le_bebna_kamni: (Posh)
Matt Arnold and I were recently discussing the low numbers of women in the Python, Rails, and Linux communities, an issue that I've been puzzling over for quite some time. I go to a lot of Python conferences in particular, and I've noticed that the ratio of women to men is approximately 1 woman to every 40-50 guys -- and at least a handful of those women are non-tech girlfriends or wives, as opposed to women who are there for the conference itself.

Now it's true that women are overwhelmingly underrepresented in tech fields in general. But open source technical convention turnouts are incredibly dismal even for the computing world. Women only comprise about 1.5% of OSS developers, whereas they make up one fifth to one quarter of the proprietary work force. From a personal standpoint, I see far more women when I've gone to Microsoft events, or even when I've done volunteer programming sprints with Java/C#/etc., much closer to the ratios I see in the real world.

Even when I've gone to "women in computing" type conferences where 99% of the attendees are female, almost everyone I meet uses Windows, Sun Java, Visual Basic, C++ and C#.

So I'm going to attempt to synthesize a few of the articles I've read, discussions I've had, as well as personal experiences, into an answer to the question: Why are there so few women in open source relative to the rest of the computer programming world?

A Brief Survey of Potential Answers )

To Be Continued...
le_bebna_kamni: (Sleep)
I'm a bit of an insomniac at the moment (I've been obsessing about how to undertake the next phase of my server project), so I thought I'd post a little more on something I mentioned in my blog post yesterday in passing.

It's a fairly common belief that men are evolutionarily suited to be both hunters and protectors. While there is some very interesting research to support the former (including speculations that the male form of ADHD/ADD may have been an adaptive trait for hunting), there is actually more biological evidence to support women being more evolutionarily suited to be protectors, and not men.

For those of you who didn't plow through my rather long article, here are a few of the characteristics of women that make them particularly well suited to being protectors:

  • Women have better senses of smell and hearing, making them faster and better at detecting danger. In fact these heightened senses, combined with a thicker bundle of connecting tissues (the corpus callosum) between the two hemispheres of the brain to allow faster/more complete processing of subtle stimuli, may make up what we often think of as "women's intuition"1.

  • They have faster reflexes than men, and their lower center of gravity make them more difficult to knock down in a fight.

  • Women have higher pain tolerances. Yes, this is obviously a necessity for childbirth, but it also serves to keep them going longer in a fight when the stakes are high.

And the big one that I mentioned in passing but didn't elaborate on was the adrenaline patterns:

  • Men release adrenaline like hunters; women release adrenaline like protectors.

Men's bodies release adrenaline almost immediately, which peaks and then drops off almost as quickly. This is a pattern conducive to hunting: spot the prey, react quickly, and then it's over. Women's bodies take slightly longer to release adrenaline and to hit the peak, then adrenaline levels remain elevated for hours afterward. This is a pattern geared to protection: get weaker members out of harm's way, then hit an adrenaline peak in time to turn and fight off the threat. Remain alert for a long period afterward to ensure that the threat (or a similar threat lurking nearby) doesn't return.

It's interesting to me that our bodies don't always match what we've come to believe is true culturally. Now that's not saying that biology is or should be determining -- we're an incredibly adaptive species, and as many studies have shown, the genetic differences between males and females are still relatively small2.

So really, guys should be allowed to be protectors if they really, really want to...but they'll always have to live with the fact that they're biologically inferior for the job. ;P

1 I actually remember a great example of "women's intuition" from my childhood. I was out riding my bike, and I took a somewhat nasty spill about a block away from our house. My mom hadn't known what had happened, but something had just "told" her that something was wrong -- perhaps it subtle sound of children a block a way stopping their playing momentarily -- and she was sure it was me. She dashed out of the house before my dad could even ask where she was going, and was there before I could pick myself up off of the ground. She told me later that she didn't know how she knew -- I'm going to blame it on the heightened senses and corpus callosum. ;P

2 Most studies find more variation within the genders than between the genders, and while differences are still statistically significant, they are generally small (for example, the paper that said men were better at math than women based on SAT scores, also found that the difference amounted to about one correct answer). It also gives a slightly different view from other nationalized or state testing, which shows that girls outperform boys in math up until junior high/high school -- and there are several social factors (like the perception that females who are good in math aren't attractive to boys) that have been noted to contribute to the switch. In fishing communities where girls can go to college but boys are expected to stick around and run the family boats, this switch doesn't occur.

Boys test slightly higher than girls on visual-spatial reasoning in Japan, but Japanese girls outperform American boys and the gap is wider between American boys and girls than it is in Japan. So it's a lot more complex than simply "boys are better at X, girls are better at Y" (or is that the other way around? ;P) For a good overview of children and gender testing, I recommend the book "Same Difference".
le_bebna_kamni: (Default)
We've got a great education system. This video says it all:


The motto of the school is "Where girls with dreams become women of vision". I might expect this kind of thing in a normal public school, but a private school -- particularly a girls' private school -- should teach women their history.


le_bebna_kamni: (Default)

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