Women don’t code because they’d rather do something they like

There’s an article at Quillette entitled ‘Why Women Don’t Code’. I suppose it counts as brave these days, although it doesn’t say anything that half the blogosphere has been saying for years. The author, Stuart Reges, is a computer scientist lecturer at Washington University who has been active in ‘broadening participation’, ie. trying to get more women into computer science. But now he’s saying this:

I believe that women are less likely than men to want to major in computer science and less likely to pursue a career as a software engineer and that this difference between men and women accounts for most of the gender gap we see in computer science degree programs and in Silicon Valley companies.

As Sam White said on Twitter recently, Quillette is rapidly becoming famous for saying the same things that your mother already knew.

As Khazan says in the conclusion to her article, “it could just be that, feeling financially secure and on equal footing with men, some women will always choose to follow their passions, rather than whatever labor economists recommend. And those passions don’t always lie within science.”

So Reges has finally acknowledged that most women just aren’t very interested in coding:

It’s time for everyone to be honest, and my honest view is that having 20 percent women in tech is probably the best we are likely to achieve.

But notice the language he still slips into: “having 20 percent women in tech is probably the best we are likely to achieve.” But if most women don’t want to code and are making their own choices, why should any percentage be the ‘right’ percentage? Why think that 20% is better than 10%, and 30% is better than 20%? This is still thinking in the wrong way. And again:

In the early years, we were able to go from 16 percent women in our major to 30 percent, but we have made no additional progress since. I have heard from friends at Stanford that they have been stalled for several years at 30 percent and a colleague at Princeton reports that they are stuck in the mid-30s for percentages of women.

Why talk about progress at all? Why is it progress for a woman to be gulled into doing a computer science course by feminist advertising when she’d rather be doing biochemistry, or music, or psychology? Or being a stay-at-home mother?

Here we have someone who is starting to dimly realise that the feminist interpretation is wrong, but still can’t bring himself to get out of that mindset, probably because (a) he’s invested in this way of thinking so much over the years that he can never get out of it; and (b) you have to talk that way in academia to survive. (Although Reges will probably still be sacked for this article.)

Basically, women don’t do computer science in the same numbers as men for the same reason that men don’t do psychology in the same numbers as women. But you don’t hear the field of psychology going on and on about getting more men to do psychology degrees, do you?

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