Richard Jones' Log: Why there's few women in IT

Sun, 10 Dec 2006

The conference last week was educational for the committee in a way that was completely unexpected:

Observation 1: During one of the lightning talks a presenter put some porn up on the big screen. He was peripherally discussing a Perl module called Acme::Playmate (which basically looks up Playmate info on the playboy playmate directory).

We (the committee) had never thought it would be necessary to have to explicitly say that it's not OK to put up porn. Or that we'd have to actively discourage discussing a module that would clearly offend members of the audience.

Observation 2: I was amazed that Acme::Playmate exists in (and is blessed by) CPAN.

I spoke before the keynote the next day apologising to the attendees and our sponsors for what had happened.

Observation 3: Some attendees thought that we had overreacted by even saying anything.

There's my observations about why more women aren't in IT.

We will be passing on clear advice to the next committee about how to handle this.

Update: there's a fantastic HOWTO Encourage Women in Linux which I encourage all to read. Thanks Paul for the pointer.

Clarification: when I originally wrote this I guess I didn't realise that people would assume that I'm saying these are the only reasons for under-represenation of women in IT. I certainly didn't intend to say that, just that these are some observations of some potential reasons.

Comment by Tennessee Leeuwenburg on Sun, 10 Dec 2006

Hi there,

Was present, saw it happen. Porn at a professional event. Lucky his boss wasn't there. I felt sorry for all nine women in the audience, and a bit for the presenter also.

Philosophical thought: I don't actually think that's why there aren't more female programmers. There's heaps of them in graphic design, web design, maths, science and other related areas. It's really just programming that seems to be so biased.

While I think it's inappropriate behaviour for a conference to display porn, that's not the ascribed reason for avoiding programming that I've heard put by women.

Anyhoo, well done on the good conference.


Comment by Juerd on Sun, 10 Dec 2006

I wonder in which way this module is "blessed by" CPAN.

CPAN is an archive that anyone can upload to. There is no review committee, there is no active censorship. A lot of code posted on CPAN is low quality, buggy code. And a lot of code is clearly tagged as non-production, non-serious. These fun-modules are in the "Acme::" namespace.

I don't think that this incident can explain why there are few ("no") women in IT. There is porn in all industries.

As for whether this is okay in a professional presentation, I can't comment on that because I haven't seen the picture. (This is not a hint.)

Comment by Juerd on Sun, 10 Dec 2006

s/\("no"\)// # This was based on something someone on IRC said; you said "few", which is more correct.

Comment by anthony baxter on Sun, 10 Dec 2006

I missed the lightning talks - I was too busy finishing my talk and finishing porting Bruce to IronPython+sdldotnet. But porn during a talk, regardless of how soft-core, is totally inappropriate/unprofessional. It doesn't just reflect badly on the speaker, but on the conference as a whole.

Comment by Steve on Sun, 10 Dec 2006

How many people walked out?

Comment by Richard Jones on Sun, 10 Dec 2006


I wonder in which way this module is "blessed by" CPAN.
There is only one level of blessing: someone with appropriate power "registers" the module. That it is "blessed" in any way is a distraction from the real point -- that there's a culture in IT that says it should exist at all.

I don't think that this incident can explain why there are few ("no") women in IT. There is porn in all industries.
Porn is certainly not in all industries, and it belongs in none except the porn industry. That you think it's OK to have porn in a presentation speaks volumes about the attitude that I'm observing here.


How many people walked out?
I have since been informed (i.e. after apologising to the conference) that a female attendee (one of the three we had in the theatre) walked out of the presentation.

Comment by Joe Grossberg on Sun, 10 Dec 2006

Don't be a coward, Richard: say who the presenter was. Public shaming is a powerful antidote to socially obnoxious behavior.

Comment by Paul Dyson on Sun, 10 Dec 2006

Was there. At least one woman walked out, I talked to her afterwards.

I come from a Physics background and was surprised to find a conference with fewer women than a Physics one!

The Physics community has been addressing this issue with proactive steps for over a decade now. For example having female physicists go to girls schools to talk to the students about becoming physicists.

Perhaps the women's groups in software development can make connections with the long established women in physics groups - I would guess they would have similar issues. Maybe these connections already exist.

As to why there are so few women. I got the impression at the conference that software developers work long hours. Despite the prevalence of childcare and rhetoric in society about sexual equality - child raring still remains largely the responsibility of women. This does not go together with long working hours. Sure it can be managed by the heroic few, but many factors in society will be working against you. While not the only factor, I think part-time hours would make a difference. (This is true of most management jobs too - not just software development.) How to achieve this... ???

An example from Physics of female involvement, see:
Australian Institute of Physics
2006 Women in Physics Lecturer slash news slash 120

Comment by Shelley on Sun, 10 Dec 2006

Whenever these discussions happen, it always comes back to this is a woman's decision, and it's somehow associated with us having babies.

The first step to change is realizing that change is needed. The tech industry is losing women, while all other scientific fields are gaining women. Start with an assumption that there's something 'broken' in the tech industry, and that the industry needs to change--not women--in order to equalize it.

I look at new approaches in the field such as agile programming techniques and the like, and in all cases, I believe they exist and are gaining popularity because the field is so heavily male dominated.

In other words, we introduce artificial ways of compensating for certain types of behavior in technology, rather than realize that something in tech is 'broken', and is encouraging the type of behavior we want to counter!

Events such as these, with porn flashed on the screen at a tech conference, are not a cause, but they are a symptom. And rather than look to women, and say, "Why aren't you here", look within and say, "Why aren't they here?"

Comment by Joe Grossberg on Sun, 10 Dec 2006


Attorneys in the US work hours that are as bad, if not worse, than what software developers do. And the gender distribution in that profession is nowhere near as skewed.

Comment by Paul Dyson on Mon, 11 Dec 2006

Shelley, is there some sort of formulation of what's broken in the tech industry, and needs to change?

I imagine there is academic work on this that needs to be brought into the mainstream developer community. Any leads???

Comment by Articles on Mon, 11 Dec 2006

Sorry for replying to my own post.

Looks like a foundational academic paper was:
"Why are There so Few Female Computer Scientists?", MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory Technical Report 1315, Ellen Spertus, 1991

Also 'Why are there so few women in Linux?' in:

I got these links from:

Comment by Steve on Mon, 11 Dec 2006

How many guys walked out? I think that would give you a better indicator of how much this sort of thing is tolerated.

Comment by Richard Jones on Mon, 11 Dec 2006

As far as I am aware no guys walked out.

Comment by anthony baxter on Mon, 11 Dec 2006

I believe Pia Waugh already does go to schools to talk about careers in IT.

Comment by Shelley on Mon, 11 Dec 2006

I'm incredibly behind a book, too much so to be able to spend the time responding as I would really like.

I think we need to go beyond looking at a few classes, or behaviors in school. I think we need to completely challenge how the computer science programs are designed.

It's not that these programs are antagonistic to women, but they're also antagonistic to many men. These programs are geared to a specific behavior, as much as they are focused at an interest.

I have met many women who have ended in technology but not through the computer science programs. They come in through psychology, music, business, library science, biology, and so on. That's what we need to look at doing -- removing computer science as this isolated, odd field (what other field focuses purely on the tools?) and split it into other departments, as an option.

Take the data portion of the computer science degree, and put this is as part of a library science program focused on data and organization of such.

Do the same with psychology, business, accounting, and so on--degrees in these fields with emphasis on computing.

Not only would we get more women, we'd get a strong computing community. People grounded in fields of interest beyond just computing.

The computer science programs are padded with so many inconsequential classes to make up a full degree. Who really needs assembly language now? And we have a class in Pascal one day, and databases the next -- without any rhyme or reason how these interface into the real world.

We've already seen the 'bleed' of the computer science classes into the other disciplines. Let's finish the job.

Let's break this stranglehold of the aloof, obsessed 'geek'. Let's remove computer science out of engineering, where it never really belonged. Let's stop isolating IT, and bring it into the other fields, where it should have been in the first place.

Our programs are stuck in a time when computers filled rooms, and only an elite few had access. This is just not a viable approach any more.

This is just a start, and I don't have time to do more than toss a few disjointed sentences out.

I do know that the programs to 'encourage' girls to take computer science classes are failing. Probably because the entire field is biased--predetermined to a specific gender and mindset.

The tech field is broken. Only drastic means can fix it.

Comment by Shelley on Mon, 11 Dec 2006

You do realize you linked to a 1991 report on the problem, and since that time, we've had a drop in women entering computer science programs?

Getting people to 'talk' to girls about computer careers isn't working.

Comment by Robyn M on Mon, 11 Dec 2006

I'd like to comment on the authors
"Observation 3: Some attendees thought that we had overreacted by even saying anything.

There's my observations about why more women aren't in IT."

This is exactly where it is at. People don't realise that others might be offended by their words/actions.

Ask yourself this question would you show your Grandmother, Mother, Sister, Wife, Boss, Husband etc. These types of people are your audience so don't do it.

My Mums not a geek so it's ok. No but my Mums a geek at 62 so it's not ok. My niece 14 is a geek, my sister 37 is a geek and so am I.

Anyone can be a computer person/geek.

You demoralise anyone and they wont play with you.

Comment by Aneesha on Mon, 11 Dec 2006

> As far as I am aware no guys walked out.

IMHO, that speaks volumes for the disrespect for women. Not to say anything about the presenter itself in the first place!

Comment by Linda on Mon, 11 Dec 2006

Shelley, your comments about taking IT out of it's own little closet and integrating it with other fields is a great idea.

I'm glad to hear the conference committee takes it seriously. I'm tremendously disheartened to hear there are those who find it even being mentioned over reacting..

Comment by Damjan on Mon, 11 Dec 2006

So porn only offends women?
Why does porn offend anybody?!?

Comment by Henry Miller on Mon, 11 Dec 2006

In many areas it is illegal to show pron in public. I don't know the laws where the confrence happened, but if the above had happened in Minnesota, the proper response would be to call the police and arrest the presenter.

On behalf of all the good fathers I know, I have to take offense at someones comment that women do most of the child raising. That was barely true in the 1950s (when the sterotypical women stayed home while the man worked), but today things are far more complex. You can find plenty of homes where dad does more to raise the children than the mother. (And the number would be higher, except that whenever there is a seperation of parents the women nearly always gets the kids)

Many have noticed the problem. I don't know if any solution will work, but something needs to be done.

Comment by Paul Dyson on Mon, 11 Dec 2006

The reason I said that child raising remains largely the responsibility of women, is because it is true. I did not say it was desirable.

I speak from my experience as a father who works part time and takes his daughter to pre-school events during the week. I thought I would find maybe 1/3 fathers and 2/3 mothers at these events. But no. I am usually the only father, sometimes there would be one other father. On the rare occasion that an extra father comes along their wife comes us well. And the father often sits at the back and watches the mother taking part. This really surprised me.

I think part of the solution would be increased availability of part time work for both mothers and fathers so that *if the father is willing*, they can both share all this.

The long hours worked in software development is a move in the opposite direction.

I acknowledge Shelley's point that it's not all about babies. Working hours may cause women to leave the workforce, but they are not a major factor if women are not in the industry in the first place.

Comment by Dorothea on Mon, 11 Dec 2006

For a short, systematic, and only mildly dated introduction to the topic of women's non-participation in computer science, try Margolis and Fisher, Unlocking the Clubhouse. Their bona-fides include a significant ramp-up in the number of women completing comp sci undergrad degrees at Carnegie Mellon (although I have not heard much followup on how many stayed in the profession afterwards).

I can provide pointers to weblog discussions that may or may not be enlightening, if anyone wishes.

I thank the original poster for taking this seriously and for being honestly curious and openminded about it. That happens all too rarely.

Comment by Mary on Mon, 11 Dec 2006

Thank you for the discussion the following morning; I thought it was appropriate in tone and content.

I am, in a way, less surprised that "no porn in talks" is something that actually needs to be said. Members of the Free Software community do have some problems distinguishing their colleagues from their mates at the pub, and even more trouble distinguishing their colleagues in the lecture theatre from some of those same colleagues in the pub (not that I personally want to see anyone's taste in Playmates at the pub either, but there's certainly a problem with public and private space distinctions on top of problems with sexism).

Comment by Kathy Sierra on Tue, 12 Dec 2006

Linda: "Shelley, your comments about taking IT out of it's own little closet and integrating it with other fields is a great idea."

I agree. This is the best idea I've heard so far. However big and ambitious it may be, it's still more practical and realistic than trying to change the whole of society overnight.

And it reflects-- as Shelley said--the major shift in where computing fits into the world today. The one reminder I keep coming back to is that most teenage girls today (at least in the US) have known computers their entire life. Just like telephones. To my daughters, the notion of "women in computing" is as ridiculous as saying, "women in telephones". They believe the computer is simply a tool, however crucial it is to their lives. It's something you use to do other things.

And while my daughters cannot concieve of why anyone (including their mother) would ever want to spend their days writing code, they're all about pushing their MySpace page to the limits, no matter how 'geeky' that might be. "How to tweak javascript" is practically the new "how to get ringtones on your cell phone".

So, Shelley's idea fits with the view I think most young girls are moving into today (very different from even five years ago) -- that computers/technology--even if that means writing code--is a tool to be used in the context of something else more... interesting. A lot of the reasons I used to hear for why young girls aren't getting into computers are becoming obsolete. Girls getting the message that computers are just for boys? Have you actually TRIED prying the mouse away from a teenage girl modding her MySpace profile?

Comment by toby on Tue, 12 Dec 2006

I think it's somewhat interesting to look at an analogous question: 'why aren't there more men in administration?'; by and large there are significant parallels to be drawn:

  1. Whether or not it's rational, there is a cultural perception that administration is a career for women. This applies similarly to IT and men
  2. The skillset needed for administration - social and organisational - is one that is skewed in favour of women. It might be more controversial to say it, but, outliers aside, abstract analytical thinking does seem to exhibit a male bias.
  3. In each profession, there is a very definite culture which tends to lead to the exclusion of outsiders.
  1. The payscales are dramatically different. Given that it's hard to imagine that most people would happily choose to earn less money, I feel it's likely that remuneration isn't actually a huge factor in this discussion.
  2. Inapproriate behaviour isn't a problem in admin, and it's therefore not unreasonable to assume that this kind of gender imbalance can be explained without resorting to pornography as a determining factor.
As for the suggestion that IT needs to be spun out into other degrees, that's both true and false. The ubiquitousness of computing in our society means that for any field of study, there's the potential for side branches to involve some form of computing, and this is happening already in life sciences.

Basically all recent life sciences graduates have studied some applied bioinformatics, and having a working knowledge in the area is becoming a requirement. However, bioinformatics as a discipline cannot by and large be advanced by these people (and neither can it exist without them). Bioinformatics research requires computer scientists, mathematicians, statisticians and people from the 'hard' sciences in collaboration with life sciences types.

Similarly, there are, and always will be, people who need to know how to program in assembly; people who need to know how to write a compiler; people who understand constraint solving, dynamic programming, machine learning. Those people aren't going to be served by a decision that computer science makes sense only in the context of other disciplines.

IT has the problem that it is attractive to people with social difficulties, and that the correlation between social awkwardness, specific types of thought process which tend to be advantageous in computing and being male tends to result in an overrepresentation of socially awkward males.

On the other hand, most people (both male and female) who stick with IT do it because they genuinely enjoy it. So maybe there's also a question of exactly why we feel that this gender imbalance needs to be addressed?

Is it to help out the people already in IT - which seems to be a rather selfish aim? Is it to encourage women to take up a career which, although well remunerated, may actually not ultimately be fulfilling for them? Is it to increase the diversity of opinion/intellectual input in computing - which, in todays world where nothing happens in a vacuum, could also be achieved by teaching people who want to be in IT how to collaborate with people who don't want to be in IT, but can still usefully interact? Is it borne of a notion that all things being equal, everything should be balanced and homogenous?

Maybe this is speaking from ignorance, but I haven't really seen too much to indicate that large numbers of women are not entering IT because of the culture depsite the fact that it's what they'd love to do.

Comment by Julien Goodwin on Tue, 12 Dec 2006

My problem with it wasn't really that it was put up.

It's that it was put up repeatedly. If all it was was the first picture for just half a second I think a lot more people would have let it slide.

Comment by toby on Tue, 12 Dec 2006

I think that the problem _should_ have been that it was put up at all. As anthony said, it simply has no place in this forum - and arguably in any public forum in which it is not explicitly expected and accepted by all present.

Someone - and preferably a man, in order to drive the point home - should have stood up there and then and told the speaker that it was unacceptable, and if he had no approriate material to present, he should have been asked to leave. I suspect many members of the audience were thinking just that.

Comment by Skud on Tue, 12 Dec 2006

FWIW, modules on CPAN do not need approval for upload. It's one of the "features" of the system. Furthermore, the Acme namespace is intended for silly/joke modules.

The existence of Acme::Playmate on CPAN is pretty reasonable, IMHO. Adam's talk... well, I think he's thought better of that, having spoken to him about it since then. Present in haste, repent at leisure, and all that.

Comment by Rachel on Tue, 12 Dec 2006

Toby, I think it's ridiculous to compare a career in administration with one in computer science. Pay scales aside, the opportunities for advancement, further study, original contribution and peer respect are negligible in an area that requires little tertiary education such as admin. This is not something that could be said of IT in general. I don't think it's helpful to try and break down the tasks of any job into "male" or "female". The answer to your question "Why aren't there more men in administration?" is simply, "Because it doesn't pay well and it has no culture of respect or admiration, either external or internal, such as the culture of IT."

Furthermore, your claim that "abstract analytical thinking does seem to exhibit a male bias" is absurd. Any such bias is a result of cultural conditioning.

Girls are raised to ask for help, and have help bestowed upon them, thus training them for social encounters. Boys are expected to figure things out on their own, so analytical thinking gets more of a workout.

You ask why people should bother trying to encourage women into IT, or make IT more attractive to the socially "ept".

Is it to encourage women to take up a career which, although well remunerated, may actually not ultimately be fulfilling for them?
How will they ever know if it can be fulfilling if they are not given the opportunity or encouragement to try it?

Is it to increase the diversity of opinion/intellectual input in computing - which, in todays world where nothing happens in a vacuum, could also be achieved by teaching people who want to be in IT how to collaborate with people who don't want to be in IT, but can still usefully interact?

This is exactly the reason a greater variety of humans should be encouraged into IT. Surely an environment that already contains a range of opinions and problem solving techniques will flourish more easily than one that has to look outside itself for alternatives, or checks to see if they're doing it "right"?

In relation to making a stand against the inappropriate material shown: I suspect many members of the audience were thinking just that.
I think this highlights the fact that there need to be more people with courage coaxed into IT.

Comment by Pia Waugh on Tue, 12 Dec 2006

Hi all,

I have loads of ideas about why there aren't many women in IT, but I want to point out that this is a predominantly western thing. In Australia it is less than 15%, the UK and US are slightly higher, however Malaysia and Iran are far higher percentages (over 60% in Malaysia) than Australia. I don't necessarily want these statistics in Australia, but I would like a future Australia where IT isn't a "boys thing", but rather just a great range of fun jobs. In Malaysia IT is not gender associated, however in Australia for whatever reason, it largely is male-associated.

I have loads of blog posts about this at my blog:

I think the issue in Australia is
largely perception. I've spoken to over 4000 schoolgirls in the last 12 months, and they are 1) shocked to see young funky women and men in IT (assuming the worst possible nerd image) and 2) excited about the range of IT jobs available where they had assumed IT jobs where boring and limited.

It is everyone's job to help change both the perception of working in IT and of IT itself, and getting rocking role models in front of young people (male and female) is important to improving the industry and making it better for everyone to play :)

In relation to the silliness of the speaker mentioned in this post, it is frustrating as a female geek to constantly have my gender made a deal of. It is hard to sit in a conference and feel like just another geek when these kinds of things happen, and although the people involved usually don't have negative intentions, it is just another irritating reminder that we are not one of "the boys". At the absolute extreme, and luckily these people are very rare, I have seen death threats sent to a womens mailing list for nothing more than being women in IT. Ridiculous behavior that is not acceptable to any sane person.

Anyway, I'd just like to say a big thank you to everyone in the FOSS community, as we are leading the world in a social evolution. Our community largely respects people based on their efforts rather than their gender, age, beliefs or race. We have the opportunity to create a better world and leave those biases behind, and I feel proud to be a part of such a wonderful, supportive, socially aware and global group :)

Comment by jim on Tue, 12 Dec 2006

I'm not an anthropologist, but I can see you all are making quite a lot of unexamined assumptions (geeks should at least be aware of their assumptions), and occupying a quite small corner of the available relevant opinion space, while assuming that corner to be the habitation of all reasonable / civilized / your-choice-of-approval-word people.

Here are some less-controversial alternatives; you'll just have to imagine the cries of "troll" that would ensue if anyone said anything more controversial):

Why did no-one object?
1) Geeks are trained to be tolerant of presentations containing material keyed to the presenter's interests, not theirs; their jobs depend on it. Besides, if there's a problem, it's somebody else's problem, thankfully. If geeks enjoyed being confrontational, they'd be in some other field.
2) As social "evils" go, Playboy almost doesn't rate (no-one's getting killed or even hurt); would you have approved if the presentation had instead been about weapon lethality?

Why are there not more of group G in profession P? Many high-paying professions try to limit competition by requiring gratuitous compensatory pain; various groups (and individuals) differ in their willingness to pretend that this is insignificant or even tolerable.

Oh, and BTW: social website use != I.T. != computer science.

Comment by toby on Wed, 13 Dec 2006

Rachel: I think we should work hard to fix public perception of IT, and to demonstrate the fallacy of some of the stereotypes that surround it. As has been said above, the IT community is generally rather forward thinking, and I think that extrapolating from this incident to a culture of mysogyny as a rationale for low female participation is wrong. I do suspect though, that at least as far as software development is concerned, even if we could magically fix the public perception of IT, gender biases wouldn't disappear.

[..] your claim that "abstract analytical thinking does seem to exhibit a male bias" is absurd. Any such bias is a result of cultural conditioning.

I'd be happy to believe that - and believe me, it fits more easily with my worldview - if I could see strong evidence in research literature that measurable biases are socially driven.

There's plenty of evidence that genes responsible for brain function are S-linked; schizophrenia and autism (as well as other brain disorders) have increased prevalence in men. The increased prevalence of autism amongst children of IT workers in silicon valley is also suggestive of a causal link.

On the other hand, there are studies which show that differences bewteen men and women can be removed through task training, but I haven't seen anything which showed (where it was studied) that that training was transferrable to a related task.

I can't see a justfication for accepting gender differences in physical ability, whilst not admitting the possibility that that extends to brain function.

Comment by Paul Boddie on Wed, 13 Dec 2006

A few remarks:

It may be the case that a number of audience members felt that the material in question was inappropriate but didn't feel as if they could walk out. I'm not going to perpetuate "geek stereotypes", but I imagine that many people feel self-conscious even as audience members in these kinds of gatherings. Even on technical matters, people won't confront others - they'll just form an opinion that you'll become aware of via hallway conversations, and some of those opinions can be quite damning.

It's difficult to draw comparisons between the referenced material and other presentations, but should people have objected to one EuroPython presenter using Lara Croft to illustrate a particular point in his talk? I thought it cast the presenter in a poor light, and it wasn't "porn", but the "look at this, lads!" attitude should have been acutely embarrassing, even though it was meant in a humourous way. (And there was another presenter at last year's EuroPython whose desktop backgrounds were "risqu�" to say the least. Perhaps the lack of a sense of embarrassment or an awareness of social norms is a part of the problem for some people.)

Philip Eby has posted his reaction to this topic on his blog in that typically breathless Eby style - - and I think there's plenty of material to work through there. He hasn't enabled comments, as far as I can tell, but I don't think he enjoyed the fairly reasonable comments in response to one of his previous posts.

Comment by anthony baxter on Wed, 13 Dec 2006

Paul - I thought PJE's post was bad. Very bad. I stuck the boot in here. I should note (before PJE gets upset) that by "bad" I mean "made poor arguments", "dismissed a very real problem" and "was sneering and condescending". Not "he shouldn't be allowed to write these things" sense of bad.

Comment by Juerd on Wed, 13 Dec 2006

There is only one level of blessing: someone with appropriate power "registers" the module.
No, you are wrong. There are several levels of blessing, none of which can actually be considered blessing. This module was not reviewed by a committee. If you think CPAN is bad because there is no censorship, please make that your argument, rather than spreading nonsense about a blessing that never happened. There is no such thing as implicit blessing.

Anyone can get a CPAN account and upload data. That doesn't mean the module is endorsed by the people who run CPAN. The only person who "registered" the module (by uploading it) is its author. This is automatic indexing, not even real registration. Real registration hasn't happened for this module.

Porn is certainly not in all industries
I think you are wrong.

That you think it's OK to have porn in a presentation speaks volumes about the attitude that I'm observing here.
I never said I think it's OK. I don't even know if this specific presentation contains porn, because I haven't seen any proof. Who am I to comment about the appropriateness of some picture if I have never seen it?

In general, I agree that porn should never be in any professional or semi-professional presentation, except presentations *about* porn, at an appropriate conference.

But was this porn? I'd like to see a picture, so I can judge for myself.

Comment by Alan Green on Thu, 14 Dec 2006

Well, Juerd, I saw it. The picture was definitely sexual in nature, and thoroughly inappropriate for the context. While I wasn't offended by it, it did make me uncomfortable just having it flashed up on the screen.

Comment by Paul Boddie on Thu, 14 Dec 2006

I'm not sure whether PJE's latest response [1] adds that much to the debate, especially the bit where he presumably accuses commenters on this and Mr Baxter's blog of wanting to reform the unwashed masses. Hiring better people is part of the solution, naturally, although that's an easy thing to say if you believe that everyone doing the hiring in the business is as enlightened as you are, but I'd like to know how problem #1 ("Women don't apply for the jobs") isn't at least partly addressed by getting those who are supposedly the best and most motivated in the industry (and are thus the industry's ambassadors) not to show "porn" in their conference talks.


Comment by dave shields on Thu, 14 Dec 2006

The manager of one of IBM's most skilled teams of Linux programmers is a woman.

The Director of IBM's Linux Technology Center (LTC) is a woman, as are almost half of her direct reports.

Many -- but of course not as many as all would wish -- of the Ph.D.-level research scientists at IBM Research are women.

dave shields

Comment by Richard Jones on Thu, 14 Dec 2006

So PJE got lucky and actually had women applying for his jobs? Good for him! I've been in a position to recruit for several companies in Melbourne, across a variety of technologies, and in all of those cases I received not a single female applicant.

According to these hard statistics the percentage of female graduates from CS Bachelor's courses hovers around 18%. Those stats are from the US but from what I've heard from people who study such things in Australia the stats here are similar or worse.

Comment by Tennessee Leeuwenburg on Sat, 16 Dec 2006


1: Women aren't being discriminated against at the selection stage
2: While some workplaces are blokish, (a) not all are, and (b) this isn't what's stopping women anyway
3: Not many women apply for programming jobs, fewer still than other I.T. jobs such as networking, testing, etc
4: Women aren't applying for programming jobs because they don't find them creatively fulfilling.

I recall a study, although not well enough to reference it, in which surveyed men in programming said that the best thing about programming was the amount of creativity they could apply. The worst thing about programming for women was the lack of creativity involved.

I would hesitate to advance an opinion on why this is so, but I believe there is something about programming -- be it fundamental or otherwise -- which means that women tend not to want to take it up.