some hand-holding and a few pointers to make the tepid exercise a bit less “risky”.
But you’d do the same for a boy wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you?
The point is that these things don’t scale significantly beyond the friend-helping-friend, one-on-one level. So for those that are ready to fully fund and staff the Federal Bureau To Make Coding Less Risky For Girls Department, please refrain just this once.
Most of you are already doing all that can be done.
(Side note: the subset of boys that “have an interest in and a promising aptitude for” coding is quite small, but is still far larger than the teeny, tiny subset of girls that fit that description. So if the game is to hit some quota it’s always going to fail.)
>Could there be a less risky endeavor than learning to code?
Please stop talking as though physical risk is the only kind.
Ms. Saujani and and I are both clear that the relevant risk is social – that of being seen to fail.
Why it’s actually even a problem that less women than men codes? Talents in nowadays work are not wasted. If a talented girl goes to the medicine and becomes brilliant pedriatrist instead of great coder, I would not consider that a loss for a humanity.
>Why it’s actually even a problem that less women than men codes?
Because girls have to rule everywhere. It’s politically required nowadays.
>“You wanna know what comes between me and my 1911? Nothing.“
I use protection when doing anything but indoor, square range shooting. Don’t like getting my hand beat to s*t.
 Mechanix Gloves usually
>I use protection when doing anything but indoor, square range shooting. Don’t like getting my hand beat to s*t.
I see the argument, but believe in training as I expect to fight. If I ever have to draw in anger it is unlikely I will be wearing gloves.
szopen wrote: Why it’s actually even a problem that less women than men codes? Talents in nowadays work are not wasted. If a talented girl goes to the medicine and becomes brilliant pedriatrist instead of great coder, I would not consider that a loss for a humanity.
ESR wrote: Because girls have to rule everywhere. It’s politically required nowadays.
Eric’s snark aside, I think the problem is not so much that women are giving up on coding and finding something else great to do instead, but rather that some of them are giving up on coding and finding nothing else worthwhile. And only because there’s a failure stigma that people wouldn’t allow to happen, if only they were aware that such a stigma were in play.
>Well, expect for the part about growing up to be Hillary Clinton
You mean “except”
“using an OS prone to breaking and viruses”
The stupid is strong in the above quote…
1) All versions of Windows from Vista and higher auto-update without the user lifting a finger. Distros like Ubuntu only notify about updates and require a sudo password to continue (btw, what happens if the system has a privileged user that connects once a year and a non-privileged user who cannot sudo to update but uses the system daily?). Browsers auto-update in Windows even if you run an 9-year old version of windows. Even Flash Player auto-updates in Windows (if you still have it for some weird reason). Everything critical auto-updates in Windows. PERIOD. Not so in distros like Ubuntu.
2) All versions of Windows from Vista and higher notify you when you try to run an unsigned application. In Desktop Linux, step outside the repositories walled garden and you are on your own trying to figure out what’s trustworthy and what is not, because code signing is not taken seriously in Desktop Linuxland
3) All versions of Windows from Vista and higher have UAC.
4) All versions of Windows from Vista and higher have patched the stupid autorun security hole, so no whining about that too.
5) All versions of Windows from 8 and higher come with an integrated antivirus solution (most distros come with no integrated antivirus solution).
So… how is Windows prone to getting viruses? It’s not. Your fading memories from the XP era don’t apply. The only Windows users who still get viruses are script kiddiez obsessed with their CPU usage who disable auto-update, and still run Windows 8 despite the fact Windows 8.1 was sent as an important update years ago ( http://gs.statcounter.com/#desktop-os-ww-monthly-201502-201602 ). I really wish that 3% of idiots that disable windows update and then whine about getting malware went back to their Desktop Linux’s security by obscurity where they belong.
3%er script kiddies, GET OUT OF WINDOWS!! It’s not for you. It’s an OS for the common man.
“Well, except for the part about growing up to be Hillary Clinton; do we really want to encourage girls to sleep their way to power and then cover up for their husband’s serial rapes?”
But, FEMINISM! A woman is not a strong, independent individual unless she sleeps their way to power, manipulates her way to the top of the business ladder using rape threats and mooches her dad to fund her gender studies course in university.
Oh, and don’t forget planning to get married not before her mid 30s when she won’t be as desirable anymore and then whine “where have all the good men gone?”
PS: True alpha females are not feminists.
All the way to Windows 10, which doesn’t have complete driver or application support…
> Oh, and don’t forget planning to get married not before her mid 30s when she won’t be as desirable anymore [emphasis added] and then whine “where have all the good men gone?”
If there are men who feel that way, I strongly disagree with them. :-)
“If there are men who feel that way, I strongly disagree with them. ”
Do “feminist men” really believe what they write? A woman’s beauty peaks somewhere around her mid-to-late 20s, so her chances of marrying the most attractive and most successful man she can realistically get is precisely that age bracket. I am not saying she should marry around that age, but that she should start looking into long term relationships at that age… Men tend to peak around their early 30s, so, ironically, the feminist theory of delaying investing into long term relationships (and then marriage) actually benefits men, because feminist women start looking for long term relationships when men are reaching their peak while they are leaving their peak.
“All the way to Windows 10, which doesn’t have complete driver or application support…”
Unfortunately true. Disable “receive recommended updates the same way…” and you are safe from suddenly waking up to an “update now or later” prompt. But even if you leave recommended updates on, no automated install will of win10 will happen. Just [X] the prompt.
You shouldn’t have to do all these, but if you are going to mess with update settings, at least do it correctly. Disable recommended, not updates at all.
> Do “feminist men” really believe what they write?
If you’re referring to me, I assure you I don’t fancy myself a “feminist man”, an SJW, or anything of the sort. I was simply defending the beauty and charm of middle-aged women (not from a perceived attack by Kurkosdr, whose comment was presumably sarcastic).
> A woman’s beauty peaks somewhere around her mid-to-late 20s
I suppose that varies across different women. Besides, beauty is subjective anyway.
Gotta love people who criticise Windows for pushing Windows 10, while in their beloved Android the only way to get security patches (if you have a recent Nexus or the OEM was kind enough) is to upgrade to the latest major version… There are no security patch backports…
> There are no security patch backports…
To be fair, Android and Windows do not have symmetric track records. Nobody expects Android to get buggier and less secure in the next release.
“Nobody expects Android to get buggier and less secure in the next release.”
Bahaha, typical con-man technique. Asserting something as a fact that isn’t.
Windows Vista was much more secure than XP (UAC, fires a warning when running unsigned apps or when an app tries to install unsigned drivers, no autorun worries), Windows 7 was just as secure but less buggy and better performing, Windows 8 came with integrated antimalware solution and disabled unsigned driver installation by apps completely (has to be done manually), and Windows 10 is just as secure as 8 or even more if you count the fact script kiddies can’t put updates to off and then whine about getting malware.
Now go on and harp about your XP memories (in all fairness, XP was crap from a security perspective because of crap autorun implementation, unrestricted access to admin rights for apps, no unsigned app warning and ability for unsigned apps to install unsigned drivers without warning, all of those fixed in Vista) as if an OS of the past decade matters. Meanwhile, Android has a CURRENT problem in getting out security patches to most of it’s installed base and you previously security-paranoid ABMers gloss over that.
And since we are on the topic of buginess and security, how many Desktop Linux distros can start security updating automatically in the background without any user action, like Vista is doing by default since 2007?
I have the misfortune of having Ubuntu in my Aspire One, and it only checks for updates, if you want to apply them, you have to manually click the warning and type the sudo password. What happens if the user doesn’t have sudo priviledges? Wait till a priviledged user logs on the system and install the patches, maybe?
Will Ubuntu start becoming MORE secure and LESS buggy with each release an automatically install security patches when a non-priviledged user logs in, like Vista has been doing for 9 years now? A man can hope…
I wouldn’t be sursprised if the above applied to most Desktop Linus distros…
The risk of social stigma seems unsupported by some flimsy misinterpretations of a couple of anecdotes. My intuition is the ladies are not sufficiently motivated to work on the code until it works. Presuming Jeff Read’s claim of women in biotech is factual, noting the anecdotes from TED script, and even glancing at Susan Sons’ interest in children and education, points to women being highly motivated by social causes around childrearing, wellbeing, and family. Whereas men seem to be motivated by social causes involving innovative disruption of power structure, as noted by Kenpachi.
I posit the real risk here may be the combination of a perceived lack of direct applicability to women’s social priorities and perhaps even the hypergamy opportunity cost of being locked away with nerds far from the social nexus of the workplace.
The cited Malaysian exception has misleading statistics. A UNESCO study says:
What seems to be happening w.r.t. computer science demographics in Malaysia is a combination of the strict culture which requires women to stay home with the children and programming being an outstanding income for virtual work, combined with what I see here in the neighboring southern Philippines, where the boys are reknown for not undertaking bookwork seriously and the girls do. The reason is actually hypergamy. The boys are dreaming of doing masculine work and the females are dreaming of learning English and a skill that enables them to go abroad to earn money to support their families and maybe also meet a handsome rich husband.
When it comes to world class innovation, men are most always going occupy those extreme outliers on the bell curve, because men are uniquely tooled to sacrifice everything to compete for those rarer eggs in the female. The smartest females are not going to risk their priorities just to be a trophy case statistical outlier.
>In addition within STEM fields in higher education, [Malaysian] women overwhelmingly tend to pursue science-based disciplines rather than maths-based ones
Ah, that is what I would expect from the psychometric data on distribution of mathematical ability in Caucasian populations; it’s interesting to see that the same pattern holds in Austronesians. That is, males exhibit most of the mathematical talent and the divergence increases in the right tail.
What makes this more interesting still is that, if La Griffe du Lion is to be believed, non-Caucasian populations have less difference in IQ dispersion between males and females than Caucasians do. This means that the “Summers effect” – differential selection into or out of STEM on IQ alone – will be less powerful, possibly nonexistent, in Austronesians.
That could neatly account for the observed pattern without any social explanations. It would imply that women in STEM are at less of an IQ-related competitive disadvantage relative to top male performers than in Caucasian populations, but the filtering for mathematical ability in disciplines where that’s crucial would be just as harsh.
And, of course, “institutional sexism” doesn’t seem to have any explanatory power at all here.
> males exhibit most of the mathematical talent and the divergence increases in the right tail
I found some analysis of known data which supports my intuition that women are making this choice; and they even present evidence of the fluidity of women to increase their variance in the right tail. And they find no support for “institutional sexism” as an explanation.
Sex Differences in Math-Intensive Fields
Stephen J. Ceci and Wendy M. Williams
Two Quora anecdotes which support my intuition that women want the flexibility to do jobs which enable their social cause and family priorities, and add to that anecdotally women don’t want to be stuck in a field where the (e.g. small startup) nerds sleep under their desk (aren’t concerned with their wellbeing and body odor) and there isn’t a dedicated female restroom:
I suspect it distills to evolutionary game theory at the generative essence. In my experience women are more balanced than men (inhibiting themselves from the right tail?) when making long-range decisions on risking wellbeing and stability; and I posit (as I believe esr has stated) because they must nurture their offspring because they can’t scatter an overabundance of eggs to many men. One of the sexes has to be made responsible for child rearing to prevent information loss in evolution, and the other has to be pushing the limits of variance to provide maximum opportunities for discarding information which is not optimally fit. That sentence comes from some research in biology. Men sacrifice wellbeing and risk-aversion continuously to take shot at winning against other males to better the odds of inseminating more women. Perhaps some women will risk their wellbeing in the heat of the moment (hindbrain?) with a badboy (e.g. who may carry STDs) which they perceive to be an alpha, probably because of the game theory of the probabilities in their evolutionary purpose. Refer to esr’s past blogs on PUAs and hypergamy.
As an ancidotal data point, when I still had my day job at a major pharmaceutical firm, at the research end of the drug pipeline the “chemists” skewed noticably more male than the “biologists.”
The “chemists” were people like Derek Lowe – or me, although I was one to three places lower on the totem pole than him, being an MS chemist rather than a PhD. The “biologists” were the people who tested the compounds made by the chemists, whether on cell cultures or in whole animals.
If the difference was due to the math required, that came in back at the undergraduate training level, where the chemists had to suffer through physical chemistry courses, and the biologists didn’t. In the research labs, the only math that the chemists had to do on a regular basis was algebra, while the biologists had to deal with lots of statistical math.
> while in their beloved Android the only way to get security patches […] is to upgrade to the latest major version
Apology if leaning offtopic (and the acrimonious sarcasm below), but where to insert an insight about smartphone wars?
I’ve been discussing with my former boss who was recruited personally by Steve Jobs and is a VIP researcher at Apple. Here follows a relevant excerpt; perhaps some readers will check my logic over there about the finality of the power of general purpose software network effects.