TriggerFinger


The stupid, it burns...


So someone -- probably instapundit, but I forget exactly -- linked to this piece about losing internet freedom. It makes some good points, particularly about government control of content and surveillance of users. But it also says some absolutely, staggeringly stupid things, things that have basically zero to do with internet freedom.

The End of the Internet DreamRacism and sexism have proven resilient enough to thrive in the digital world. There are many, many examples of this, but let me use statistics, and anecdotes to make the point.

Statistically: At Google, women make up 30 percent of the company’s overall workforce, but hold only 17 percent of the company’s tech jobs. At Facebook, 15 percent of tech roles are staffed by women. At Twitter, 10 percent.

Anecdotally: Look around you at your fellow audience members. How very male and white this field is.

Taking her statistical claims at face value, let's stop and consider. All of these companies are left-leaning. It is unlikely they are run by people who want to exclude women from tech roles. It is, in fact, precisely the opposite. Google would like very much to improve their diversity statistics. But Google's 17% of women in tech jobs is matched by the percentage of women who took degrees in computer science -- 18%. That doesn't sound like Google, or anyone else for that matter, is excluding women; it sounds like women don't want to study computer science.

So, to put it kindly, what the fuck is this innumerate politicized feminist propaganda doing in a lecture about internet freedom?
The End of the Internet DreamAnd people of color and women are naturally inclined to be hackers. We learn early on that the given rules don’t work for us, and that we have to manipulate them to succeed, even where others might wish us to fail.

That's actually a reasonable description of what makes a "hacker" stand out. (Not necessarily a hacker cracking security systems, mind you; a hacker who invents something cool and unexpected). But it ignores the other 99% of the thing: the technical skills to turn that 1% idea into a working solution. You can't be a hacker if you can't take your idea and make it work on a computer, or a phone system, or a piece of hardware. Whatever your medium is, you've got to go from idea to successful execution. So what keeps women and minorities from being hackers?

It's not because there are people standing at the hacker door and not letting them through. It's because they don't want to be computer scientists, and being a computer scientist is a prerequisite to be a hacker. The skills, if not the degree, but the degree is a reasonable proxy for the skills.

Remember that 18% number of computer science degrees awarded to women? For blacks and hispanics, it's 10%, not 18%. (If Asians were counted as minorities for this purpose, the numbers would be different).

The End of the Internet DreamThis field should be in the lead in evolving a race, class, age, and religiously open society, but it hasn’t been. We could conscientiously try to do this better. We could, and in my opinion should, commit to cultivating talent in unconventional places.

So... no. It's not that "this field" is not in the lead in evolving an open society. It's that women and some minorities don't want to enter the field. I could speculate about why, but it's definitely not because they are being kept out.

And what is the rest of this stuff? class, age, religion? Totally out of left field here. We don't have a class system in America; no one is locked out of a profession based on who their parents were. (A better argument might focus on people getting locked out of a profession by a criminal record, but that's a much more complicated prospect). We don't have a system of age discrimination either, though age definitely impacts your employment prospects in a variety of ways. And religion? Unless you're trying to become a priest or a nun, there are no religious barriers.

Oh, wait a minute. Something's dawning on me.

Go back and look at the picture of the author giving her speech.

There's something unusual about her hair. It's this strange mixture of purple and grey. Age and purple hair dye, in other words. I can't quote statistics at you for this, but anecdotally, women who dye their hair unnatural colors are significantly more likely to practice unusual religions. I'm guessing wicca -- ie, a modern re-invention of what witchcraft was imagined to be by crazy 19th-century drug addicts. I imagine that could informally damage your employment prospects, especially if you wear purple hair to the interview at age 40 or 50 and talk about your religious preferences and how much you want to improve the representation of women and minorities in tech.

Mind you, they won't refuse to hire you because of your religion, your gender, your age, or your race. They will refuse to hire you because the signals you are giving to the interviewer are saying:

1) I probably can't actually do the job I'm interviewing for;
2) If I can do the job, I won't, because I will be too busy going to conferences and talking about how discriminated against I am;
3) If I get hired, and somehow end up in a position of responsibility, I will hire other social justice warriors like myself whether they can do the job or not;
4) If you hire me and then even think about firing me, you will be sued.

That will kill your chances of getting a job offer deader than wearing a skunk on your head to the interview.

So, don't get me wrong. There are a lot of good points there, and this woman -- a lawyer, mind you, not a programmer -- has some cred to talk about the legal issues. What she doesn't have is a lot to stand on about gender, race, class, or age in the tech industry.

It's a pity she had to spend a minute or two on that topic and ruining the rest of the speech.

This entry was published Mon Aug 24 10:13:55 CDT 2015 by TriggerFinger and last updated 2015-08-24 10:13:55.0. [Tweet]

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