What is Broken
Posted Aug 11, 2005 4:35 UTC (Thu) by xoddam
In reply to: What is Broken
Parent article: Getting in touch with the feminine side of open source (NewsForge)
> I very much suspect that, like (nearly?) all macro-social
> statistics, we're looking at something with many, varied
> causes, not one big one.
Of course that's true. And it's also completely misleading,
because sexism isn't a minor, varied cause, it's a major,
consistent one. Ask *any* woman entering a male-dominated field
and she'll have a dozen stories to tell, of where her contribution
has been belittled or overlooked. Slowly most other fields have
lost their male-bastion reputation (if not their male-majority
statistics) as women's abilities have been recognised. There is
no reason whatsoever to suppose that the same won't eventually
be true of software engineering.
It is *strange* that sexism is still rife in engineering, which is
full of highly intelligent individuals who understand complex
systems. It's even more strange that it seems to be worse in free
software, where we're all supposed to be freedom-loving progressive
innovators. I see it as not only odd, but regrettable.
> All I take exception to is the notion that a correllation here
> necessarily implies some nefarious sexist cause, or that an
> "under-representation" in one industry or another is prima facie
> evidence of some problem that needs to be fixed.
You're setting up a comfortable strawman for yourself by taking
exception to a logical contradiction. No-one's arguing for a
provable falsehood here.
The prima facie evidence is not "under-representation" alone.
There is a volume of anecdotal evidence that people are turned
away (and all such evidence is necessarily anecdotal, statistics
*can't* tell a story). Read the links.
The problem is not statistical under-representation, it is
individuals whose contributions, talents and personalities
have been stifled.
People who wish to correct the problem express it by
saying the "under-representation" needs to be corrected, because
increasing womens' participation in fields such as medicine
has, along the way, reduced the amount of sexism and allowed
many people to develop in ways they couldn't have if it were
still presumed that medicine was a man's job.
And as for "nefarious", most incidence of sexism isn't malicious
in intent. Most sexist remarks aren't made with that intention.
Much sexism is perpetrated by women, in the forms of maternal
ambition, peer pressure and role modelling.
There's nothing *wrong*, on the face of it, with being protective
of a daughter, or complimenting a colleague on her appearance, or
noting surprise when you see the unexpected -- or, for that matter,
warning your best friend that she's in for a rough time. Yet each
of these things, repeated from every direction over a long time,
has a chilling effect.
> Isn't it perfectly possible that, for whatever reasons, more
> women choose to do certain things, less others (and the same
> for men, who are quite under-represented in certain professions
> as well) without there being anything wrong with that fact?
Logically possible, yes. Consistent with the evidence, no.
I'm not aware of men being "under-represented" in any occupation
that pays a decent wage. They wouldn't tolerate it, so why should
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