2009-10-24

More female programmers

I tried to post this comment to a public site, but failed repeatedly. The topic of the original post isn't relevant to my comment, which was in response to a comment that read, in its entirety:

Why would we would want more female programmers?

My answer:

The world needs more effectively mobilized brains. We can't afford to constrain ourselves on what size or shape or color the bodies are that house those brains. Also, diversity is good in itself: it improves flexible response, and it's silly to throw away a cheap source of diversity.

A major U.S. university with a strong CS program (I am contractually prevented from naming it) that had female CS undergraduate admissions in the single digits year after year was able to raise their admission to the same rate as other engineering programs by changing just one thing: they no longer gave people who already had programming experience preferential admission. There have been no changes in the overall performance of the student body in the years since.

7 comments:

hotaru said...

> We can't afford to constrain ourselves on what size or shape or color the bodies are that house those brains.
you say this, but you think we should prefer female programmers over male programmers?

jcowan said...

That comment is both accusatory and inaccurate (I think and say no such thing). I can take accusation or inaccuracy, but the combination is poison.

manuelg said...

Hats off to you, sir. Spoken as a daughter's father.

John Cowan said...

Speaking as a daughter's father, thank you, sir.

Anton Sherwood said...

If the CS department got more women in by changing its preference standards, implying that overall admissions stayed constant, did that change in any way serve the first goal you mentioned, of "more effectively mobilized brains"?

jcowan said...

I have no idea whether admissions increased or decreased; I see no reason to think they remained constant.

John Cowan said...

Anton: I think so, yes. The overflow of males from the university were probably easily absorbed by other universities.