Jan. 13th, 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 co-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 all women, or any other group. I do not speak for my employer, my former employer, my future employers, I am a human being not a mascot. Though you might say I am here because of the Unicorn Law.

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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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 on the whole this negative environment / culture 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 you are not contributing, or that it is not happening/real.

After this perhaps take a good look and listen around your work. Ask a female who is familiar with the issue, and your behaviors at work and seek feedback.

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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

some influencing factors:
implicit bias (hidden boas, unconsious bias, schemas, stereotypes)
male privilege
sexism
stereotype threat

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Implicit Bias

Also known as Hidden Bias or Unconscious Bias

Our minds work through what are called “schemas”. ... “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 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/

Non-privileged groups need to think about things that privileged groups take for granted and do not think about.

"And if there is any doubt why such an opinion might be met with hostility, it has to do with privilege. You can write it off as “political correctness” if you wish, but the truth is that privilege always lies with the majority. They’re so used to being catered to that they see the lack of catering as an imbalance. They don’t see anything wrong with having things set up to suit them, what’s everyone’s fuss all about? That’s the way it should be, any everyone else should be used to not getting what they want."
BioWare’s David Gaider
QUOTE http://www.nomorelost.org/2011/03/25/straight-male-gamer-told-to-get-over-it-by-bioware/

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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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Chilling, is it cold in here?
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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/

-----

Some excerpts from a twitter discussion 1/12/12 – any time sexism is brought up it is challenged that this is normal and OK for geek culture, or refuted as not true. Also, the way in which women dress is frequently brought up to discount their technical abilities or seriousness.

Shanley Kane @shanley
If you are a woman, people will assume you aren't technical, and disregard or outright question/attack your knowledge of technology often.

Shanley Kane @shanley
Amount of time it took for a man to tell me that's not true: 30 seconds. FFS

Leigh Honeywell @hypatiadotca
@JGamblin why does one-upmanship have to be sexist and racist (and I think it often is)? Why can't we be competitive on our merits,...

Jerry Gamblin @JGamblin
@Gillis57 I also think some women in IT security have sold out to the "hot security chick" which does no one good.

Jerry Gamblin @JGamblin
@dewzi no longer trying to be a true respected peer but trying to be accepted because of their looks\flirting\dress etc.

Jerry Gamblin @JGamblin
@dewzi I am saying I think some women have given up trying to be a true peer and have turned up the "sex appeal" to compensate.

Marisa Fagan @dewzi
@davienthemoose @elizmmartin @jgamblin Is there any point to saying that sex and intellect aren't the opposite ends of a scale? Can do both.

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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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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

In essence - every day in people do not speak up when they encounter a stereotype that is negative in an unfair way (girls are not as good at computers as boys), and do not speak up “because that's the way it is” “they don't mean it that way” “its a joke” it becomes normal, unremarkable, and quietly accepted.

This perpetuates the action in the majority, it is accepted as true, even though “everyone knows they aren't serious”

Consider your stereotypes about women in IT, or women attending a hacking convention.

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?

Also, is it fair for you to attribute the actions of some people of a certain schema/class to all members?

You can only have people consider and change their schema when there is dissonance, for there to be dissonance we need to vocalize about the things that are not OK, and stop brushing them off.
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This research helps to shed light on why women are less likely to complete a major in mathematics in college, pursue math-intensive careers such as computer science or engineering, and are more than twice as likely as men to drop out of these fields once they begin. One explanation is that to maintain a strong identification with math-related fields, women may come to distance themselves from stereotypically female characteristics, which as the authors suggest, could create personal and professional conflicts for those women who do not wish to abandon their feminine identity. When coupled with strong implicit stereotypes about females' math competence, those women who do maintain strong identification with being female may be particularly vulnerable to leaving math and science fields, regardless of their mathematical prowess. Thus it appears that even when consciously disavowing stereotypes, female math students are still susceptible to negative perceptions of their ability.
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2007-01/afps-isa012407.php

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Examples
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Myself, and other women constant get approached as though we were con-wives, con-girlfriends at defcon (and other hacking events). We can be wearing jeans and t-shirts, or black shirts and khakis with a badge just like everyone else and still get asked "who are you here with".

The justification is always "but there are not many girls at hacking conventions" "there are so many gold diggers" ""most of them are arm candy"

I would like to ask how often this is true. I know many women at DEFCON and see many more, all wearing badges. My assumption is if you are attending a con, and have purchased a badge you are likely here because you want to be.

If all the evidence you have is hearsay or anecdotal, please consider asking girls "what talk are you most looking forward to" or "what have you enjoyed most so far" instead of "who are you here with". Assuming they are wearing a badge and are in a convention area.

I have also heard from women who have never had this experience, they also are a bit louder so personality may play into this, but I feel this is a good example of implicit unfounded bias and chilling.
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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 doesn't assume he isn't there for the con, one doesn't assume he is looking for a date or is someone's date.

seeing the difference?


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Some personal examples:
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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?"

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.

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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Why So Slow? The Advancement of Women by Virginia Valian
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Why So Slow? The Advancement of Women by Virginia Valian
MIT Press, 1998

Valian then shows that women are schematically not competent professionally; women who manifestly possess the traits needed for competence are un-schematic, i.e. unfeminine. One effect of this is that women get less credit for the same accomplishments and attributes than men do --- which is especially the case when there are no objective scales for these accomplishments, and evaluators rely on their personal feelings, experience, and the like. Valian even documents many traits which help men's careers but hurt women's, for instance a reputation for assertiveness. (This ties back in to the normative force of schemata. When was the last time you heard of somebody that "She's a bitch, but she gets things done"?)

...

It is a fact of professional life that our business consists mostly of talking (and writing) to one another, and that one person's words rarely carry exactly as much weight as another's. Before we act on or believe what co-workers say, we have to take them seriously; to take them seriously we have to listen to them. Before we bother listening to them in the first place, we have to think they're the kind of people worth bothering with. The quality of being judged worth bothering with (and taking seriously and following) has, surprisingly, no vernacular name; "prestige" comes pretty close, and Valian uses it, though it doesn't quite fit, and she also speaks of "advantage". People are usually pretty well-agreed on judgments of worth-bothering-withness, though lots of office politics revolves around the disputes. In any event, the peculiar --- but readily-observed --- fact about prestige is that one gets it by being bothered with, listened to, taken seriously, and followed, and that one loses it by failed attempts at these (much more than by doing nothing, though even that is often not neutral). …

It's not hard to see where this is heading. Even small systematic biases in starting positions --- in judgments of advantage of people without reputations --- will quickly amplify; and gender schemata provide just such a bias, often not such a small one. They also make it harder for women to be successful in professional encounters and evaluations all down the line. If the membership of one level of the profession is picked from those with the highest standing in the level below --- which is pretty much the case --- then we have a case of repeated biased sampling, and it's elementary to work out that this quickly leads to fixation. (Actually, repeated sampling leads to fixation even without bias, but that's another story.) In other words: there only has to be a very slight day-to-day bias against women in mundane professional life for the heads of the professions to be all male. The glass ceiling is built out of unnumbered petty occasions of paying more attention to Jack than to than Jane.

...

Assuming Valian is right (and I really do think she is), what are the available remedies? Valian's recommendations fall under four broad heads. First of all, people --- men and women both --- need to realize that gender schemata and the accumulation of advantage exist and make a big, harmful difference. They also need to learn how gender schemata work, so they can change their practices to minimize their importance, and check themselves when they start to lapse into schematic thinking. Valian stresses that this should not be confused with "awareness training," which she thinks is probably counterproductive, and I can testify is often extremely irritating. (People are more likely to accept changes in their habits of work and even thought if it's presented as a matter of patching a nonconscious cognitive bug than as one of rooting out unconscious sexism.) Second, women need to learn to act strategically --- "be impersonal, friendly and respectful ... build power ... seek information ... become an expert ... get endorsed by legitimate authority ... negotiate, bargain, seek advancement" (pp. 323--327). Of course many men would benefit from acting thus (I certainly don't do enough of it myself), but we're expected to behave that way, and women are not. Third, institutions must recognize the existence of this problem and find ways to deal with it --- which is to say, the people in charge of institutions must. Switching to objective performance criteria, for instance, will help, since more personal, intuitive evaluations are also more influenced by schemata. ...

...

The sentiments in the phrase --- "to succeed a woman has to be twice as good as a man; fortunately, that isn't difficult" --- are wrong. Not only is it difficult, it is impossible. Men and women are, on average, equal in ability. Only a tiny fraction of women could be twice as good as the average successful man, just as only a tiny fraction of men could be twice as good as the average successful woman...
Rather than role models, people need access to information, opportunity and recognition. People need fairness. Fairness does not guarantee that people will always be rewarded according to their merits, but that no one will be unrewarded more often than someone else because of membership in a particular group. Fairness means that an average woman has as great a chance of success as an average man.

QUOTE http://cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/reviews/why-so-slow/

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Making it comfortable
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Since the number one reason given for leaving IT was a hostile workplace, we can reason that retention could be improved by making it comfortable to be there.

Make the company professed and enforced culture one based on individual, and team, skills, actions, and accomplishments. Try to find ways to ensure everyone is recognized for work they have done, not just work brought to your attention. Listen for modifiers, gender or race based, being used regularly and try and phase them out.

That would make it a nicer place to be.

I don't expect miracles or things to change over night, but schemas and bias can change by people talking, acknowledging, discussing and thinking about them. Working to change the workplace culture is likely to influence employees implicit bias, this changes what is accepted as normal and perpetuated in the work place.

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/
https://www.xkcd.com/385/

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

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