Monday, March 04, 2019

Remember The Ladies–And Act

In March of 1776, Abigail Adams wrote to her husband who would be the second US president “I long to hear that you have declared an independency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.” [ emphasis mine]

After all this time, we, mostly us men, seem to forget the ladies. Most of us are aware that there is a shortage or at least an imbalance of women in the computing field. It’s men’s fault mostly.  We make it worse when we ignore the efforts and accomplishments on the many wonderful women in our field.

We talk about Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper but use them as tokens too much of the time. Today there are a number of wonderful groups whose focus is directly on bringing more women and underserved minorities into the computing field. Unfortunately, they don’t get the attention they deserve.

Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO or Girls Who Code gives an important response to this problem with her post Erasing Women in Tech: How 60 Minutes Ignored Women’s Voices, Stories, and Expertise

Now I can hear someone saying, well, yeah, but is doing great work and they are helping girls and young women. Plus the 60 Minutes piece was a good promotion of computing for all. There is some truth to that but it misses a point.

These other great efforts, those that Ms. Saujani names and more need their own recognition. How else are they going to attract the participants, the supporters, the money, and build sustainability if no one knows they are out there? Outstanding programs like these need the sun shown on them so they can grow and thrive.

The truth is that we need some special programs for girls and minorities because the male dominated organizations are still not making them as comfortable as they should. Oh sure some of us are trying. I like to think my classrooms are safe spaces for everyone. I’m sure most of my regular readers feel the same way about their classrooms and computer labs. We may even be right. But we’re not everywhere.

As a community, we in computing have to be more generous and favorable to women than we have in our more recent history. Our future depends on it.

1 comment:

Garth said...

Having watched the 60 Minutes segment I thought it was pretty good considering what they wanted to say had to be less that 20 minutes. I can understand Saujani's dissatisfaction with what was left out but with only a 20 minute segment a lot of things are going to be left out. I was more interested in the fact Partovi felt any teacher can teach CS if they use I have to think about that one. I am not convinced by a long shot this is true. I was also shocked by the one bit of hard data (if true) I picked out, that only 75 CS teaching degrees were awarded in the US in the last year. That is scary.