Language, framing and women in computer science

As I ease myself back into the swing of things after a couple of weeks off and start to pay attention again to what's going on in the online world, I thought I'd bring this post to the attention of as wide an audience as possible.

It's The importance of language and framing, part eleventy-thousand by Amy Csizmar Dalal on her blog, This is what a computer scientist looks like.

Dalal draws a link between the decline in female CS enrollments since they peaked in the 1980s and the way we talk about entering the field in very competitive language rather than emphasizing mentoring or collaboration.

Framing matters. Language matters. We can be as inclusive and aware and welcoming as possible, but if we're not paying attention to the language we use--on our web sites, in our course descriptions, in how we talk about technology and its role in the world--we may end up shooting ourselves in the foot.

We're at an interesting point right now: enrollments in CS are on the rise, and more women are choosing to major in CS. We have a golden opportunity to learn from our mistakes of the past and keep the trends moving upward. Let's hope we're smart enough to not let history repeat itself.

I studied CS in the 1980s, more or less at that peak. My degree is from 1986. And I very clearly recall that the percentage of women in my program at Concordia was fairly high especially in the General Business Option, probably higher than it is there today.

Read the whole post. It's terrific.

4 responses so far

  • netjaeger says:

    Good evening,
    I hope you are well.

    I've known Librarians. I've'd friends that are Librarians.
    You appear to be a Librarian.

    Gonna ck out the links. It is an 'I trust Librarians' kind of thing.

    I (personally) suspect that there is a deep (genetic) component within Librarians that makes them want to celebrate neat ideas.

    Like making sure that stuff is kept track of. Like where women are and where women will be as we move along with this rather non-taking-care-of-humans type culture.

    Thank you for being a good bit of reading.

  • Thanks, John! I hope the message does get out more widely, and I hope we computer scientists continue to have these conversations and to really learn from the mistakes of the past. I believe it's vital to our survival as a discipline.

  • John Dupuis says:

    Thank netjaeger. "I (personally) suspect that there is a deep (genetic) component within Librarians that makes them want to celebrate neat ideas." Best. Comment. Ever.

  • John Dupuis says:

    Thanks, Amy. And it hasn't been getting any more encouraging for women in STEM fields either with the news this last week or so about how women in STEM view their romantic lives in conflict with their success in science or with how more women scientists than men feel they might have wanted more kids. Those probably deserve separate posts too.

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