[TUHS] Women in computing

Larry McVoy lm at mcvoy.com
Fri Feb 15 06:30:38 AEST 2019

On Thu, Feb 14, 2019 at 12:02:00PM -0800, Deborah Scherrer wrote:
> My personal thought is that, in high school, it's the "nerd" factor.  If I
> were back in high school and saw the kind of guys that are getting into
> computers now, I would stay a thousand miles away from them and that field.
> But, alas, I don't think anyone has tried to research that idea...

I'm decades past high school but have one kid just out of high school and
another still in.  So some conduit of info there.  And I coached hockey
at Los Gatos for a couple of years, a little more insight there.

>From what I can tell, things are pretty different.  When I was going through
high school and college, being a nerd wasn't cool, nerds didn't get anywhere
near the popular girls.  These days, the girls have figured out that the
nerds have a future so they like that.  In general, there seems to be a lot
less cliques and bullying.

I would have thought girls seeing nerds as having positives would make them
want to be part of the CS world but maybe not.

I do think, given that work is frequently a place where you can find a
partner (I found my wife, or she found me, at SGI), that it is a problem
if there isn't a good balance.  If you get 10% women then every time a
new one shows up the sharks will circle.  Not exactly a welcoming

> And/or: I have a friend who was a professor of CS in Amsterdam.  She had
> many grad students of both sexes.  She says she had to practically force the
> women to stay in the field.   They would see the guys getting overly focused
> on the computer details themselves, completely overlooking the goals of the
> project.  The women would get frustrated and complain to the professor.  She
> would have to convince them that the guys just did that, and that the women
> should stay on track.

That's true for specialists.  And it is a reason that CS schools should 
teach systems programming.  You really can't do well in that unless you
see the whole picture.  You can fake it for a while but eventually you
need to see the whole picture to figure out where you need to be putting
effort.  I was visiting my old systems prof in Madison and he said that
systems programming is coming back, employers like Google have been
bitching that nobody knows how to do kernel work or even think about it.

I believe it, I get "bug" reports about LMbench only to find they are
trying to benchmark a VM.  What kind of idiot tries to measure a VM?
Using microbenchmarks?  This was a CS grad student!

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