Ian Bicking: the old part of his blog


Again, I'm coming from a pretty much feminist position here:

I agree with Alan on the societal bases of the gender "divide" in IT, but disagree that there's no need to work upon it. I've been on equity committees at companies, and there has really been a lack of understanding about the effects of workplace environment and corporate culture on those who aren't outgoing straight white males (these are South African companies).

When I started programming and playing with computers, there were always girls my age playing too. The culture was accepting to anyone, generally. Now, as "mainstream" influences started to dominate the culture (only in the past five to seven years ago), I've found there's less acceptance of others w.r.t. gender, sexuality, and culture. And the (now-) women I knew went into other fields.

Lately, though, I've noticed a reversal in that as society (although not normally company cultures) becomes more accepting of women in what society previously considered "male" pursuits, there're more women coming into the market. If they're lucky, they find places that don't automatically require them to prove themselves to a higher level just because they're female. I'm currently working at a company where this doesn't appear to be an issue (although, we're still all white in the tech department).

At a previous company, it really just took one incredibly skilled woman programmer to show the men that they're really boys and that they have a lot to learn too, and we had a lot less of a problem finding other women to join our staff, and the culture changed quite considerably.

So, I don't think it's a matter of changing the subject to attract women. Rather, we should work to change the environment/culture and acceptability of the field so that those who are already attracted to the field are able to maintain and grow that attraction. And this'll happen anyway, but it's in our own interests to help it along as we're able to as members of the communities and corporate cultures.
Comment on Feminist Computer Science 2
by Neil Blakey-Milner