[Linux-aus] The Ada Initiative - Should Linux Aus etc

elliott-brennan elliottbrennan at gmail.com
Wed Feb 23 16:18:15 EST 2011

> Neill Cox <neill at ingenious.com.au>
> Tue, 22 Feb 2011 16:14:42 +1100

> [0] Somehow it always seems to be men failing to
> notice :-)

Neill FTW!

Mate, I SHOULD have said it but didn't. I bow to 
your erudite and succinct 'nail-on-headedness'.

To those who ask who thinks this is a problem: The 
women who have been writing in this thread have 
been saying "this is a problem". The issue itself 
is an area of research:


A big 'Up' to James:

James Purser <jamesrpurser at gmail.com>
Tue, 22 Feb 2011 15:28:33 +1100
 >This is a known problem, with a known solution. 
The >problem of course is that the solution is 
cultural change, >which as we all know is never 
easy, fast or clean.

Especially for those whom a cultural bias benefits 
and particularly when they see their dominance 

There are some latent cultural views expressed in 
this thread  which are hidden by the 'prove it's a 
problem' query. Before questioning whether the 
issue is a problem, we should ask ourselves some 
'why' questions to clarify our 
personal/professional positions:

"Why are there so few women in IT?"

The answers (and resulting questions) arising will 
reveal our personal views about women and gender 

"Because they're not interested" begs another "Why 
aren't they?" Is it a 'naturalness' within women? 
Is there any evidence of this? Is it that it's not 
interesting to them? Is there something about 
women that makes them less interested?

If one accepts that in general women and men are 
equally intelligent and competent (in general 
terms, not the specific) then it is a natural 
extension to question why they are 
under-represented in some areas and 
over-represented in others.

Two Australian academics who are challenging and 
engaging in this area are Bob Connell ("Gender and 
Power") and Margaret Sargent ("The New Sociology 
for Australians"). Margaret can be a threatening 
challenge to read (she was one of my lecturers at 
Uni) but is well worth sticking with. Bob C writes 
in a very clear and readable fashion.

Though this is not an area in which I have 
expertise (my research degree is in the sociology 
of child abuse), to complete my paper I had to 
spend a long time researching gender difference.

On a more personal note, let me give you an 
interesting example of challenging an existing bias.

I was once one of only two men in NSW working in 
child sexual assault counselling. I was the ONLY 
one working with survivors of abuse (the other guy 
worked with offenders and deserved twice my pay). 
When I got the job I was (according to everyone 
else) the first ever male to work for the State 
government as an identified child sexual abuse 

This put the pigeon (Moi!) amongst the cats (I'm 
using the term in an affectionate, humorous 
fashion) and it took some time for me to be 
accepted. The women I worked with had to do do a 
lot of soul-searching and self-questioning as my 
position took away a job from someone who could 
work with females (by far and away the largest 
group of persons who are sexually assaulted) and 
used precious resources on a minority group (!) 
There were a few tears involved (not just mine).

They also had to change the way they worked 
together and spoke - no more "men are..." 
conversations and stereotypes glibly thrown into a 
discussion. They also had to get used to a 
different communication style and areas of 
interest. Some even had to accept that beer was 
not the only source of liquid one could consume 
and that smoking was not always acceptable 
everywhere (some of those women put brickies to 
shame :))

The outcome was a major shift in how the service 
worked, the overall focus of the service and an 
increase in the number of men who were 
referred...and I mean a major increase, not just 
statistically different.

The manager had taken a major risk employing me. 
She thought it was worth it and felt the 'problem' 
required addressing, despite the reservations and 
objections of some. Given that it was addressing a 
'minority group', a group who obviously were not 
interested in working in the field and took money 
that could have been used otherwise, she had to 
take a lot of flack and questioning about it for 
quite some time. Good on her!

As I wrote earlier, you have to question yourself 
as to why you think an absolutely, mind-boggling, 
bizzaro world exists in which a specific group 
containing highly intelligent, capable, ingenious 
and creative people is so significantly 
under-represented in a field of work...and now I'm 
talking about IT.

That this is not automatically considered an issue 
to address has to be a catalyst for each of us to 
question our values and ethical positions in 
relation to this 'other' group.

Thanks to those brave few who have reached the end.

Term papers are due on the last day of class in 
April :))



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