Thursday, May 21, 2009

We are a part of history

I recognize I'm exceedingly late to any discussion on women in computers that started after the GoGaRuCo kerfluffle - that's fine by me. I'm not going to express an opinion about that particular event. But I would like to remind people of a few details:

* 3.5 generations ago - women received the vote in the US - my great grandmother gained the right to vote as an adult.
* 2 generations ago - The Feminist Mystique was published, NOW founded. My mother was in elementary school.
* less than 1 generation ago - in 94 - women made up just 8% of the faculty at MIT's School of Science (It rose to 18% in '02, not sure of the current numbers. It's clear that in 2005 the problem hadn't been solved at Harvard though.)

The point is that we are here, now, part of a larger story on women's issues. I think it's easy to forget that. When we ask the question "why are there not more women at tech conferences," the question is important and relevant - but we shouldn't be shocked that we don't have the answer yet.

Secondly, the recent focus and concern on the number of women in particular fields is not limited to the software industry. Across many disciplines, from science and law to golfing and race car driving, people who consider themselves living in an enlightened society are looking around and wondering why there aren't more women there or why women are being treated differently.

As a society, we continue to break new ground. Let's not get disheartened along the way by the way things are. Instead, when I am reminded of the history that comes before us, I can only consider the current state as a call to action -- things can change, things will change. and they'll change faster if we continue to care about the problems, and talk about them and investigate them in public forums.

1 comment:

  1. This is encouraging, thank you. It is even great encouragement to see people who are not directly affected by this issue actively ponder it.

    Posts like this, from intelligent enlightened men in the community, definitely help women ignore the obscene, profoundly stupid and asinine comments women receive behind the scenes. Although most of these comments can and are deleted, some are at times so offensive that they are frightening, threatening, almost impossible to just ignore, and require investigation.

    I think if more men realized the blatant harassment so many women are forced to ignore online and in their daily lives, just to be able to live, they may be a bit more aware of the barriers so many women face.

    It is no surprise that women are not more involved in certain male dominated fields for that reason, but maybe more enlightened men in these fields will speak up, and help the trend change. This would be great.