Before writing this post, I wanted to look at a few of our classmates posts. Amanda’s post, Why won’t programmers wear shoes?, caught my attention. I received an email earlier in the day from Harvard College Women’s Center. They listed an event called  “How to Look Corporate AF* (and fashionable).” I was kind of appalled when I saw this title. It made me think about the gender gap in the workplace and how women are judged based on physical appearances vs. demonstrations of knowledge. This thought should be taken with a grain of salt because this is not always accurate, however it still caught my attention. I do also think that the event is interesting because I am always slightly concerned about what to wear when I have work related events.

To echo Amanda’s post again, I also noticed the lack of mention of women in our readings about the history of the Internet. This is obviously something that has to be changed, but the path to balancing the gender gap is challenging. From my experience, I have participated in many computer science specific programs geared to empower women that only teach women. However, the program that I felt was the most successful at empowering me was a coed program. Personally, I do support the all-girl programs, but I believe that coed programs have a better end result. And, in the end, women will be working with a majority of men in the workplace, so they might as well have the experience from an early age.

Moving onto the news and this week’s discussion, we talked about how Uber also happens to be sexist (and kind of “sleazy”). What struck me as odd about our discussion regarding Uber is that Uber is avidly looking for a female CEO. I don’t know the whole story, but searching for a female to fulfill a role for seemingly no specific reason beyond the fact that the company can say, “Oh, we have a woman as CEO so we can’t be sexist,” is quite odd and immoral. This shows me that Uber does not necessarily understand the gender gap situation. Women do not want to obtain a job just because one of the requirements is “being female.” We want jobs because we are qualified for them.

This topic brings me to the article, Three challenges for the web, according to its inventor. The web inventor and author of this article, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, talks about three current challenges including the ease for misinformation online. This connects to my above thoughts on Uber because I could have the story wrong since I am just making judgements based off of what I heard in our discussion. Berners-Lee also essentially mentioned “clickbait,” that sites are making money from misleading information that makes people click on links. The 28th anniversary of the Internet seems like an odd time to write an article which makes me think that today’s political climate dictated the publication of this letter. This also connects to another article I read this week about Bing starting to include a fact checker plugin on news articles (https://www.theverge.com/2017/9/16/16318924/bing-fact-check-label-added-search-results). This seems to be a useful tool that will help aid the need for online transparency mentioned in Berners-Lee’s letter. At the beginning, he says that the Internet was created to act as a tool to serve all of humanity. In the end, he calls the readers to action in equalizing the power and opportunity that is accessible on the Internet. Along with the Internet, other aspects in humanity and our society need help managing power and opportunity.

Birth of the Internet and Hidden Sexism

3 thoughts on “Birth of the Internet and Hidden Sexism

  • September 21, 2017 at 4:51 pm
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    We definitely need to continue to make progress on the topic of how women are judged in the workplace and in hiring. From experience, I can tell you that there are lots of people who still don’t get it, as your Uber example clearly demonstrates. I’m happy to talk more about this, if you ever wish. I’ve seen it from the perspective of a spouse of a working wife, of a father with a daughter building a professional career, of a mentor to female graduate students navigating the academic world, and, of course, as a dean trying to enact change.

    I too would like to see a range of programs in computer science. Many programs first came into being to build a community that was hard to build otherwise, and they have their place. The coed programs you describe are also needed to educate the men and boys about the issues you raise, not just support the women and girls. Just my two cents.

    Thanks, Sarah!

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  • September 22, 2017 at 1:11 am
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    Snaps to this post. I think you bring up a great point that, similar to many other facets of history, there is a lack of female presence. As a woman going into the stem field, it is easy to immediately notice the gender gap even in the classroom that becomes exponentially more prominent as you look at bigger roles in major technical companies. It will be interesting to see how/ if this gender gap will close in the next 50 years in a way that recognizes that having women involved isn’t just to change a ratio, but rather to offer a new and valuable perspective.

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  • September 24, 2017 at 4:39 pm
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    I just want to add that the CS program here is well aware of the gender gap, and is trying to take some active steps to address it. I’m chairing a faculty/staff/student committee that is looking at what can be done, and would be more than happy to talk with you about any of the things that we are currently doing, or anything you think would help.

    While this is often seen as a general problem in the STEM fields, it seems to be particularly bad in computer science. And while there are some places in the industry that work hard to counter this, there are places like Uber that, quite simply, don’t seem to get it. Schools like Harvey Mudd and CMU have done some very effective things (although they have some levers we don’t have at Harvard), but we need to do more. This is more than a “fairness” issue; I don’t see how the field can prosper if we limit our search for talent to only half of the population.

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