Tag Archives: computer science

Macho, macho ‘spam, I want to be a macho ‘spam (8th April, 2010)

  • jesstess at Stemming wants to motivate programming for a twelve year old girl. Head on over and give her ideas.
  • There’s discussion following on from Cath Elliott’s admiration of The Lord of the Rings in The Guardian (linkspammed here):
    • Tolkien’s Ladies: Is Geek Culture Female-Friendly? Anna N doesn’t think feminists need an “excuse” to like things, but also doesn’t think Eowyn alone makes LOTR especially feminist.
    • Feminism vs geek culture?: liliacsigil notes that Anna N is talking about commercially produced geek media, and that geek culture is not monolithic and has many women and feminists, and returns to the issue of “strong women characters” in geek media.
  • Study: Pay, Promotion Limits Lead Women to Exit Engineering: ‘What’s for sure is that “it’s not about math or getting your hands dirty,” says Hunt. “It’s not because these women mistakenly wandered into engineering.'”. (Also, WTF at ad inserted into the article: “See iPhone apps for new moms.”)
  • Girls abandon dolls for Web-based toys: an anecdote-driven story about possible new play styles among girls.
  • Being Inclusive vs Not Being Exclusive: ‘A group of people put on some creative project, and someone notices that there’s a lack of representation of X Minority for whatever reason, sometimes noting that they themselves are in the minority. The people organising the project get defensive and say “But we’re not excluding anyone! We are open to everybody! They just need to sign on!†There is a huge difference between not being exclusive and being inclusive.’ (Via FWD.)
  • Five+ Ways Being Transgender in Fandom Really Sucks, and Why I Stick With It Anyway: iambic writes about his experiences as a trans fan.
  • Research Conversations: Munmun De Choudhury writes about her computer science research on homophily in social networks, that is, similar people forming connections.
  • In Australia the Victorian Department of Transport is offering $10 000 Women in Transport Scholarships to female, full-time or part-time students starting or completing postgraduate studies in transport-related fields.
  • Carnivals: Feminist Blog Carnival No. 16 and 23rd Down Under Feminist Carnival

If you have links of interest, please share them in comments here, or if you’re a delicious user, tag them “geekfeminism†to bring them to our attention. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links in comments and on delicious.

Geek culture stereotypes and women’s responses

Links to Lisa Grossman’s Of Geeks and Girls have been turning up everywhere. She’s recounting work by Sapna Cheryan asking women about their interest in computing, in their case rooms that are decorated such that “Star Wars posters adorned the walls, discarded computer parts and cans of Coke clustered on a table” and showing that they are much less likely to agree that they have any interest in computer science. (Grossman does not report how men responded: surely Cheryan’s work used male subjects as well?)

The article goes on to caution though that while geek culture stereotypes seem to alienate women to some degree, dismantling the whole culture is not the solution:

But what about the women who do think like computer scientists? What of the girl geeks?

Cheryan has given talks where the audience doubted the existence of girl geeks. She’s also given talks to girl geeks. There, she has received responses such as, “I’m a female engineer, and I like Star Trek! What are you trying to say?†She explains that her studies aren’t supposed to give a picture of what computer scientists are actually like. The geek room is a caricature. “We couldn’t have found a room in the CS building that really looked like that,†she says. But the perception it captures is real.

It’s a fairly frequent response to geek feminism to argue that it’s an attempt to destroy geek culture, or at best that it’s a zero sum game: the number of women who would join a more feminist geek culture would be equalled by the number of men who would leave; occasionally this argument essentially boils down to “I’m here to get the hell away from women” but more commonly it’s along the lines of “I’m here to get the hell away from mainstream social norms, I like the social norms in geekdom, you’re trying to turn them into mainstream social norms, ew.” This reminds me of that response, but from women. We’re here for the geekdom. We talk about what we want to change; we should also talk about what we want to keep.

You’re welcome to discuss Cheryan’s work and Grossman’s take on it in general in comments here (worth remembering though that we generally don’t have perfect insight into our prejudices, so you may or may not be more turned off by discarded computer parts than you think), but I specifically wanted to ask women who see themselves as part of geek culture, or a geek culture, what are the parts of it that you enjoy and that you’re hoping to open up to more women?

Two more women-learning-python things

First up, via Nat at O’Reilly Radar, I found a link to Julie Learns Python, where Julie Steele is blogging her experiences learning the programming language.

She’s meeting regularly with a group who are working through an introductory Python book together, and her most recent post describes a recent programming effort, her trials and failures and eventual success, and what she came to realise:

The point is: it’s in me. I wasn’t sure that is was, and now I know—it is.

And what, exactly, is “it� It is the bug. It is the combination of native curiosity and stubbornness that made me play around with the code and take some wild guesses instead of running straight to Google (or choosing to stay within the bounds of the exercise). That might sound like a small thing, but I know it is not. I was determined to make the program do what I wanted it to do, I came up with a few guesses as to how to do that, and I kept trying different things until I succeeded (and then I felt thrilled).

As much as I have to learn, I know now that I really am hooked. And that I’ll get there.

Elsewhere, on Dreamwidth1, Elz, one of the lead programmers on the OTW’s Archive Of Our Own2, decided that there were some gaps in her education that she wanted to fill, and is drawing together a group who will study MIT’s Open Courseware Introduction to Computer Science over the next few months.

The course teaches basic CS concepts using the Python programming language, and doesn’t require any previous programming experience.

The community’s at intro-to-cs.dreamwidth.org. You’ll need a Dreamwidth account to join and post, but anyone’s welcome to follow along without signing up. If you want a DW invite code, let me know in comments — I’ve got a heap still to give away! I’ve signed up, because I’m sure my education’s got a lot of the same gaps.

I love hearing about women teaching themselves programming. Got any other links or stories like that to share?


How does biology explain the low numbers of women in computer science? Hint: it doesn’t.

It comes up a lot in discussions of women in computer science, women who write code, women in open source. Eventually, someone brings up the fact that women score slightly lower on math tests. Clearly, they claim, this biological inferiority must explain why there are fewer women in math heavy fields.

It sounds like a compelling reason, and it gets a lot of play. Except, you know what? It’s a lie.

I’m a mathematician. I’ve looked at those numbers, I’ve read some papers. The research into biologically-linked ability is fascinating, but it simply isn’t significant enough to explain the huge gender gap we see in the real world. I used to do this presentation on the back of a napkin for people who tried to spout this misconception to my face, and I finally put it online:

Love it? Hate it? Learn something? Catch the Mathnet reference? Let me know.

Revenge of the Link Roundup (August 17th, 2009)