[Linux-aus] Special support for women

Michael Cordover la at mjec.net
Wed Oct 30 10:21:51 EST 2013

I know one shouldn't feed the trolls but I think it's important that
not just the trolls have a say.

I've only been an LA member less than a year. I'm barely active. I
don't know membership statistics. I can't speak for anyone but myself.

Here's what I think though. I think women are as capable as men. I
think there is a serious shortage of female participation in STEM in
general and in computing in particular. I think this is because of
systematic disincentives to participation put in place by society. I
also think some of it is probably direct discrimination - though
thankfully not within LA.

I think the end result is we don't have the meritocracy we'd like. We
have people with potential and people with merit not participating in
the community. The best sign of that is the differing participation
levels of men and women despite no inherent difference in merit.

There's an obvious and simple solution to this: targeted programs
which provide incentives to people affected by this. These can provide
support to overcome the barriers that exist and restore baseline
quality. The idea is that this permits meritorious selection and
participation. The reality is, however, that the incentives almost
always fall short of truly addressing the barriers. What use is a
supportive space when some idiot will criticise that support in
public? It helps but it isn't transformative. It's a stepping stone to
a situation where eventually, hopefully, there's not a differing level
of participation.

And you know what? IT WORKS. We can identify a problem by data
analysis - consistent, statistically significant differential
participation rates by gender. We hypothisise as to the cause -
differential incentives caused by social mores. We try a solution -
equalising incentives by providing targeted support. And all of a
sudden participation rates rise -- and continue to rise, beyond merely
the level the support provides. The data is clear. Targeted support
programs help to address inequality.

People who don't support targeted support (affirmative action, special
programs, whatever you want to call it) do so because either they
don't think women are underrepresented, or because they think women
deserve the be underrepresented. I used to think that because direct
discrimination was effectively eliminated there was no inequality. On
that basis I thought there was no need for any affirmative action. But
then I looked at some data and it became clear that there was some
systematic problem. The disparity is too consistent and too pervasive
to be an accident.

I've ranted enough. I've not articulated well. I've not addressed the
depth or breadth of the issue. I haven't touched on unfair
inequalities other than gender. But I think it's important to have at
least said something.



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