Jan. 2nd, 2012

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DRAFT, WIP

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Subject:
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Why is there such a large attrition rate of females in IT?

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Abstract:
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I will explain the research and my personal experiences around the sometime unintentional hostile workplace. The hostile workplace is the number one factor in the 41% rate of loss of females in IT. I will provide some public and personal examples of this type of environment. Finally I will discuss the psychology all humans use, stereotypes, to function, and how we can consciously influence our stereotypes and hence behaviors if we take the time to look for unfairly biased actions we, or our o-workers may be taking unintentionally and contributing to this retention issue.

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Notes:
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Please note I speak for myself. I do not speak for my employer, my former employer, my future employers, I am a human being not a mascot.

For more on the subject of MTAMO (my tweets are my own) see the lovely @snipeyhead's http://www.mtamo.com/

Before this year I never considered myself a feminist, and don't think I had ever been called a feminist. I still believe I am just a equality and keep the laws out of my personal life kind of person.

In approximately October or November of 2011 a few articles struck cords with me. Around that time I had quit my job in IT and picked another job in IT. I was beginning to think IT wasn't for me.

I have rarely felt blatant sexism, but there is frequent subtle sexism, that I don't even believe is intentional, that I see daily that has driven me to want to discuss this.

Everyone is biased. I am biased as a white female living in the US.

Please note this talk refers to men and women in the generic whole, yes there will be many exceptions to every rule.

Yes I am sexist, I try to be cognizant of when I am, and yes I often use it to my advantage. It's easier for me to find a date at a gaming convention (my usual is ORIGINS) than most men because I am the scarce resource. I try to think before acting at work not to let stereotypes and sexism influence my work.

Please note all quotes without a source are things that have been said to me directly. Also note, not all females have this same negative experience in IT, I know a few who have never felt gender bias at work. I also have spoken with other females who do feel they are in a sexist environment.

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Goal:
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Explain the research and my personal experiences around the sometime unintentional hostile workplace.

Contributing factors:
chilly climate
implicit bias
male privilege
sexism / gender discrimination
stereotype threat

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Off Topic:
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one:
Acknowledge there is a pipeline issue of the number of females entering the IT industry – this can be an entire talk on its' own and so we will set this aside as a separate item.

Two:
Yes there is sexism and discrimination against men and many other groups. The existence of one issue does not invalidate or equal out another. Both are issues to be addressed and remedied.

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Definitions:
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Chilly Climate

An environment that dampens women’s self-esteem, confidence, aspirations and their participation in a particular activity—e.g., academics, sports, politics, etc.
QUOTE http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Chilly+Climate

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Implicit Bias

Also known as Hidden Bias or Unconscious Bias
Our minds work through what are called “schemas”. As UCLA law professor Jerry Kang describes it, “Schemas are simply templates of knowledge that help us organize specific examples into broad categories. A stool, sofa and office chair are all understood to be ‘chairs.’ Once our brain maps some item into that category, we know what to do with it—in this case, name sit on it. Schemas exist not only for objects, but also for people. Automatically, we categorize individuals by age, gender, race and role. Once an individual is mapped into that category, specific meanings associated with that category are immediately activated and influence our interaction with that individual.”
http://americansforamericanvalues.org/unconsciousbias/
These schemas we use to categorize people are called stereotypes. Stereotypes have a bad reputation in everyday life, but in social science circles, a stereotype is simply the way our brains naturally sort the people we meet into recognizable groups.
http://americansforamericanvalues.org/unconsciousbias/

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Male Privilege

I didn't like any definitions I found so I combined and reduced to this:

Privilege isn’t about hating non-privileged groups.
Privilege isn’t about thinking that those non-privileged people are less than you.
QUOTE http://blog.shrub.com/archives/tekanji/2007-02-19_524

Privilege is: It’s about you being normal, and others being the deviation from normal.
QUOTE https://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/2007/03/11/faq-what-is-male-privilege/

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SEXISM

1: prejudice or discrimination based on sex; especially : discrimination against women
2: behavior, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex
QUOTE http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sexism

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Stereotype threat

Stereotype threat is the experience of anxiety or concern in a situation where a person has the potential to confirm a negative stereotype about their social group.
QUOTE https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stereotype_threat
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ISSUE:
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High-tech companies in particular lost 41 percent of their female employees, compared with only 17 percent of their male employees.
QUOTE http://www.aauw.org/learn/research/upload/whysofew.pdf

52% of women in the STEM fields—Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths—switch industries due to the hostile, macho cultures and isolation they face in STEM
QUOTE http://rachelappel.com/stats-data-and-answers-as-to-why-there-are-so-few-women-in-technology-fields from The Athena Factor: Reversing the Brain Drain in Science, Engineering, and Technology
May 2008

I do not believe that this negative environment is conscious or on purpose. I also believe there are many environments where this work culture is not present. Please note that just because you don't see it, or it is not present in your environment, or you do not believe you are contributing does not mean it's not happening/real - after this perhaps take a good look and listen around your work.

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Story
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QUOTE
During a talk called "Rethinking Best Practices in Java EE 6" at JavaOne 2011, speaker Adam Bien showed a slide titled "Explain to an alien" (i.e. explain your project to someone who doesn't understand any of the context). He said "My first version of this was 'Explain it to a woman' but I got lots of criticism at the conferences (big laugh from the audience) and one talk was almost cancelled.. (more laughing) So I think “Explain it to an alien" is better.”

A female audience member asked him in the Q&A to apologize for the joke, and he did, but added "I was thinking of people who don't understand IT... My wife doesn't understand IT." In person and on Google+, male audience members complained to the woman who asked for the apology that she should "relax" and had made them "supremely uncomfortable."
QUOTE http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Rethinking_Best_Practices_Talk_at_JavaOne
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QUOTE
I am going to invoke a well written paragraph from a blog post from Carrie Patrick that concluded like this:

"By expressing an opinion that a joke about me was perhaps a little insulting to me, I have become that worst of all creatures, a woman with an opinion on the internet, otherwise known as a humorless bitch who needs to get a grip. I have a total lack of irony. I should settle down. I should relax. I should realize that people who were not the target of the joke have a much better right than me to decide whether I should be annoyed by it, and in fact, that they were the ones who should be offended, if anyone."
QUOTE http://www.carrie-patrick.com/blog/2011/11/just-a-joke/
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Chilling, is it cold in here?
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This seems a good segway into:

QUOTE
What constitutes “chilling” behavior? … A CEO ignores what a woman says in a meeting but listens intently when a man makes the exact same point. A conference emcee mentions a female speaker’s appearance rather than (or in addition to) her accomplishments, but feels no need to comment on the appearance of male speakers.

All these sorts of things seem tiny and insignificant by themselves, but they add up, and this produces a cumulative “chilling” effect that makes women feel unwelcome, like they don’t belong. That’s a “chilly climate.” The effect is subtle; sometimes we’re not even consciously aware of it. We just have that nagging feeling of being “less than,” unable to put our finger on why we feel that way.
QUOTE http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cocktail-party-physics/2011/07/20/is-it-cold-in-here/
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Sexism - Stereotypes - Schemas
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Everyone acknowledges sexism is bad, using gender stereotyping is bad. As I defined above implicit bias, stereotypes and schemas are the way in which the world operates. People are able to change their schemas, or at least when they are conscious of them think about their actions based on them before taking that action.

Yet we see it every day in society and the media, and few people bother to speak up “because that's the way it is” “they don't mean it that way” “its a joke” this causes a problem that once something is present frequently it becomes normal, unremarkable, and quietly accepted. This perpetuates the action in the majority. Once something is everywhere it is normal, and quietly accepted.

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Implicit bias
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QUOTE
Most people associate science and math fields with “male” and humanities and arts fields with
“female,” according to research examined in this report. Implicit bias is common, even among
individuals who actively reject these stereotypes. This bias not only affects individuals’ attitudes toward others but may also influence girls’ and women’s likelihood of cultivating their own interest in math and science. ...

Banaji points out that unconscious beliefs, once they are brought to the fore, can be changed
if the holder of the belief so desires: “Implicit biases come from the culture. I think of them
as the thumbprint of the culture on our minds. Human beings have the ability to learn to
associate two things together very quickly—that is innate. What we teach ourselves, what we
choose to associate is up to us.”
QUOTE http://www.aauw.org/learn/research/upload/whysofew.pdf

So please, look, listen, and speak up.

Consider, is this belief something you have systematically proven / seen first hand? Or is it anecdotal, things you have heard or seen once, or heard from someone else and then had source amnesia?

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Remove?
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So, I show up to a hacking event (BSIDESLV), in a chainmaille bikini

I get politely approached and basically questioned as if I am con-wife / arm candy, and told that since I like role playing games I ought to fit in.

"because you were dressed like arm candy"

Yes I am dressed in a hot / nerdy way

Why does being hot/nerdy prevent me from being at an event for the event?

OK, let's just let the whole women as objects misogyny go...

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So I show up to a hacking event, in jeans and a t-shirt (HOPE, DEFCON)

I get asked who I am there with.

Or, the man I am speaking with gets the technical questions addressed to him. He is my date, he is the non technical con-boy. He must explain this to everyone we speak with, hacking questions go to HER.

I am not dressed sexy, yet I am still a female first.

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"It is the hacking cons! There are not enough females. We don't know how to behave!"
“because so many gold diggers show”

Fine.

I go to purchase my first new car, my fiance is there in order to drive the rental to be returned. I am the one who came for the test drive. I have to repeatedly ask them to speak with me. Their attention, information, conversation, and questions are posed AT HIM. I am paying, I am signing the paperwork, I researched and test drove this car!

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Comparatively, a guy shows up to a hacking event
dressed goth, jeans t-shirt, suit tie, punk, leather...

one might make inferences about that man
"slacker kid" "the man" "fed" "straight" "gay"

but one don't assume he isn't there for the con, one don't assume he is looking for a date or is someone's date

seeing the difference?

What about seeing a pretty girl and instantly assuming one need to break down everything technical. one would probably ask a guy his tech level when one went to explain something to him.

one don't think "oh that guy is attractive, he must be dumb" but it is ok to assume a hot girl will not be intelligent?

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Rant, clean up
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Let me reiterate
this is not on purpose
this is not consciously

Because of the implicit bias and the current majority of men in IT being a man is normal, being a female is abnormal and makes it be noted, commented on. Females become female first instead of a co-worker, or a system administrator.

(white) men get to stand individually, their actions don't affect the schema held for their race or gender
the failure of one female is held against us all

I'm an object representing female geek stereotype

I am not me

It hurts me, it's insulting

in a nerd/geek/it culture where individualism is praised and lauded

i don't care if someone think i am hot, sexy, smart

i care what those qualifiers, in someone brain, modify me as to someone because of my gender
-1 intelligence
-1 competent
-likely to want to spend time with family and not put in 100% at work

Some personal examples:

I pickup the phone and customers want to talk to a tech when I've already introduced myself as a windows admin, what they mean is they wish to speak to a male.

The need to comment: "I've never met a girl DBA before" "I've never met a competent female admin before" "when are you going to get married, have babies and leave us"

I gain the modifier "FEMALE" to my nerdiness, the my geekiness, to my hacking interest, to working in IT as a system administrator.

Must I get called out for being female? Is that a required modifier?

Would you ignore or find it acceptable if I was called out for being a different race?
"That's impressive for a black man"?

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More rant to clean up
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Studies show I have to prove myself competent/intelligent instead of the assumption I am competent affording myself the opportunity to prove I am exceptional. This influences my annual reviews and possibly bonuses, raises and promotions.

?Find research to quote on assumption of incompetence/intelligence

I am seen as less intelligent automatically, I must fight to prove that I am just as smart and competent. For this I am lauded for being a smart girl, not smart, a smart girl, as opposed to the new guy who gets to prove his stupidity and starts with no modifier.

Every time I hear "wow you knew that" in a shocked voice, it hurts because of similarly skilled males hired around the same time are assume to have known it.

by thinking before someone act or talk, is the phrase "for a woman" in there - rethink it, and encouraging others to do the same

could we push less females out of technical jobs

by making it comfortable to be there

because assuming girls as less intelligent is no longer the norm, describing every action a female does with a female modifier, by attempting to be objective in evaluating skills and attempting t think before speaking. This changes your implicit bias, this changes your schema, this changes what is accepted as normal and perpetuated in the work place.

That would make it a nicer place to be.

I don't expect miracles or things to change over nigh, but schemas and bias can change by people talking, discussing and thinking about them. I hope have started you thinking about this one.

think of it as the matrix, the rules change once you know the system is there.

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Closing
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One thing I want to just make a note of before I end

Being a female, and presenting about sexism will result in the normal internet response; I am either fat, ugly, stupid, or a slut. I will receive threats of rape. I will then be told this is how the internet is. I am a raging feminatzi crusader who spends all day raging about gender roles.

not that any of that has to do with my argument

I am slightly afraid to give this speech, there are plenty of girl bloggers who do not disclose they are female, or who carefully moderate what they say online to avoid retaliation. the retaliation tends to be intense, and frightening with threats of rape and harm against the speaker and their family.

I'll leave you with these thoughts; I do not censor myself, I was raised by a blunt and intelligent mother and a kind and loving mr mom. I think I have them to thank that I loved legos, I had a computer back when they were ever do expensive (I had two floppy drives!), and they allowed me to build my own second PC later when I outgrew the first. I am usually glad to be female, I am not fat, nor ugly. As for my sexual history...yes it is online for everyone to see so I expect to hear about it I just don't understand why anyone other than me cares about it.

for those claiming that's because women are thin skinned and males receive equal trollish response please read these when you can
http://www.bewareofthesorrell.com/2011/12/dear-men-please-listen-love-man.html
http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/helen-lewis-hasteley/2011/11/comments-rape-abuse-women

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Close with XKCD?
https://www.xkcd.com/322/

Sources:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1XOC3xy-gdy4HWrnRQdFG6c__BSiyckzCe9FDEieJVp4/edit

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