zelticgar

The Diversity Pipeline

118 posts in this topic

3 hours ago, Happy Ent said:

I made no claim about any volumes.

I merely claim that Ly’s model (which I largely share) predicts a trend for women to be more active in the Open Source community than outside of it. But we’re seeing the opposite

What we need to explain is the underrepresentation of women even in the unique areas where the arguments from social cues, workplace culture, self-image, etc. are as irrelevant as they can be in any profession. There is nothing like this: no self-thaught lawyers, doctors, priests. But we observe the opposite phenomenon: Woman are even less likely to engage in tech exactly in settings that maximally (but not perfectly) avoid the most powerful explanation of their absence. 

I think this is the major point of disagreement. Becoming a software engineer - independently learned or otherwise - is not irrelevant compared to other places. (You point out one place where it's significantly more irrelevant later). 

The model predicts that outside of environmental factors, things should be better, no? The problem is that 'outside of environmental factors' part. As Lyanna points out, there are a whole lot of environmental factors that have to be overcome for women to go into software engineering, and those factors are only getting worse as social media expands in scope and scale. 

3 hours ago, Happy Ent said:

(On the other hand, women do spectacular work in fanfiction. So an explanation that pretends to address their perceived inability to interact with the open-source community, or just editing bloody Wikipedia, must avoid being used to falsely explain their absence from fanfiction.net.) 

I think this is a mystery. I’d like to understand it better.

The conflating of the open source community of fanfiction vs the open source community of software engineering is probably the biggest blind spot. Just because a community is not beholden to specific private interests does not mean it's egalitarian or particularly inclusive, and software engineers are probably the worst of the lot as far as that goes (second only to the video gamer community). This shouldn't be particularly mysterious; fanfic (and writing) are heavily represented by women and have been for a long time both professionally and for fun; software engineering and computing and communities around them are absurdly not. 

Heck, in the places where fanfic writers thrive, they tend to be heavily feminist-skewing as well. Tumblr has been one of the biggest boons for fanfic spreading and discussion, and it is heavily favoring social justice to the point where videogame culture actively hates it. 

Ignoring this seems like a confirmation bias in that you believe institutions are automatically less egalitarian than open groups, which is odd given what I perceive your personal views of humans are like. 

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1 hour ago, Kalbear said:

Ignoring this seems like a confirmation bias in that you believe institutions are automatically less egalitarian than open groups, which is odd given what I perceive your personal views of humans are like. 

I don’t think egalitarianism enters my model at all. (To the extent that I have one — I remain genuinely puzzled by the phenomenon, and would take any explanatory model with both hands.)

Software development, just like many other STEM fields, is anything but egalitarian. (I very much hope the same is true for, say, law or medicine.)

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2 minutes ago, Happy Ent said:

I don’t think egalitarianism enters my model at all. (To the extent that I have one — I remain genuinely puzzled by the phenomenon, and would take any explanatory model with both hands.)

Software development, just like many other STEM fields, is anything but egalitarian. (I very much hope the same is true for, say, law or medicine.)

I don't know what other explanation you can offer that explains why your assumption is that open source or an open community should be more egalitarian than other systems, then. Why would you say this, otherwise?

Quote

I merely claim that Ly’s model (which I largely share) predicts a trend for women to be more active in the Open Source community than outside of it. But we’re seeing the opposite. 

The assumption is that the open source community should somehow be less exclusive than outside of it here - why? The only rational basis for this that I can think of is that you believe that institutional systems are more exclusive than open communities. 

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2 hours ago, Kalbear said:

As Lyanna points out, there are a whole lot of environmental factors that have to be overcome for women to go into software engineering, […]

(For the record, I just find software engineering boring as fuck. And I’m a CS professor. People who are disincentivized by a profession that is both difficult, highly competitive, lonely, socially ostracised, and boring as fuck don’t pose a mystery to me. I agree with them. That is my primary bias.)

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Just now, Kalbear said:

I don't know what other explanation you can offer that explains why your assumption is that open source or an open community should be more egalitarian than other systems, then. Why would you say this, otherwise?

I don’t think I said it’s more egalitarian, and I apologise if my posts allowed that reading.

In fact, when you phrase it this way, my hunch is that it’s the opposite: the open source community is more meritocratic. But I haven’t thought about this aspect much at all.

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Just now, Happy Ent said:

(For the record, I just find software engineering boring as fuck. And I’m a CS professor. People who are disincentivized by a profession that is both difficult, highly competitive, lonely, socially ostracised, and boring as fuck don’t pose a mystery to me. I agree with them. That is my primary bias.)

I think this was true a while ago, and is no longer nearly so much the case. Software engineering is trending significantly towards the startup/small group model, where people are in open spaces, they're collaborating more, they're pair programming more, they're communicating more and they're asking more questions up front. As someone who hires programmers regularly we would have massive alarm bells if we were interviewing someone who worked alone, who wanted to be competitive, who acted socially ostracized and treated the work as fairly mundane. Hackathons and group programming are the norm now, and they're the norm because they're a lot more fun and more successful. This is especially true for those just coming out of college, where they expect team projects and cramming and working together. 

I'm honestly not aware of any big company that does their business routinely as closed office/single person working environment, and startups really can't do that by their need for so many hats. You see this in the architecture of new offices and the culture of the place. 

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Just now, Kalbear said:

I think this was true a while ago, and is no longer nearly so much the case. Software engineering is trending significantly towards the startup/small group model, where people are in open spaces, they're collaborating more, they're pair programming more, they're communicating more and they're asking more questions up front.

Yes. I’d run away screaming today even more than I did 20 years ago. You’re not selling this well to me!

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Just now, Happy Ent said:

Yes. I’d run away screaming today even more than I did 20 years ago. You’re not selling this well to me!

That wasn't my goal; my goal was to say that the days of software engineers being lonely people working by themselves without much in the way of collaboration, communication or talking are not particularly common even in the most rigid of places. If you'd find that boring too, that's cool - but your description of what software engineering was like 20 years ago isn't particularly applicable today. 

 

3 minutes ago, Happy Ent said:

I don’t think I said it’s more egalitarian, and I apologise if my posts allowed that reading.

In fact, when you phrase it this way, my hunch is that it’s the opposite: the open source community is more meritocratic. But I haven’t thought about this aspect much at all.

My personal experience is that so long as you fit a certain profile - someone who is exceptionally willing to argue their point, work alone, defend their side and get very emotionally involved - it is meritocratic to a degree. Towards the top you get people who do things based largely on their rep, not their current work, but earlier it's a very combative system. 

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9 minutes ago, Kalbear said:

That wasn't my goal; my goal was to say that the days of software engineers being lonely people working by themselves without much in the way of collaboration, communication or talking are not particularly common even in the most rigid of places. If you'd find that boring too, that's cool - but your description of what software engineering was like 20 years ago isn't particularly applicable today. 

Point taken.

You do correctly point to an interesting development. Since I listen to lots of opinions from a variety of sources on this particular topic:

Until now, computing has been moderately successful in attracting the same type of girls that it attract in men: awkward introverts with good logical skills. (Ly can probably supply the correct four-letter categorisation.) As you point out, the self-image of SD is shifting towards an interactionist and relationship model that suddenly favour interpersonal skills, empathy, verbal intelligence, charm, good looks, social manipulation, etc. However, in this space of competencies, SD is extremely unattractive compared to other professions that appeal to the same types, but do so even better. Now, the Communications Department asks, what should we do for branding? Should we scare away the (already very tiny and much sought-after) population of solid introverts by selling even this field as a noisy, interpersonal activity? (The introverts then go back to maths or physics.) Is this strategically sound? (Is it even moral?)

I don’t know the answer to this question. (Neither does anybody else, by the way. But other people at least have opinions.) I’m honestly curious to see some arguments that I may have overlooked.

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11 hours ago, Happy Ent said:

(However, it is possible that your chromosomes determine how much weight you attach to group membership. So while both sexes are disincentivized by the prospect of belonging to that group, they may react to that marker with different strength. Morlock/Eloi etc.)

Just a side point - if the research in question is simplifying sex down to chromosome only then its outdated research. Its possible that this is a more nuanced take and looking at chromosomes influenced behavior beyond the outward markers, but if so that's unusual so not my default assumption.

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6 hours ago, karaddin said:

Just a side point - if the research in question is simplifying sex down to chromosome only then its outdated research. Its possible that this is a more nuanced take and looking at chromosomes influenced behavior beyond the outward markers, but if so that's unusual so not my default assumption.

You raise at least one very important point: Even though gross gender stereotyping (say, simplifying sex down to chromosome) is normally a completely valid way to explain observed differences in group behaviour (because of effect sizes), it is very unclear what the explanatory power is for individuals that lie at the cognitive extremes.

To phrase this differently: “Women” and “men” can be characterised in many different ways, including chromosomes or self-assigned gender role. None of this matters much for understanding differences in group averages because the definitions overlap in the general populations. But… this argument completely disappears when discussing “women who X” and “men who X” (where X is “have an IQ over 120” or “like maths” or “read science books for fun” or “are socially maladjusted” or “self-identify as sentient trees”) because these subgroups are small and heavily selected, so the original definitions suddenly may become extremely correlated with X.

That being said, a constant source of frustration in this entire debate is the unwillingness to even agree on an epistemological framework. Many conversations could be improved by stating up-front which source of knowledge (disciplines, discursive traditions, sciences, epistemologies) can be brought to the table, and which are viewed as toxic to the debate.

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Just to be clear, while my feelings on the matter of how we define sex and gender are well known to everyone here my point was purely commentary on the studies themselves rather than my more typical point. I think for the purposes of a conversation that primarily focuses on societal factors the way a person identifies and presents in society are the pertinent piece of information for how these societal factors will influence them. Although I certainly have first hand familiarity with how these things can influence you even without that conscious identification. If you're going down this particular rabbit hole I'd also make a point about trans women being much more highly represented in IT than cis women as a percentage of each population, and I do not believe (though I don't have studies to hand to support this) that this can be explained by any neurological differences as none have been identified.

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32 minutes ago, karaddin said:

If you're going down this particular rabbit hole I'd also make a point about trans women being much more highly represented in IT than cis women as a percentage of each population, and I do not believe (though I don't have studies to hand to support this) that this can be explained by any neurological differences as none have been identified.

Oh, I absolutely think this is a rabbit hole worth pursuing, and would welcome more studies about it. I talk to a lot of people about exactly this issue.  

(Studies don’t have to focus on neurology. The space of valid explanations is vast, and tests the limits of my understanding of neuroanatomy, cognitive science, hormones, genes, politics, embryology, postmodern studies, differential psychology, economics, etc. It’s the perfect question for epistemological omnivores such as myself.)

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On 2017-06-28 at 2:39 PM, Happy Ent said:

I should have flagged my sarcasm. My point was that nobody wants to be a software developer. It is a socially ostracised group, made fun of on an industrial scale. Belonging to this group is unattractive, no matter your chromosomes.  

(However, it is possible that your chromosomes determine how much weight you attach to group membership. So while both sexes are disincentivized by the prospect of belonging to that group, they may react to that marker with different strength. Morlock/Eloi etc.)

Id' say it varies by gender, not sex, since it is a strong social component, not something to do with a biological function, but apart from nomenclature, I'd say there is definitely a stronger social incentive for women not to enter CS. And as various anecdotes from just about every woman in engineering can tell you, even in feminazi bastion of IKEA-land, you WILL encounter problems when both female and in tech/engineering.

Interestingly, I was at a hen night not long ago with people I didn't know apart from the impending bridge, all women, all in construction/engineering/IT/biotech, and a LOT of what we discussed was our various experiences of having to deal with prejudice. Not one of them said "wow, I have never encountered anything like that", instead we all recognised eachother's experiences, lots of "rolleyes" at the stupid we have had to endure, how we all had to fight to be trusted and listened to, and that this is ongoing, it is not something of the past.

However, as @Lily Valley pointed out, this is far easier to deal with in areas where you reach critical mass. Once you do, the work places and organisations generally become better places for women to be in, both because you aren't the Token Girl (which is tiresome as ALL HELL) and listening and valuing women's contributions will be something people will have to get used to.

I can't understand why you think it a mystery that women avoid spaces which is extremely male dominated. How do you think it feels to be the only woman in a huge group of men? How do you think people generally treat you? Do you think there will be no bias in how all the men look at this one woman's contributions at all?

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52 minutes ago, Lyanna Stark said:

I can't understand why you think it a mystery that women avoid spaces which is extremely male dominated.

That’s not the mystery. The mystery is why they don’t. (For instance, they do become lawyers now.)

The explanation for their absence in CS must avoid falsely predicting their absence in Law, or Soccer. That is much harder to do. (For medical and clerical professions there is a good way of avoiding this trap.)

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1 minute ago, Happy Ent said:

That’s not the mystery. The mystery is why they don’t. (For instance, they do become lawyers now.)

The explanation for their absence in CS must avoid falsely predicting their absence in Law, or Soccer. That is much harder to do. (For medical and clerical professions there is a good way of avoiding this trap.)

Actually, they are avoiding large swathes of the practice of law - i.e., heavily transactional practices.  I think you will also find that women aren't equally represented across medical specialties either.

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Just now, Mlle. Zabzie said:

Actually, they are avoiding large swathes of the practice of law - i.e., heavily transactional practices.  I think you will also find that women aren't equally represented across medical specialties either.

Yes, there is much more to be said here. All of this is extremely interesting, and seems to be a useful source of data for understanding these issues. (But I’d be surprised if there was an easy answer.)

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22 minutes ago, Happy Ent said:

Yes, there is much more to be said here. All of this is extremely interesting, and seems to be a useful source of data for understanding these issues. (But I’d be surprised if there was an easy answer.)

Nope.  No easy answers or fixes.

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@Happy Ent: The nature of the problem is one of feedback loops and snowball effects, both of which have chaotic impacts (in the mathematical sense that two infinitesimally close starting points can end up with wildly disparate outcomes). Is that not a sufficient explanation for why industries with similar characteristics can end up with different gender ratios?

ST

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@Happy Ent

I just wanted to state for the record that I have found physicists to be MUCH more social and gregarious than engineers.  Science requires collaborative effort.  Most grad classes are structured so that if you do not work with your peers, you have an undoable amount of work.  At least mine was.  

I think the reason for the small number of women in the field is lack of early exposure.  In that regard, I am part of the problem.  I personally would not teach children because the salary is not enough for me to put up with administrators, parents, and mornings.  Especially mornings.  Most kids do get get to meet a physicist until college.  By then most young people have decided a major.  Also, lecture teaching of non-calculus based physics is boring.  Most labs are boring too.  They are often ahead of lecture and use a "paint by numbers" set of instructions that are as much fun as putting together Ikea furniture.

/rant

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