Monday, October 13, 2014

Women in Linux, why so few?

Women in Linux, why so few?

I usually don't touch the more philosophical questions here, but this one confuses me.

Why are there more men in tech fields than women? Are there?

I tell you that my own knowledge about central Wisconsin absolutely says yes.

My estimate would be 1 woman to every 300 men (or more).

Is this a misnomer?

And if not, why is it like this?

In digging for answers, the first thing I did was to see what the general populations ratio is.

Thanks to Wikipedia I have proof that there are (slightly) more women than men in the U.S.

To check other countries, the data is here:

(WDB estimate)[5]
 United States     1.05     1.04     1.00     0.75     0.97     1.05

These numbers are a ratio of men to women, so 1 would mean there is one man per woman. 0.97 means there is more woman then men, 1.05 meaning the opposite.

Here is the breakdown:

(1) 1.05 (CIA estimate)
(2) 1.04 under 15
(3) 1.00 15–64
(4) 0.75 over 65
(5) 0.97 total
(6) at birth

So we know from number 5 (the true total) that there are slightly more women than men.

So it's not a matter of general ratio.

Before I continue, to anyone who is thinking something on the order of

1) "Women just aren't interested in computers" or
2) "Women aren't as smart as men."

You are quite wrong. Women are just as intelligent as men, first of all.

And my own Aunt loves to absorb any and all things of interest including the computer and more specifically, Linux fields.

She continually bombards me with ever more technical questions. And she is the only one of my family to do so.

First off, the first computer technician and programmer was a woman. She is quoted often as the mother of computing. Her name was Grace Hopper.

She even found the first computer "bug", a literal moth caught in a vacuum tube.

She is also called the "Mother of COBOL".

So women have had a large role in the modern computer, which is founded well by Wikipedia's article "Women in computing", found here:

A rather enlightening list of possibilities was found here:

This list includes:

Women are less confident

Women have fewer opportunities for friendship or mentoring (in the tech fields)

Women are discouraged from an early age

Computing perceived as non-social

Lack of female role models (somewhat covered by #2.)

Games, classes aimed towards men

Advertising, media say computers are for men

Life-work balance more important to women

Reasons women avoid Linux specifically include a negative response from male code and community contributors

Enlightening because I didn't consider any of these. 

In my mind there are only 2 main differences between men and women...
(These are generalities! Not all women or men fit in these categories)

1) Women tend to be multi taskers, where men tend to work on one project at a time to it's completion.

2) Women are more apt to listen before attempting to solve an issue. Men seem to be quite the opposite.

Again, these are generalities, and I am not trying to say every woman or man fits either of these criteria.


Until I read that article, I never noticed. It's amazing just how truthful this statement is.

If women are in an ad about computing, she is either rather scantily dressed, with another men around her, or made to seem to be a simpleton.

If you don't believe me, check out this ad grouping thanks to Google Images:

If anything makes me think that article I quoted earlier has merit, this does.

I don't know about you, but when I am standing next to my computer talking tech, I always model all over it. NOT...

If you think this is just in the past...

Think again.

It was rather easy to dig up these very modern examples of the point in question:

(quoted from a website)

Hoover knew exactly what every woman's idea of fun is when they created an online ad in the form of an interactive game for their new iron. The object of the game? Ironing a dude's clothes before you go out on a date with him, of course. First, you're prompted to pick one of three distinct types of men (censored by me, but you get the point):
"Can I just use the iron on my skull?"
As your suitor waits patiently by an ironing board, you must help him correctly pick the setting to put the iron on, because you (are a woman) so you must know this stuff*. You also control the iron for him, since he's too busy wagging his finger at you.
The (disgusting, immoral and sexist show) continues until your date is down to his underwear, as music befitting a porno smoothly jangles in the background. If you fail to finish your task within three minutes, you're rewarded with an image of your date shrugging and giving you a "Whelp, you will do as I say*" look.

I won't point to exactly where I got this because of nasty obscenity, but the truth is that the author has a real reason to be "peeved". (And yes, that is putting it mildly.)

Here's another one from the same author:

In an internal ad for their new SSD, Samsung shows us how three different people use their computers: a businessman in an office, a savvy gamer dude, and a woman in a kitchen wearing fashion that would be considered modest in an Amish community.

We're pretty sure that collar is cutting off her air supply.
The men say they use their computers for work or file-sharing, while the woman adorably adds that she only uses hers for uploading pictures of her family. They are then presented with a screwdriver and told that they can replace the drive themselves, at which point the female seems completely mystified by the alien object in her hand:

The story has a fairy-tale ending as the woman is somehow able to replace the drive all on her own, a fact which seems to surprise her most of all:

"I did it! I need to go lie down now, because my thinking parts are hurting."
She is also excited about how quickly her computer starts up now, so she doesn't have to leave it on while she does chores. Oh, Samsung. You're adorable.

Funny, snide remarks by the author aside, again I would be livid if they portrayed me in this light.

And yet another one from the author, who by now I think is a genius, albeit a unnecessarily dirty mouthed one.

To accompany the launch of the Xbox One and all the insanity that came along with it, Microsoft presented the "We Got Your Back" promotional gimmick -- a form letter intended for a male to give to his significant other, if he wanted her to hit him in the head with a Kinect. We start with whimsically insulting lines like, "I know, I know. You'd rather knit than watch me slay zombies, but hear me out on this."
"On the other hand, if she dumps you you'll have more time for gaming. Win-win."

Other parts of the letter mention you can "Skype with your favorite sister" and remind the recipient of how beautiful she is:
"When was the last time Sony called you pretty? That company* takes you for granted."

When users pointed out that this was kind of sexist to assume that only males wanted the new console while their wives knitted in disdain, Microsoft replied that you could easily change the highlighted words to make the letter address a dude -- fair enough, so they wanted to insult everyone, we guess, not just women.

Her article goes on to mention other non tech related articles, all of which drive the point home with a mac truck.

The advertising supports some of the other possible causes

With this kind of advertising, I can see why lack of confidence, lack of friendship and mentoring, discouragement in general, non-social attitudes, lack of role models and prevailing attitudes about women were listed in the article I quoted above.

All of these are accomplished by the ad industries mentality.

To be honest, if they treated older fat white guys from the midwest this way I would probably have nothing to do with IT, Linux, open source, you name it, either.

To wrap it all up

I want to say that first of all, this is not all on the ad industry.

Parents telling their children they don't belong in IT, or showing discomfort when she talks about IT is a factor.

Chauvinistic attitudes from the public don't exactly help either.

And the fact that geeky men SEEM to have a discomfort around women all add to this issue. (Again, I am generalizing. Not all men fit in this category.)

My hope

My hope is that women who would love to be in this field but are too leery to do so, take a chance.

There are people, men, out there that would welcome you into this industry, not because of your sex, but because of your mind.

We don't all grovel and drool when women walk in the room. Some of us actually treat you like the person you are.

To my compatriots that treat women with respect in dignity in the IT world, I salute you.

We need more of you.

Dennis Andrew Gutowski Jr.

1 comment:

  1. "I did it! I need to go lie down now, because my thinking parts are hurting." -degraded woman after installing an ssd drive

    I yiy yiy, this is exactly how they treat women.