Monday, 17 June 2013

Women and computing

My son has been invited to take part in a schools challenge for year 6 students using the Raspberry Pi called 7 Segments of Pi. There were 9 children who were offered the chance, 6 boys and three girls. After the first session the pupils had to sign up for the competition and although one of the girls said it was fun experimenting she did not want to continue. Out of the boys there is a group of 4 that are fairly geeky and they wanted to continue but two found the programming too boring. I do not know for sure but I don't think any of the girls signed up.

For my son having the support group of his friends around him made him keen on signing up. For the girls there were fewer to start with and I don't think they relate to the boys enough to make a group. But one comment my wife made when I was wondering out loud why the girls were not interested in computers was "But they don't talk". To her computers seem alien and un-emotional, they are machines that you cannot relate to. Is this a real barrier to women in computing or is this part of my wife's background and something personal to her experience?

I have just been reading Mark Pagel's book Wired for Culture where he gives the evolutionary reasons for speech and how this has driven our development as a social species. Without speech we cannot negotiate (we also cannot cheat as well) and we need it to create commerce and systems based on reputation. My wife's comment made me think about this as an important contribution from women in history. Are women more likely to be fair? Are they more likely to root out the unfair, cheating lying men? Are they more likely to smooth over arguments between different male groups and to prevent conflict? Is there any role of gender in the evolution of speech at all?

No comments: