[Linux-aus] The Ada Initiative - Should Linux Australia support it?

elliott-brennan mail at elliott-brennan.id.au
Thu Feb 24 14:10:15 EST 2011

On 24 February 2011 13:19,  <david at davidnewall.com> wrote:

> Might women just not enjoy computing? That's something which would inhibit
> them, but not a problem. Parity is not a requirement.

Hi David,

I'm not aware of any reputable research which has come to this
conclusion. It may exist...but given the general research available
I'd say the probability of this being the reason is very low.

Women didn't appear to enjoy teaching medicine - but do now; serving
in the armed forces and police forces - but have increased
participation rates; working in child protection  - though they now
form the greater number of 'real' child protection workers (personal
joke. Non-govs don't cut it in my view as 'real' child protection
workers :))

I agree that parity is not a requirement. However the results of the
greater part of research in relation to employment of women in
traditionally male areas lends greater weight to cultural and gender
bias within the community and the field the research queries.

Classic examples are found in boxing. Having a family which includes a
number of professional boxers and boxing trainers (amateur and
professional) it's something I'm aware of myself.

1. Internal explanations for women not being involved as boxers: they
just don't like it, it's too violent, it's not in their makeup, they
are more interested in nice, gentle pursuits (bingo?).

2. External explanations: it's not lady-like, no-one wants to watch
it, women shouldn't box.

My dad would have loved my older sister to have boxed (she was pretty
tough - more so than me!) but there was no venue or organisation for
her to join.

Furthermore, it was illegal in many places. Why? Because...because...because...

When he raised it with other people, they often found the idea
ridiculous. The idea that she may be interested was viewed as an
indication of something odd or strange about her and a lack of
'femininity' - such as wanting to NOT ride side-saddle, wanting to
ride motorbikes, wanting to work in a mortuary.... Check out the
opposition to Marie Curie and the then general belief that her husband
*must* have been the one who did all the work so why should she have
been awarded a Nobel Prize?!

I'm not aware of any cognitive research which indicates women are less
capable for working in IT than men. Nor am I aware of any physical
reason. To presume a 'dislike' or lack of interest is merely a
presumption but not evidence.

Research in the IT area appears to indicate that the culture within
the field is not particularly welcoming - though many individuals are.
Furthermore it is not often promoted as a field of work for females.

Here are some extant cultural products which, though stereotypes,
serve to highlight undercurrents within society (otherwise they
wouldn't be effective as stereotypes) which serve to support IT as a
'male' industry:

Big Bang Theory: Men
IT Crowd: Men
StarTrek (all versions): majority of lead science division characters
are male (there are some exceptions, but Seven of Nine has to be very
sexually alluring with it and B'Elanna Torres was pretty tough and
very masculine).
Stargate (all versions): with the exception of Amanda Tapping, the
central science-oriented characters are male.

I'm sure there are minor characters I've forgotten about but the main
characters are those with the cultural currency.

It is also a stereotype that men involved in IT are immature in their
dealings with women, haven't kissed a girl and are identified by their
immature and adolescent views on sex, sexuality and women.

Furthermore, this stereotype didn't 'make itself' -but that would
require a full-on sociological analysis (preferably with a
Foulcauldian description of how such things come about - sorry to you
Derridian's but he's soooooooooooooooooooooo derivative :)))

I'm not saying this is a true representation of men in IT, but it
wouldn't get as much air play or be a common riff in popular culture
about the field where there not something about it which 'twigged'
people's views as being 'nearly true'.

One thing that stereotypes do is to act as cultural barriers to the
participation of others. Often in an almost subliminal way.

Here's an interesting piece of research:





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