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GNOME Reaches Out to Women 672

Dominic Hargreaves writes "This year GNOME received 181 applications to Google's Summer of Code program, yet none were from women. As a result, they've decided to address this imbalance by launching an outreach program to sponsor three female students to work on GNOME-related projects this summer." Most any science department will tell you that the amount of interest and involvement of women pales next to men of similar age and background. Is this sponsorship a creative way to get women interested in GNOME, or is it merely sexist?
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GNOME Reaches Out to Women

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  • by Black.Shuck ( 704538 ) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @10:10PM (#15545817)
    ...or the rest of the male coders?
  • by CyberBill ( 526285 ) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @10:10PM (#15545819)
    Apparantly I have to be female even to read the post... :( Honestly though, I would love to see more women in my work place.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 15, 2006 @10:14PM (#15545850)
    Most women aren't interested in computers.. In my class in software engineering, there were 3 girls.. one is going into management style stuff, the other one is doing a masters in UI stuff (from a human perspective) .. and the other one has no clue what she wants to do.. so she is doing an aeronautics master... Even after being given scolarships, etc just because of their sex. Giving money is dumb and does not work.

    Why doesn't the GNOME foundation hire women for non CS work (dont they have a mangement job?) Or maybe for documentation or other stuff that they might find more interesting. And please please please hire based on merit, not sex. I find this horrible to say that you need to make special reservation for women since they can't compete with the boys.
  • by Das Modell ( 969371 ) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @10:17PM (#15545869)
    ... then they just aren't. What's the big deal? If women largely aren't interested in programming, then they simply aren't. It's not like you can't write software without a balanced group of men and women.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 15, 2006 @10:17PM (#15545871)
    traditionally "masculine" enterprises.

    Of course, as long as you ignore the fact that early computer science was a traditonally mixed gender group, and before the dawn of computers came the Computers, a legion of women who sprung into action in wartime to compute firing tables for artillery.

    http://www.dun-na-ngall.com/kay.html [dun-na-ngall.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 15, 2006 @10:21PM (#15545888)
    The president of Harvard said absolutely nothing like women can't participate in math and science fields. Most of the discussion on that topic was ridiculous hyperbole propagated by people who for some reason decided to be upset by it. His speech was given in the context of empowering women, not belittling them, and most who report on this issue seem to have missed his point.

    All he said was that it might be worth our time to look into biological causes that draw women away from math and science. He did not say anything to the effect that women aren't as good as men. Saying that men and women might be different seems about as shocking to me as saying that, OMG, women are so much better at giving birth than men. Shocking.

    If you don't believe me, read the transcript [harvard.edu] and tell me what he said that's insulting.
  • Why not both? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dustwun ( 662589 ) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @10:23PM (#15545899) Homepage
    Is this sponsorship a creative way to get women interested in GNOME, or is it merely sexist?

    Are these two mutually exclusive for a reason? Just because it's creative doesn't mean its not sexist, and vice versa. /I'm sure we've all witnessed some truly creative sexist behavior in our lives. Hell it was probably 10% of college.

    To be fair, college was far more sexist, but far less creative in execution....
  • Stupid PC bullshit (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Pres. Ronald Reagan ( 659566 ) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @10:24PM (#15545903)
    Why not, oh, I don't know, GIVE THE JOBS TO THE BEST PEOPLE FOR THE JOB? Who cares if that's a man or a woman, a black or a white, or anything else. By giving it to the best women instead of the best applicants period, the people in charge are working to the detriment of the whole project.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 15, 2006 @10:27PM (#15545920)
    So who are the three males who won't be getting the scholarships because the money will go to three less qualified candidates?
  • by kz45 ( 175825 ) <kz45@blob.com> on Thursday June 15, 2006 @10:32PM (#15545936)
    Speaking of sexist, that comment is uncalled for. Contrary to what the (former?) President of Harvard thinks, women are indeed capable of participating in math and science fields. It is merely social structure that "guides" them away from these traditionally "masculine" enterprises.

    Im tired of hearing this bullshit argument. The reason there is a vast imbalance of men vs women in math and science fields is not because of a social structure that "guides" them away from these fields. It's because they just aren't interested.

    Women are more social than men. Math and Science fields many times requires no social interaction. Coding away for hours at a time alone may be interesting to a lot of guys (including me), but not women. There are of course, exceptions.

    Why can't we just conclude that men and women have different goals and ambitions in life rather than trying to push everyone along the same path? On the flip-side, there is a large imbalance of men and women in the nursing and elementary school fields. I don't see many groups getting up and arms over it.
  • by Midnight Thunder ( 17205 ) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @10:35PM (#15545955) Homepage Journal
    "Any disparity of gender, of any kind, that works against women, is enough evidence of sexism to get sued onto the street." So, in short, neither. They're just covering their asses."

    This may be true, but sometimes a project can benefit from another angle. Gnome really seems like its trying to be the desktop top that is accessible to everyone. By having women participate, there is a possibility that they will bring in ideas that male centric project would not have had. The truth is though, many of the female developers I know about tend to be just as shy as your average male coder.
  • by tjr ( 908724 ) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @10:39PM (#15545975) Homepage
    Right. I'm sure that there are occupations that are largely filled by women, not because men are incapable, but because, for whatever reason, men usually aren't interested. (How many junior high guys start a babysitting business, for example? The number might not be zero, but I'm sure it pales in comparison to the number of girls.)

    Would it be good to have more women in science? Sure, if they're interested in doing it. If they aren't interested, then no, actually, it wouldn't be good. They should do what they have in their hearts to do, because that's what they'll excel at, and that's what they'll enjoy.
  • by 70Bang ( 805280 ) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @10:41PM (#15545988)

    Actually, they are. (seriously) It's said that women are messy (things out of place), but what's under it is clean. Guys frequently have things in order, but what's underneath is dirty.

    My wife is a serious, but self-taught cross-stitcher. Many believe the reverse side should be as nice as the front (no jibes from the peanut gallery) and her work is. I forgot to warn her the first time my mother & grandmother wanted to take a look at her work -- the first thing they did was flip it over. Along those lines, I believe code should be just as clean as the way it appears (or performs). And not just running it through a prettyprint. If you do structure it so it looks and feels right, those things which look out of place are usually wrong. (although formatting shows plenty of errors as well)

    Bad code is part of why I've long asserted a minimum of 95% (it's probably closer to 98%) of the people in the IT/IS/MIS industry who write code for a living aren't qualified to do so. Were mechanical engineers, architects, or physicians to make a tiny percentage of the errors coders make, chaos would ensue. If you want your code to look better [by contrast], however, place it side-by-side with overshored code.

    I went to a small school in the Midwest which is trying desperately to increase the estrogen content in the CompSci department. They (the dept) has become very persistent about putting the bite on everyone who might be willing to contribute in some way to get more women into the program (pun intended).

  • Who cares? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Monkelectric ( 546685 ) <slashdot@@@monkelectric...com> on Thursday June 15, 2006 @10:41PM (#15545990)
    Equality is the *OPPORTUNITY* to do everything a man does, not the necessity of doing it. Women are able to enter CS and the contest with no discrimination, therefore, there is equality. When I got a CS degree there were *VERY* few women, and I think all but one in my class dropped out (this is at a college with a 30% graduation rate though).

    I have *NEVER* met a male nursing student, and I know quite a few nursing students. Nobody gives a crap about that?

  • by LionKimbro ( 200000 ) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @10:51PM (#15546053) Homepage
    Of course it's sexist, it's a discrimination based on sex, isn't it?

    What it clearly isn't, is supremacist.

    Racism and sexism and all these other discriminations are perfectly acceptable, and even commendable in many cases, such as this one.

    The problems these kinds of integration efforts solve are:
    • Combatting against supremacism.
    • Adjusting the comfort & role-model & mentoring loop.

  • Re:Both. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by freemywrld ( 821105 ) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @10:51PM (#15546057) Homepage
    There is a difference between offering opportunities that encourage groups of people who are underrepresented in various fields, and being an *ist. As an example, there are plenty of scholarships out there aimed at encouraging/helping women get into the sciences. There are many more examples of such types of programs aimed at other groups, not just women. It has nothing to do with exclusion. Men are represented in fine numbers in IT, so I don't see what all the fuss is about.
  • Not Sexist. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Stephen Samuel ( 106962 ) <samuel AT bcgreen DOT com> on Thursday June 15, 2006 @10:55PM (#15546073) Homepage Journal
    Women sometimes think and work a bit differently than men do, so getting a woman's input into how things work is useful to promoting World Dominance (tm) for Linux. If they had 50% (or even 30%) participation by women, then I'd say they were being sexist, but at 0% there's a real, practical value to getting at least some input from the fairer sex.

    There would also be some real practical value to figuring out why (structurally speaking) there is so little female participation.

  • by kitanai ( 966388 ) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @10:56PM (#15546077)
    I'm a woman in IT. I'm a developer. And I think it's sexist. If I were in the USA, I might have applied, however i'm not, i'm in New Zealand.

    Regardless, programs like this miss the point entirely. The main problem is not a lack of female applicants, its the lack of women in IT. This does not stem from a lack of funding or information - we all have access to the internet.

    It stems from the basic belief that computers are a mans domain, and that even if a woman is a programmer extra-curricular activities concerning programming is taking it too far. The solution to this problem is to change peoples attitude toward technology-related sciences, not to throw money at it.

    When I first showed interest in computers as a child, it was frowned upon by most of my family in a big way. Change it there, and there will be more openly geeky girl IT grads that will participate in the community without the need for extra money being thrown at them.
  • Re:Who cares? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by russellh ( 547685 ) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @11:00PM (#15546104) Homepage

    Opportunity is complex. We're not a bunch of individuals, we're members of different overlapping social groups. We need peer acceptance. If none of our groups include anything having to do with science, we won't or can't consider it. In other words, we don't have the opportunity. Very few people strike out on their own; nobody is self-made. Everyone needs a support network. It takes a village to raise a child, etc. Reaching out across the gap like this is a good thing, it creates this opportunity that the individual may not have realized or for whatever reason did not understand was there in the first place.

    For geeks to catcall and harp on genetics etc does nothing but reinforce social divisions, keeping talent away. I don't know what I'd be doing if I didn't have the opportunity to learn programming. I'm sure there are more than a few awesomely talented women who would really thrive here.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 15, 2006 @11:12PM (#15546146)
    Who says the ladies will be less qualified. For all you know it'll attract 3 superior candidates. *This* is one of the reasons many women don't want to work with the guys, silly comments like that (that also get modded insightful?!)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 15, 2006 @11:16PM (#15546163)
    I don't like these gender balances because they tend to have tunnel vision. We are greatly rewarding mediocre women in engineering fields due to their low numbers, but we aren't doing the same for men in other fields.

    How many men get special seats in programs for nursing, education, etc., where the field is dominated by women? In fact, of the people who get college degrees, only 43% are men. Why doesn't this get the same attention that the lack of women in science and engineering gets?

    All that we can accomplish by trying to perform gender balances is to promote mediocracy from the minority gender.
  • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) ( 193358 ) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @11:18PM (#15546176) Homepage Journal
    The problem, according to the fine summary, is that the women didn't apply.
  • Re:Is it sexist? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Angst Badger ( 8636 ) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @11:19PM (#15546177)
    I've never been a big believer that bias can be cured by more bias.

    Simple fact: there are vastly more women and minorities in the workplace now than there were before affirmative action and forced equal access to education. It works. It's not flawless, and it's not a cure-all, but it has produced results.

    Affirmative action only leads to people thinking that a miss-represented group of people were only hired because of affirmative action.

    Who gives a shit? Those are the same people who didn't think women and minorities belonged in their workplace in the first place.

    Honestly, in a field so utterly dominated by men that a female software engineer is a bit of a rarity, you have to be pretty insecure to be bothered by the fact that one free software project wants to try to get a whopping three women involved. In any event, the odds are that your job and mine are both going to India long before they are threatened by any kind of domestic quota system.
  • by lucas teh geek ( 714343 ) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @11:35PM (#15546254)
    why didnt these superior candidates apply for the google summer of code in the first place then? 181 male applicants and zero female applicants. I have no problem with them getting the positions if they really are the superior candidates, but if that were the case wouldnt they have at the very least applied and (all things being equal) probably been accepted in the first place?
  • Re:Who cares? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thesandtiger ( 819476 ) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @11:41PM (#15546285)
    I have *NEVER* met a male nursing student, and I know quite a few nursing students. Nobody gives a crap about that?

    Actually, there's lots of stuff being done by nursing schools to bring in male students. Partly to address the nursing shortage, and partly to achieve gender equity (or at least get closer to it) just for the sake of doing it.

    For one of my classes last semester, we were supposed to pick an area where there was a huge imbalance in gender representation and explore the causes. I picked nursing, interviewed 100+ male nurses and nursing students and asked them why they picked the field, what issues they ran into etc. - almost all of them pointed out that it was so *incredibly* dominated by women that they felt uncomfortable in the environment. Further, many expressed concerns that they'd be percieved as less masculine by those outside their profession - basically "People will think I'm gay!" By the time I'd finished my report, several of the male students hd dropped out of their programs.

    For women in technology (of which I used to be one before I went back to school to study psychology), a huge issue is the "swinging dick" factor. Women and men tend to have different priorites and needs in order to be happy in a workplace - one of the big ones for many women is the social sphere. I know that, for me, the deciding factor was that I wound up feeling as if I was spending a third of my life around people I didn't particularly like, didn't find to be particularly able to have small-talk with, and generally just left me feeling pretty cut-off from the world.

    (And, for anyone who says "Work is about work, not socialization, silly female!" let me just say: Men tend to also have certain needs from a workplace that seem just as silly - that whole alpha monkey/competitive thing is pretty goddamn funny and sad. Isn't work supposed to be about work, not establishing who's dick is bigger?)

    Anyway, I guess what I'm saying is that yeah - women and men DO have (in the US, at least) the same theoretical access to whatever workplaces (with some exceptions) - but that doesn't mean that in practical terms a given professional space will be equally hospitable to both genders. Guys don't do "girl" jobs because they're afraid they'll look gay, gals don't do "boy" jobs because they they'll wind up in testosterone central. That kind of atmosphere presents a barrier to opportunity that a lot of people don't really see until they run right into it. So, from my point of view, a plan to address some of that stuff would be a good thing, regardless of the industry.
  • It's sexist (Score:2, Insightful)

    by agm ( 467017 ) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @11:51PM (#15546324)
    Sponsoring people based on gender is prejudiced. I didn't like apartheid in South Africa and I see this in a similar light - it's discrimination based on something that cannot be changed. Next they'll be sponsoring blue eyed people because not enough blue eyed people work on Gnome - as if it even matters what colour your eyes are, or in this case what your gender is.
  • Re:Is it sexist? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thesandtiger ( 819476 ) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @11:52PM (#15546325)
    Do men that go into nursing get a preference because there's more women than men? (An honest question).

    Emphatically, yes. Nursing programs are AVIDLY trying to recruit men.

    I posted an explanation of why this kind of equalizing isn't a bad thing - why what *looks* like a level playing field with open access to all is not, in fact, level nor open. I'll give the short version here: it's about the social environment.

    Many men don't go into nursing because they're afraid it will make them seem less manly. Many women don't go into tech because they're afraid they'll be in a socially/emotionally desolate nerdspace. If things can be done to reduce the social anxiety that is keeping people away from jobs they'd otherwise be highly capable of doing, then that's a good thing.

    And to anyone who'd say "If they can't overcome a little anxiety, fuck 'em, we don't want 'em and they obviously don't want it enough!" - it isn't a *little* anxiety - it's a LOT. For anyone who disagrees, I suggest they go do something that is usually very at odds with their typical gender roles and see just how "little" anxiety they feel. The "If they can't hack it" line tends to come from people who are fortunate enough to have their interests and the social spheres line up well enough.
  • Re:Is it sexist? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ThousandStars ( 556222 ) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @11:55PM (#15546343) Homepage
    You're misrepresenting the GP in your reply. For example, you say, "there are vastly more women and minorities in the workplace now than there were before affirmative action and forced equal access to education," which is true -- but you're forgetting to include the civil rights movement, which doesn't equate with affirmative action. Equality of opportunity is of paramount importance, and equality of opportunity is what the civil rights movement sought.

    I think all people deserve an equal shot -- that doesn't mean I believe and minorities don't belong in the workplace -- but it also means I don't believe they do. Whoever is qualified belongs in whatever job he or she can land.

    The GP probably isn't bothered by the gender split of the GNOME summer of code - he (or she) is probably bothered by the implicit assumptions that a) women are inferior and therefore need help to apply or get in and b) one's gender is more important than one's work or ability.

    When work or ability define a person more than gender or race or tats or piercing or whatever, then I think we, as a society, will have made progress. Posts like yours are not progress.

  • by cammoblammo ( 774120 ) <cammoblammo@gmailTEA.com minus caffeine> on Friday June 16, 2006 @12:02AM (#15546363)
    This isn't about the ability to compete. The problem is that females didn't even try to compete.

    I find it hard to believe that there are no women who would be able to do this sort of work. There must be other reasons for it. The reactions to this story provide a few clues.

    Let's look at the comments so far--how many of them are from opinionated males who seem to like making judgments about the abilities of women to cut it in programming? How many comments have lamented the fact that some fields are dominated by women (last time I looked at applications for nursing scholarships the number of male applicants was > 0%)? How many comments refer to porn, lesbians, cunnilingus and/or dating?

    I strongly suspect that the reason women are staying away from this field is the people they find in it. Perhaps if IT were a field where women could find a little respect they may be more likely to apply for positions. And yes boys, if you want to find a date, respecting the object of your affections may be a good place to start!
  • by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Friday June 16, 2006 @12:10AM (#15546404)
    Most women aren't interested in computers..
    Neither are most men. Nevertherless, for quite sometime, women have made up a not-insignificant minority of CS graduates -- to have no women apply for GNOME's Summer of Code projects suggests that there is a good likelihood that the outreach on those projects was not well-designed to reach women.
  • by Hannah E. Davis ( 870669 ) on Friday June 16, 2006 @12:29AM (#15546478) Journal
    I'm female, and I certainly haven't seen anything that was "not well-designed to reach women." I actually considered applying, but then decided against it.

    My reason is just that I don't have enough time. I'm on a co-op workterm as a full-time tools programmer at a small game company, so I can't easily devote myself to an open-source project. If I had the time to spare, however, I'd be all over the Summer of Code. It sounds like a lot of fun :)
  • by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Friday June 16, 2006 @12:32AM (#15546496)
    why didnt these superior candidates apply for the google summer of code in the first place then?
    The title of the GNOME effort "Women's Summer Outreach Program" clearly indicates that GNOME thinks the problem is exposure (either of Summer of Code or the GNOME project itself) to women in the field; given the application ratios, unless there is something particularly repulsive to women about GNOME, that's probably a fair assumption.
  • by fadeproof ( 928056 ) on Friday June 16, 2006 @12:51AM (#15546566)
    How are you going to encourage men to enter into crappy paying female dominated jobs? What could possibly entice someone to spend 1 or 2 years in school to make $8/hr as a secretary, with no benefits? The female dominated jobs that pay well, nursing, for example, are seeing an increase in the number of men getting into the field. How is this hypocracy? I think it's great they are seeking greater diversity, it can only benefit them in the long run.
  • Re:Who cares? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by caladein ( 969989 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [anijac.caasi]> on Friday June 16, 2006 @02:17AM (#15546814) Homepage
    And the real reason, more staff capable of moving fat patients. As the general population gets larger, so must the carrying capacity of the average nurse.

    ..and when this is brought up in firefighting (Male dominated field #862), there are cries of foul for requiring the same upper-body strength standards for all applicants.

    Fairness is indeed fun.
  • by node 3 ( 115640 ) on Friday June 16, 2006 @02:18AM (#15546817)
    All that we can accomplish by trying to perform gender balances is to promote mediocracy from the minority gender.
    Ignorant nonsense, but a common defense of the status quo.

    Do you truly think that attempts at gender equality can only accomplish the promotion of mediocrity (I think you meant mediocrity, not mediocracy, although in either case my response is the same), and nothing else whatsoever?

    Are you certain that:
    • Currently, women's positions in the field accurately matches their skills and qualifications?
    • Girls and young women are given adequate education, motivation, and acceptance when it comes to even considering entering the field?
    Given that you don't know, for a fact, that the answer to both of those questions is 'yes', then how can you possibly know that addressing those issues cannot help, but can only promote mediocrity?

    Now, be honest. You don't actually know the answer to those two questions. You know there are other possible outcomes besides the promotion of mediocrity (or mediocracy). So why--truly, honestly, why--did you make the statement above? What beliefs, assumptions, prejudices or predilections do you have which lead to such a circumvention of logic and rationality?
  • by Hannah E. Davis ( 870669 ) on Friday June 16, 2006 @02:57AM (#15546917) Journal
    They might find three superior candidates, or they might not. If they only get a small number of female applications after this announcement, they may end up doing the best with what they have just to fill a quota.

    Think about it this way: if only three women apply at this point, all three are guaranteed to get the positions. Their combined intellect could be the equivalent of a doorknob's, and they'd still get in, but qualified men wouldn't even have a chance.

    Besides, if they're confident that they can find three or more "superior" candidates, why not just put out a call for female applicants and let them compete with the men? If the women are superior, they'll win, right?

    Incidentally, I'm female myself, but I hate discrimination of any sort. Giving a woman a job or a scholarship purely because she has a vagina is just as bad as giving a man that same position purely because he has a penis. Encourage all genders to apply, and let the best candidates win. Hell, I don't even have a problem with putting out a call for female applicants or even refusing to make a final decision before X women have applied, just as long as gender is ignored in the actual application evaluation process.
  • Re:Who cares? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Friday June 16, 2006 @03:51AM (#15547037)
    In other words, we don't have the opportunity. Very few people strike out on their own...

    So let me get this straight: because certain people aren't willing to take initiative, they don't have an opportunity?

    I think you need to read the definition of opportunity. Otherwise you doom the problem to being completely circular in this way:

    Step 1: Not enough women in the sciences.
    Step 2: Solution: Do something to attract more women to the sciences.
    Step 3: Women don't want to go into the sciences because there are not enough women in the sciences. Back to step 1 again.
  • Include everyone (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Steeltoe ( 98226 ) on Friday June 16, 2006 @04:04AM (#15547080) Homepage
    It hurts to do this.

    It is important to have a clear view on the world, yes? Unless we risk going into roadblocks here and there, and feel sore and numb after a while ;)

    Using our mind can certainly help understanding and put things in perspective. However, too much of it, and we tend to get stuck in our own mind, instead of seeing things as they really are. With too much disturbing thoughts and emotions, we are only seeing our own mind, not the world around us.

    In the news, there is lots of statistics every week, but we also know the world is much larger than a written report on it.

    What do we really know about a person we have never met? Suddenly, we are to start to believe the statistics, to describe a person standing next to us?

    That is discrimination, and the root of both that and racism. It's a trap in our mind, to be stuck in such superficial judgements.

    Nobody has 1.2 kids, or 0.4 cars. It is impossible or silly. Reality is much more diverse than statistics and our crude models of the world.

    To include groups and genders of people that would otherwise not join/enroll, is judged as a good thing for the whole. Because it creates opportunities for those people, _and_ shows others from the same group that it is indeed possible and they will not be alone. It is an effort to get the ball rolling, to include everyone, so that we will realize that we are all really the same.

    Sure, black people usually run faster that white people in the Games, and white people dominate swimming. However for individuals, the statistical differences are negligible, and having a diversity of people in every social setting, far outweights the benefits of monoculture and speciality-breeding.

    You give people an opportunity, and they will shine.

    Everything that can unity us more is a good thing. You can be sure that whatever idea you have, if it will bring everybody more together, it is a good one.
  • by Maelwryth ( 982896 ) on Friday June 16, 2006 @04:22AM (#15547129) Homepage

    Interesting theory, and probably true. Personally I have never figured out whether girls really liked dolls (pink, etc...) or whether it was just forced down their throats. Then again, I had a doll (teddy) and I pulled it apart to see how it worked.

    Another pressure would be wanting to have children. By the age of 30, only 24.3% [stats.govt.nz]of woman are without a child. Seeing as a child is a full time job, thats 75.7% of the female workforce whos first priority is not working a ten hour day, or being on call at all. That was from the 1996 census, so I admit the data is a little old but you can see what I mean. Now the pressure is all for woman to have a career, a baby, and a life (somewhere?), which is quite frankly crazy. One woman I know is currently teaching full time, running a business and raising her son.....I have no idea how she does it, it's almost superhuman.

    This kind of thinking is rife in New Zealand as well though. We try and coerce the sexes into other roles, cultures into other roles, and spend vast amounts on social engineering to improve statistics, all the while forgetting that these aggregates of numbers were individual people making decisions on how best they wanted to live their lives. The best we can and should do (IMHO) is to make sure people aren't descriminated against and then help them live their lives in the way they they want.
  • Re:Is it sexist? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Skunkhead ( 66686 ) on Friday June 16, 2006 @05:07AM (#15547243) Homepage
    This is great. So youre saying you're being forced being racist/sexist/whatever because of measures to combat racism/sexism/whatever? sorry, but sounds like an excuse to me.
  • by eraserewind ( 446891 ) on Friday June 16, 2006 @06:07AM (#15547394)
    And yes boys, if you want to find a date, respecting the object of your affections may be a good place to start!
    Well, "with respect" that is little more than a cheap stereotyped gibe and does nothing to bolster your argument.

    This isn't about the ability to compete. The problem is that females didn't even try to compete.
    No, the problem is that people see it as a problem. Is there some evidence that there are vast (or even small) numbers of women that secretly wanted to compete, but were intimidated by the alleged all male nature of coding? Or have you personally decided that it was unacceptable? Maybe they are not interested? Maybe you should leave them alone. Maybe they have better things do do during the summer.

    By all means make sure that the program was advertised sufficiently to women, but don't treat them as needing special discrimination so as to be able to have the ability to participate.

    I have worked with many women colleagues during 10 years of employment in the software industry, and 4 years of compsci at university. Some were excellent, some were good and some were not. Same as for men. The main problem is with people who are not interested. I don't see discriminatory schemes as doing anything other than increasing that problem.
  • by node 3 ( 115640 ) on Friday June 16, 2006 @07:18AM (#15547519)
    There are NO "women's positions" in the field.
    You parsed that sentence incorrectly. By, "women's positions in the field," I meant, "the positions women currently hold," and not, "positions reserved for women".

    Those poor women with no drive to get those things for themselves. You know personal motivation has to come into it at some stage?
    I refer you back to my original set of questions for you; the ones questioning your character flaws and motivations for such irrationality.

    How many young girls never get into computers, because parents and teachers never even think that a girl might be interested in programming? How much interest does a boy have to show in computing to get offered by an adult to teach him more about computers? How many girls have shown even more interest, only to be turned away? How many girls don't even let their own interests show for fear of just being scoffed at by adults ("oh, that silly girl thinks she's going to become a computer scientist!"), or by friends, ("eww, why do you want to use a computer? you don't want to be a dork, do you?").

    You also act like somehow children have a fully-developed sense of self and ego, and full command over their lives--as though it's their fault for not achieving their fullest potential, even when the odds are stacked against them. How many young adult women in high school and college never enter into technology courses at all, because that spark that once flickered in their youth was doused instead of nurtured?

    But, once again, you show your willful ignorance, and promote a notion that is easily shown as irrational. For what you suggest to be true, you'd have to take as given that the social structures which affect us cannot work against us, cannot hinder our growth, and cannot affect different groups and classes in society differently.

    Answer my question, why do you feel compelled to promote something so horrendously irrational, and worse, something that actively works against achieving any real progress in society? Why is it that you don't put any effort into making sure your notions fit with reality? What, exactly, is your defect?

    My guess is that you tend to latch onto the first idea that fits a problem requiring the least amount of change on your part. Women are underrepresented in the technology fields? "They're just too stupid^W^W not technologically inclined." Girls aren't given the same quality of opportunities as boys? "They just need to take the initiative."

    Do you notice how your responses assume, without evidence and therefore without logic or reason, that there is nothing unjust with the status quo? What are the odds, do you suppose, that somehow the current state of affairs happens to be exactly ideal? Do you notice how, if things aren't fair (a possibility you must grant, if you are at all honest about the extent to which you can rationally judge the situation), that you are blaming the victim? How can you stand to be so intellectually dishonest and socially destructive?
  • by node 3 ( 115640 ) on Friday June 16, 2006 @07:24AM (#15547533)
    In other words, you are saying people are fully rational, without an ounce of subjectivity.

    How many parents, do you suppose, buy dolls for their little girls, and electronic toys for their little boys? How many teachers recognize technological curiosity in boys and nurture it, while seen the same tendencies in girls as unrealistic or as quaint little phases? How many bosses and managers see the dorky-looking man as a competent engineer, but the dorky-looking woman as kinda ugly and maybe they'd rather not work with her?

    Are these people all irrational and/or outright ignorant morons? Absolutely. Does that mean they therefore don't exist, and thus their negative influences need not be counteracted? Of course not!
  • by edmicman ( 830206 ) on Friday June 16, 2006 @07:26AM (#15547536) Homepage Journal
    Male or female, geeks and nerds will be geeks and nerds. I think they need to bring in real outsiders to the project. Get some insight on what Joe Sixpack wants, or grab a panel of Mac users and ask them how GNOME should be. Things will never work if they're only designed by engineers, male OR female.
  • by jrau ( 880696 ) on Friday June 16, 2006 @09:24AM (#15548108)

    This is a specious argument, and the burden of proof is on you. You need to demonstrate that there is a significant percentage of women who meet the criteria you've lain out, not call on others to refute the possibility. Your argument amounts to little more than "Isn't it possible that women don't have the same opportunities, etc?"

    Your statements call into question the possibility of an injustice. You need to demonstrate an actual injustice before considerable monies and social programs are used to try and correct this perceived problem. You need to show that women have inadequate opportunity in IT/CS, and that it is desirable for them to have comparatively better resources (or at least more specialized resources). That is to say, that women will take advantage of these opportunities to the extent that it is worth the money.

    So, basically, I refuse to argue this on your terms. However, I do think that the high percentage of men in IT compared to women is more a result of a difference between the sexes than it is a lack of educational opportunities. I have purely anecdotal evidence to back this up, but of all the humans I know (and I know quite a few), women just have different interests and tendencies towards technology than men... in general.

  • by Dobeln ( 853794 ) on Friday June 16, 2006 @09:28AM (#15548136)
    When a taboo is present, the watchers of the taboo take any sign of questioning as heresy. They (correctly) anticipate that people who in any way question the taboo, while not directly challenging it, are most likely attempting to shield themselves from reprisal. This in turn leads to the taboo watchers acting in a very touchy fashion. Game theory.

    In short: (Taboo -> People cloak their opinions - > Taboo guardians have to be more sensitive in order to penetrate the cloaking efforts of dissenters - > and so on)
  • by whalewatcher ( 979462 ) on Friday June 16, 2006 @10:04AM (#15548384)
    I've heard the 'biological differences' argument from birth--and indeed from before, through reading heaps of incedibly sexist classical SF. I've not yet actually come across convincing scientific evidence that it has a significant impact on the intelligence or scientific/mathematic aptitude of the female of the species, although back then it was actually argued that women have relatively smaller brain/bodymass ratios or whatever in an attempt to find a scientific explanation for their simpleness.

    Plenty of trends point to social circumstances.

    In the not-so-distant past, girls who were good at maths were openly sneered at. I remember a poster from 20 years ago, depicting female Nobel prize winners entitled: 'How can a pretty girl win the Nobel prize in physics?' Back then, it was an uphill struggle to gain acceptance and girls had to be pretty head-strong to prevail. Things have changed. You will have noted an earlier commentator observing that in her/his undergraduate math course there were about 50% female students. That tallies with my own observations. However, there's a drop-off at the postgrad level and a shocking drop-off at the academic level, and that is because of discrimination. Recent attempts to address the problem will bring about changes at these levels too. They are to be welcomed, much as I abhore 'affirmative action' which is a form of discrimination in itself. However, offering three internship to female students is a damn good start.

    See how the argument about 'biological differences' looks in a decade or two when women have finally had a chance to catch up.

  • not a huge deal (Score:2, Insightful)

    by reachums ( 949416 ) on Friday June 16, 2006 @10:30AM (#15548577) Homepage
    As a female in the IT/CS world, it's not that there aren't women and it's not that GNOME excluded women; they just didn't reach women with their advertising for the positions. That's all, they just need to talk to their marketing department and say "hey, we need to reach out to this untapped talent" and then it's done. And it sounds like that's what they are doing.

    As for the nursing issue, I think we don't know much about their outreach to men because, well, none of us are really interested in becoming nurses. I don't know about the rest of you, but I became an IT person because I prefer Computers to people. Not a good trait in a nurse.
  • by thc69 ( 98798 ) on Friday June 16, 2006 @10:36AM (#15548621) Homepage Journal
    I believe the logic behind the assumption that the three women will be less qualified is not gender-specific. At least, MY logic behind arriving at the same assumption isn't. See, the problem is as follows:

    Step 1: Gather a large quantity of candidates.
    Step 2: Select the best however many out of them, which wind up being the top 10% (or 5%, or 1%, or whatever).
    Step 3: Bring in three that were NOT the best Whatever% of their group, because they are the ONLY in their group
    Step 4: Profit!

    Selecting the best out of a large group means you've got a strong chance of actually having very good ones. Bringing in three who were not obtained via a screening-out process, who were not better than 90% (or 95%, or 99%, or 100-whatever%), results in unknown quality (given the data presented here), and most likely average quality.

    The same principle applies whether you're displacing 3 merit-selected male coders with 3 gender-selected female coders, 3 white merit-selected college applicants with 3 black race-selected college applicants (ooh, I'll get modded troll for that), 3 survey-selected coffee blends with 3 charity-supporting coffee blends, or 3 successful national chain restaurants for 3 local eateries. You can safely assume that the replacements in all of those cases are not as good as the "best" ones they replace, until you see actual individual qualifications.
  • Make Love, Not War (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Dr_Bliss ( 982942 ) on Friday June 16, 2006 @10:42AM (#15548671)

    Let me get my point out of the way so everyone in a hurry can move on - girls don't like coding competitions. They like coding. They are competitive. But competitive Linux programming? I dont think so.

    So what do girls like?

    Well, over here in Blighty, there are loads of lovely male nurses, but not so many female CS graduates. I'm one of the few - doctored and an ex-CS Lecturer - and can report that undergraduate CS programmes aren't designed with girls' minds in mind There aren't enough women involved in course design and it looks like this is going to remain the case for some time.

    No matter. Snuggle up. I want to talk to you about evolution, the birds and the bees.

    We girls are wired differently (you knew that already). There are whole sections of our brains dedicated to spotting men who'll make good fathers for our children. Other bits are reserved for looking good/ hair and shoes and stuff. And then there's the house and social life to organise. Load this up with all the modern aspirations (sporty car, career, good salary, pets, sports, hobbies, exotic travel, etc). Phew!! No room left in there for competitive programming! :)

    Amongst our social brain soup however, women have a long tradition of coding and have been designing, sharing and modifying domestic codes (weaving/ knitting/ stitching patterns, recipes etc) for hundreds of years. With these, then hard-wired, code-based traditions in mind Ada Lovelace conceived the first computer programming language. We've still got the wiring, and technology has reached a point where we've now also got the motivation.

    Lots of women are naturally good at many of the things directly relevant to the evolution of Web 2.0 (I'm sorry, I hate the term too).

    • We understand and maintain complex, extended social networks (thats the social bit brain)
    • We'll work hard to make something look good (thats the vanity bit)
    • We'll work hard to make stuff easy for others to learn and use (this is the nurturing bit)
    • We're pathological consumers - give us interesting things to spend our money on, now!

    In addition:

    • We're good at communicating ideas (boyfriends may disagree)
    • We're aspirational - we want good pay, status, respect and are prepared to work hard for it
    • We love technology - LOVE IT!
    • We can ALWAYS see a way to make/ do something better (there's our competitiveness)

    And so, finally back to Gnome's competitive programming.

    There are girls who understand and use the computer coding systems/ the languages and rules. Generally-speaking, though, girls don't have that need to be admired as programmers.

    We're wired to seek out good fathers for our children, both biological and technological.

    Dr_Bliss xxx

  • While your parents encouraged you to be more well-rounded by going outside, I bet they never indicated to you that you shouldn't be interested at all in computers, by putting the "family" computer in your brother's room as if you'd never need to use it and ignoring your requests for more opportunities to learn about computers. There's still parents that do this to girls, and even parents who try to be equal can inadvertantly overlook their daughters' computer interests because of stereotypes. Also, I bet you never had to walk into a computer classroom where you were the only one that was *different*. In college, one class I took had three girls and the guys made a huge fuss over this ("OMG, I didn't know there were 3 girls in the school!"). It's not hard, as the only girl in class after class, to get teh impression that you just don't belong. It's very lonely as well.

    It's not that women need step-by-step hand holding the entire way, it's that it would be nice to have *some* encouragement, to know that not everyone expects you stop playing with computers and go do something more girly, or even to know that computer science is even an *option* for women.
  • As for male and female brains being different, that is not really an object of discussion - here is an old-ish article discussing the issue:

    You forgot to add that all important disclaimer; On average.

    On average, a lot of things are the case. On average, most people are only in the 50th percentile ability wise. On average, the sun shines for 12 hours each day anywhere in the world. On average a person annual income in the world is ~$6000 [globalrichlist.com].

    The average value of a set of data, sometimes doesn't tell you a whole lot. The difference between the averages of two data sets sometimes tells you even less. In fact, it can sometimes be misleading, as when you combine or compare data, strange things can happen [wikipedia.org].
  • by smudge ( 79563 ) on Friday June 16, 2006 @11:26AM (#15549050)
    I have a CS degree. I am female. I've been in the industry for 25 years. When I 1st started out there were not many women and there still aren't. Back in the 80's there was a push to make us feel welcome. But when you're the only girl in the organization it IS tough. I'd say for the majority of those 25 years the male:female ratio has been like 10:1. I will also step up and say those guys were not all (or even mostly) socially inept nerds.

    When I had my children I had to get 4 levels of (male) management approval to take a leave of absence. 4!!. At 1 point I asked 1 of these males "who takes care of your kids" ... his reply: his wife. And that was the breaking point for me returning to "programming". As a woman I wanted a life outside the office. I'm not saying all men don't or that all women do. But it sure made a differnce to me.

    IMHO: women don't generally feel welcome and we want to have a life. Fixing it is tougher than offering 3 female only opportunities.
  • by technomom ( 444378 ) on Friday June 16, 2006 @12:21PM (#15549441)
    I don't know if things are different now but I do have to say that 25 years ago, it wasn't the men that were trying to keep me out of a career in computer science, it was the women. It was the female teachers at my middle school who couldn't understand why I wanted to take shop instead of sewing class, nuns at my all girl's school trying to talk me out of advanced math classes and into the humanities and older female relatives who on hearing that I was going to engineering school congratulated me because I'd find a husband there.

    I never really saw a lot of "real" sexism from the men in my college. Yeah, I got good-natured ribbing from the guys but it never felt malicious, more like I was among friends. I only heard malicious stuff from women who resented my pursuing a job that could be construed as earning a living.

    My daughter who is 7 now, will NEVER hear that shit from me.

    But, that said, if she's interested in geeky stuff, great. If not, then that's okay too.

  • by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <slashdot...kadin@@@xoxy...net> on Friday June 16, 2006 @12:37PM (#15549556) Homepage Journal
    On a side note, has anyone noticed that there seems to be substantially less interpersonal drama in jobs dominated by men? Men just go to work, take care of business, and leave their personal bs at the door.
    I think we've all noticed: we just don't say a thing about it because to point out any difference between men and women, outside of the obvious biological ones, is to open yourself up (if your are male) to charges of sexism.

    The idea that men and women on average interact with each other differently, and build social networks differently, and maybe even think and problem-solve differently, whether as a result of biology or social conditioning, ought to be pretty plainly obvious to anyone who's worked in a mixed environment for any length of time. However, the current climate discourages consideration of such factors to an almost comically ridiculous extent.

    People are so afraid of ostracism, that they deny what almost anyone, male or female, knows is probably true: at the heart of most stereotypes is a small kernel of truth.
  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday June 16, 2006 @02:06PM (#15550166) Homepage Journal

    ...the people who gain the most won't be the women who get the jobs. It's the people who work with them.

    We discussed this at length in a class I had at college a while back, it was supposed to be an english class but it mostly ended up being a bunch of us debating "the issues". Our general conclusion was that the people who have people affirmatively stuffed into a job position (or class, or...) are the ones who benefit the most because they're exposed to people that they normally wouldn't encounter. This is most significant in school, before people become habitual bigots.

    Forcibly (heh) putting women into technical jobs will benefit them, yes, but they will benefit the rest of us more, not least because actually being in the presence of the opposite gender occasionally is helpful to one's chances of pairing up with one :)

  • by node 3 ( 115640 ) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @04:38PM (#15555873)
    hiring someone merely to balance out a gender ratio is in and of itself sexist

    How do you think a fully competent man would feel knowing he didn't get the job just because an incompetent woman got the job over him just because she's a woman?
    Almost certainly outraged. How do you think a fully competent woman would feel knowing she didn't get the job just because an incompetent man got the job over her just because he's a man?

    The point here, is, that the question is raised as to whether the latter is a significant problem. Both assuredly exist. You raise the question if the former is a significant problem. I don't believe it is, but if it is I agree fully that something must be done about it.

    Not everywhere will you find these preconceived notions of female "inferiority" when it comes to tech. Please keep that in mind.
    It doesn't have to happen everywhere to be a problem, it just has to happen enough. There's always going to be some imbalances and injustices no matter what you do, but at some point the signal becomes stronger than the noise. Given the extreme disparity between men and women in IT/programming/etc, it's certainly warranted to look into it, no?

    Your High School YTE highlights this. If girls outnumber boys in it, what happens between there and their entry into the workforce? It raises another possibility: perhaps the disparity we are seeing today is a result of sexism of the past (60s, 70s, 80s), and as sexism is further decreasing throughout the 90s and 00s, we'll see a marked improvement throughout the 10s and 20s? I really do not know, but it's definitely worth looking into.

Fear is the greatest salesman. -- Robert Klein