Diversity at OS Dev
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Author:  Solar [ Fri Sep 01, 2017 3:36 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Diversity at OS Dev

I think the problem is less the conscious discrimination than the subconscious.

All other things being equal, you might decide against a female candidate because you feel she will probably drop out when starting a family. You might decide against her because of a lot of subliminal thoughts and emotions -- you might feel she flirted with you to improve her chances, and you decide to "not fall for it" when all she tried was being nice and give a good impression. You might feel that she could unsettle your mostly-male team by her presence. You might feel that she is thinking more about work-life balance than the really carreer-oriented male candidate, reducing her willingness to do overtime etc.

You might feel you can pressure her into lower pay than her male counterpart, because women have a harder time being hired in the industry as a whole, and because she is "nicer" and "less assertive" than the man.

You might feel that she won't be as effective at the physical part of her work because she's of slighter built than the man.

And you needn't think any of these things consciously to decide against her, or give her worse terms.

That is what "affirmative action" and similar schemes are weighing in against.

Author:  AJ [ Fri Sep 01, 2017 4:33 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Diversity at OS Dev

I have clinical staff and non-clinical staff. Of my clinical staff 60% are female and get paid the same as the males in the clinical roles. Of my non-clinical staff, 90% are female and pay is dependent on what courses have been completed. As it happens, male staff have completed fewer courses.

I do not keep these statistics or consciously keep the F:M ratio favourable. It's just how things have worked out based on the best applicant for the role at the time the jobs have been advertised. In the case of some staff, they were taken on when I bought an existing business to merge with. I also take students and this has been a 50:50 split so far.

Having said all that, I had to think about these stats for the purposes of this discussion and just really look at an individual applicant when we have a job to fill. If you look at the highest pay, it's a man - because I'm the one who set up the business and risked my house to do so.

The great thing with talking about employers making subconscious decisions is that by definition they can't refute it. I am confident, however, that if someone went through my staff files and interview records, they would see that all decisions have been made on merit.

I'm aware that n = 1 but am sure that there are a lot of employers (I would even say a majority although I can't back this up) who make employment decisions on what is best for their business and nothing else.


Author:  Solar [ Fri Sep 01, 2017 4:56 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Diversity at OS Dev

And I don't even remotely challenge that. It's just that there are less rational / intelligent people around, some of them being employers.

(All the best to your business ventures, btw.)

Author:  AJ [ Fri Sep 01, 2017 5:20 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Diversity at OS Dev

Solar wrote:
(All the best to your business ventures, btw.)

Thank you :)

Author:  iocoder [ Sat Sep 02, 2017 9:28 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Diversity at OS Dev

DavidCooper wrote:
There appears to be a massive lack of diversity in the OSDev community with very few females in evidence even though everyone here is self-selected and there is no barrier in the way. How can we correct this and encourage more females to waste their lives in the same way as the army of obsessive males?

How do you define 'male' and 'female'?

If you mean the biological sex we are born with, I don't think there is much difference between the three sexes that will affect our interest in a specific field of knowledge/practice. Neuroscience of sex differences tells us that there are 'skill differences' between the male and female. However, the implications of this are still not clear. When I was an undergrad at an engineering school, I had colleagues whose biological sex was 'female', yet they were very excellent at those tasks that Wikipedia's article attributed to male.

I believe the deep reason for this bias in osdev (and other similar communities, like a computer science school for instance) is the useless thing called 'gender', which defines the social roles for the male and female (ignoring any other society member who's born neither male nor female). Those social roles are embodied in words like 'boy' and 'girl', 'masculine' and 'feminine', and 'man' and 'woman'. A man should be hard, a woman should be soft. This unconsciously drives the interests of a girl, in order to match the stereotypical shape that the society has drawn out for her. If we manage to totally get rid of the concept of gender identity, I think there is a good chance that we will reach a state where there is no statistical correlation between human sex and the degree of our interest in computer science.

Author:  Brendan [ Sat Sep 02, 2017 10:19 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Diversity at OS Dev


Let's talk about cows.

From an evolutionary perspective (slightly based on modern cattle farming practices); the gestation period is about 283 days (about 9.5 months) and a single bull can impregnate about one cow per week. This means that to maximise the proliferation of the species you only really need one bull for 50 cows.

However, about half of births are bulls and half are cows. This means that 1% are "breeding bulls", 50% are "mothers", and 49% are "unnecessary bulls"; but that's not quite right.

Those 49% of "unnecessary bulls" fight amongst themselves to determine the best "breeding bull" (which ensures the best genetic material is passed on to the next generation); and those 49% also protect the herd (better for an "unnecessary" bull to die fighting off a predator than to lose a pregnant cow).

The same "competitive/combative males" exists in many animals for the same reason.

This "competitive/combative males" is not learned behaviour, it's biological. It's chemical (e.g. testosterone). It's something that evolved to ensure the proliferation of the species.

Humans are not an exception (it's just harder for a human male to find a nice group of 50 females ;) ). More seriously, humans have reached the stage where "proliferation of the species" is no longer a serious concern; and are still stuck with a worthless historical artefact ("competitive/combative males biology") that's no longer very useful. That is why male and female brains are often different, and why males are more likely to be drawn to "competitive/combative" roles.

Of course the real question is, why are males drawn to things like computer programming - is computer programming competitive/combative? In theory computer programming shouldn't be competitive/combative; but in practice nobody knows how to do anything right so we're constantly disagreeing about how things "should" be implemented (or which language things should be written in, or which editor should be used to write it, or how to arrange braces and whitespace, or...).



Author:  Schol-R-LEA [ Sun Sep 03, 2017 12:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Diversity at OS Dev

My own theory - which I have hinted at before - is that it draws males because it is not competitive - specifically, it draws those who are not, for one reason or another, attuned to that otherwise typical competitiveness, or unsuited for the usual fields of competition, or (like myself) have reasons to shun social activity due to being somewhat out of the norm in some other way.

Some come to it as an alternative form of competition, something which they are better suited to than those things which are traditionally seen as 'masculine'. However, the majority, I think, are those who are have been 'driven off the field', as it were - they seek solitary pursuits such as programming, science, writing, and other things which aren't specifically labeled as 'feminine' as a refuge from competition.

Now, this relates to why it became male-dominated in the first place, and why I think that it will shift in the future.

Prior to 1958 or so, the majority of programmers were women, and most of the male programmers were grad students in the physical sciences. Why? Because programming wasn't consider interesting or important. Hardware was what mattered, and hardware was what men worked on. The rest was just clerical work, with no real skill to it.

This began to change once FORTRAN appeared. Now, the scientists themselves could do the programming without foisting it off on students and staff. They started to realize that programming was both difficult, and interesting in its own right. Meanwhile, COBOL was also being developed, mainly by... the women who were doing the programming for businesses, and who were fed up with being treated as human compilers. FORTRAN was designed for scientists, but COBOL was designed for and by secretaries and clerks - they wanted something for someone who wasn't interested in programming as a profession, and who was (in accordance with the standards of the time) only expected to be in the workforce for a few years before they go off and get married.

But while these changes were significant, they probably would not have caused the massive turnover that occurred in the mid-1960s if it weren't for a chance thing: the creation of Hacker Culture.

And it was a chance thing. If the original plan to ship the TX-0 to the sociology department at MIT had gone through, it might have been years before there were any computers were available for anyone to use without restrictions (the only rule at the office was that you needed to sign up for a block of time, other than that anyone walking in off of the street could use it for anything). Because the TX-0 had become supernumerary after the testing of TX-2 was done, and no one had any specific plans for it, it became a playground for anyone who was curious.

Remember what I said earlier about the reasons people get into intellectual pursuits? This was MIT; any new thing that offered more escape routes from territorialism was seized with both hands by a lot of the students there. You will note that the first group to really take to it was the Tech Model Railroad Club's technical sub-group. Need I say more?

This led to programming being seen as a socially isolated interest, which the solitary nature of programming at the time only reinforced.

This, and the boys-club image of the field, was further reinforced in the 1970s when microcomputers arose. Most of the people building and using them were hardware engineers - in a field where hardware was always seen as a male pursuit - and even more socially isolated than programming. This meant that even the more socially awkward women were generally disinclined to follow up with the field, and it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So why do I see this changing? Well, first off, hacking culture among programmers is being swamped by the vast numbers of newcomers, many from countries which had no such cultural assumptions - note what was said earlier about the 50-50 split among students in Pakistan and India. In such countries, it is more likely that women will go in the field than men, because men have more options, and because spending all your time at a desk isn't necessarily the most masculine of jobs.

More importantly, the idea that programming is a solitary affair - which hasn't really been true in a long time, if it ever really was - is breaking down as the demand for more programming, and more complex programming projects, grows. If the most important part of the field is interpersonal communication, who do you think that will appeal to most, and more importantly, who do you think it will stop appealing to?

Some time in the next 50 years, I anticipate that the balance will shift, and programming will go back to being "women's work". Not because of any real difference in technical ability, but because of how it is perceived by people.

Yea, do many things come to pass fnord.

Author:  alexfru [ Sun Sep 03, 2017 2:04 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Diversity at OS Dev

Schol-R-LEA wrote:
Some time in the next 50 years, I anticipate that the balance will shift, and programming will go back to being "women's work". Not because of any real difference in technical ability, but because of how it is perceived by people.

I'm not sure I follow your logic. Are you saying that nowadays programming is less about programming and more about people to such a degree that would attract more of people-oriented people, including women?

I have to work for hours and days on code, tests, documentation and bugs with very little interaction with people (I don't count meaningless meetings where I just sit silently most of the time as interaction). This part of programming is essential and it's not going away. Bugs will be. Tests will be. Documentation will be. And code still needs to be written.

Author:  Schol-R-LEA [ Sun Sep 03, 2017 2:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Diversity at OS Dev

alexfru wrote:
Schol-R-LEA wrote:
Some time in the next 50 years, I anticipate that the balance will shift, and programming will go back to being "women's work". Not because of any real difference in technical ability, but because of how it is perceived by people.

I'm not sure I follow your logic. Are you saying that nowadays programming is less about programming and more about people to such a degree that would attract more of people-oriented people, including women?

More that it would drive away people who aren't people-oriented, which includes the majority of the people who were going into the field until recently. And since the more people-oriented males tend to see intellectual pursuits as 'nerdy' and unmasculine, this leaves women.

Author:  StudlyCaps [ Sun Sep 03, 2017 7:37 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Diversity at OS Dev

AJ: I'm actually pretty happy to hear you take fairness and merit seriously in your own business. I don't doubt that what your saying is true, I don't know if the sentiment is as universal as you suggest though.

1, many people, business owners included, believe quite heavily in gender stereotypes, and being able to detach objective and subjective judgement is far from a universal skill. Effectively, employers will discriminate because they believe it is better for their business.

2, As businesses get bigger, more people are in position where they have power over employees, but with a more and more diluted personal stake in the business. These people have lesser reason to hire or promote people based on what they contribute to the bottom line and more reason to favor personal friends, allies and people they perceive as being "one of them".

Like I said, I don't think you do these things, but I think it's naive to believe that they don't happen, or that they happen so rarely as to be insignificant.

Schol-R-LEA: I totally agree with what you're saying, and I think that's a really perceptive point which I hadn't thought of myself.

Programming as a career is definitely becoming more people oriented. The amount of time required to cut code is getting smaller as more automation and faster tools increase productivity, while the "soft" parts, UX, requirements analysis and project management take up a greater and greater percentage of the workload. I wonder if there's anywhere left for people like that (I guess that includes a lot of us) to go.

Author:  AJ [ Mon Sep 04, 2017 2:57 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Diversity at OS Dev

Just to put another thought out there: Not being someone who mixes with many programmers myself, is there a higher than average proportion of gamers amongst programmers?

Perhaps that is where the "competetive element" comes from.

I realise that the trends are changing and there are more and more female gamers, but if gaming creates a path to programming then those brought up in the 80's or 90's when gaming very much seemed a male preserve would now be programmers in their 20's/30's. As the proportion of female gamers increases, you would then see a delayed reaction in the number of female programmers.


Author:  Solar [ Mon Sep 04, 2017 3:08 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Diversity at OS Dev

I think the gaming / programmer correllation of the 80's is somewhat linked in with the fact that, in order to use the systems available back then, you had to understand something about them as well.

Point in case, the C64. You needed BASIC commands to list a disk's directory, load the game, and start it. You needed to understand (or at least be aware of) the difference between loading with ,8,1 and ,8. Many "games" passed around in the pirate copy scene were actually "tricks" of some kind, or e.g. extended BASIC interpreters with graphical capabilities ("Simon's Basic") that tickled curiosity.

Then came the game consoles, and eventually PCs got to the point where you would just buy them as a black box, without a clue of the components or, even, programming / how they work.

You will always get people interested in gaming, and those will be the ones who have a "programmable" computer at home. (As opposed to handheld devices, which you can play on but would have to jump through quite some hoops to do self-hosted programming on.)

But I don't think that gaming "leads" to interest in development these days. It enables, in a way, but no more.

(Perhaps it's more about the parents being tech-savy, having the systems in the house that the kids could play on. Second generation techheads, so to speak, like my two. ;-) )

Author:  AJ [ Mon Sep 04, 2017 3:25 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Diversity at OS Dev

Interesting to hear the opinions of an "insider(!)", thank you.


Author:  DavidCooper [ Mon Sep 04, 2017 6:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Diversity at OS Dev

A TV programme recently revealed some more evidence relating to this issue. An experiment was done at a school on the Isle of Wight in which they tried to stop differentiating between boys and girls and to try to encourage them to feel more equal. Not everything that they claimed was true, but it probably wasn't far wrong. They asserted, for example, that boys and girls don't have any inherent preference for different kinds of toys, and yet we know that chimpanzees do, even though they don't normally encounter the kind of toys that humans have: experiments show that young male chimps prefer toys with wheels while young females prefer dolls. It seems likely that this same preference occurs in humans (which is, after all, why the experiment was done with chimps in the first place), but it's hard to test properly with with humans because they are already pushed in that direction by their parents with boys and girls having different kinds of toys given to them from the start without them getting to choose. The programme showed a version of the experiment where an adult is left looking after a baby girl dressed to look like a boy or a boy dressed to look like a girl, and of course the former would have wheeled toys given to them and the latter would be given dolls, while the adult insisted that the child had chosen them and preferred them.

What is the truth of it though? The chimp experiments suggest that boys and girls do have different innate preferences with females needing to have a greater interest in babies so that they'll be better placed to look after them, but that preference may be there to prevent them from neglecting taking an interest in them rather than to make them focus on nothing else, and that's where humans appear to have taken an unfortunate direction. The toys for boys and girls have become more and more polarised with girls having tons of pink girly stuff thrown at them while the boys are drowning in mechanical toys. In the programme they went to a couple of houses to see what kind of toys the children in the experiment possessed (which isn't a big sample size for proper analysis, but I doubt it was a major misrepresentation), and the boy had several cupboards filled from floor to ceiling with Lego while the girl had lots of fluffy toys and no sign of anything that could be used for construction at all. That is a serious imbalance.

A visit to a girl's birthday party also revealed a riot of pink presents and an obsession with manicure equipment. (The sight of it all made me feel sick.) The truth soon became stark - the girls were effectively neglected, cut off from the kinds of things that would encourage them into STEM paths (science, technology, engineering, maths). The boys lacked some things too, because their language skills were inferior, and the only emotion they were able to talk about was anger. Tests were done in the classroom which showed up some of the problems clearly. They had some simple puzzles to solve which involved nothing more than laying out shapes in a pattern with the required pattern fully visible to them on a piece of paper, but many of the girls struggled with this simple task. It clearly had next to nothing to do with inherent brain differences, but was all about the way their brains had been trained, or hadn't been trained - they improved dramatically over the time the experiment was being done. What you do a lot makes you good at what you do, and if you spend a lot of time with construction toys, you gain the skills that make you good at building things - if you don't, you don't build up those skills, and then it's easy to make the mistake of thinking it's because you're a girl.

The solution is obvious - don't allow cultural norms to influence you in how you bring up children because the result can be severe warping, killing their potential. Boys and girls both need a wide range of toys to expand their minds in more directions. The girls in the programme took great delight in making things with construction toys once they were given them and not made to think that such things weren't for them. Social pressure has a major impact on the things people do, and you have to fight against the marketing of toys which tries to define boys and girls by difference, pushing them apart and to opposite extremes instead of focusing on the overwhelming area of overlap between them and encouraging them to fill that entire space. Girls are better with language because they spend more time on play that involves talking, and there are all sorts of repulsive dolls that help them with that - they make up stories and think up all manner of things for dolls to say to each other. Most boys are never going to want anything to do with dolls of that kind, but there's nothing wrong with teddies, and one of the least likely of the boys in the TV programme showed a surprising amount of enthusiasm for making a teddy from a kit.

Here are a couple of links to some information about the programme (more can be found by a simple search such as "Isle of Wight gender experiment"):-



Author:  Solar [ Tue Sep 05, 2017 1:33 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Diversity at OS Dev

DavidCooper wrote:
The solution is obvious - don't allow cultural norms to influence you...

Hear, hear!

This goes far beyond child-raising.

I would go so far as to say, it is the most important lesson you could learn. It applies to racism, religious fundamentalism, homophobia, jealousy, bigotry, and lots of other things mankind has "invented" to make ourselves unhappy.

(Not all cultural norms are negative, mind, but I think we all know the ones we're talking about here.)

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