There is good news and bad news (Feb 26)
The Good News: Computer Engineer Barbie won (overwhelmingly) the vote for Barbie's next job. On one hand this may seem trivial -- but, we do have a problem here.
The Bad News: 7% of the Computer Society membership has indicated their gender as female. My alma mater, Stanford, has women as just over 10% of their computer science facilty; and about 14% of their current students.
So, why do we care? - There are joyful battles to be fought over whether women are different from men, or perhaps more correctly, in what ways and why. What is clear is women have a significantly different experience than men (for some sanity check on this, check out the IEEE WIE Magazine where women share their stories ... it puts meat on the bones of this concept.) I'm not advocating sympathy here -- I'm talking ignorace vs innovation; and wasted grey cells.
When you increase the diversity/perspective in the dialog, you increase the innovation and range of creative thought. Failure to develop your network of informal collaborators to include diversity reflects ignorance of many key things. First is the catalysts for innovation, and second is the role these connections play in your long term career growth. If we don't have women in the pipe-line going into computing programs, or coming into our companies, or into our chapters and sections where we can develop these informal networks ... then we are denied access to a key perspective.
Wasted gray cells is the flip side of the coin. Some number of women are not finding their way to the "Joy of Computing". Mind you, it is not joy for all persons, so we know there is a subset already involved. But I refuse to accept that this subset is as gender selective as the numbers imply. Of course if the perception of young persons is based on something other than joy -- images of Halo3, or too much Dilbert-- then some kids will get turned off.
Engineers and Technologists solve problems for humanity. The software, applications, and even computers and devices applied to medical research, DNA analysis, logistics reponses for disaster relief, personalization of education to reach every child, even delighting audiences with animation or special effects via online channels or digital theaters are all delivered by computing professionals. Those neat devices that let you keep track of your friends and engage in social interaction (probably in many situations where you shouldn't) come from the same wizards. Did I mention that the real wizards are not at Hogworts they are in engineering, computer science and information technology programs .. and a few others as well. A doctor can save hundreds of lives, and thousands from pain. The inventors of portable dialasys machines, NMR's, field 'tricorder' diagnostic systems, etc. save thousands of lives and aliviate the pain for millions. You get the picture.
So why do I care -- because the quality of life for my future depends on engaging the full spectrum of human experience in the "joy of computing" -- and the future for my grand children as well. -- So you say, doesn't this same argument apply to other axies of diversity -- economic, linquistic, cultural, racial, national, ... absolutely.
Can Barbie help us? Yes ... if she catches the interest if a young girls, who see that being a computer wizard is "OK" or "Cool" ... then we win. Do we need a lot more paths to reach young persons? Yes, Barbie can't do this all by herself.
If you have some suggstions, then reply. And watch for local opportunities. Some like robotics competitions, science fairs, and such which may already be in your neighborhood. Check out "National Lab Day" , and see if there is a place where you can help support teachers to help students find the joy in technology.
I want to thank folks for commenting and 'ranking' this blog entry. I will return to this topic in the future, and have enjoyed some direct interaction with respondants as well. ... But there are a few other topics to get 'on the table' before continuing this one in the Blog (Mar. 21)