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Comment Re:Assumptions? (Score 3, Insightful) 441

I agree. I think though there is something of a business case in that, once you've got a good core team (if the team is large enough) there's something to be gained by broadening the experiences of new team members.

But that's not really my point. It's more about 'why is diversity a good thing?' And it's a good thing becuase you don't want to exclude good people for arbitrary reasons.

Now if you start from today, there's only so much you can do, because a great many potentially very good people have already been excluded. They were excluded by parents, teachers, the media and every other influence that helps to convince girls (and perhaps ethnic minorities, I'm not sure) that tech is not for them. I don't think it's done deliberately, it's just where we are.

I think I'm beginning to see that the reason what I wrote was seen as trolling might be because it was assumed I was being politically correct?

In fact it's a business case issue for me. You want the best people for your industry, you want the largest pool of talent from which to recruit. To get the largest pool of talant you want schools pushing those with an aptitude for engineering towards the topics at which they excel (assuming that's what the individual wants).

If you're (inadvertantly) steering a future mathematics prodigy into humanities because 'girls don't do that sort of thing' you're harming everyone.

That's what diversity is about - not excluding people based on race, gender or sex. And that surely is not controversial?

Comment Re:Assumptions? (Score 1) 441

I agree entirely, and if the workforce does not reflect the local demographic, either way, well there's some evidence of discrimination right there (and I am against 'quotas' and 'affermative action' and so on).

But the question was about the 'assumption' that diversity is a good thing. I think it clearly is a good thing because you don't want to exclude part of your demographic through any means, not just through biases in the selection panel of a specific job.

I think it begins early on, when young girls see 'themselves' on TV playing with dolls, and 'their brothers' playing with Lego. It gets confirmed all through their formative years until they make their choices at university. Fewer women taking tech because tech has very few women...

They are 'excluded' by our societies, and I really don't know if it can be solved. One thing that interestes me is that my wife is and engineer and I am a scientist, I am a stay-at-home Dad. Yet my son has been drawn to science growing up and my daughter not. It was an absolute surprise to me, and made me question my own bias that environment was eveything and innate preference irrelevant.

So perhaps where we are is inevitable, and if we start again with 50/50 male/female everywhere, within a hundred years we would have the same gender split in industry that we have right now?

Comment Re:Assumptions? (Score 1) 441

There are so many complex interactions I wonder whether there will ever be a solution. I think it's pretty self-evident that minorities of any type are less likely to join a homogeneous group. In the UK there has been an effort since introducing tuition fees to attract 'poor' applicants to 'rich' universities, and it's largely been a failure.

In the case of ethnic groups there isn't much choice - it's uni or no uni. And that needs to begin at an early age, and poverty must play a large part in how likely it is someone gets a good education, and poverty is more prevelant amongst non-white (or it is in my part of the world).

  In the case of attracting female applicants, it's more about attracting them to tech rather than (say) humanities. This also starts at an early age, but I think here the split applies equally to male and female with respect to poverty.

As for us all being 'the same' I don't think there's any doubt that there is variation between sexes. However this variation seems to be less marked than the variation between individuals. I don't know enough to know whether there is variation between 'races', but if there is, I would expect it to be far less marked than between sexes.

I guess the real interesting question is that if you could erase history, and start from 50/50 male/female in every subject area, whether there would be a gradual drift, over generations, to the position we are in now?

Comment Re:Assumptions? (Score 1) 441


If you exclude most women you reduce the population from which you recruit by around 50%.

If you exclude most 'non-whites' you reduce that population still further.

I just don't understand why people here are so hostile to this simple idea?

(Yes, of course there are far fewer women with the training and interest to compete in the tech jobs market, but that's the whole point! Fix that, and the rest follows...)

Comment Re:40%? (Score 0, Troll) 441

The argument runs like this:

We 'assume' that innate interpersonal differences within groups, so that the outliers may be predominantly men at one end and women at the other, or 'white' one end and 'black' the other. But the majority of the distribution is not a homogenous group.

We 'assume' that in most parts of 'the West' the population is almost 50/50 male/female.

So first off we can see that excluding females (choice of toys in infancy, inadvertent influences in childhood, unfriendly environment in tech classes at college, lack of role models in industry, sexism on tech forums, harrassment at work, blatant discrimination) will reduce the pool of candidates by about 50%.

Then we 'assume' that there are plenty of areas where the population is around 80/20 white/minority ethnic and exclude those with a minority ethnic background in the same way. So now the pool of candidates is 40%.

Of course you can argue that if all negative bias is removed, women will never like tech so much, or ethnic minorities will never understand maths as well. That's a totally different argument (and one that's increasingly difficult to make, I think, and it was never an easy one to make to begin with).

But that is where my 40% figure was pulled from, out of thin air, and I'm surpised it has turned out to be controversial!

Comment Re:Would you look at that (Score 4, Insightful) 441

I found it a very interesting and quite moving post.

I'm a white male from a relatively privilaged background, yet I have felt like an outsider many times over the last thirty years of my career. Yet if I choose to I can put on a cheap suit and smile and most people's first impression of me will be 'he's one of us'.

When people start to get to know you they pick up, of course, on the things you do and say that are not quite what they expect, and some will dislike that, and some of those people will turn to harrassment and bullying.

Now, I cannot imagine how difficult it must be to begin at the point where one or two people have taken to bullying, and the rest are reticent about chatting and socialising. It certainly can't be easy (well it could be, I suppose, if you're a sociopath and simply don't care what others think of you).

If you spend long enough somewhere, and you are basically a good person, then of course you will end up with friends who like you for who you are. But getting to that point takes time, causes stress for many, even when you feel welcome and people are supportive. Getting to that point when you already feel you don't belong must take tremendous strenght of character, and I know there's no way I could have gotten through what she has.

Comment Re:Assumptions? (Score 0, Troll) 441

Isn't it because without diversity (ie without female and/or ethnic minority) you inevitably recruit from less than 50% (and possibly less than 40%) of the potential pool of talent?

It's rather like asking why it might be bad for innovation if we were only able to offer technology related jobs to those whose surnames begin with the letters A to M...

Comment Re:Jungles, but I'm too scared (Score 1) 246

I'm guessing you would have recognised stinging nettles.

The other plant in the UK that 'stings' is giant hogweed. I've never come across it but it is supposed to be widespread. The sap causes burns and scarring. There was a campaign about 40 years ago to warn children about it and I remember someone coming into our school with pictures of it - it looks a bit like cow parsley but grows much bigger.

Comment Re:Jungles, but I'm too scared (Score 1) 246

Hadn't heard that - just looked it up; interesting.

Strangely enough I've seen adders only a couple of times, once near some cliffs in Devon close to home and another time about half a dozen on moorland in Cornwall in the middle of a path. I've lived in the countryside all my life so I guess I think of adders as unlikely attackers, a bit like hornets. I've heard Giant Hogweed is about the worst plant in the UK but I've never seen it (as far as I know!).

Comment Jungles, but I'm too scared (Score 1) 246

In the UK there is pretty much nothing that can hurt you by way of flora and fawna (bee stings and bramble prickles aside).

I would love to trek through a rain forest but I'm just too scared of biting insects, angry animals and the myriad of harmful things that might make me uncomfortable or worse.

Comment Re:To me, this is a step backwards (Score 2) 208

My wife is an engineer and I trained as a cognitive scientist. When my daughter was born we both fully expected her to have no interest in 'girly' things, especially as the house was already full of interesting 'boy' stuff from her brother. My wife has no make-up, a couple of dresses for formal occasions, no shoes with heels... hopefully you get the picture.

At every step she has chosen the stereotypical girl toys, the colours pink and purple, fairy stuff, pretty dresses and so on. She nagged us for make-up for dressing up, and when we said no she improvised with felt-tip pens. She dresses her dolls and puts them to bed each night, reads to her cuddly toys and hangs up her dancing dresses in order of size, colour or favoritesest.

I'm rather glad it turned out that way because she is popular at school and I know she won't suffer some of the cruelty my wife did as a child growing up slightly different to the other girls in her class.

But nevertheless it continues to amaze me that she fits with her peer group for toys, interests and preferences and it seems to have made no difference whatsoever that she is surrounded by science and 'boy stuff' at home.

And she did not play with lego at all, despite having access to large amounts of duplo, technical lego and a range of figures until I bought her the pink fairy castle set.

It bothers me too about branding things gender specific and all the pink and purple and stars and rainbows. It's a self-serving cycle and I don't see a way out short of legislation. It's harmless enough to begin with, but the danger is that no boy would be seen with a 'girls toy' or 'girls book' and that a lot of girls think 'boys stuff' is boring, or worse convince themselves they don't like it just because they think it's not for them...

Comment Re:Dumb logic (Score 2) 747

Those who are against vaccination believe there is a connection. I think it could be easier to convince them that vaccination is the lesser of two evils than that there is, in fact, no connection.

A slogan that says something along the lines of 'Death from measles or autism, which is best for your child?' might be more successful with these people than 'the evidence does not support a link between vaccination and autism'

Comment Re:Intent vs. Goofing around. (Score 1) 99

That's a good question. In the UK it used to be the case that the main funding councils (known collectively as RCUK) would fund any original research based on its contribution to the field. Under the 'Pathways to Impact' criteria all RCUK and most of the other councils require a submission with all applications stating to whom the research might be useful and how they will benefit. In theory there does not need to be an economic benefit provided there is some societal benefit (for example digitising and annotating an original manuscript for distribution via the web). However with science and engineering, commercialisation seems to rate very highly in deciding who gets funded and who doesn't.

There are a few funding councils not part of RCUK that currently do not seem to require impact plans. One is the British Academy, which will fund researchers at any higher or further education establishment in the UK in the same way that they all used to. The trend though does seem to be away from esoteric research and towards more 'results oriented' projects, with data management plans, project management, risk assessment, stakeholder analysis and so on becoming de rigueur even with charity-funded calls.

I don't know about other countries though, it could be that they are looking at us with bafflement wondering how on earth we think we can predict the unexpected outcomes we want before they've happened...

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