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Education Technology

Tech's Gender and Race Gap Starts In High School 489

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-blame-the-schools dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Diversifying the tech industry is a prominent topic these days, with much analysis being done on colleges and companies that employ software engineers. But exam data shows the gap is created much earlier — it's almost overwhelming even before kids get out of high school. From the article: 'Ericson's analysis of the data shows that in 2013, 18 percent of the students who took the exam were women. Eight percent were Hispanic, and four percent were African-American. In contrast, Latinos make up 22 percent of the school-age population in the U.S.; African-Americans make up 14 percent. (I don't need to tell you that women make up about half.) There are some states where not a single member of one of these groups took the test last year. No women in Mississippi or Montana took it. Seven states had no Hispanic students take the exam: Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, and North Dakota. And 10 states had no Black students take the exam: Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Utah. In some of these states, there simply aren't many students of any race or gender taking the test, which helps explain the dearth of young women and minorities. (Indeed, no women or minorities took the exam in Wyoming—but that's because no students at all took it.) But Idaho had nearly 50 students taking it, and Utah had more than 100.'"
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Tech's Gender and Race Gap Starts In High School

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  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @09:27AM (#45931493) Journal

    (I don't need to tell you that women make up about half.)

    Actually girls graduate at a higher rate than boys both in college and in high school. So they make up more than half the graduates.

  • In other news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @09:29AM (#45931497)
    Gender and culture start early in life, and continue through life. More on this when we talk about how women dominate professions which require high empathy and social skills.
  • by smitty_one_each (243267) * on Sunday January 12, 2014 @09:31AM (#45931519) Homepage Journal
    My question, very much in general, and not to troll, is: at what point people just get to do what they fancy?
    If you treat education like a cup of coffee [youtube.com], you might be more pleased with the results.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 12, 2014 @09:33AM (#45931529)

    ... and have different interests and capacities, this results in differences which people with political agendas perceive as 'gaps' and not as simply people naturally having different interests and being different from each other.

  • What I tell kids. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 12, 2014 @09:35AM (#45931535)

    Forget the computer science - go for the biology and other hard sciences.

    I have yet to hear of a hospital that offshored their medical staff or lobbied for H1-Bs.

    I have never heard of any medical establishment saying, "There are no qualified Americans."

    Funny. I guess all the smart Americans are going into medical.

    Oh yeah, and in medical I have never heard any one say that "if you're over 30, you just don't get it."

  • by Karmashock (2415832) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @09:40AM (#45931555)

    This is a sticky issue but there are differences between men and women.

    Anthropologists and neurologists have been proving this for some time.

    Now I am not saying women are not capable of doing the work. Rather, they don't want to do it or don't find it interesting. And yes, there are exceptions but statistically most women simply don't want to do technical work. Its not what makes them happy.

    What is more, why are we so hyper obessessed about the gender gap in these fields? What about the lack of female lumber jacks or female coal miners or female crab fishers?

    I'm sorry, but why is it that they only care about jobs considered high status? And really, is tech even high status at this point? Oh sure, there are some extremely well paid positions in that industry but there are also a lot that pay nothing. Its a range.

    And while we're at it, lets point out that the start ups were by and large set up by collections of interested young men that started out with NOTHING.

    Nothing is stopping women from doing the same thing but generally speaking they don't do it. They're not the sort to drop out of college, start some crazy company with some friends, and risk everything to make a go of it in one thing or another. They just aren't wired that way. And to be honest, most men aren't wired that way either.

    Statistically some men are... and while some women are... its a tiny percentage.

    In any case, this gender gap argument is bullshit and needs to get filed as legacy women's lib bullcrap.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 12, 2014 @09:51AM (#45931581)

    My question, very much in general, and not to troll, is: at what point people just get to do what they fancy?

    If you treat education like a cup of coffee [youtube.com], you might be more pleased with the results.

    Because education isn't about personal gain anymore. It's a business. Period. And you've become nothing more than a number. Not even a student number, just a number buried in a statistical pile somewhere that states exactly what you should expect to achieve with your over-analyzed degree over the next 50 years, to include your chances of getting married, having children, or your expectant salary down to the dollar, adjusted for your zip code.

    Statistics. That unforgiving bitch no one asked to be invited that tries to manipulate all of our lives. I kind of feel bad for women here to be honest. After all, it's clear that they don't have interest in certain fields, and yet we're berating them into it with pointless statististics. Fuck that. Do what you WANT in life. You only get one shot at it, and statistics are often dead fucking wrong due to personal choice and the chaos that ensues.

  • is created (Score:4, Insightful)

    by markdavis (642305) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @10:01AM (#45931617)

    >"But exam data shows the gap is created much earlier"

    "is created" implies that some one or some group is guiding/causing/forcing it to be so. A better wording would be "appears" or "unfolds" or "starts" something.

    Wording is important.

  • So what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FuzzNugget (2840687) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @10:08AM (#45931647)

    This just in: different genders and ethnic groups are naturally attracted to different things.

    Next we'll be hearing about how there are an inordinately high number of females in the hairstyling and beautician industry or how basketball has too many black men.

    Oh, wait, no we won't, because discriminating against white males is the racism du jour.

  • Re:In other news (Score:3, Insightful)

    by just_a_monkey (1004343) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @10:23AM (#45931699)

    1. We know that the number one creator of empathy in children is time with their father.

    How do we know that?

  • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @10:43AM (#45931775)

    Statistics. That unforgiving bitch no one asked to be invited that tries to manipulate all of our lives.

    Statistics don't manipulate people - people manipulate people.

    Seriously. I wish more people understood more about statistics, in particular their elementary application, because that would avoid much of what you're talking about. If nothing else beat into their heads two basic points. First, correlation does not demonstrate correlation. Most people here have heard that a thousand times, but it's not widely appreciated in the general population. Second, statistical behavior is not deterministic. That's the ultimate "duh, no kidding", but it's usually unappreciated. If person A belongs to group G, P(success|G) < P(success|!G), it doesn't determine whether person A will succeed.

    "Lies, damn lies, and statistics" only applies to people who don't understand statistics and their application.

  • by The Mighty Buzzard (878441) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @10:52AM (#45931813)
    Probably for the same reason that women are capable of breast feeding while men aren't. They are not equal. Equality under the law does not, should not, and never will mean that men and women are actually the same.
  • by The Mighty Buzzard (878441) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @11:11AM (#45931921)
    I think there is a high likelihood that the differing brain structure and soup of hormones/other chemicals their brains swim in may play a significant role, yes. Throwing out from consideration a known variable before the experiment because you don't want it to be true is extremely poor science.
  • by NicBenjamin (2124018) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @11:39AM (#45932039)

    From your word choices I will make the entirely stereotypical and somewhat racist assumption that you're a Brit.

    Would you be cool with it if the only 18-year-old kids in Scotland who evinced an interest in one of the most lucrative career fields were the children/grandchildren of peers? Would you just be like "I guess the commoners like working for McDonald's?" Or "I guess Irish Catholics don't enjoy tech work." Because that's pretty much exactly what's happening here. The people who ran the country (and, in fact, who created the country specifically for their own benefit) were white men. We've fixed most of the worst problems, now we really pride ourselves on America's ability take anybody (that "Give us your poor" poem on the Statue of Liberty was always jingoistic BS, but that doesn't mean we don't think it should be true) whose willing to work and make them wealthy.

    Tech is the career field that is most likely to take you from loser to Millionaire before your 30th birthday. And only the old nobility is taking advantage of it. Therefore everyone else wants to know why. Your explanation ("Black people and women just don't like tech work") works at a logical level, but it's identical to the reasoning white men used to explain why black people and women weren't dominating the economy in 1910; which means that it's not terribly convincing.

    What I suspect is going on is a couple things:

    1) The white upper-middle class is a lot bigger on college education then anybody else (except possibly Asians, but none of the states mentioned have a large Asian population). This means they send their kids to schools which have lots of AP course options, and force their little darlings to take multiple of these courses. A HS AP course not only raises your GPA, thus increasing your odds of Harvard, if you pass the test it also counts as a 3-4 credit college class. I suspect that if the AP did a survey on class status of test-takers the white working class (which is bigger then the black population in most states) would take the test even less.

    Note that the way we do education in America guarantees that non-whites (and poorer whites) will have significantly less access to AP tests. You either have to pay $20k per kid per year in private education, or live in a school district with a bunch of rich people paying taxes to get your kid into a school that offers lots of AP classes. Since school districts tend only to have a handful of neighborhoods, this means to use public schools with AP tests you have to be wealthy enough to live in a very good neighborhood. It also means that in the event a cheap neighborhood ends up in a good district, it stops being cheap.

    2) HS kids are obsessed with identity. The ultimate insult to any HS-age boy is to imply he's either female or gay. Girls will try boy things at that age, but not as often as they would a few years later. It's very rare for a non-white HS student to consider a white teacher a role model, but early 20-somethings will happily take a white college professor as a role model. Which means that when one racial/class group monopolizes a career field it's much less likely for HS-age kids of other groups to think they could actually do that shit. A couple years after High School the technically inclined black kids will stop thinking of programming as something that makes white guys (like Zuckerberg) rich, and start thinking of it is something they could do, but generally by the time you're 20 you're already a) in the midst of a career or b) halfway through college in a non-CompSci program.

    Note that this is not just a race/gender problem. The kids of the working class white guys aren't likely to go for computer programming when they're 17 because Zuckerberg/Gates/etc. all seem a lot like NPR-listening upper-middle-class geeks and they're proud hicks. But nobody measures this shit because in the US nobody really thinks the white working class is distinct from the white upper class.

    --------------------

    I don't really know if there's a way

  • Re:Enough already (Score:5, Insightful)

    by serviscope_minor (664417) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @12:19PM (#45932233) Journal

    There is a long, long list of things women do which men have no interest and yet no one is pushing for more diversity in those areas.

    You're really claiming there are "things" that women do that "men are just not interested in". You have no idea. Guess what: news at 11! there are social pressures on men as well as women (the modern lack of male primary school teachers is an excellent example of a bad social pressure).

    Until you admit that men and women are more diverse than you believe you will be entirely blind to social pressures which stop people being what they want to be.

    So, I call bullshit on your "long, long list of things" that "men have no interest in".

    There is certinly more variation within either gender than the average difference between genders in essentially every measurable way: there's 3.5 billion people in each and those tails go out quite a few standard deviations with that many people.

    But yet you've found a long, long list of things which 3.5 billion of the worlds population like ad no one in the other 3.5 billion likes. Oh and even better, it's completely innate!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 12, 2014 @12:37PM (#45932315)

    If it were hormones, shouldn't the effect be very consistent across nations and states?

    Looking at stats for high-school courses in my country, Australia, only 7% of the people who did software design the HSC were women, whereas in the US it's 20%. Do American women have less female sex hormones than Australian women? How come 29% of participants were female in Tennessee but only 3% in Utah? Are women from Utah ten times more feminine than women from Tennessee?

    According to the UK GCSE results, 40% of the 53,000 UK students who did ICT in 2012 were female, and they achieved a higher average grade than their male counterparts. If hormones were the deciding factor, British girls ought to be growing beards. (Source: www.jcq.org.uk/Download/examination-results/gcses/gcse)

    Since the results are so inconsistent between what ought to be hormonally similar groups, I think we can safely dismiss hormones as the primary factor. The difference in culture between the various states and nations is much better at accounting for the massive variability in female enrollment in computing courses.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 12, 2014 @01:08PM (#45932487)

    oh jeez, Mexican-Americans don't have a greater "interest" or "capacity" in being fruit pickers or short-order cooks, any more than Chinese people of 50 years ago were subsistence farmers because they were limited by some innate "interest" or "capacity." Groups find themselves disproportionately in certain kind of jobs based on circumstances.

    The people who want to maintain the status quo and downplay societal unfairness are the ones with the political agenda.

    -smafti

  • by xigxag (167441) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @01:50PM (#45932719)

    That remark doesn't even begin to make sense as a rebuttal. If we were arguing about this in 1965, "from 1965 to now" would only be 1965's data, and not two generations worth of data proving that women have the capacity to succeed in a mentally demanding profession.

    The point is that women have made tremendous strides in the past 50 years a field where it was previously thought they had an innate deficit. Their innate deficit was shown to be a canard, a just-so story to justify keeping them out of professional fields. In the US, the gender ratio in medical fields has made great changes, but not so in tech. Yet in some other countries, both genders are well-represented in tech. How does your "brain structure" argument account for that kind national-level disparity?

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @02:35PM (#45932969) Homepage

    After all, it's clear that they don't have interest in certain fields

    It's also pretty clear, based on the experiences of women who have an interest in technology, that they experience hostility, sexism, and nastiness, many enough for them to quit. If it were just a couple, then I'd think it was maybe a fluke, but when every woman I've talked to in tech about it has said they experienced it, and all but 2 of my female college classmates dropped out of the CS program, I'd say it's safe to say there's a sexism problem in the culture of tech that should be addressed.

    Try this, if you are a guy in tech who doesn't get it: When you encounter a reasonably good-looking (by your standards) woman with a similar professional background, is your thought process about her professional work (e.g. language or OS choices, server configurations, algorithm ideas), or is your thought process about how you might be able to get her into bed? If it's about her work, congratulations, you aren't part of the problem. If it's about the hope of bedding her, then you need to pay attention and make sure you're thinking with your brain rather than your dick. If you don't know for sure, err on the side of professionalism and focusing on work, and let her make the conversation personal if she wants to. If you can't stick to those rules, you are part of the problem.

  • by mopower70 (250015) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @03:13PM (#45933177) Homepage

    It's also pretty clear, based on the experiences of women who have an interest in technology, that they experience hostility, sexism, and nastiness, many enough for them to quit. If it were just a couple, then I'd think it was maybe a fluke, but when every woman I've talked to in tech about it has said they experienced it, and all but 2 of my female college classmates dropped out of the CS program, I'd say it's safe to say there's a sexism problem in the culture of tech that should be addressed.

    My experience has been that women in technology who say they "experience hostility, sexism, and nastiness" are experiencing the exact same environment that the men they work with experience. Men who work in the primarily female field of nursing experience cattiness, back-stabbing, and undermining cliquishness. Are women in nursing inherently sexist? No, of course not. Men are just not used to the dynamic of a primarily female workplace, and the same holds true for women.

    Try this, if you are a guy in tech who doesn't get it: When you encounter a reasonably good-looking (by your standards) woman with a similar professional background, is your thought process about her professional work (e.g. language or OS choices, server configurations, algorithm ideas), or is your thought process about how you might be able to get her into bed? If it's about her work, congratulations, you aren't part of the problem. If it's about the hope of bedding her, then you need to pay attention and make sure you're thinking with your brain rather than your dick. If you don't know for sure, err on the side of professionalism and focusing on work, and let her make the conversation personal if she wants to. If you can't stick to those rules, you are part of the problem.

    So, the woman who finds a male nursing co-worker attractive is the problem with the under-representation of men in the nursing field? Men interact with men differently than they interact with women. Women interact with women differently than with men. "Professionalism" that attempts to pretend that's not true is doomed to failure. There are plenty of fields that are balanced in gender representation. There is absolutely nothing inherent in IT professionals that they create a more "sexist" environment than there is in nursing or teaching professionals. Attempting to blame the behavior of those already in the field is disingenuous, uninformed, and insulting.

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