Common arguments re: Women in Tech

(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻ You know, I get really tired of seeing these same arguments every time anybody mentions the lack of women in tech. Like we can’t just discuss it on its own, a group of people need to swoop in and immediately start throwing around these examples; it isn’t a problem, women are just that way! — And, of course, most of these people who claim it isn’t a problem are men. I posted one time in a YouTube video about getting women in tech and for well over a year I was receiving vitriolic replies because how dare I state that I’d like to get more girls watching my programming videos.

A posting on Facebook by Chuck. It says, “A sad graphic for women in Comp Sci.” and highlights a graph of womens’ careers, with all going up – except Computer Science, which drops in the 1980s.

Why am I posting this? Because this thread came up, while I was out minding my own business, and made my day worse by spiking my anxiety and stress level.

The post itself – not a big deal, just showing a graphic of women in CS going down since the 1980s. Instead of asking “why the 1980s?” the thread was immediately taken over by men explaining it is not a problem. It’s womens’ faults; they’re just not into it. If you try to push them into it, then you’re a horrible person.

Completely ignoring the graph and the question – why was it going up, and then fell in the 1980s?

And I’ve dealt with this before. Two years ago, I posted a comment on YouTube that I still received responses to up until 7 months ago, along the same lines. My post about girls interested in tech was met with the same hate and anger that I dare even bring such things up. And YouTube comments aren’t the only place you’ll hear this shit. It doesn’t matter where you are, if you bring up a pipeline problem or a retention problem, you’re the bad person for trying to force girls and women into the field. Why are you bringing this up? It is a non-issue!

Women just aren’t that into tech.

Content warning: Sexism, racism, transphobia.


As a note: I, myself, identify more as genderfluid… mostly agender, but professionally I present myself as feminine and use feminine pronouns and whatever else because correcting people just isn’t that important to me. So for this I am speaking as a woman in tech.


Exhibit A: Women and men are just wired differently.

actuatedgear posts, “You DON’T. You just don’t. By and large, women are NOT programmers. Its not because they cant. Its because they don’t. They don’t want to. It is contrary to their biological tendencies on average to work at ALL, let alone in a highly specialized, highly technical field.”

Radel Gratereaux Gautreaux posts, “Has it ever ocurred to you that, maybe, you don’t need to even that out?
You know, the hole feminism thing… wasn’t about women doing what they want? If they don’t want videogames as much as men do, then that’s their decision.”

There are a lot of reasons why there aren’t a lot of women in tech. There’s a pipeline problem (exposure, education, encouragement), as well as a retention problem (being a woman and/or a person of color in a male-dominated field is exhausting).

Role models – Women can program, and they do program, and women have been part of computer science since the beginning – but how many of you know that? How many womens’ names are swept under the rug in the history of anything, in favor of praising names like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs? Perhaps you’ve heard of Ada Lovelace, or Grace Hopper, but what about Stephanie Shirley? There are women, queer, and PoC role-models out there in tech, but you just haven’t heard of them. Why is that?

And as much as men like to argue that, “Well, if women were really into computers, then they would just do it, even if none of the visible role-models look like them”, it is difficult – not because women are weak, no. Men get inundated with plenty of examples of role-models that look like them in one way or another; men can take it for granted. In a sense, they’re blind to the lack of diversity because they haven’t had to think about it, because they are satiated with all they need to get into the field – unless they’re a man of color.

Appearance – Another problem with tech is its appearance. I think that in our culture, we still see programmers as nerdy, 20-something white men, overly concerned with scifi television and not having much of a life outside of the internet. But in professional settings, I’ve worked with software developers with a vast array of interests. Many programmers are sporty and active, or love to travel, or do other “non-computer-nerd” hobbies. But when the images of a career field from the outside seems just like the domain of 20-something fratboys with nerf guns, not everybody wants to be part of that.

I actually wrote a lot about this in my BNE: Women in Computers essay that has more data behind it. I hear a lot of arguments that, “well if women really loved computers, they’d put up with the shit and just do it” – but life isn’t so simple, and people aren’t so simple. Some may continue pressing forward in a field despite hardships, and some may not, whether or not they love the field, like the field, are good in the field, etc. People who don’t have to deal with the countless microaggressions and overt problems just don’t see how much that can affect a person: their mental health, their happiness, their ability to focus and get things done.


Exhibit B: There’s no problem with the tech field being mostly men.

A post by Kristoffer that says, ” Women make different choices it would seem. Show me statistics that indicate any problems with that and I’d be happy to join in your sorrow. For now I’ll just respect that there are inherent gender differences which seem to include what majors each gender finds interesting to pursue. As far as I know there are virtually 0 majors which are 100% gender balanced, and with all the new genders popping up every day maybe they’ll never be.”

“Just because tech is dominated by men doesn’t mean we have to change it.”

Except that it makes better products, better workplaces, and a better environment. Bringing in people from many backgrounds can help your company solve problems or come up with unique designs, they can point out problems that a homogeneous group may overlook – for example, seat belts are less safe for women. (See: The World is Designed for Men)

You can see this in any design dominated for one group. The video, “How architecture changes for the Deaf“, was really awe-inspiring for me, and eye-opening at how our architecture is built in a specific way that presents challenges for Deaf people. If you told a group of people who were all hearing to design a building for Deaf people, do you think they would be particularly effective at it without working with Deaf people?


Exhibit C: If women really are paid less, then why don’t business only hire women?

Jacob writes, “so I could save money by hiring an all female work force? seams legit..”

Kristoffer writes, “Do you honestly believe women who are more qualified earn 20-30% less? Why aren’t companies hiring only women if they are so cheap labour? Last i checked the real number was 5-7% which might be explained by men taking more dangerous jobs and work more unsocialble hours and not indicative of systemic sexism.”

Arguments about the wage gap always lead to the same things – women work less, women take more time off, men are more willing to work long hours and not worry about work-life balance.

Work-life balance – Why shouldn’t men have the right to work-life balance as well? Why are we sitting here accepting that work-life balance is terrible in America, and say that it is the price that men pay to make more than women? Shouldn’t we demand that all of our employees are treated fairly, and given the time they need for their families and their wellbeing, regardless of gender?

Why don’t we only hire women? – And if women are paid less, why don’t we only hire women? (BONUS ROUND! This is an extreme favorite of anyone who wants to argue that the pay gap doesn’t exist) Clearly, if we just want to save money, we can just hire a bunch of women, right? You can’t argue that there’s a wage gap because clearly there’s a lack of women in tech, therefore businesses aren’t saving money on this magical resource.

Except it’s not so clear cut. There’s more that goes into hiring than just pay. We’ve all heard of the study of submitting two identical resumes, but one with a masculine and feminine name, and the one with the masculine name being preferred. Just because women may be paid less doesn’t erase the sexism and bias in the industry.

Women may be less likely to, or less effective at, negotiating for a better starting salary. Even then, when asking for raises or a better salary, they may be more likely to be rejected. Though it’s only anecdotal evidence, I have experienced this myself – after asking for raises, I’ve received excuses like, “we aren’t sure if you’re going to stick around, so we can’t pay you more” (e.g., are you loyal to us, even if we pay you shit?)

Women are held to a different standard than men, and what might be assertive for a man might be seen as bitchy for a woman. There is a larger minefield for women to navigate when trying to get paid fairly than there is for men – more challenges, more taboos, and so on.

Additionally, there are other things to consider when it comes to hiring women – companies may not be advertising their positions in the right place, or rely on word-of-mouth or references to get ahead. And if your employees are mostly male, chances are they mostly know other male programmers, and they get the referrals.

It’s not as simple as just posting to the “womens’ job board – where you can get more for less!” (not cheap enough? Try the “women of color job board”, where the wage gap is even larger!)

The wage gap isn’t that big – So being paid less is OK if it’s not that much less? What about over time? Maybe you earn $99,000 in a year and the other employees make $100,000 in a year, so you’re losing out on $1,000. “Not that bad!” – What about over a decade? $10,000. What about over 30 years? $30,000. Is that much money negligible to you? But it’s not just $30,000 – women lose out over hundreds of thousands of dollars over their careers.

Women make different choices – Again, this plays into the same problem as work-life balance. If women are largely taking a break from their careers to rear the children, then why don’t men have the same opportunity? The gender roles and sexism in our society goes deep.

Everybody should have the option to take a break and stay home with the kids. Everybody should have the option to be a stay-at-home-parent without the taboos. Our laws should be supporting workers, not make it a race to who kills themselves from overwork first.

If your argument is that women just choose lower-paying careers… why is that? If those careers are more attractive to women, then why are the jobs that appeal to women the lower-paying jobs? Why are the jobs that appeal to men the higher-paying jobs? That opens up a whole new layer: We value “mens'” work more than “womens'” work? How do we decide the value of any given field?

And finally, what about the women who aren’t taking breaks for building a family and are just as competitive as men? The pay gap still affects them.

See also:

  • Myth Busting the Pay Gap, the U.S. Department of Labor blog This addresses a lot of these,including:
    • “Saying women only earn 77 cents on the dollar is a huge exaggeration”
    • “There is no such thing as the gender pay gap – legitimate differences between men and women cause the gap in pay, not discrimination.”
    • “But the pay gap is not my problem. Once you account for the jobs that require specialized skills or education it goes away.”
    • “Women are responsible for the pay gap because they seek out flexible jobs or choose to work fewer hours. Putting family above work is why women earn less.”
  • Is the Gender Pay Gap Real?

Exhibit D: Actually, men have it harder.

Anthony states, “#femaleprivilege means women are more often encouraged to seek jobs they enjoy, whereas #maleexpectation means men tend to seek jobs they can be successful in. It relates to the idea that men see women as sex objects and women see men as success objects.”

Oh man. Does someone else want to take this one for me?


Exhibit E: Men bring home the bacon.

Richard posts, “Programming in the 1980’s was just starting to take off as a viable career path. As a result, it was flooded with men seeking employment in a new stable industry. Men are the breadwinners in most relationships due to countless reasons.”

Women have had careers since the 1930s, with a dip in that after World War 2 when men came home from war, and then a resurgence again after that. At least since the 1980s, women have had careers and been supporting themselves, and often women and men are both required to work to pay bills, raise a family, and so on.

Women have to support themselves just as much as men do, and there are plenty of single parents, or just single childless people, who want to be paid the same as their counterparts. “This man has to take care of his family” isn’t a legitimate reason that he should be paid more than a woman.

As far as it “just starting to take off as a viable career path” – we didn’t begin having programmers in the 1980s. We had programmers since we’ve had mainframes, and for a long time programmers were primarily women – programming was the womens’ work, the feminine side of computers. Men handled the hardware.

Once programming became more prevalent, men started pushing women out of the industry to make room for themselves…

What changed? Well, male programmers wanted to elevate their job out of the “women’s work” category. They created professional associations and discouraged the hiring of women. Ads began to connect women staffers with error and inefficiency. They instituted math puzzle tests for hiring purposes that gave men who had taken math classes an advantage, and personality tests that purported to find the ideal “programming type.”

From “Computer Programming Used To Be Women’s Work”, from Smithsonian.com

And with the rise of personal computers in the 1980s and marketing targeting boys over girls, girls were implicitly taught that this isn’t for us.


Exhibit F: Men have to lift heavy things.

“We don’t need to bring women into tech because they’re also not doing physically demanding work like construction.”

In male-dominated fields men like to have a certain type of culture. When I was hired at a web startup, the guy programmers were afraid that, because the boss hired a woman, they would have to begin to police how they talk.

Can women be construction workers? Of course they can. Anyone can train their body to become stronger, or learn the technical parts of the job, or do physically demanding labor. That’s not the problem with the fields.

But when men want to keep women out, when they want the workplace to be a “man’s world” and not have to worry about the language they use, they will make the workplace unwelcoming.

It’s easy for men to shrug it off and say, “Well she should just have a thick skin”. Why? Why should anybody have to deal with abuse and harassment just to do a job? Men shouldn’t have to participate in toxic masculinity to prove that they’re “man enough” to be an electrician, and women shouldn’t have to deal with it. Why can’t workplaces be safe spaces?

See also:


Exhibit G: Why do men have to work on the gender imbalance?

Anthony writes, “This gender gap certainly does annoy me. The tech industry is crying out for more talent. This isn’t the 1950’s any more. It is 2017, and time women started committing to filling the tech skills shortage, rather than expecting men to do all the heavy lifting.”

“The oppressed need to do all the work to combat their oppression.” – A common sentiment.

Why should men bother to worry about inequality in STEM fields?

Because it’s the right thing to do.

Because making the world better for women makes the world better for everyone? (However, Nothing says misogyny like defining feminism as equality for all – Marcie Bianco)

Because we all need to examine our culture and see the problems that women face in tech, in order to fix the problem? (Ignoring it won’t make it go away…)

And we’re not expecting men to do the heavy lifting – we are already doing the heavy lifting. We are asking men to do the minimum possible: to stop ignoring the issues, and to offer us support. To be an ally, instead of acting like it doesn’t concern you, so why bother. Help us, instead of sweeping the problems under the rug to spare yourselves discomfort. Stop blaming us for systemic sexism just to spare your own ego.


Exhibit H: Womennagging is never helpful / watch your tone

Rachel writes, “THIS is why there’s a problem with women in tech. THIS is why I’m sick of hearing all your guys’ shit. I’ve heard all of this before, because any time anyone so much as HIGHLIGHTS that there’s a problem, you all need to swoop in and protect your egos by saying that there can’t POSSIBLY BE A PROBLEM – IT’S THE WOMENS’ FAULT. HEY RACHEL, WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO BE A FEMINIST-NAZI AND FORCE WOMEN INTO COMPUTER SCIENCE? Instead of discussing why there was a dropoff in the 1980s we immediately jump to WELL WOMEN JUST DON’T LIKE TECH. DUH. And what do you think girls and women think of when they see a thread like this? Maybe if they’re not aware of our culture and human psychology, girls will think it’s not for them… or at least see the price of entry: constantly fighting this shit. Women? If they’re already in tech, maybe they’re sick of it by now. So many women leave tech. There’s a pipeline problem AND a retention problem. We have to deal with this shit constantly, and you guys can’t just sit down and LISTEN to our stories. You have to exclaim that it’s womens’ faults, that’s just how women are, that men need to “bring home the bacon”. Excuse me? When have women been relying on men as the sole provider of the household? Not in my lifetime! I and most other women need to make some fucking money to support our-fucking-selves.”. Anthony responds with, “And man-hating rants like that merely reenforce a prejudice that you are incapable of debating facts. Womanagging is never helpful.”

From the article on Tone Policing, from Wikipedia:

Tone policing (also tone trolling, tone argument and tone fallacy) is an ad hominem and antidebate appeal based on genetic fallacy. It attempts to detract from the validity of a statement by attacking the tone in which it was presented rather than the message itself.

In Bailey Poland’s book, Harassment, Abuse, and Violence Online, she suggests that tone policing is frequently aimed at women[1] and attempts to derail or silence opponents who may be lower on the “privilege ladder”.

Telling us over

Mario says, “Also regarding tone, it’s actually very helpful. As a human being bound by emotion myself, it is helpful when both parties of the discussion make an effort to adjust their tone, so that way the discussion can carry through logically, and not be hampered by emotion. A request of this is not a matter of appeasement, but a matter of ensuring a decent conversation for all; and again, both parties need to agree to this to work, as we are all bound and affected by emotion.”

and over

Marco states, ” Also regarding tone, it’s actually very helpful. As a human being bound by emotion myself, it is helpful when both parties of the discussion make an effort to adjust their tone, so that way the discussion can carry through logically, and not be hampered by emotion. A request of this is not a matter of appeasement, but a matter of ensuring a decent conversation for all; and again, both parties need to agree to this to work, as we are all bound and affected by emotion.”; I respond by asking, “are you literally unable to comprehend what I’m saying because you’re too distracted by my frustration?”

and over

Mario responds, “Rachel Not that I’m unable to comprehend, but that I’m trying to comprehend.
Frustration and emotional tension from the speaker in a conversation does make comprehension very difficult for the listener. This is true for all people in humanity, as naturally we are emotional creatures. All of us.
I understand you feel frustrated and I completely understand why you feel frustrated. I’m with you in the effort to bridge the gender gap in STEM fields. But what Anthony is suggesting, is for all of us to make a conscious effort to ensure a smooth conversation. It’s not a matter of appeasement, but a matter of mutual agreement to ensure a fluid and productive conversation. After all, we are all bound by emotion.
It’s up to you how you want to converse with others, but if we all do our best to place our emotion to the side, then it will be a great help to all of us. It’s up to you though.”

and over again

Mario states, “Rachel I never suggested that the onus was on you. Of course the onus is on me to understand. But when it comes to discussing with allies, who cares who’s onus is who’s? Our goal is to solve the problem at hand together. This is why attempting to put our emotional tenseness aside will greatly help our effort for all of us.
But in the end, you can choose to be frustrated, and I’ll still be willing to try and understand your perspective; I won’t bow out from that just because you feel frustrated.
But just know that remaining frustrated will negatively affect my ability to discuss productively with you. In the end, this is a team effort, no?”

that we need to follow your rules to have you buy into helping us is sexist. – Yes, that is sexist.

We don’t actually believe that you’ll listen to our point of view if only we make it more palatable to you; when you say that, we hear, “I want to make myself feel better! I’m not sexist, I just require debate to make me comfortable. Even if you’re uncomfortable, it is up to you to present your point of view, something very personal to you, in a way that is welcoming for me. I need you to welcome me before I can welcome you!”

Mario writes, “Rachel so because we’re not women, that means we’re automatically the enemy? If that’s true, then that’s very disappointing, because we want to be part of the solution with you guys. If you disallow us, then we’ll unfortunately have to find more willing people to solve it with.”

“Clearly, I would help you eradicate sexism, if only you’d be nice to me!”

See also:


Exhibit I: There are male dominated fields and female dominated fields.

TheMikel333 writes, “Well, there may be other reasons, but I don’t necessarily think they’re tied to feminism or misogyny. Just like there are many professions or areas where males are dominant, there are female ones alike. I’m taking computer programming myself, and there are very few females in most of the courses, true, but I’m also taking an elective course about “Fairy Tales”, and guess what, 80% of the class is occupied by females. Maybe we should just accept that not everything that’s male dominant is a byproduct of oppression and ostracization.”

I’ve already talked about this in the “men bring home the bacon” point (Exhibit E), but perhaps the reason that women avoid certain fields isn’t that they’re not naturally interested in those fields – maybe it’s because the dominant group actively or passively make others feel unwelcome.

This can be dealing with explicit sexism: “Women aren’t as good at math as men.”, “Hey, sexy.”

Or implicit sexism: “There’s not really a problem with sexism in tech, and discussing it is a waste of time.”, “We hire for talent, not diversity.”, “I would be on your side if you just accommodated me properly.

(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻


Exhibit J: I’d be an ally, but…

Mario writes, ” Rachel Not that I’m unable to comprehend, but that I’m trying to comprehend.
Frustration and emotional tension from the speaker in a conversation does make comprehension very difficult for the listener. This is true for all people in humanity, as naturally we are emotional creatures. All of us.
I understand you feel frustrated and I completely understand why you feel frustrated. I’m with you in the effort to bridge the gender gap in STEM fields. But what Anthony is suggesting, is for all of us to make a conscious effort to ensure a smooth conversation. It’s not a matter of appeasement, but a matter of mutual agreement to ensure a fluid and productive conversation. After all, we are all bound by emotion.
It’s up to you how you want to converse with others, but if we all do our best to place our emotion to the side, then it will be a great help to all of us. It’s up to you though.”

And I’ll just paste in my response…

You’re clearly not very well versed in being an ally, then, if these are your arguments… “I want to be an ally but…” types are all over, no matter that oppressed group they’re trying to support.

It’s another way that people try to shift the blame to the oppressed group, “you’re not calm enough”, “I WANT to listen but I can’t with your attitude”, “I was going to support you buy you’re not friendly to me” – I hear these things a lot.

The onus is not on us to help you understand, the onus is on you to listen and contemplate and understand. The onus is on you to strive to do the right thing, even if the oppressed party isn’t all buddy-buddy with you. The onus is on you to do the research and BE an ally, not an ally-wannabe.

See also: Exhibit H


Honorable mentions

I’m not going to leave off some of the “yes, this is a problem” comments from the Facebook thread that inspired this post. There are some good points in the points as well, and can help illustrate how exasperated we feel when having to deal with this. Notice that everyone who states “this isn’t a problem” are almost always men, and even when women or femme people step forward and say “yeah, this is a problem”, the not-a-problem-ers fight tooth-and-nail to not be proven wrong.

Heather writes, “Let’s see: some customers voiced their opinions that they wanted a male tech instead. Some customers wanted to pay me literally nothing. I never once made the 6 figures college claimed I’d make. Oh, and work/life balance? Hah, forget that: I was on call 24/7/365, even when “off.” And you wonder why more women aren’t staying in computer science?”

Simone writes, “‘Its just the way of the world’….oh come on, you can do better than that. Passive acceptance of this kind of thing and excusing it /colluding with it/ not even seeing there is a problem simply perpetuates the crap that any minority or marginalised group has to put up with. I know, let’s pay anyone but straight white males less, restrict their opportunities and make life difficult when they do venture out of their assigned roles so as to perpetuate the status quo – we can occasionally wring our hands and say its not good but we will still collude and accept it after all – its always been that way. Shit tons of human talent and potential wasted. Bah humbug!”

Simone’s thread blew up; “I can see why you want to be anonymous!” (it’s Facebook, they only are denying having their picture as their profile pic), “Men just go after the higher-paying jobs!”, “Oh, I’M the rude one, eh?”, “There are a lot of Indians in tech… guess it’s their dark-skinned privilege, eh?!”

Raymond responding to the tone policing toward Rachel, ” It doesn’t matter how many facts are provided. Since the problem doesn’t affect you, they will be dismissed in the name of ‘debate.’
Read Rachel’s blog post linked in the thread, and you will see the facts presented for you.
But I doubt they’ll make a dent, because the assumption and argument is always some variant of, ‘well that’s the way things are.’
No women in a boardroom? Women don’t like business.
No women pilots? Their wombs will fall out at high g.
No black people in government? Black people aren’t interested in politics.
Instead of automatically taking the, ‘that’s just the way things are’ approach, the burden is on you to consider that, all humans being equal, there will be some in every subset that like the same things.
If you don’t see people from every subset involved in a particular career, don’t just ‘Oh well!’ it. Especially when those underrepresented in the field tell you it’s a problem.”

Another example that [almost-]everyone who argues “it isn’t a problem!” is a man, and those who argue, “it is a problem!” are men and women.


We’re tired.

I compiled this post because I need something to link people to, I guess. I have another article I wrote about the lack of women in computer science (BNE: Women in Computers) but just having that isn’t adequate. I’m so tired of responding to the same arguments over and over, and it never ends.

We’ve heard these arguments so much.

If this post made you feel tired, imagine how I feel.


How you can actually be an ally and help us

Listen. The first step is to actually listen to people, and listen to a lot of people, and consider what they’re saying. Store their statements in your memory for later, so that you have some context for where we are coming from and the struggles we face next time they arise.

Swallow your ego. You don’t need to respond to every argument, and you don’t need to make sure that you feel secure and happy as the priority in a discussion. This is very common with any ally trying to learn about an oppressed group. Don’t worry about your ego, don’t worry if you’re uncomfortable or a bit insecure with what is being said. Just listen.

Talk to your group. Your job isn’t to prove to the oppressed group that you’re “one of them” or that you “get it”. Your job is to talk to your group (e.g., men at work) about the problems. Your job is to call out sexism when you see it. Your job is to show your group that not everybody is like them and not everybody agrees with them. For example, if a man calls out another man for saying something sexist, then you are also communicating that not everybody in his in-group agrees with him, and he can’t have a safe space to be sexist, that he needs to reflect on what he said and why he said it.

Amplify. Rather than rewording the oppressed point of view in your own words like you’re writing a college essay, amplify the oppressed voices. Retweet, share their posts, and distribute their message in their voices.

Why? If you’re asking “Why?”, then you’re not yet an ally.

For further reading…:


Have something to add?

If you have some screenshots or examples you’d like to add, or some statements regarding one ot the exhibits you’d like to add, please let me know and I’ll add your comment with credit to the post. I think it would be nice to aggregate responses in this post because we’re all tired of dealing with this, and I can only utilize my brain so much to come up with so many statements.

Rachel@Moosader.com


Links

Articles linked to in the blog post

More fun stuff to read

Miscellaneous things that you may want to read.

How I prepare for weekly lessons

Lecture prep with textbook open and video editor open.

Here’s a preview into how I create the content for my courses. I always hated slides straight from the textbook publishers, so I always make my own. I also frequently have to re-teach or re-view content that I’ve learned previously, so the best way to learn is to consume all the information and then be able to regurgitate it in my own words.

For discrete math, I first go through the book and highlight the important bits – definitions, laws, notes about how things work. So much content in textbooks is just fluff… while it can help you gain context for what you’re learning, I wish it were separated a little more… give me the pure information in one section, and the pure exposition in another. Examples after that. Make it easy to parse.

So I come up with what I want to cover – then I usually look line for additional resources. I frequently quote Wikipedia pages on math because it’s easier to cite; I don’t want to get in trouble for quoting the textbook (because proprietary, ugh.) There are also Wikibooks (a, b) on Discrete Math, and other class resources from other universities.

Next, I build my lectures. Yep, it’s a slideshow (built with the open source LibreOffice Impress), however:

  • I try to write out all the information that I want to cover for the chapter in these slides. I hate when class slides are useless on their own.
  • I use the slides to give information, show examples, and give practice problems.
  • I turn it into a video, for students to watch on their own time.

As I turn it into a video, I alleviate some of the shitty parts of slideshows further:

  • I don’t just record myself talking as I run through the slideshow “live”. Nope. I throw the slides in my video editor (kdenlive, also open source), then record my talk for each slide separately (with Audacity, also open source). I put them all together in the video editor. This means I cut out all the “ums”, pauses, and stumbles.
  • I insert in working math by-hand by recording myself working problems in a paint program (GIMP, open source) with my drawing tablet (a cheapo Wacom), recording the screen with OBS (also open source).

 

I’m currently writing the lesson plan for a chapter on logic circuits, which means I pull out another handy open source tool: dia.

Using dia to diagram circuits

It’s dia!!

I’ve found that I’m too busy this semester to actually grade paper homework. With my own homework and studying to do as a grad student, it just isn’t practical. Therefore, I’m also leveraging our LMS (learning management software) to build custom homework questions that are self-grading, and give students immediate feedback.

Creating a quiz in D2L

 

Millennials rock

“demographers and researchers typically use the early 1980s as starting birth years and the mid-1990s to early 2000s as ending birth years.”

I think that teachers of the my generation and future generations will end up being more effective because of our experience with various types of technology. Many of us have grown up editing videos, using YouTube, or even making animations (*cough*Newgrounds*cough*…) and when we leverage our experience into our professional lives, we become that much better at creating tools and content. As kids and teens, we learn to be content creators, whether we’re making videos about video games, or programming tutorials, or drawing, or whatever our interests are.

We aren’t afraid of technology, and we pick up the tools we need and teach ourselves. I have a toolbelt full of software for video editing, audio editing, music writing and sheet music creation, diagramming, art, animating, software development, and more. I taught myself to animate as a tween, which is a skill that has served me throughout the years. I began making YouTube programming tutorials when I was about 18, which is another skill that I still build and use today.

We don’t rely on expensive proprietary software to come along and let us teachers achieve what we need – there are tons of tools for all sorts of things, and many are free and open source. And if those tools don’t exist, there are more and more tools popping up for building your own.

We are the generation that creates!

(And is also sleep deprived from too much work. Looks like I’ll get less than 5 hours of sleep tonight…)

Feedback during the 3rd week of my C++ class

Dang! It is always nice to get good feedback like this.

This was in one of the mini-essays I assigned in my C++ class (reading about & discussing problem solving techniques), so I wasn’t expecting it!

“Coming into the class I was very nervous. My friend who has taken this course before by other unnamed teacher said it was the worst and that if I didn’t understand this class that I would struggle going forward. Scary right? For me it was. But as I continue to read the content you have written to teach and share with us, I am put to ease. I find myself smiling and laughing at your videos and text, which is something I did not expect coming into the class. So while I am still terrified of falling on my face, I have faith that I will make it. And that is not something that I previously thought.”

You’re ignoring the issue – Diversity in Tech

Don’t read the comments. Sometimes, when I post a link to an article on my Facebook wall, I feel compelled to add the warning, “don’t read the comments” along with the article.

This morning I posted a link to NPR’s Why Some Diversity Thinkers Aren’t Buying The Tech Industry’s Excuses article, and the comment responses are pretty much exactly the kind of responses that I still get sporadically for having the audacity to suggest that my YouTube channel needs more women viewers on someone else’s video that highlights the same problem on their channel.

comments

Scroll through the comments in the Diversity in Tech article, and you see the same mentality…

comments2

As sick as I am of hearing the same, “They’re just not interested. Stop trying to force women and people of color into tech!!!“, this isn’t what I want to post about right now. That’s a whole other long-ass topic that needs to be researched… Which I have done some research for that re: women in CS already so you can read this if you really want to.


No, what I really want to talk about is that, by making statements like “they’re just not into it”, ignoring whether or not we’re going to argue that entire demographics of people simply aren’t interested, I cannot imagine that anybody would state that absolutely, 0% of [demographic] are not interested in computer science. I think that we can all agree that at least some of these people exist, whatever people these might be. Right? There can’t be a net total 0 women, or African American people, or Latinx people, or Native American people, or gay people, trans people, intersex people, etc. etc. etc. You would have to be pretty damn specific if you wanted to come up with a demographic of people that might not exist as a person-who-is-interested-in-tech. And heck, even I fit the demographic of a “woman-or-maybe-genderfluid/queer/indifferent, asexual, panromantic, Esperanto-speaker, dandruff-haver, piano-player” programmer – I don’t mean to be facetious, I’m just trying to highlight that a person can be many things, and still interested in tech.

OK, so my first point is, there cannot be a people of any given demographic who have zero software developers among them.

Let’s look at these handy graphs I found on this article Race and Gender Among Computer Science Majors at Stanford:

Male & Female Computer Science majors at Stanford (from Medium.com)

Male & Female Computer Science majors at Stanford (from Medium.com)

So, there exist some women. It isn’t zero women. And then we have…:

Computer Science majors by race at Stanford (from Medium.com)

Computer Science majors by race at Stanford (from Medium.com)

and the Medium article even breaks down even further with more statistics.

But my point is, it isn’t zero. So let’s stop acting like all women/PoC are simply not interested in computer science.


 

So, secondly, the idea is that these people exist, but major tech companies still cannot at least build a ratio of tech employees that mirrors what’s coming out of colleges.

But they totally could – if they really wanted to.

As Martin Fowler points out in his DiversityMediocrityIllusion post,

To understand why this is an illusionary concern, I like to consider a little thought experiment. Imagine a giant bucket that contains a hundred thousand marbles. You know that 10% of these marbles have a special sparkle that you can see when you carefully examine them. You also know that 80% of these marbles are blue and 20% pink, and that sparkles exist evenly across both colors [1]. If you were asked to pick out ten sparkly marbles, you know you could confidently go through some and pick them out. So now imagine you’re told to pick out ten marbles such that five were blue and five were pink.

I don’t think you would react by saying “that’s impossible”. After all there are two thousand pink sparkly marbles in there, getting five of them is not beyond the wit of even a man. Similarly in software, there may be less women in the software business, but there are still enough good women to fit the roles a company or a conference needs.

(By the way I love Martin Fowler)


 

The people are out there, they just take more effort to find. Part of it might include how a company finds their candidates – if they weigh references heavily, then that might only support the demographic that is most heavily represented.

If they advertise that they’re the “standard nerds” who love beer and bacon, that’s going to be a turn off to certain religions, as well as people who simply don’t enjoy alcohol (*raises hand*), and the idea of having social events at work centered around alcohol simply just doesn’t sound like much fun.

It could be where they’re posting their job ads. It could be the values that they present. It could be any number of things. But to build more diversity, some effort has to be put into it, rather than just maintaining the status quo and acting like, “well gee, why can’t these women and/or PoC just fit in with our status quo? Why do we have to change?!”

 

When I interview for a software job, I usually ask the people conducting the interview about diversity. How many women work there? What about other ethnicities, religions, and backgrounds? A majority of the time, I get a response akin to “We hire for talent, not diversity”.

That isn’t what I asked about.

During the interviews and walk-throughs, how many people are present who aren’t white men? Only one time have I been interviewed by a woman – and it was because the entire team interviewed me, not because she was the boss. At my last job, I think that there were maybe two software engineers who were women (including myself) in the group of maybe 10+ teams. There were women present as BAs and QAs, but so few as the developers.

What, are women just naturally more interested in quality assurance than software development? Back in the caves up through the agricultural revolution, women biologically evolved to QA the hunts and the crops and all of that, while men evolved the ability to program those… hunts and crops? (Seriously I’m sick of the “biological” argument in a multitude of ways, especially if we consider nonbinary genders and trans people.)


 

Ugh, ok. I’m hungry now, and I have to prep for my Java class on Thursday. I need to come up with more examples of using arrays in simple programs. Ĝis la.

Offices

Have you ever had a college instructor who didn’t have an office?

Most college instructors have office hours to help students outside of class. It’s required in most cases. So, therefore, instructors need offices. Sometimes it might be a room with several cubicles, or it could be their own room with lovely lovely sheetrock on all sides and a door.

The office also provides a nice, quiet space for the instructor to get their planning, grading, etc. done.

Is being a teacher an antisocial job? No, who would say that? You have to interact with people a lot, from your students to the other teachers and faculty of the school.

Being a teacher requires a lot of people interaction, and yet, having an office isn’t seen as somehow making a teacher less able to do their job. The office is a required part of the job.

So how come software developers are thrown in open floor-plan large rooms? The justification is usually in favor of collaboration between the developers, but if teachers get offices and can still talk to people, why can’t developers?

If it helps to have quiet while an instructor is planning, grading, or otherwise doing their non-people work, why do we not treat developers the same way, giving them a nice quiet area to get their non-people work done?

And that’s not even getting into how I can choose the hours I’m in my office, and I can choose when and where I get my non-people work done as an instructor. I do most of my class preparation at home, on my laptop that runs Linux, with my kitty cat and tea and food that I can prepare in my own kitchen.

If teachers can have this freedom and get their work done, why can’t software developers?

Visual problem solving with SDL2

I am assembling some projects in my Challenge Topics repository on GitHub (https://github.com/Rachels-Courses/Challenge-Topics). These are projects that I’ve written to show in class, asking the students to come up with a better algorithm to solve some problem.

Here are some examples:

Screenshot-Searching

With this one, a linear and a random search are implemented to search a sorted list. The challenge is to ask students how a better searching algorithm can be done for our sorted list, where we do searching more intelligently than just going from the beginning to the end.

You can also expand this to talk about creating a data structure that auto-sorts when items are inserted, and whether to implement this by sorting immediately after an insert, or do a smart-insert and look for the appropriate position for the new object.

 

Screenshot-Travelling Salesperson

For this one, a list of cities are generated at random points on a map. The random paths generator essentially adds paths between cities in the order that the cities were generated. The challenge here is to ask students how to build a more intelligent route, visiting all cities once, and returning home afterward.

So for example, in the above screenshot, the salesperson goes from Grandview to Leawood to Raymore, which is a bit nonsensical.

You can also demonstrate Dijkstra’s Algorithm as well.

 

Screenshot-Collision Detection

Another problem we can look at is detecting how two objects are colliding, such as in a game. There are multiple ways to handle it – for example, you could do bounding-box collision detection and check the perimeter of the images themselves, each edge. Pros and cons? Could be empty space colliding, such as the top-right of the bunny and bottom-left of the dog.

Another option is to use the distance formula and figure out what a good distance is before considering the two images colliding. This works well for circular objects, but might not work as well for an oblong object.

Or, you could do a combination of both, maybe each object has several bounding boxes within it (like the dog’s head, and dog’s torso).


 

The idea behind these exercises isn’t to necessarily get the “most efficient” algorithm to any given problem, but to have students brainstorm and actually think about the problem visually, instead of having everything be intangible. Having pure console-based applications using just cin and cout can be boring, and even when implementing something modelled on a real-life system, it can be hard to really get into it. Even many command-line programs use something like pdcurses to give more organization to the presentation of the program.

So by using the SDL library, we can still write C++ code and demonstrate some problems in a more graphical way. Even if SDL is not available on the students’ school computers, if the teacher has a laptop they can install SDL2 on their own and display it to the entire class for a more social lesson.

Learn more about SDL at: https://www.libsdl.org/

And my challenge repository is at: https://github.com/Rachels-Courses/Challenge-Topics

Software

The software industry is such an exhausting one. If I could, I would work in another field, but I don’t have training in any other fields so I would not be able to make even half of what I make as a software development.

 

One of the constant frustrations is pay. It seems like when I check Glassdoor, I’m always paid less than the average software engineer, and definitely less than a senior software engineer. At this point, I probably should be hired as a senior but I never am.

Everyone puts the onus on the individual; You should have asked for that title or You should have asked for more money. I try, but it feels like I’m driving blind. Nobody is out there to support you or help you make that decision.

Nobody ever taught me negotiation skills. I’ve never negotiated a salary, even though this past year I’ve become aware that perhaps everybody else does, every time. But what are the rules? What are the methods? I don’t know. And with a recruiter in the mix, it seems even more difficult to negotiate a salary. Sometimes it seems like they might even be pitching me low to make me more desirable. But I can’t say for sure.

When you’re a minority in the field, you’re constantly hearing about how other women are usually paid less than men (and I have it the best-of-the-worst, as a white woman, many women of color get paid a huge amount less than the average white man in a given field). It’s such an unfriendly place to be. Everybody is so secretive about their salary, companies don’t want you to discuss it, it feels like the cards are stacked against you. How are you supposed to get ahead when you don’t have the resources you need to work towards it?

I like the Clef Handbook – which they have made Open Source. I sincerely hope that one day, Moosader becomes self sufficient and I can hire other people. I would like to make salaries transparent – it might not appeal to everybody, but I’m certain that there are people out there like me who are tired of feeling kept in the dark and taken advantage of.

I have such a different mindset for how a company ought to operate than the standard business.  I really hope my company can make a difference. It’s clear to me that no company is going to give me the kind of work environment I need in order to be happy, and I have to make it myself. Flexibility, freedom, fairness. I’m so tired of the 8-to-5, open plan layout, no-telecommuting style of job. I’m ready to work for myself – but I need to have an income. So I need to keep working.

I like Martin Fowler

I often want to reference these articles but forget the name (and sometimes Martin Fowler’s name, so then I have to go do a search for that one book I have that he wrote). This post is mostly for my own reference, but if you are interested, here are some really good posts on diversity in tech.