SparkFun Ponders Women In STEM Fields


Tuesday was [Ada Lovelace] day and to recognize it SparkFun posted an article about women in their workforce and the STEM initiative. [Ada Lovelace] is credited with forging a path for women in mathematics and computing. The STEM acronym represents a movement to get more of America’s students into Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics fields in order to keep up with the rest of the developed world. But part of the issue includes drastically increasing the interest of young women in these fields and their access to it. The thing is, I feel the same way about the community at Hackaday.

Obviously some of the biggest names in the hobby electronics and engineering enthusiast industry are women. The name that seems to top lists is always [Limor Fried] who you may know better as [Lady Ada]. She founded Adafruit industries. But there are couple of other notables that stick out in our minds. [Jeri Ellsworth] has been huge name around here forever. Just this week Hackaday was celebrating the Kickstarter for her latest project. [Becky Stern] has had a ton of awesome project featured, mostly in conjunction with her work at Adafruit but her knitting machine hack when she was with MAKE has always stuck out in our minds. And of course, there’s [Quinn Dunki] who has long been building her own 6502 computer from the ground up (Incidentally we’re running a Guest Rant from her at midday on Friday).

What I’m missing is the grass-roots hacks from women. I know they’re out there because I see them at monthly meetings at the local hackerspace. We featured [Caroline’s] bathymetric book, and [Robin]’s collaboration that produced solar powered supercap jewelry. Both are members of Sector67.

So I call for all Hackaday readers to make this a friendly environment for anyone who wants to participate. If you’re a female reader who has been lurking around rather than sending in links to your gnarly hacks please take the plunge and send us a tip! If your female friends have awesome projects, offer to help them document it for a feature. You may not have thought of it, but sharing your projects makes you a role model for young readers.

By trade I’m an orchestra musician — a field that was completely closed off to women until well into the last century. While gender equality hasn’t been reached in all orchestras, the Regional Orchestras I have and do play with, show equal representation of gender throughout. Let’s make the same thing happen with STEM!

86 thoughts on “SparkFun Ponders Women In STEM Fields

  1. A major practical problem I’ve seen in STEM fields is the attractiveness factor. Smart guys generally like smart girls and fall all over themselves trying to pair up with them. These women can end up getting hit on so often it can cause distraction and/or interfere with their enjoyment of the work.

    It only takes one bad story sometimes to dissuade someone on a career choice, just like it can take years to earn a customer and only seconds to lose one.

    I’d advise these women to wear a decoy wedding band, even. It’s a proven repellent that worked for a classmate of mine. Your mileage may vary, of course.

      1. As my grandpa used to say: It’s not so much a matter of finding the right person as being the right person.

        Dropping a “Your husband’s a lucky guy.” as a side comment after you get to know her and leaving it at that is a zero pressure compliment that can open up an “I’m not married. The ring’s a decoy.” or, if she’s especially awesome: “Forget the ring. The ring is bupkis. I found it in a Cracker Jack box.”

        1. If someone said either of those things to me I would be cheeped out and avoid them from that point on.

          Don’t hit on people when you think they are married and don’t lie about being so. Both are morally deplorable.

    1. You may have identified a problem but I’m opposed to your answer. I feel that suggesting women change their behavior (by wearing a fake wedding band) is exactly the kind of negative reinforcement that should be avoided.

      If there is an established behavior that has men in the field swarming the women, this should be addressed and changed.

      1. In the long run, I agree with you fully.

        Expecting engineers to be assertive and/or confrontational might not go so well. Most I’ve met are quite passive, electing to “ignore it and it will go away” in regard to annoying social matters.

        In addition to the attention-with-good-intentions, there’s also the ridiculous stereotype of the “nerd girl” being the “easy target” which needs addressing. There’s enough white-knighting to moderate that, but it’s the predation that needs to achieve extinction.

    2. Men/boys who are lonely, or just REALLY eager to have a romantic relationship, seem much more likely to deal with their feelings in ways that make people around them uncomfortable (and sometimes frightened). On the opposite end from the desperate ones are the overly aggressive and entitled dudes. I’m not sure which ones cause more social problems.

      ### Clever segue here ###

      For groups that have been marginalized, there is a real need for a gathering place that is safe from oppressors and threats. This doesn’t mean that white men need to be systematically excluded from the safe gathering places, only that there needs to be effective leadership that creates a culture of respect and support. Oh, and if you live in a diverse area, but your key leadership roles are all filled by people of one sex/skin tone/culture/sexual orientation, then you’ve failed at creating a culture of universal respect and support.

        1. In my experience, white men are the most frequent perpetrators of sexism and racism. Now that I think about it, though, perhaps my experience is colored by certain white men who think it is safe to share their bigoted attitudes with me because of my sex and skin color.

          However, I think it would be difficult to dispute that there is deeply ingrained sexism and racism in the united states that frequently works to the short-term benefit of white men. We’ve made a lot of progress in these areas, but there is still work to be done.

          1. Adria Richards, is that you?

            You might want to travel to Israel if you REALLY want to see “racism and sexism” on display.

            BTW, feel free to move to a country which was NOT founded by White, conservative male gentiles…

          2. I fear your problems with saying white men are sexist/racist etc is because you look at numbers not percentages.

            For example in the UK only 15% of the population is “non-white”
            what this means is that if of 16% of business owners are non-white rather than being something that we desperately need to improve on, it’s actually pretty good, over represented by percentages.

            If you’re in a room of 100 people and there is one sexist white man and one sexist non-white man, surely that would suggest that by percentage there are more sexist non-white people… -by percentage of the room that’s the same, if the room was representation of the population it’s suggest

            Indeed in most (non-white Male dominated) cultures, you’re more likely to be told that you should be at home, cooking and looking for a good husband to look after you, and if you have kids then you should be teaching them the same.

            Basically, the suggestion that all white men are trying to suppress women, or it’s usually men who are oppressing women is pretty silly really. it ignores population representation.

            And lets face it, ignores most facts…

            How many here have kids? and you painted your little girls room what colour? and she enjoys baking cakes with mummy, and tools are kept out of the way?
            so exactly who’s fault will it be if you don’t encourage your child’s interest and then they find it hard to be inspired by anything other than other than the effeminate things that you’ve brought them up on?

            For my part I teach my daughter how to build things, and she love to help, she was three when she helped build her little red wagon. she’s five now, she helps fix the garden gate, (sawing wood and hammer nails) enjoys building things, (like things out of boxes and pots,) she enjoys making things (last thing was a solar powered car -which to be fair only involved snapping bits of plastic together putting in a motor and a solar panel) -so on an adult scale not hugely impressive, but hey, she has the car, and likes playing with it, and she made it herself.

            her latest request was go ask if I thought it was possible to make a “game player”
            and thanks to this:
            the answer will now be yes…
            She’ll be six by Christmas and getting a box of components as one of her presents…
            (I just wish the $91 version would ship to the UK).

            She’ll be drawing the case (on paper) which I’ll print with a 3d printer…
            in a few years we’ll break out the ferric chloride and soldering irons. (when I feel she’s old enough).
            she has expressed an interest in helping to restore a car that I have, she says that’s when it’s done she wants to paint it pink and keep it herself.

            Do I want to push her to “do engineering”? no, I just want he to know that she can if she wants to.

            That is how you get more girls into STEM,
            Don’t wait until they already have set ideas about it (because then it’s too late)
            and don’t think that one day a year is going to give them a passion. (you can’t give someone a passion, and it you could a couple of hours spent discussing a dead person once a year is not going to do it!)
            don’t pretend that a girl making an LED blink is somehow more impressive than a man doing the same (because that’s patronising, -and who wants to be patronised?)

    3. This type of thinking is annoying from a male point of view too. The workforce in the office where I work is ageing and most people are married. As one of the few single guys left I find myself being “warned” about new female employees relationship statuses. (They’re married have kids, etc.) because people seem to think I’m going to hit on the female employees.

      I now wonder how formal I have to be in my interaction with them and generally don’t bother because it’s not worth the hassle of potentially being thought to be harassing them.

      Although not talking to me probably doesn’t blight their day to any great extent. This several times over is likely to lead to the isolation that I’ve read makes some women want to leave the field.

      1. I have had similar experiences where I was warned before meeting someone – and worse, pulled into my supervisor’s office because of a rumor in a guilty until proven innocent setting. Just one experience like that is all it takes to never ever interact with the opposite sex at work unless absolutely necessary and with other people present. It is just way too hard to defend yourself against rumors, lies, or misunderstandings.

        No sense risking my career or being accused of a crime just to make someone feel accepted.

    4. From the sound of it, some of you guys have yet to be part of a deep, meaningful, long-term relationship.

      In a nutshell: it takes more blood, sweat and tears to maintain than it would to build a rocket to the moon, and like that rocket, a relationship can crash and burn with the same fiery intensity.

      That being said, as a 33-year-old bachelor I don’t even know how to explain to you how peaceful it is around my house (I take out the trash when -I- say so), and how great it is to be able to sit up all night on the computer or my workbench, drinking beer and building stuff, and most of all — I can leave the toilet seat up (I actually had a big stupid argument about that with my ex…)

      From an experience point-of-view, I’d rather build the rocket.

  2. Ugh, The problem with this is making a “deal” out of it all the freaking time. If women want to get into tech and hacking and general geekyness, then they will on their own accord. I work in technology (pretty much a black art type of technology in fact) and none of us guys are actively making it a hostile work environment for women… As long as a gal can hang with the rest of us, it’s not an issue. They are simply co-workers. The problems with it begin when people act like we have to make it attactive to women – i.e. “favoritism” or “lower the bar” some how so women can make it or setting up an eazy bake oven in the lab so little betty crocker will be more interested in science. Thats lame ass hell. If they are interested they are interested. I think it’s insulting to women and a turn off to a career in tech to start with. Treating them as equals and fellow co-workers, expecting the same out of them as the guys, not making it like they are some protected species or whatever is the best approach. Take the sex out of it. We are all human beings and treating each other as such is the best way forward. That said, we as a culture tend to start the issue from a young age, making glamor and beauty and being attractive or a “star” the most important thing in little girls lives. Even the so called girl hero geeks are bent on looking a certain way via pink hair dye and 500 piercings. So much for being an individual…

    1. If you want to treat people equally you HAVE to treat them different. It’s impossible to please everyone by treating them the same. Same applies here. The methods can be questionable however.

      ” and none of us guys are actively making it a hostile work environment for women… As long as a gal can hang with the rest of us, it’s not an issue. ”

      Basically you’re saying that if they’re like you or your group, it’s not a problem – well that itself IS a problem ;)

      1. Agreed. Trying to be the Walmart of friendship and camaraderie doesn’t really work unless you’re, for example, a politician trying to impress other politicians.

        Friendship is meant to be of the boutique, more specialized nature, I think. You can have thousands of “Hi.” friends and you can have a few or a dozen lifelong friends with whom you’re almost like family.

        By its very nature, romance is even more custom than that. If you think about it, it’s actually the highest form of friendship.

      2. He does bring up some important points:

        1) Definition of value – speaking of American society, though I’m certain it’s true in varying degrees elsewhere in the world, we place far too much value on triviality. Sports prowess, external appearance, fashion, even race & gender as far as our history with racism and sexism then affirmative action and gender equality. All too much emphasis placed on things which the individual generally had to do little or no work to gain. If instead we placed far more value on a person based on qualities that are harder to see but make a much better person (kindness, desire to help others, motivation to better oneself, altruistic leadership, forgiveness) then generally people will gravitate towards developing those qualities and most everyone you meet will be an awesome person, rather than the current status quo of people using whatever is currently popular to fit in so that those around them will accept them because of these superfluous qualities.

        2) People naturally like spending time with people that are either:
        a) like they are, based on whatever criteria. I like spending time around engineers because the training makes you think a different way about the world
        b) have some quality that they want, spending more time around that person will likely help me better develop some quality, talent, or skill

        So, when [KleenexCommando] says “As long as a gal can hang with the rest of us, it’s not an issue,” we can’t leave out the statement “They are simply co-workers” as it wraps up his way of viewing them for how he places value on the person, based on their desire to also do things he likes without finding a way to isolate each other.

        As an indication of separation I found this list on Wikipedia:

        Some of the delineations make sense as to the varying disciplines in engineering. I work in a robotics lab: Electrical, Computer, Mechanical, Aeronautical all are of interest to me. Audio, Plumbing, Chemical not as much. But some of the societies that make less sense to me are the ones that create division not on particular skill or interest, but on trivial attributes that have nothing to do with engineering: “Society of Women Engineers”, “Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers”, “National Society of Black Engineers”, “American Indian Science and Engineering Society”.

        I’m currently working on a publication as project lead with 3 other coworkers from Iran, China, and Colombia. Two men, two women on the team. Our boss is from Tunisia. None of us have any issue working together because our value system is placed on things that matter most for our work: a desire to learn, discover, and succeed in the topic we’re researching. I love my lab environment, and we’ve never had issues in the 11 years I’ve been here where anything negative has happened due to our focus on the work we all love doing.

        Is there a historical imbalance of women:men in STEM fields? Yes, but for those currently here there shouldn’t be any issue of not belonging to the team of tinkerers. As a society a change in the placement of value on a person over a period of time will result in greater true equality and everyone will benefit from such a shift. Start with the people around you, sites like this have done wonders to help me show friends how much fun there is to what we do. Get out and share!

      3. I mean hang as in they are “smart enough”. And dare I say that right? I mean we judge each other by our individual technicals skills. i.e don’t expect special treatment. Just do your job… if you are good at your job, no matter your sex, you will be just fine. If you are a female OR a male and you expect special treatment because of what does your doesn’t dangle from your body, you will not be accepted. If you cannot do your job and you expect to get away with it with a wink and a nod, you will be cast out. Everyone can be friends at work, no issues with that and yes, you have to consider certain behavior when in mixed company in those regards, but should it have any bearing on the job at hand? And if you are hanging out at a hacker space looking for a date… You are there for all the wrong reasons.

    2. IMO, the above comment rates as libertarian claptrap. There’s no social change without the will and effort to change it. Otherwise, you, me, the previous poster would be living in a *much* different world.

      1. I suppose since I have a work environment where I get along with my coworkers and have never encountered illogical biases, I may not have the perspective that others do. I suppose what I’m interested in discussing is more a matter of “the way things are” vs. “the way things should be”.

        Instead of the way things are in unfortunately many places where illogical mediocrity is praised (looks, innate athleticism, fashion, what side of the tracks you were raised on), we can instead each try to foster a nurturing and welcoming environment wherever we see good indications of interest, effort, and skill. Imagine a chemistry/math/physics teacher encouraging what their students do well.

        If they explore for themselves what they’re interested in, are praised for what they do well rather than praised for immaterial indicators that are currently used then each person will gravitate toward what they like best and can develop their skills. If instead they are assigned value based on gender, race, or birth socioeconomic status then there will be relatively fewer barriers of entry to any discipline that anyone may favor.

        If the above description is true despite my limitations in expressing what I see as a better way of interacting with each other, all that now remains is figuring out how to get from where we are to where we should be. One way I try to do this is praise/compliment the students I work with as much as possible for constructive reasons. For instance, “Good job, you worked really hard and solved the problem we were having”, “Thanks for getting back to me so quickly, I appreciate your input and couldn’t have figured it out without your help”, “I don’t know how many times you’ve come up with a crazy solution that just works, without your input to show us a different perspective we’d be stuck doing the same thing expecting a different result”, and so on.

        Diligence, Collaboration, Innovation, and a host of other traits in a person should be fostered. If you frame your cost function correctly, you’ll get a good result.

        I suppose the takeaway from this is: Yes, we have differences. Because of those differences we have unique experiences in the past that have made us who we are. Let us collaborate and share what we can contribute to positively affect the world around us. Value people for who they are inside rather than for something they didn’t choose for themselves. Act to influence the world around you rather than letting yourself be acted upon.

      1. A better question might be: “Am I valued for my pink hair and my piercings? Or am I valued for my hacks?”

        If you’re valued for your hacks and the other is just an outward expression of your personality, there’s nothing “wrong with pink hair, piercings and doing cool hacks”. If someone who sees you changes their outward appearance to try and fit in the community at the expense of paying attention to your hacks and developing their skill as a hacker, then they’ve missed the point and all have lost.

        There’s nothing inherently wrong with the outward appearance of a person if it’s an honest expression of their personality, but if others stop there and never bother to see what’s inside, well, then we have a problem. Just like some of the best hacks are contained inside of a pretty case, those of us who know will also want to see what’s inside the case where the meat of the hack lies. Personally I like seeing the well-designed cases people make because design is something I’m not good at. I still appreciate the outer representation, but will not stop there to see what’s inside.

      2. “what’s wrong with pink hair, piercings and doing cool hacks?” As far as I’m, concerned not a GD thing. A hetero male, they neither or turn on or turnoff for women who sport such fashion. I might be accused as a conservative in some areas, but fashion isn’t one of them same goes for tattoos. I although I believe tattoos ill advised for anyone. No way of predicting if we will end up in a situation where unique identification would be detrimental to one’s well being. And no I’m nor a fearful fear mongering conspiracy theorist cowering behind a computer monitor, just a sensible policy in IMO, but I can’t care who you choose to do with your own body.

    3. “cmholm says:
      IMO, the above comment rates as libertarian claptrap.”

      Precisely. Believing the world to be a meritocracy because you succeeded does not make it so. Presuming that other people have no greater barriers than you is a very myopic view of the world. If you’re truly interested in having a meritocracy, then you need to listen when the oppressed group is trying to tell you they are oppressed. This line of thinking ultimately becomes victim blaming.

      Two people start a 100m dash, but Person A is born already running from the half-way point. Person B loses, obviously. Person A then says Person B just didn’t try hard enough, or didn’t want it bad enough, or maybe Person B just isn’t inherently made for running, and should perhaps go make Person A a sandwich.

      1. I’m a liberal actually…

        I would hope that women would want the barriers to come down as far as stereotypes that women aren’t as bright or talented in the science/technical fields.But I disagree that requires making things more fun or enjoyable for girls. Science and technology are what they are! And I like electronics for the fact that it is electronics! Do you think Ms. Lovelace wanted to be the first computer programmer because they told her there would be free fabric for her sewing projects? Do I do electronics because I think it makes me look more manly?

        I have a learning disability in math, yet I still do electronics as a profession and I don’t expect it to be easy because formulas are formulas, Amps and Amps, Volts are Volts. They aren’t changing for me… I never say “I can’t, because…” I didn’t even let it be known that I have a learning disability to my employer.( a little easier to hide than gender, yes, but still.) I see it as a personal challenge to do better, to work harder, to rise above my disability. Do you see your gender as a disablity? I don’t.

        And I agree that certain employeers discriminate for all kinds of reasons. Being a female may just be one of them sometimes (not everywhere). But 1. Why in gods name would you want to work where you are not wanted? Their loss if you are as good as you believe you are, right? 2. Are you being hired on your own merits? I mean really… Or are you being hired just because you are a number in someones metric or quota they have to fill and you are actually dead weight? I’m not saying either is right, But I would not want to be hired by someone that is just in it for another “diversity metric” to fill. I would want to be hired for the skills I have to offer, And thats it.

      2. You are incredibly sexist. Women are not oppressed. Men do not have any special advantages in today’s world. Just go take a look at college loans and grants. If you are white and male, well too bad for you. If you apply to a government job, there are quotas to be met. ‘Tis far better to be a minority female than to be competent.

        From my point of view the pendulum has swung just slightly to the other side and you are indeed ‘blaming the victim’ by insinuation. Men are becoming less likely to go to college, have professional careers, marry, have children, and there is a disturbing trend growing of them simply dropping out of society all together. I am sure some reading these words are in that group. Only leaving the house when absolutely necessary. Only having a job just barely good enough to stay afloat.

        It all feels like being a pariah, constant blame for everything bad in society. Worse still, being told that I should be able to easily succeed in everything I do and thus need to be sandbagged. All because I was born missing a second X chromosome.

  3. S in STEM stands for Science. Science at my University includes Psychology and similar subjects, where 90% of students are women. This Science is miles away from TEM in STEM, and THIS is the problem. We need more women in hard sciences (TEM), not in Psych/Socio/blah blah. But as long as women are complimented based on their looks versus their brains, nothing will really change.

    1. Your characterization of the social sciences is oh-so-typical and oh-so-wrong!

      Technology people are so comfortable with computers because they are trivial to push around and 100% predictable. They can just switch off the part of their brain that has to negotiate social settings. Don’t believe me, look at the social misfits that you work with.

      The social sciences might not give you the warm simple mathematical fuzzies that you get from formal logic, but the problems are MUCH more difficult and require MUCH more insight and MUCH more real-world experience to solve.

      1. I disagree. Real science = tested. BS science = invent your own Gestalt theory and let people fight over it for next 100 years, because it cannot be proven/disproven. Like: women envy men because of their p…s.

        1. “We also need more men in STEM.”

          Disclaimer: may have to employ themselves.

          That’s a great strategy… Hey kids, major in STEM! You’ll accrue a bunch of debt and then nobody will hire you! Just borrow $50,000 from your parents and start a company. Thanks Mitt!

          1. Lol. You’re right. Forget STEM, and just take a job serving fries somewhere, until someone comes and picks you up for a better job. Keep dreaming, it can happen!

          2. I think you’re missing the point. The mantra we need more people in STEM is quoted over and over and it’s totally cliche. As someone who has a STEM degree and has experienced the extremely unfriendly job market, I can tell you that the few jobs that exist have absolutely no shortage of qualified and very good applicants.

            By chanting “we need more STEM” over and over again, you’re just skirting the real issue. Telling kids to go into STEM subjects is just setting them up for a major shock. You’re going to fight tooth and nail to get a job. Meanwhile, people who go into a programming-related field will land jobs left and right.

  4. Just with the articles on HaD: shouldn’t this be a meritocracy? I don’t mind what gender you are, just as I don’t mind if you love or hate peanut butter sandwiches: if your hack is awesome, I’ll cheer on you, if I see something that could have been done differently, I’ll comment on it and if you use an Arduino do something in a completely wrong way, I’ll tell you what I think of it. Especially in an environment where most people only show pics of their work and hide behind a moniker, I don’t think gender should matter.

    1. Yes, a meritocracy is the ultimate goal. However, just wanting it isn’t sufficient. We can’t simply pretend that discrimination doesn’t exist and it will go away.

      The reason the playing field isn’t level is that good people with good intentions discriminate all the time without meaning to. The low-hanging fruit of equality has been taken care of (voting rights, that sort of thing), but what’s left is actually much harder to fix- institutionalized and subconscious sexism. That ever-so-slight tendency for a male counterpart to be granted more credibility, or for them to be assumed to be of greater competence, all other things being equal. Good people with good intentions make this mistake all the time, without realizing it. They mean no harm, but any member of an oppressed group will tell you it happens to them all the time. In the long run, it adds up to oppression of a group, which then snowballs into what we see today.

      This is why things like affirmative action are necessary. External intervention is required to normalize the idea that women are equally qualified to be in these positions. As long as women are the circus freaks of STEM, they will always be pushing a rock uphill to get to the same place that men just walked to.

      1. True change can only come from within the person where the change needs to occur. Personally I despise affirmative action because it’s still racism: valuing someone based on their race rather than the content of their character.

        I’m reminded of Morgan Freeman’s comments: how do we stop racism? Or more generally, how do we stop discrimination of any type? Stop talking about it.

        Stop valuing people based on race, gender, age, nationality, or any other aspect of themselves that doesn’t have to define them as a person. Can it enrich their lives? Yes. Can it provide a broader benefit when people from a variety of backgrounds work together? Yes. But to perpetuate stereotypes, as you’ve said: “good people with good intentions discriminate all the time without meaning to” is wrong and detrimental to our society as a whole. Just as much is it detrimental to follow those exact same discrimination lines in the interest of leveling the playing field.

        A metaphor. We’ll liken the effects of discrimination to digging a pit. In times past Group A discriminated against Group B by forcing a pit to be dug that they were kept in, lower than themselves. It would be a false and counterproductive solution for the groups to swap places with Group A now digging. As generations passed, some of each group sought a better solution. What I am proposing is instead for both groups to help each other out of the pit because they value their neighbors for appropriate reasons, and to leave the pit behind and base their interactions on something else. Perhaps a playing field where everyone collaborates together, sharing discoveries and helping each other get from where they are to where they could be.

        The playing field will always and should always be sloped. I cannot expect to decide I’m going to be director of a successful research lab without putting in the requisite effort of study, work, time, etc. But instead of this effort being to overcome stereotypes, or reverse past discrimination of people I never knew by people I never knew, or based on something that I was born into this world with that I had no choice in, instead the field is sloped gently upward so that all who undertake the journey may be able to reach the top of whatever slope they choose by diligence and hard work. And since it’s not a zero-sum game, we can all help each other along to each become the best we can be at whatever worthy pursuit makes us happy. Tinker/hack as you will!

        1. Is it any wonder that women don’t want to associate with people who have such a one-dimensional view of the social sciences? Let’s look at your statement: “Personally I despise affirmative action because it’s still racism”. Do you think this would have been a valid opinion in 1870 in the US? Do you really think the US would be a better place if Reconstruction didn’t happen? And what is so different today than it was in 1870? In much of the US, attitudes have not changed much since then.

          1. I order to make sure we’re using the same terminology, let’s look at Affirmative action… refers to policies that take factors including “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin” into consideration. Sounds like racism to me. The part of it that *sounds* good is what comes after: in order to benefit an underrepresented group. Despite the good intentions, it’s still placing value on someone because of an attribute which nothing to do with their value.

            Let’s take a non-American example (reason being, I know that in Britain for instance, there isn’t the same kind of black/white tension which exists in many places in the US due to the different histories of the respective countries) so that we can look at things from a wider view than our small microcosm as the standard. I of course, assuming that you’re American based on your comments.

            I lived in Sri Lanka for a year and a half during the latter end of an almost 26-year civil war. Suffice it to say that it was a racial war between the Tamils and the Sinhalese. The country was once under British rule and the affirmative action policies that they implemented were a direct cause of that war: “In 1971 the Standardization policy of Sri Lankan universities was introduced as an affirmative action program for students from areas which had lower rates of education than other areas due to missionary activity in the north and east, which essentially were the Tamil areas. Successive governments cultivated a historical myth after the colonial powers had left that the British had practised communal favouritism towards Christians and the minority Tamil community for the entire 200 years they had controlled Sri Lanka. However, the Sinhalese in fact benefitted from trade and plantation cultivations over the rest of the other groups and their language and culture as well as the religion of Buddhism was fostered and made into mediums for schools over the Tamil language, which did not have the same treatment and Tamils learned English instead as there was no medium for Tamil until near independence. Tamils’ knowledge of English and education came from the very American missionary activity by overseas Christians that the British were concerned will anger the Sinhalese and destroy their trading relationships, so they sent them to the Tamil areas instead to teach, thinking it would have no consequences and due to their small numbers. The British sending the missionaries to the north and east was for the protection of the Sinhalese and in fact showed favouritism to the majority group instead of the minorities to maintain trading relationships and benefits from them. The Tamils, out of this random benefit from learning English and basic education excelled and flourished and were able to take many civil service jobs to the chagrin of the Sinhalese. The myth of Divide and Rule is untrue. The ‘policy of standardisation’ was typical of affirmative action policies, in that it required drastically lower standards for Sinhalese students than for the more academic Tamils who had to get about ten more marks to enter into universities. The policy, were it not implemented would have prevented the civil wars ahead as the policies had no basis and in fact is an example of discrimination against the Tamil ethnic group” –

            I’m not familiar enough with the importance of 1870s society in the US, but I can speak from my experience living abroad as the minority and from my experience living in the US and working with people from a number of countries and for we who value others based on what they have chosen to make of themselves do not have issues with each other based on race or religion or gender or any other factor than on that individual’s personal choices. I’m sorry if you live in a place where the 1870s is an issue, but I still favor the Morgan Freeman attitude:

            Stop pretending that there is value to an individual based on an attribute that they did not choose. Are we enriched as a society because of our differences? Different genders, different languages, different races, different national origin, different interests in education and job choice, differences of every kind make us better as a whole. But to assign value to a person based on these attributes invites some to place low value or negative value. We need to stop pretending, we need to move forward as a society and welcome everyone who wants to be included based on the fact that they want to be included. Will it take a while? Yes. But if we understand the ideal and work toward it then everyone wind. If we play into petty systems that inherently discriminate against some or all in some fashion then everyone loses.

      2. @Quinn

        Here’s the short version of what you just said: “Men are sexist even if they don’t know it yet. And that is the reason that there are so few women in STEM careers.”

        Seriously, that is the crux of what you just said.

        By the same token then women, who account for probably 90% – 95% of all psychologists and teachers, are sexist but just don’t know it yet then. We need laws to remove that bias and promote men so that they aren’t treated like a circus freak and are getting rewarded properly in those fields. We need to stop the oppression of men. See, sounds silly there too doesn’t it?

        I work in computer programming and have worked with some really superb women and men. I have also worked with some useless doorknobs of both sexes too. I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen sexism of any sort in the workplace over the course of 12 years. Guess what? They were by both men and women. I’ve even had a married (Indian of all things – stereotype that!) woman confess her feelings to me on the job before. The point is: the shoe fits on both feet.

        In regards to Affirmative Action:
        The only way to stop sexism in any form is, to stop sexism totally. This means stop enshrining discrimination of any sort into laws. Let people be judged by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin (or gender – same thing different name). If someone is discriminated against there are mechanisms in place to remedy that wrong and to receive compensation for said wrong. I know, I have sat on a jury for that very thing. Saying I am going to stop discrimination by discriminating is something you see in Africa not America (or any civilized 1st world country). It perpetuates the cycle instead of ending it.

      3. > That ever-so-slight tendency for a male counterpart to be granted more credibility, or for them to be assumed to > be of greater competence, all other things being equal. Good people with good intentions make this mistake all > the time, without realizing it.

        well, you’re just gonna fix it for them, aren’t you? Nothing a few quotas and imposed handicaps won’t take care of.

  5. “So I call for all Hackaday readers to make this a friendly environment for anyone who wants to participate.” Thank you for saying this. I would also urge HaD editors to make sure that the articles do the same. While the comments are typically a lot worse (it’s the internet after all), HaD articles haven’t always been immune to sexism. In particular, I’m thinking of the phrase “wife approval factor,” but there may be other examples as well.

      1. Yeah. I know. Its surely not the worst example of sexism on the internet. But the fact that stereotypes are occasionally true doesn’t make them less harmful, nor does it help much if some people think of it as a joke. For what its worth, I think the term “man cave” is also one we could do without.

    1. Exactly. I’ve seen so many glaring examples of this exact thing. And since its a joke, that makes it ok?

      Thats what I mean about making a deal out of everything and then expecting it to change. It starts with YOUR very own behavior. Its easy to say, “we need to make more blinky clothes projects to attract girls into the fold (sexist as hell IMHO)” and WAF or “down here in the man cave” OR “this is an awesome hack, OH DID I MENTION IT WAS GIRL WHO DID THIS!? SHE HAS BOOBS AND EVERYTHING, MAKING HER A REAL GIRL! THAT HACKS!!!! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? (applaud for gods sake!)”…
      Why should it matter??? Its the hack that should matter, not the gender of the hacker!
      If the reader or interested person is a girl and thinks to herself “girl power!” then fine.. But pushing gender like its a big deal is really the sexist part! Or being a sexist hero pays perhaps…?

      It’s like saying all guys who do crafting are gay… Oh wait, they are! And boy will my fiance be surprised when she finds out I’ve been making my own thankyou cards…

  6. I swear, this article reeks of trollbait; both for the radfems and the more extremist MRAs. To deny there wasn’t institutionalized discrimination in the workforce/education system in America and other parts of the world is about as futile as denying the holocaust. But seriously, why is affirmative action “necessary” as it’s been put in today’s world? Yes I realize that men usually make up around 80-95 of various STEM related disciplines depending on what study you read. But how is this an institutionalized issue? I’ve read articles before where women made up the majority of computer science graduates as far back as the 1980s. Granted there’s been a shift. Probably because of the overwhelming number of male trolls on the internet and the existence of vastly more profitable fields of finance and the like which women DO excel at. But just look at it this way white knights and radfems, I beg you. There are more women graduating from college in terms of percentages, not just sheer numbers than men. There are women CEOS, albeit still outnumbered by their male counterparts. We have women like Limor Friedman, Jerry Elsworth, and Lea Verou who have written some of the best articles on technological matters I’ve ever read. There’s a ridiculous amount of scholarships, loans, and various other financial tools available SOLELY TO WOMEN, and yet this problem still hasn’t been fixed. And what of white men from lower socioeconomic backgrounds? Did you ever consider just how hard it might be FOR THEM to achieve upward social mobility in this country? No, because we all “know” that all white males are privileged conniving little fools whose sole goal in life is to keep everyone else down. I hope you really smelled the sarcasm on that last one. This is why I think if affirmative action should exist at all, it should be based on class rather than race or gender or any other social category that mistakes correlation with causation. That way you help EVERYONE who started off life with a leg down. But seriously, women can, and HAVE become successful in STEM on THEIR OWN MERIT for awhile now without having to resort to state sponsored discriminatory practices. This isn’t an issue of “I did it, and you didn’t therefore you must be lazier” even if person A had a leg up. This isn’t even “Person B still accomplished what they desired despite having a leg down”. This is “Person B accomplished what they wanted despite having BOTH some things in & against their favor, but other members who look like person B didn’t succeed because of their lack of individual merit and therefore must make up some sort of boogeyman in order justify their lack of success”. To a lot of these self made women I’ve talked to, affirmative action is offensive to them because it essentially tells them that they can’t succeed in the modern world without some sort of special treatment. Yes these women exist and NO they aren’t lacking some sort of consciousness of current events. And why is the term “wife approval factor” even offensive to people? Why should someone be shamed for actually WANTING to be considerate and take their significant other’s thoughts/feelings into account? Seriously, quit being so easily offended by comments that aren’t even meant to be offensive. When you do, it just makes you look like an immature child who is incapable of dealing with adult life without having to be constantly told how perfect and wonderful you are. And to the more extremist MRAs out there; you guys deserve to be shamed to the ends of the earth. You make it so difficult for the rest of us who aren’t a bunch of chauvenistic fools to actually achieve success because now we have to compete against preferential treatment for women which probably wouldn’t even be DEEMED necessary regardless of the fact that it essentially isn’t if you wouldn’t post such inflammatory and degrading things about women, their innate &/or acquired abilities, and their desire to express their sexuality however they wish without instantly labeling them with some derogatory term. Please HaD, I ask from now on just stick to technical articles and leave the social issues to other sites aimed at these sorts of things. This is a difficult issue to discuss rationally as is without presenting all members of any group any individual might belong to as a sole consequence of their genetics rather than their personal choices as either victim or demon.

    1. > Please HaD, I ask from now on just stick to technical articles and leave the social issues to other sites aimed at these sorts of things. This is a difficult issue to discuss rationally as is without presenting all members of any group any individual might belong to as a sole consequence of their genetics rather than their personal choices as either victim or demon.

      Ah, hell, I think this merits a semi-official response.

      Recently there have been a few studies* in the social sciences that show one of the major causes of the disproportion of women in STEM fields is the fact that most girls don’t see STEM as an actual career choice. As in, if you’re a tween-age girl, and you’ve never seen or heard of a woman engineer, a woman scientist, you’re not going to consider going into a math and science-heavy curriculum in high school. This is what leads to the disproportion of women in STEM; not some boogieman that is actively trying to keep women down.

      Therefore, not featuring articles that deal with social issues such as women in STEM has the same effect as actively keeping women away from STEM.

      If you don’t like it, that’s fine. If you don’t agree with this logic, that’s fine. This is the position we’re taking, and if you don’t like it you don’t have to read it.

      *No, I don’t have the references. That’s because I’m lazy, not because I can’t find them.

      1. Fancy quotes!

        Well to back up your logic I do not see being a nurse or getting a job that lets me have flex time or only work 40 hours a week as realistic. That is largely for the same reason; I do not often see men accomplish such things.

        Oh, here is something particularly strange. I switched fields to do information infrastructure stuff, admin and engineering things. The initial classes were 40% women. That is in electronics, A+, basic networking, project management and so on. Then the next higher level with enterprise networking, Unix, and databases dropped off to 5% women. Finally once it got into security, forensics, systems design, and advanced admin topics there were no women left. The whole process was quite friendly and I never heard a sexist joke or remark. My second collegiate experience was very welcoming to everyone. I never figured out why.

        Even stranger was that the programming/CS curriculum that I took was noticeably sexist in attitude (but not grading). It was uncomfortable at times and really the classic stereotype of computer nerd culture right down to lewd port and I/O jokes. Those courses varied from 10% (information structures) to 70%(systems analysis) women. A very high and broad mix with no real correlation. It still doesn’t make any sense to me.

        It could be that there are many famous computer scientists that were women, but I cannont think of any famous IT people at all. Why would women avoid IT at higher levels? In most workplaces the admins usually hole up in or near the server room and don’t talk to anyone anyway so there isn’t much of a concern for discrimination or hostility (aside from the normal stuff IT people get).

          1. You will find none of those people tweaking timers on a WAN link for an OC-128 or figuring out why the SAN is running slow for the fourth NIC on the remote SQL server will you?

            I quote myself, “It could be that there are many famous computer scientists that were women, but I cannont think of any famous IT people at all.”

            IT is different from CS. You can think of CS as designing the spaceship while IT builds it and pilots it.

            So I must ask, what kind of a computer person are you if you do not understand pedantry? ;)

      2. I was unaware that tween-age girls didn’t have access to google, or the rest of the internet to learn about said female scientists for that matter. I’m so grateful that you’ve enlightened me of this problem. It is with that reason that I severely disagree with your logic. I’m sorry you take this position; some of us actually think we can overcome societal biases due to our own competency and drive to succeed.

      3. I pretty much second the thoughts of the others who have replied to this post. In addition, I would like to add that I feel that this whole “no role models” schtick is, at best flawed and at worst utterly ignorant. Despite the fact that there are plenty of such role models (and a glance through HAD will reveal a number of well known *female* names), you cannot encourage interest where there isn’t any to start with. It doesn’t MATTER how many people you put up on pedestals, those who are truly interested will continue to be interested and those who aren’t, won’t. It really is as simple as that. Not everyone chooses a career because other people are doing it, y’know. Some of us choose to do things because we *personally* find them interesting.

        1. But is access to the web to learn about the mentioned women really that useful if tweenage girls don’t hear about those women first elsewhere, at home, school, the popular media they watch most?

  7. One problem that a female colleague of mine at my engineering college brought up is that she felt that her and her female peers (specifically in the electrical computer engineering major) were treated differently than the male students and that it had an adverse affect on her education. She went on to state that she felt her male peers were far more knowledgeable in the field because they were pushed harder by the professors and more was demanded of them. I don’t know what can be done to solve that issue or how prevalent it is but I felt I should share it here for those interested. I have heard that having women study at an all female university with all female professors may be a possible solution to this issue and the issue mentioned by Derek Peavey above, but I am no expert on the subject and am only sharing to help stimulate the discussion.

  8. I’m really glad you posted this. There will always be threatened or entitled or otherwise whiney men in comments threads. They are the problem. Ignoring them is the solution. Well done.

  9. My vote is for Quinn. The realest of the real. Get em girl! I absolutely love reading about her trial and error as she goes from bare metal to Veronica.
    Not to poo poo the others but one is a business person and type A personality(I don’t like males that act like that either), the other had a lot of help along the way and has said some untoward things to that end when the real world hit the fan.
    It is not to belittle their accomplishments-just humans doing human things. I just have never enjoyed the antics of Ayn Rand Jr, and saw Red’s true colors a while back.
    *Disclaimer: I have signed into technical forums as a female just to get a faster response. Works everytime.*
    Best of luck to all the tinkerers.
    Quinn Dunki is awesome.

  10. I hope the following makes sense I am a bit ill at the moment.

    I care to ask a question that was triggered based on this post. During the post Mike mentioned his own encounters at his local hacker space of women and their projects. Perhaps HAD could do a round up or call for submissions from hacker spaces to submit their favourite projects from this segment of the community to show their diverse presence. It could be a similar series as the hacker space tour’s that have been posted. I am sure if I ask around the hacker space I frequent here in Toronto I could possibly get a few submissions from the wearable community, in addition to one of the 3 or so other hacker spaces in the city.

    I would have initially suggested a HAD sub domain for featuring hacker spaces them selves pooling/pulling from their sites.
    But I am aware HAD move away from the sub domains.

    Any thoughts on this?

    I have witnessed women attempting to get into technology with computer science and switching out in the past.
    And have witnessed first hand them angry or crying over frustration over material. Then becoming dissuaded by this. I do not think it is not necessarily a matter of women not being interested. It in some cases it is the material being accessible to them. Like all genders if a subject matter is foreign and education is riding on the success of understanding the material then stress, and time add up leading to causing difficulty’s. Some succeed and are able to make it threw and grasp the material. While others need time to interpret the information and digest it. Hacker spaces may lead to aiding women succeed as well as youth. I believe that when someone has others to connect to and a community they can succeed, and flourish in learning, and exploration. When someone has such a community in a hacker space, hobby group, or in an educational environment this can aid success.

    Initiatives in the community I am within such as; Girls Learning Code, Ladies Learning Code, Skill Swap Toronto, Maker Kids, Toronto Tool Library, and many more. Such initiatives and organizations are allowing more women to explore the maker, DIY, Hacker, Newmedia, and various sciences on their own terms. These initiatives and organizations also encourage not only women, but everyone in the community.

    I think I am going to stop abruptly here for I think I will go on a large rant otherwise.
    I am including pinterest link below that is a collection of hacker spaces, related community’s, and sub community’s that I am working on that is attempting to depict the community in Toronto.

  11. At the university i attend women make up maybe 5% of the students and those can be divided further into 2 groups. Group one are those who want to be “engineers” and group two are those who want to be “female engineers”.
    Group two make it very difficult for group one as some men once they encounter one women who probably only got into the industry through affirmative action they will assume all women are the same (and are impossible to convince otherwise). My old employer had some awfully sexist views and hiring practices (wouldn’t even interview women for on the tools roles, only admin etc).
    Barring the occasional enlightened one, most older men have a hard time accepting that a women is capable of anything other than a nurse/teacher/hairdresser as the society and time they grew up in was very different to the one they have found themselves in now.

    Is it also possible that due to the differences in male/female psychology that men are just more interested in these fields? (before anyone gets confused and angry, of course there are women who have the same/greater interest as men in these areas) forcing affirmative action through sexist quotas on university admission will just funnel more women into fields they are not passionate about, and bar men from a field they would probably excel in. Thankfully due to the country i live in its not a problem here.

    Logically since men and women make up roughly 50% of the population each, for every extra women in science/engineering you need one less man, and that one man needs to take up a role that a women would normally do. I bet you my left nut its much more acceptable for a female to do a mans job that it is for a man to do a woman’s job.

    I am of the opinion that sexism will go away once people assign value to others through their merits, expecting people to ignore past experience with others of a certain group is bullshit – its a survival mechanism we have evolved over a very long period of time.
    I have come across enough incompetent people from all gender/race/economic groups to know that just because someone is a minority (female or foreign) does not mean they are automatically inferior, but deep down i still suspect it until proven otherwise.

  12. I was a huge fan earlier this year when the Girl Scouts added STEM badges. It’s far better to encourage a generation of women from a young age to be interested in tech rather than approaching the problem 15 years later asking why they are not in a STEM job.

    I’m an engineer because my grandfather was a telephone lineman and we blew up microwave capacitors out back when he visited. As far as math and science went, I left my parents in the dust at age 10. Give people impressionable experience. To date the gender roles impressed on women with play kitchenware, dolls and pink galore are surprisingly stilted.

  13. It’s pretty clear that there is a pervasive attitude that technology jobs are somehow “better”

    Our social and political problems are about a thousand times harder to solve than the challenges of building a better CNC machine or writing better software.

    Maybe someday we will treat the social sciences with the respect they deserve but until then we will continue to design social networking software that enables bullying, we will continue to think that all computer security issues can be solved with software, and we will continue to manufacture products without any care for how they actually affect our culture.

    1. not better, but often more difficult, or more time consuming to study with more hard and fast that’s a fact testing which generally agrees with the kind of person who does it.

      I studied Engineering at university, there were at least 4 hours lectures each day (at most 8), then lab sessions also, and you are expected to self study.
      papers are marked on the facts that they present, test are marked on calculated answers.

      my girlfriend at the time studied journalism, 4 hours in lectures was the maximum, of course there was expected self study.
      Papers are marked on how well the examiner believes you are able to present a view.

      to a person with a scientific mind the learn facts and sit exams seems like real work, whilst writing articles seems easy, or a bit wooley.

      to the artistic taking facts and repeating them verbatim is easy, reading further into the subject forming viewpoints and expressing an opinion is hard.

      The point I’m making is that it’s difficult to truly respect something that you don’t know a lot about. how can I respect psychology, or social science I have no idea what happens on the course no idea of what the work is like etc?

  14. A thousand times harder eh? Did you develop some kind of metric/model to determine that number or did you just pull it out of thin air because it seems suitable to what you think it should be? I’ll say this, functionalist schools are a step in the right direction for the social “sciences”. But it’s still a baby step; and until better models can come up that approach issues in an empirical matter with more emphasis on eliminating any particular bias from the experiment, the fields will continue to be mocked by the rest of the scientific community. When the bulk of sociology professors declare theories like symbolic interactionism as crackpot theories instead of “alternative viewpoints”, then you might see that day. Until then, I’m not holding my breath.

  15. Fuck all of these bullshit standards and expectations of what “must be done” to ensure women are perfectly comfortable and well catered for in STEM careers. What possible incentive do I have to go out of my way making some substandard quota-filler comfortable in her work environment? This whole “won’t someone think of the marginalized women!” meme has gone on quite long enough.

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