women in computing

The reasons behind the dearth of women in computing and engineering require more research to understand fully, but if a large portion of women aren’t interested in studying those subjects, it would be unwise to force them. Requiring people to study a subject in order to meet a contrived balance is just as bad as restricting them from entering areas they’re passionate about. Granted, the cause may be that women have been discouraged from pursuing careers in engineering since their childhood, but that’s pure speculation. Anecdotal evidence from a book on raising children claims that if you give a boy a doll and a girl a truck, the girl will baby the truck and put it to bed while the boy will rip the doll apart. Whether that’s due to nature or nurture has yet to be determined empirically, but if women prefer different areas of study than men, what would be gained by increasing the number of women studying subject areas that don’t interest them? Men and women differ in many ways and it can be dangerous to assume that anything one gender enjoys will be just as enjoyable to the opposite gender. In areas where men and women differ, it could be a positive and complimentary difference, not an area needing reform. A passion for the subject is most important, regardless of the subject area or gender


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  1. Not relevant to computers specifically, but I think it was Phil Greenspun who recently wrote a little essay mentioning the possibility that perhaps women don’t go into science because it doesn’t pay off. He suggests men are more likely to stick with it anyway due to the fact that they like to prove themselves to their peer group, while women are a little more practical in that regard. I dunno how much merit that viewpoint has, but it was an interesting perspective.

    Comment by Levi on March 3, 2006 @ 3:36 pm
  2. I don’t know if perhaps this post was related to the Harvard president Lawrence (Larry) Summers’ comments of some time ago, who recently stepped down, or was fired. I do not think his job change was entirely because of his comments/questions about why fewer women pursued technical degrees and education, or were in the higher levels of technical education, but that was a part of the whole situation, along with the perhaps less sensitive/genteel way he raised this and other loaded issues. I wish I had more time to write — interesting, risky topic. :)

    Comment by DaveH on March 10, 2006 @ 2:09 pm

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