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Women in tech

Posts: 3427
Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
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I have a daughter who loves pink, wears lots of dresses, and wants to create manga/anime or be a singing actress. I also have a daughter who hates pink, rarely wears dresses, and wants to learn to code. She signed up for an elective in computer programming at school and was very disappointed in it, as the only option seemed to be based on a shoot-em-up game that didn't appeal at all. She loves Minecraft and what she loves is the building and the making of things in that virtual world (I think).

I'd love advice on how to encourage her interest in tech. We found a company that is selling a package of lessons in Minecraft specifically, but haven't pulled the trigger on buying it because it's a bit pricey and she's traveling for much of August, so signing her up for a service she can't access doesn't make sense.

Then I read articles like this one, and I wonder if it will be too frustrating to be in the tech world.

Quotes from the article linked above:

When she started out studying computer science as a Stanford undergrad, "I felt really out of place," she told me. "There weren't many other women." The coursework was tough, and the guys in her classes talked a big game. "My self-calibration was off," she explained. "There's research on how guys are generally inclined to give themselves more credit. So their calibration was 'I'm awesome; this is super easy,' when I felt like I was doing poorly."

Concerned she wasn't qualified for CS, Chou switched to electrical engineering. But the more she excelled, the more pushback she got. Male classmates would interrupt her or tune out when she spoke. During group projects, guys would reject her proposals and debate alternatives for hours before returning to her idea. "It's okay to have a girl in the class if she's not very good," she said. "But it felt like once I became better than they were, it was not okay anymore."

Now, when my mother studied electrical engineering at Washington University (the private college in St. Louis, Missouri) she was not only the only female in electrical engineering, she was the only female in the entire school of engineering. My sister is a ceramic engineer and was recruited right out of undergrad into a rather good job with General Electric that enabled her to buy a house (in Ohio) in her early 20's. We have a family history of pioneering women in male dominated fields. Even my own medical degree was obtained when women were much less than half of medical students.

Still, my mom was forced to quit her job at Emerson Electric as soon as her pregnancy with my older sister was undeniable, and she never was able to work in her field again. My sister had to move out of tech and into what is essentially sales (lots of travel) in order to get ahead in her own career. So, they made it in the achievement/rules based environment of school, but ran into obstacles out in the "real world." Similarly, I gave up on my interest in surgery when I got a good look at the hostile environment I'd be forced to endure as a powerless intern.

Although tech employment has grown by 37 percent since 2003, the presence of women on engineering teams has remained flat (at around 13 percent) for more than two decades, and women's share of what the US Census Bureau calls "computer workers" has actually declined since the early 1990s.

As of 2011, census data shows, women in technical fields were making about $16,000 less, on average, than men.)

Here is where engineer Tracy Chou has been gathering data about female engineers in Silicon Valley. From the numbers gathered by employees (since the companies were refusing to release the data, saying those numbers were trade secrets):

17 of Yelp's 206 engineers (8 percent) were women, for example. Dropbox was barely better, with 26 out of 275 (9 percent). Nextdoor, a social-media tool for neighborhoods, had 29 engineers—all male. Change.org, which bills itself as "the world's platform for change," had less than 13 percent women engineers; it has since changed for the better, with 20 percent.

Of course, the daughter I'm talking about is less than 10 years old, and a LOT can happen in 10 years. Being a pioneer can pay off big, if you can survive the process! Anyway, I'd love advice on encouraging my daughter's interest in tech.
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I don't want to make this thread explode, so I'm going to try and keep my response short and sweet...

My mom has nicknamed me "Clicker" because I click around a lot and am good at finding things online. I've been meaning to learn to type and code, but have not yet gotten around to it. I've been learning tips and tricks as I find them useful to get things done. I'm kind of hybrid-typing right now, and mostly, I know how to access the source code of websites and read for things I'm looking for. Some are kind of funny; programmers can type things as notes without the compilers reading the code. Some programmers have entire conversations in their websites' source codes which are interesting to read.

Anyhow, back to the point, this is what I've found:

Free Code Camp (This is an online code camp where people learn to code by helping ot build apps for nonprofits that need help. I think this is a win-win all around!)
X-Ray Goggles (lets you view the source code and remix websites)
Learn Python (Developers of languages have their own free stuff for the public)
PyGame (modules to teach game programming in python)
Kodu Game Lab (a visual programming language for games, stories, etc)
Learn C++
Learn C#
Learn Java
Github Programming Library
Live Coding TV (YouTube for Coders)
Tech Support Article on Learning to Program

Freemium to Paid:
Code Combat (learning to code by playing a game) (this one tricked me, it's freemium, not free)
Code Monkey (this is a freemium game to learn coding)
Code Avengers (freemium)
Code Spells (paid game to learn coding, will eventually be publicly released, came out on Kickstarter)
Tree House (learning to code through projects)
Code School

One of my high school friends, he learned to code from just playing around with the library and command line on his computer.

**This perhaps may be the best way of learning- the sandbox and observation method. Games and stories are played and told in societies throughout history, and in other organisms play serves as a method of genuine learning. I would appreciate it if educational institutions felt the same way, which may explain whyI retain information better when I'm doing labs, watching other people do something, or playing around.**

I hope at least some of this was useful!

*looks at post* *woops* *this isn't short but I'm gonna keep typing anyways*

*this is where i'm hoping the thread doesn't explode* *crosses fingers*

With regards to social justice, I find that the same can go the other way, too. Men have trouble getting into women's fields, too. I think that instead of trying to 'one up it" like I can do things better than men or I can do things better than women, the more effective approach for social change would be to do away with gender associations and gender stereotypes as a whole. The other former approach, as I believe, would just increase stigma, but the latter approach would increase mutual respect for people as a whole and create a more objective view of the world.

I'm keeping part short b/c I don't want to put too much out there, just enough to share empathy. I did acting in middle school, junior high, and freshman year of high school. I experienced bullying for being tall, being an actor, and teased b/c ppl thought, "he's a guy, acting, he's gay!".I didn't even know what "gay" mean back then! Then, I went into Costume Crew and headed becoming the Head of the Costume crew for one performance, then I had to commit myself to my school work completely b/c there wasn't enough time to go around. And eventually, I blossomed into my own and learned I lie somewhere in the middle, at the cross-roads of science and art, and there I plan to grow into my forest and thrive!
Julia Winter
Posts: 3427
Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
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Thanks for all the links! I will check those out and share them with my daughter.

And on the broader issue of sexism, yes, it definitely can go both ways. I was just reading about the poor schmuck who was shot by a cop in South Carolina after being pulled over for almost nothing. Apparently everything was going fine until the guy realized he could get in trouble (again) for being (way) behind on his child support. When he realized this, he tried to run away and he was shot. This article details how men all over the country are turned into indentured servants to the child support system: asked to pay crazy unreasonable quantities and jailed when they can't, which makes them lose their job.

A 2007 Urban Institute study of child support debt in nine large states found that 70 percent of the arrears were owed by people who reported less than $10,000 a year in income. They were expected to pay, on average, 83 percent of their income in child support — a percentage that declined precipitously in higher income brackets.

In many jurisdictions, support orders are based not on the parent’s actual income but on “imputed income” — what they would be expected to earn if they had a full-time, minimum wage or median wage job. In South Carolina, the unemployment rate for black men is 12 percent.

Back to coding: the sandbox and observation method is how I "taught" my Apple II Plus to play Fur Elise back in 1982. I found the piece of code in a game that made the music, and then substituted different numbers in and checked what sounds they made. One value signified the note and another value signified the duration. I figured out the values I needed by trial and error. It was fun.
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