Thursday, July 29, 2010


What year is it? 'Cause last time I checked, we were out of medieval times and women were actually being accepted as functional members of society. How is it that a subject as benign as Women in Computer Science could bring so many closed-minded, sexist extremists out of the woodwork to pollute the airwaves with comments of negativity and hate? If you're not familiar with the current debate over Google supporting women in CS, here's a link that will bring you up to date.

First, let me state that I don't consider myself a feminist. As far as I'll go in that direction is "Femininist," a trait that I blogged about just shy of two years ago. And while I don't go around bashing men or blogging about the supremacy of women, I do believe that women can do whatever men can do...even if they accomplish it differently.

I was so mortified by some of the comments in the twittersphere that I couldn't focus as I headed to teach my CIS170 class yesterday. I was still shaken when I got there, so we took a little time out and I decided to have a discussion with them. My students are from all over the world, diversified in age and plan to go into a varied mix of majors. Of those 10 students, only one was of the opinion that men were better than women at logic and math. He said it was a fact. But he said women were better at languages, so that made it okay.

The other students were just about as in awe of the situation as I am. Many of them are going in to fields where women are an equal or greater percentage of the population, so they're quite comfortable working with the female gender. Not one of my students had an issue with a private company offering grants to help underrepresented groups attend a prestigious conference.

I mentioned that I could understand that filling chairs with unqualified women would be an abomination (trust me, it doesn't make us look good to be filler) but if the women are equally qualified and need extra encouragement to attend an event such as this, I see no problem in offering that encouragement. To me, it's the difference between "This group is underrepresented in a field that could benefit from having more people like them." and "We just like this group better." The first is commendable, the second is not.

In my opinion, Google is simply adding depth and diversity to a field that is currently risking levels of stagnation due to the lopsidedness of the participants. If we can fill out the base of creativity a little more, it will benefit everyone. Oh, and in case you're wondering, we're not *taking* jobs from anyone. According to NCWIT, almost half of the CS jobs out there will be unfilled by the year 2018. We need more people, period. Our largest untapped resources just happen to be women and non-white men. Let's tap that!

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