Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 28th May 2012 19:25 UTC
In the News This topic comes up quite a lot on technology websites, but I generally try to steer clear from it as much as possible, since I'm not the one to talk about it (you know, with me being a man and all that), however, I feel it might be a good idea to just get my opinion out there and be done with it. The topic of women in IT is a hot-button issue, so let me just go out guns blazing: assuming women need special treatment, help, protection, and affirmative action is just as insulting and degrading as outright claiming women have no place in IT - maybe even more so.
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Affirmative action isn't a solution
by Dave_K on Mon 28th May 2012 21:49 UTC
Dave_K
Member since:
2005-11-16

Setting aside any issues of whether affirmative action as a concept is right or wrong, a major practical problem is that it comes into play far too late to create the intended outcome. It doesn't take into account the fact that men and women have (on average) already chosen different paths before they even enter college, let alone join the workforce.

I think it's fair to say that fewer women take an interest in fields like IT and engineering while growing up. Even with programmes to encourage women to study these subjects, they're certainly still heavily male dominated in university.

If most of the graduates in a particular field are men, then most of the people entering professions requiring those qualifications will also be men. The reverse is true if you look at fields (like psychology for example) that are becoming female dominated. That inequality of outcome will still exist even if there's no sex discrimination when hiring employees.

This is something I've seen while working in IT. When a job was advertised there'd often be 20+ male applicants and maybe one single woman. Needless to say, the office was full of guys.

I'm sure some people would be looking to blame that on misogynists at the company giving preferential treatment to men. In reality management went out of their way to hire women, even if they were less qualified and experienced than some male applicants. But it wouldn't have mattered if they'd hired every woman who applied, there still wouldn't have been a 50/50 split.

Affirmative action practices like gender quotas and preferential hiring can't create qualified women out of thin air. I don't think they'll work without first convincing women to make different choices from an early age.

Reply Score: 4

michaelt Member since:
2012-05-28

Have you ever considered the reason why women don't choose IT careers? You think it might just be that women naturally don't want that sort of job? Seems a little far fetched to me. How about this one: maybe women don't want to pursue an IT career because it is completely male dominated and they don't want to spend their lives being drooled over by an office full of IT guys? Not a great work environment. Now, I'm not say that all male IT workers are going to be creepy or hostile to female employees (although, please refer to the rise of the brogrammer), but that is certainly the prevailing stereotype. Ensuring that more women get jobs in IT will demonstrate to young women that IT is a career that they can pursue and enjoy, and will encourage them to pursue it. So yes, affirmative action CAN help create qualified women, but I wouldn't say it's out of thin air.

Reply Parent Score: 4

Dave_K Member since:
2005-11-16

Have you ever considered the reason why women don't choose IT careers? You think it might just be that women naturally don't want that sort of job?


I didn't say that. Although I do think that men and women are different (on average), and I'm not convinced that as a group they'd always make the same choices, even if they were treated identically.

My point was that unequal representation in a particular workplace doesn't necessarily mean that there's discrimination in that environment. That seems obvious to me, but a lot of feminists (and other affirmative action proponents) seem to take inequality of outcome as proof of unfair treatment.

Why men tend to choose some fields and women tend to choose others is a different issue. One that the forms of positive discrimination I've encountered (such as gender quotas when hiring employees) don't really take into account.

Ensuring that more women get jobs in IT will demonstrate to young women that IT is a career that they can pursue and enjoy, and will encourage them to pursue it. So yes, affirmative action CAN help create qualified women, but I wouldn't say it's out of thin air.


To significantly increase the percentage of women in their IT department, the company I used to work for would have had to hire women who weren't just unqualified, but were also uninterested in the job.

I'm not sure that hiring blatantly unsuitable female applicants would really do much for women in IT. How much respect would they get if it was known that they were only hired as part of a social engineering project to encourage the next generation?

Reply Parent Score: 2