Ladies put off tech careers by sci-fi posters, Coke cans
Coffee, books, pics of 'nature' or 'art' recommended
There's more research out this week on the vexed question of why there aren't more women in the field of computing and IT. According to the latest study, such seemingly harmless habits as putting up sci-fi posters or leaving cans of Coke about can be much more offputting than one might think.
"When people think of computer science the image that immediately pops into many of their minds is of the computer geek surrounded by such things as computer games, science fiction memorabilia and junk food," says Sapna Cheryan, a junior trick-cyclist at the university of Washington, America. "That stereotype doesn't appeal to many women who don't like the portrait of masculinity that it evokes."
Cheryan and her colleagues arranged multiple experiments and surveys among hundreds of non-computing-subjects students at Washington uni. Questionnaires were filled in in different rooms - one previously prepared with a science fiction poster, games kit and Coke cans; one instead with "nature" and "art" wall graphics, books and coffee cups. This stage dressing was ostensibly not part of the tests, but nonetheless it had a powerful effect on decisions by the ladies taking part.
Specifically, women filling in questionnaires in the stereotypically geeky room were significantly less likely to express interest in computer-science related studies or careers. having seen both environments, and then hypothetically offered a chance to work in an all female team in either kind of room, they still went for the non-geeky atmos.
Similarly, when it was postulated that they had received job offers from two different firms - one full of Chewbacca desk toys etc, the other "non-stereotypical" - the ladies went overwhelmingly for the less geeky option. So did the chaps, in fact, but among them the preference was distinctly less marked.
"We want to attract more people to computer science. The stereotype is not as alienating to men as women, but it still affects them as well," argues Cheryan. "A lot of men may also be choosing to not enter the field because of the stereotype ... It would be nice for computer scientists in movies and television to be typical people, not only computer geeks."
Of course, one should bear in mind that this study was done among students from non-computing courses, probably indicating a lack of interest in the subject and quite likely a lack of aptitude too. It may not be that brilliant an idea for IT firms to remake their corporate atmosphere to attract such people.
On the other hand, it's possible to argue along with Cheryan that more ladies in the techy workplace would not only widen the recruiting pool of itself; it would also attract a wider selection of chaps into the field, too.
Whether that would be sufficient to justify replacing the treasured posters with tasteful framed prints, relegating the dubious tins of pop in favour of an espresso machine etc - well, that's probably a matter for the comments.
Meanwhile, for those interested in the details, Cheryan and her colleagues' research is published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. ®
We showed a female only group...
...around the set for the "IT Crowd" and then a real IT environment in a modern business before asking which they would rather work in.....
I've been in IT for over 20 years and I've *NEVER* seen a working environment as the one described by this student psychologist. They are the staple of sterotypical thinking, and that folks, is as bad as saying "All women are bad drivers". It is no more true than "All techies are saddos/geeks/anaraks..." etc. etc.
Various organisations, including those dedicated to so-called feminism have been battling for years to shed such lables, so I find it somewhat suprising when someone else comes along, and in the name of equality, tries to re-establish the same pigeon-hole categories.
Real social influences and failed researcher logic...
People who are not interested in the subject of IT are already primed to dislike that subject. Therefore if you put them in a poorer environment, they are going to be even more disgruntled when asked about a subject they already dislike, but its not the environment that is causing their dislike of the subject of IT!
So sales pitching the IT stereotype as the reason for people disliking the subject, is simply a poor attempt to draw attention to this flawed research.
Also their research misses obvious social influences. For example lets face it, there are some in society who simply wish to make derogatory comments about IT. This is shown for example by the derogatory labels such as geek and nurd. (I know some try to embrace these labels as good, but its still often used in a derogatory way).
The question then becomes, why do some in society feel the need to verbally hit out with derogatory geek like comments about IT. (The point is, what do they get out of using derogatory comments?). The answer is its a common behaviour of Histrionic Personality Disordered people. Histrionic people seek attention and so almost by definition, the act of seeking to become the centre of attention, is also to seek to deprive others of attention. Most people in IT have at some point in their lives experienced being verbally put down by Histrionic people. The reason this is important, in the context of this discussion on women in IT is the fact that the majority of women are more influenced than men in their daily lives by Histrionic people. For example the entire fashion industry is totally dominated by Histrionic people. The majority of women are relentlessly influenced to conform to the expectations of this industry. (In the fashion industry we again see this same pattern of derogatory comments, where people are berated for being unfashionable and so therefore the Histrionic repeats the pattern of putting down others whilst trying to show themselves as central and leading. Its a manipulation of people, centred around the need for attention. The majority of women are relentlessly under this influence, so is it any wonder that many of them try to avoid association with anything so relentlessly put down by the Histrionic people.
(A person knowledgeable on a subject and starting to speak about their subject of interest is enough for a Histrionic person to seek to put down that person and thereby removing the attention from the knowledgeable person and back onto them. After years of practice Histrionic people get very good at manipulative and subtlety derogatory comments. Subjects such as IT and science are inherently domains that require years of study and as such more likely to be targeted by Histrionic people).
Histrionic's influence on society is considerable because they seek jobs that give them attention. Turn on a TV and its an almost endless stream of Histrionic people. The whole main stream (superficial) side of the media industry is dominated by Histrionic people. e.g. Celebrity news, singers, actresses, fashion etc.. (Even many of the reporters in these superficial areas of the media industry are Histrionic as they seek attention through their work and they seek to be a part of that world of attention and they seek to hold up Histrionic people as role models).
Therefore its hardly surprising with such Histrionic social influences that fewer women would want to be associated with IT. This is why the women who are in IT and science often show a self confidence to not be so influenced by the superficial concerns of the Histrionics.
the IT crowd
if my office was anything like the basement of reynolds Industries id be a much happier IT bod
People our defence fields to repel stupid people are working! Continue the sterotype defence.
As a blokey boy i would have liked to be a wedding planner but all the lace and flowers and candles and blushing women put me off, can the whole industry be changed so i can feel more at home please!!!