Sexism in Computer Science: Exhibit #8993878

June 15, 2013

I woke up this morning to this lovely Register article, “Girls, Beer and C++: How to  choose the right Comp-Sci degree for you” forward to me via the academic staff mailing list by a generally reasonable member of staff.

Aside from being generally horribly written and full of banalities and thoughtlessness and brogrammerish tone, we have the follow explicit sexist bits:

For example, note the “diversity” of people in the pictures; trust me when I say the number of women studying comp sci is not a tenth of the number these photos suggest.

But this can be read as concern about the low rates of recruitment and retention of women in computer science, right? RIGHT?!!

Not really. The article (FROM THE HEADLINE) sets up a male POV so the natural implicature is that there aren’t many available women in CS programs. Yay.

Also why “stable”? If you haven’t utterly trashed your system multiple times in your comp-sci degree you’re just an arts grad who didn’t get laid.

Brogrammer ethos is alive and well.

Size matters – and I don’t mean the department downstairs

This blocks the idea that brogrammers can be women. He’s not writing neutrally, he’s writing from and for a heavily gendered perspective.

…unless you’re dim-witted enough to let your parents choose who sleeps with you…

All of a piece with the braggy, brogrammerish tone.

And now the lovely section on:


Or to be more accurate, girl, singular. Girls taking A-level computing are so few that it’s likely only one of you will read this piece and frankly you won’t like it (the article, not the course).

Frankly, my jaw dropped. This is either a profound bit of weaselling or a hugely self-unaware moment.

The good-ish news is that according to the stats, the pay gap between male and female IT pros is about the lowest of any career. You are choosing a career where nearly everyone, especially at the high-end, are male. However, I must be clear that statistically you are far more likely to give up this line of work than a man.

Three sentences, barely connected, which manage to 1) say something positive, 2) say something (true) and negative, and 3) insinuate that women can’t hack it.

If you’re a bloke, then you need to understand that the ratio of girls on your course is not a useful indicator of much at all.

It isn’t? Why pray tell?

Also the ratios are so awful in general that the only stat that matters is the university as a whole

Why would the university as a whole stat matter?!?! OH RIGHT, the total uni stat gives male prospectives some idea of availability of sexual partners. And this is why male/female ratios in the course aren’t a useful indicator. Grr.

and secondly my observation as a recruiter is that the more women want to do some career, the less the average person in that career gets out of it.

So women != persons? Average “blokes” end up having to compete? What?

With a huge stretch, this could be read that fields which manage to get significant participation of women are subject to being denigrated and wage depression. At this time, I don’t know how much of such an effect is due to perceptions of “women’s work” vs. “just” more women as a % + pay gap = lower average pay.

But that’s not what’s going on here. Instead, it’s an incitement to men to stick to male oriented fields and preserve them as such.

Note that this article was presented to the staff of Computer Science department as a reasonable and interesting article for us to discuss. When I pushed back on it, my reaction was brushed off by the original sender.

We should not normalize such articles. We shouldn’t “mine them for value” or use them for (first order) discussion starters. (Any real value is second order: Avoid this guy and his recruitment firm. This should be a career ending or blighting article, frankly.)

This kind of crap (and its acceptance) is literally repellent. It repels me. It makes me wonder about what bad choices I’ve made to end up twice in massively sexist fields (philosophy, then computer science). It makes me tired, profoundly tired. Can we not reach a point where an unironic title “Girls, Beer and C++” is sufficient for everyone to condemn and shun?

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