Thank you so much for starting off our first discussion in the community!
If you look at data on employment in tech related fields you will find a huge discrepancy in employment between men and women. This has also been my experience in the field. My interest in the this community is looking to examine why there is such a difference and what can be done to mentor, encourage, and support women in data and tech fields.
Some interesting data on the discrepancies:
- According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology, women made up only 26% of the computing workforce in 2013. Some sample company stats: Google 30% women, Yahoo, who employs 37% women, Facebook, which is 31%, and LinkedIn, which employs 39%.
- Google release a study that showed in the mid 80's, 37% of computer science majors were women compared to only 18% in 2012
There are a lot of great success stories about working to increase the participation of women in these fields:
As part of our upcoming #WomenInData SFBATUG coming up, we are looking to showcase data and visualizations on the issue, and have started to crowdsource them at https://public.tableau.com/profile/womenindata.Perhaps as you research the issue further Shawn, you can help contribute to this collection of data and stories, and help keep this dialog going. Last year there were a few men in attendance at the conference meetup, who wanted to listen and better understand the issues women concerning women as well as why they were drawn to the field, their successes, and what could be done to encourage and mentor other women. This community is not just for women, but for all of us to discuss the issues, as we can all benefit from diverse perspectives and inclusion.
- Berkeley just had more females than males enroll in intro to computer science.
- Google has is making strides to tackle the issue. It announced it will invest $50 million in programs to get girls more interested in STEM education and coding with a "Made With Code" campaign. Some of the money will go toGirls Who Code and Black Girls Code, The company is also working with Girl Scouts of America and female celebrities to spark girls' interests in computer science.
Wow...OK Shawn. Like yourself, I am a white male. I was raised by two parents who never struggled to provide me with adequate food or educational opportunities. I never had to march in a parade to avoid feeling shame for my sexual orientation because I'm heterosexual. Add to that my above average intelligence, height and a few other things I'm not thinking to list here and you realize I got dealt a pretty good hand when it comes to an easy life (not that my life is easy, but I've had no shortage of second chances either). So when someone says their life hasn't been as filled with trips to Europe and finely prepared cuisine, I got a pretty hard and fast rule I try to follow. I shut my **** fat face before I say something idiotic. Sometimes I may be confused by folks who are different than me in some way or another, but this rule has served me pretty well in terms of getting past that. Listening without judgement has given me a head start in understanding and learning how to empathize for those who are different from me. I believe that effort is worthwhile.
I agree with you that women are every bit as capable as men in this arena. Bravo for making that point... sort of. But they are certainly underrepresented at the highest levels in all STEM disciplines. Discrimination is a real thing, and while the intelligent, heterosexual, financially stable, white men of the world may not feel it in their daily lives, there are many folks who do. It isn't some historical artifact that we have gotten over as a society, it happens every day. It is commonplace.
This event isn't about a separate Tableau conference, a separate Iron Viz, or really anything separate as men are welcome to attend the women in data events. I certainly plan to attend, though I will also certainly give up my seat in the front row if the event is half as packed as I hope that it will be. It is about showcasing successful women in a field that is predominantly dominated by men. It is about providing women with an opportunity to network with folks who do want to encourage them to step up and make right that imbalance. You're welcome to skip it though Shawn, nobody will think less of you if you do.
I don't have any illusions of being needed there. I want to be there. Even if I bring nothing to the event I'm sure I'll learn from it. When someone gets knocked down, my instinct is to help them up, even if I don't see it happen (and the idea of denying it seems quite pathological). It isn't about them needing it, it is about caring enough to extend a hand. I doubt that analogy is a good one, indeed there are many women who do very well in this field and the idea of them having just been knocked down is quite absurd. My partner at DataBlick Anya A'Hearn comes to mind. I'm in awe of her work and am honored to be close enough to her level for such a partnership to be possible. It makes me feel pretty good about my own accomplishments. I have learned so much about consulting from her that I could write a book on the subject. The fact that she has learned this all and built a successful business without much help and while raising two awesome kids is simply astounding, not because she is a woman, but because she is a human (I think).
True, we haven't spent much time talking. I've read some of your posts on this forum and that was plenty for me. I don't think we speak the same language. I've considered that might be a sign I should listen to what you have to teach me. I've gotta draw the line somewhere though, and folks that speak in opposition to what I know to be kindness, truth or fairness aren't worth the time. I try to listen more than I speak, and to speak only when I have something to say. As a result, I'm usually pretty quiet. That can lead some folks to think that I'm afraid to speak, I'm not. I don't run from confrontation, in fact, when I know I'm right I can absolutely relish in it (maybe a bit too much, according to my wife). This is one of those times. I'm not really even addressing you here, if you had voiced this opinion to me in a private forum I would have simply deleted it.
Nick, I would advise that you no longer engage this conversation.
Shawn and Noah, thanks for the dialogue. One of the main foci of this group also is to help young women learn about the opportunities to get educated and build careers in the industry--and we are fortunate to have awesome role models of both genders and walks of life who can mentor and help develop talent. It's definitely not meant to be divisive, and the only agenda is to help people learn new skills/success factors and meet others who share their interests, which is the intent of any meet-up. This is about education and building evangelism.
I think any of us gets super excited to talk to people who are curious about the field, and this is an opportunity to reach more people and help them find their own passions and build careers--and hopefully become innovators and leaders. We come from all different backgrounds, and each of us has different gifts.
Anya A'hearn, Leigh Fonseca, Susana Jung, Christopher DeMartini, and I are organizing the 9/30 SFBATUG, and we welcome anyone who is interested in learning and joining the community. We'll post the registration link within the next couple of days. If you would like to discuss the event more, please contact me offline at email@example.com.
Thank you for your thoughtful response. I think you communicated essentially every point I wanted to raise.
Everyone is welcome at the Meetup and on this Forum Community. It is in no way exclusive or "Women Only". We can all listen and contribute to the dialog of how to increase the diversity in tech and data related fields.
When I read the stats that Anya reports I glean that there must be a very large number of outstanding people that, for reasons that Anya and others want to explore, are not pursuing a career in a tech-related field.
Anya, I'm embarrassed to admit that I was not aware that the gap was this large (and I try hard to be aware of these things.) I had assumed that just as the percentage of women attending medical schools has increased from around 22% in 1974 to around 48% today, the percentage of women in tech would have shown a similar increase. I'm particularly alarmed by the decrease in computer science majors.
From my personal observations I think the Tableau community is an outlier. Over the past four years I've trained around 1,500 people in Tableau and data visualization, and the split has been about 50-50, with a similar split among the truly outstanding students (and some of them are scary outstanding). But even if my personal observations are an accurate reflection of the Tableau world, Anya's stats indicate it's not true of the tech world as a whole.
My conclusion? The data world is either not attracting or giving opportunities to people who could make outstanding contributions and I, for one, would like to know if there's something I can do to help rectify this.
Personally, I'm a young woman in the data analytics arena, who would love to have other women to look up to and get inspiration from. In no way do I want a separate arena to compete. I competed in every iron viz qualifier. I wasnt disappointed that I didn't win; I was disappointed that there were few ladies attempting to compete. I want an equal playing field. I also want other women to know that they CAN compete. I'd love to be part of a group that notices that this environment isn't balanced but desires it to be. I can't wait to learn from these ladies and men. While this is a "women + data" group, I have no doubt that anyone in attendance will gain so much
Celebrating and encouraging Women in Data/Tech/Science/etc does not diminish anyone else. It does not assert that women are more important than men. It underlines the indisputable fact that women have historically been marginalized, discounted, and devalued. Their experiences and feelings are genuine, and worth listening to. It is not about individual qualification or ability. There are systemic issues that prevent equality, and the intention of Women in Tech is to change this. People who are unacquainted with this history are understandably uncomfortable with the language of of movements like Women in Tech.
I did not have this point of view at first, I was confused, I felt movements like Women in Tech were divisive and separating, but here are two perspectives that have helped me have more compassion and understanding for movements like Women in Tech. I learned that movements like Women in Data are about inclusiveness and acceptance, about eliminating the divisiveness that exists regardless of my lack of awareness.
1. Neil Degrasse Tyson on being Black, and Women in Science
(starting at 1:01:30, ends at 1:05:00)
2. Here is a talk that offers a perspective on Women in Tech:
(the talk lasts about 30 minutes)
Some other perspectives that have helped me as well in a general sense:
Shawn Wallwork wrote:
I didn't mean for my words to offend anyone. Since they did I have taken them down.
And now that you have, all context for the conversations around it has been lost and those who don't know what was written can now only fill in the blanks with -- most likely -- highly negative and incorrect conjecture in this emotionally-charged subject!
Here's the short -- and I hope non-offensive! -- version of my introduction into women and technology.
In every job I've had I've worked with women, high-tech or otherwise -- in fact right now my cube is surrounded by women and the nearest men are just on the other side of them. Back then I had no real perception of the difficulty faced by women through stereotyping and even I believed that "boys were better than girls in math/science". I was ignorant by propagation from teachers, peers, and unfortunately even my parents...and my mother is a feminist!
Now, I have been exposed to poor handling of quota management when it was being enforced in the early days. My father, a white male, lost a promotion to a known less-qualified woman in the high-tech company he was working for. I would hope things have improved over the last 25 years... This doesn't make me think quotas are evil and I have a vendetta against them because of this situation, just a full-disclosure fact.
My wife is West Indian (from Trinidad) and literally comes from dirt-poor beginnings. By the time she was 14 her parents raised enough money to move the family to the United States, where she later was able to put herself through college -- she's smart, driven, and she worked hard to get where she is! She works for a major computer chip manufacturer, doing bleeding-edge server and mobile technology validation (testing), and is the only female in her group. The company has "women in technology" and "minority" requirements, and while she is now no longer considered a "minority" she still battles against that **** "women in technology" quota. She's never had a poor review in 20 years and has always been outstanding in her work, partly because she feels the need to prove herself in a man's world* -- if it weren't a "man's world" there would be no need for such quotas It's exhausting and frustrating and I hear it from her. She's good, everybody including her manager knows it, but for her it's that fu@#ing quota that makes her sometimes wonder if she's in her job because she fills that HR necessity. It pisses me off when I think about it because it raises self-doubt in an otherwise confident and intelligent woman.
We also have a daughter who is just beginning her metamorphosis from child to woman so I've been reading up on how girls "work", in part to help my daughter through the female social structure (I had no freakin' idea of its complexity ). So for me, a group dedicated to bringing education and awareness for females makes sense because that's how they work: collaboratively, openly, expressively. It is a door of education in the wall of "girls can't do math & science as well as boys" misinformation. Not only as a parent but as a male role-model do I need to insure that she knows that females are equally good in math & science. It's been an educational experience for me as well.
We are hoping that by the time our daughter is college-age there will be enough women in technology so it won't seem 'odd' or 'unusual' for a female to be in a technological position (regardless of the career path she may choose). That the need for such support groups won't be necessary. It would be great to revisit this thread in 10 years and think, "Wow, I can't believe such inequality was a concern back then!"
* I shouldn't discount the fact that it's in her very nature to put 100% into what she does so while she does great work, she often goes beyond what is needed to further prove herself to "the boys", sometimes I believe without conscientiously knowing she is.
Thank you for your post. I am so glad you have such wonderful, strong, and smart women in your life and I would love to hear more about your experiences encouraging your daughter in math and science as well as any resources you could share that you found helpful. I like your 10 year plan too!