Girls Coding – the question of metrics

Recently, in an internal memo, a Google employee and Harvard Biology PhD wrote a screed [1] about intrinsic differences between men and women as a justification for, well, dunno. The article was on diversity, which was ironic, because it got him fired. I think he may have been fired because the article was extremely light-weight, perpetuating stereotypes especially about women being more caring and co-operative than men, “research” that has been questioned in recent years [2]. The article was debunked elsewhere – but I liked [3] and [4]. Whatever the case, firing the author was OTT.
While the article perpetuated male stupidity, firing him created a demon that the Breitbart boys love and was a lost opportunity.
One of the best points against him was that as a software engineer, he should understand diversity better, so that his systems do not perpetuate in code bigotry and bias. This is especially true for learning systems.
While no-one is contradicting that men and women are different (well, duh?) we have dug ourselves a hole reminiscent of the pro-slavery or women’s franchise of previous centuries, with a new difference: women were up-there with men in tech.
This note is not a contribution to the Google debate, but notes the loss in parts of the software community of the “Yeah!” moment that separates the institutionalised hacks from the people with a plan and fire in their hearts.
What I mean by this is that for me coding is fun and creative. Showing people stuff working is where I want to be. I love that feeling, working late at night, when you get something to work. Properly.
This to me is what is lacking – the opportunity for girls to make working stuff.
There are a lot of good initiatives to get girls coding. However, I do not understand what their success factors are. I would like to understand.
What I do not think will work is simply minting programming droids. We want people – women – who have a plan and can make things happen. I think that what is missing is for the opportunity for girls to share that making moment.
In my mind the school system does not create the right kind of vibe. (Again their are school Expos which are pretty good.) I have also heard that mentoring empowers women (people) in the same way the “Yeah!” moment.
What I would like to see is someone measuring the desired end results of getting girls coding initiatives. In 20 years time we would like to see more women back coding. But what about metrics for the short term?
What do we need to measure to get more women software engineers. I think getting girls enthusiastic is a good start.  But the right kind of plan is needed to get that enthusiasm into women coding again.


[1] Here is the original article
plus a really bit of mealy mouthed bit of corporate ‘communication’ from their new Vice President of Diversity, Integrity & Governance, Danielle Brown.
[2] Inferior: How science Got Women Wrong by Angela Saini

[3] Sabine Hossenfelder  –
[4] Debunk from an engineering point of view – Yonatan Zunger –
[5] The Economist

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