Women in engineering

Feminist ideology and the effect it has had upon society
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Re: Women in engineering

Postby Jonathan » 28 Apr 2013, 09:09

I've been working for almost a decade in a small high-tech software company (never more than 20 developers). My experience outside of work leads me to agree with the broad generalizations about the differences between men and women; particularly in the differences between their interests.

However, at work the women have been self-selected as interested, and externally selected as competent, and here my experience is otherwise, which makes me think that some of the arguments here have been advanced too far.

My R&D department was usually 15-20% female, for the reason that we always looked for smart, competent programmers, and a few of the ones we found were women. There were no hiring pressures and no quotas. Some were good, some were bad, some were outstanding. Some were nice, some supremely irritating, some just a bit strange. All this is true also of the guys - perhaps even more so. There was no underlying theme, no common bitterness, no angry drive.

So I think that Women are statistically less likely to be interested in programming, and less likely to be good, but that still leaves plenty of good programmers, and some of them are very good. A gender-neutral hiring policy gave us about 20% women without lowering standards.

I think if we implemented all sorts of programs to interest girls in programming and give them a head start, we might reach 30% without lowering standards, to the delight of nerdy guys like me in programming labs, and to the benefit of no-one else.
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Re: Women in engineering

Postby Heather » 28 Apr 2013, 14:00

I don't believe I've over-stated my case. My husband is an electrical engineer and programmer with hundreds of colleagues over the world, mostly trained in the Ivy League (we met at our "Public Ivy" engineering college), and only five of them are women. These women are also Asian, but I don't know if this is for reasons of IQ or culture. There were only a couple of women in his department at college, and none pursued the electrical engineering path, which is the one that I would argue requires the most masculine approach. The politically incorrect truth is that 95% of the time, only white or East Asian males are capable of reaching that skill level.

Women can become decent engineers, but they cluster in different fields such as chemical, environmental, materials, or biomedical engineering, because these can be approached in an intuitive way, which I'll elaborate on later. However, at the Ivy level I'm talking about, they will always be overshadowed by men because of IQ distribution, and this leads to bitterness. And, most women desire a family at some point and their careers will inevitably suffer, also contributing to bitterness.

No, not every woman fits the general mold I'm talking about, but I've known exactly two who don't fit it, and they're two of the most unpleasant people I've ever met.
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Re: Women in engineering

Postby Gavin » 28 Apr 2013, 17:13

I don't think you overstated your case either, Heather. Of the hundreds of technical blogs and sites I have visited over the years when looking things up, only perhaps one has been by a woman. If that, actually. When I have found women developers they are usually only at a very basic level. As you say, of course there are a few in engineering (including in software engineering) but they are a tiny minority. Nothing wrong with that either in my view: that's just how things are.

It is partly an awareness of this that made me go into this line though, when I could probably have done other things. Had I gone into HR or PR or something then I would have been answerable to more like 90% women and this combined with PC could have difficult. Programming is also intellectually challenging and satisfying - there's always more to learn.
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Re: Women in engineering

Postby Nathan » 29 Apr 2013, 22:19

There's an interesting article on women doing "men's work" in the Guardian. Far from being the militant "there has to be x% of women in every sector regardless of aptitude or interest level or the whole thing is institutionally sexist" stuff you'd expect, it's actually quite refreshing to read: women freely acknowledging that their interest in, say, car mechanics or butchery makes them unusual in what will naturally always be a man's world and just getting on with it. I admire them for their honesty - I must admit, I wouldn't feel comfortable in a 90% female workplace where I'd have to work twice as hard at fitting in and never being sure to what extent I could get away with being my normal self.

Talking about men doing "women's work", my dad is a primary school headmaster and has been at his school long enough to have hired every current member of staff. For a long time until last year every single member of staff bar him had been a woman until he hired one other male teacher, and privately admitted to me at least that he had deliberately gone out to hire a man to provide him with an escape from too much women's talk in the staff room.
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Re: Women in engineering

Postby Andrea » 30 Apr 2013, 09:27

There have been some very interesting contributions to this thread.

I have never, ever, been remotely interested in anything technical. None of my female friends at university wanted to be an engineer, whereas about 90% of my male friends went in for mechanical engineering or something to do with computers.

I laugh and shake my head at the absurdity of these quotas that say a company or a country must have a certain amount of women or it's discrimination. People will do what they are good at. If a woman is great at maths, she'll do that. More often than not, we're not good at rational things, but excel in many other areas. As Gavin said, men and women are supposed to complement each other and I completely agree with him and with what Heather stated in her posts.

No one forced me to study History at university. I loved it, still do, and I would have been incapable and frankly, uninterested, to do something analytical (and History is plenty analytical for me as it is!).
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Re: Women in engineering

Postby Andy JS » 30 Apr 2013, 22:02

One of the few relatively high-profile British women in engineering I can think of is the Labour MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central Chi Onwurah (although I realise she probably is only well-known to people such as myself who take a close interest in the careers of MPs).
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Re: Women in engineering

Postby Caleb » 01 May 2013, 02:47

Nathan wrote:There's an interesting article on women doing "men's work" in the Guardian. Far from being the militant "there has to be x% of women in every sector regardless of aptitude or interest level or the whole thing is institutionally sexist" stuff you'd expect, it's actually quite refreshing to read: women freely acknowledging that their interest in, say, car mechanics or butchery makes them unusual in what will naturally always be a man's world and just getting on with it. I admire them for their honesty - I must admit, I wouldn't feel comfortable in a 90% female workplace where I'd have to work twice as hard at fitting in and never being sure to what extent I could get away with being my normal self.

Talking about men doing "women's work", my dad is a primary school headmaster and has been at his school long enough to have hired every current member of staff. For a long time until last year every single member of staff bar him had been a woman until he hired one other male teacher, and privately admitted to me at least that he had deliberately gone out to hire a man to provide him with an escape from too much women's talk in the staff room.


Being a male primary school teacher in the English speaking world would be a lonely job, I should imagine. However, I've heard it's a bit of a fast track to promotion (if you can navigate the minefield).

I think, also, that being a primary school teacher requires a particular kind of man. I mainly teach at a junior high school, but I also teach at two primary schools. The grade six students I can more or less handle, the grade five students I have mixed experiences with, but I also teach one grade four class. I always feel like I'm right on the cusp of terrifying a kid in that class. Because at that age, it's all about how they feel. They're like an alien, irrational species to me. My definition of a good kid is one who can make his own sandwich, not lose his queen in a chess match in the first five moves, and be able to have a two minute conversation about World War 1. Most primary school students are utterly useless on at least the second two, if not the first also. Maybe it's different with your own kids, but I don't know how some guys deal with that, en masse, every single day.
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Re: Women in engineering

Postby Heather » 03 Jun 2013, 18:48

Engineering college can be a lonely experience for a young woman, so I joined an all-female engineering sorority, and I'm still part of its FB group. This came up in my newsfeed a few days ago (a comment from a sorority sister on an article about a particular woman's career):

Work hard and aim high, ladies. Show those haters what you can do. The best response is to ignore them and let it push you forward.


As I've said before in this thread, this is a particularly female way to go about engineering. The drive/focus required for it has to come from somewhere. Men tend to naturally have this drive, whereas many (but not all) women need to manufacture it. Tthis can take different forms, but usually it's either a burning thirst for academic success, or raw anger, and after years and years of seeing men naturally rise to the top because of their native talents it's psychologically easier to blame men than one's own lack of talent.

I've definitely never heard a male engineer say, "Let their hatred push you forward." I think most women, and men, hearing this from a man would say, "What the heck is wrong with you? You're a grown man, so stop whining already. If you're so bad at engineering that you need anger in order to achieve, get another career. Or a therapist." But when a woman says it (and this isn't an isolated case; it's a very common attitude) we're supposed to talk sympathetically about diversity training and quotas.
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Re: Women in engineering

Postby Nathan » 12 Jun 2013, 08:43

A picture of the queue for the women's and men's toilets respectively at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco:

Image
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Re: Women in engineering

Postby Elliott » 12 Jun 2013, 16:04

That's hilarious, Nathan!

O, the oppression of female software developers! Think of all the logic we are missing out on!
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Re: Women in engineering

Postby Gavin » 19 Mar 2014, 07:43

At the company where I'm currently working there are two female programmers. One is a lesbian - at first sight indistinguishable from a man - the other is a transexual, so actually is a man.
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Re: Women in engineering

Postby Gavin » 29 Apr 2014, 08:41

"Women of colour" and "femgineers" needed!
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Re: Women in engineering

Postby Heather » 30 Apr 2014, 22:09

Notice how the first woman isn't actually working as an engineer now; she's a businesswoman who happens to know how to code. That's unsurprising. Many women I went to university with are now teachers, law students, or med students, or mothers, because they recognize that they aren't really the engineering type.

The other two women are not engineers. They just know how to code, which is a very small (but somewhat essential) part of being an engineer. Real engineering is on an altogether different level.

So we see the same lackluster story all over again. Women going into STEM fields and acting surprised when the men outstrip them, even as they themselves don't actually wind up as engineers, through their own talents and choices.
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Re: Women in engineering

Postby Gavin » 30 Apr 2014, 22:35

Heather, good points and it's nice to see you back at the forum again!
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Re: Women in engineering

Postby Heather » 01 May 2014, 13:16

Thank-you, Gavin! But I expect I won't be a regular here for some time yet.

A couple more points. I always think it's interesting to look at what people choose to say and what reporters choose to relay to the audience. Half of the first woman's bio is about her obsession with praise and "being different," or special. The second woman credits her father with steering her into STEM. Again, neither of these things are surprising. In my experience, many women wind up in these fields not because of how masculine-minded they are, but because of how feminine-minded they are. They go into it to impress others, and what could be more impressive in a feminist age?

She took apart her first computer at 14.


My two year old takes apart electronics. Behold the difference between male and female minds! ;)

But here we see the same psychology. My boy does it because he desperately wants to know how everything works, not to impress us, and obviously I keep the behavior in check. A 14 year old girl almost certainly does it to show off to her peers and parents.

Also, there's a world of difference between taking something apart and putting it back together, or even building it from scratch. Several young men I knew had built their own computers at age 14, and moreover didn't consider it anything particularly special (I, on the other hand, find it very impressive!). They'd shrug and say anyone could do it if they wanted to, that it was a cakewalk compared to their engineering classes.
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