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So, increasingly, it appears that there are physiological differences between the neurological structures of the two predominant biological sexes. We would all save a lot of time if we acknowledged the science and then focused on showing why that science doesn’t make a clear argument for a particular policy direction.

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    Without wishing to drag current events into lobste.rs, I would say that your last sentence is where the problem lies. Historical realities mean that one group of people is naturally extremely suspicious that any mention of gender differences is a stalking horse for bringing back strong gender-based discrimination whilst the other group can’t really articulate how the (clear, but not huge) differences between the genders “ought” to result in particular real world outcomes.

    It’s a recipe for groups talking past each other very loudly at imagined enemies on the other side.

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      I would also like to know how this research explains why computer science was more popular with women until the 80’s only to subsequently become less popular, even as the fraction of women in other technical fields continued to rise over the subsequent decades.

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        It might help if that information was augmented by more detail about what the public perception and curriculum (and level of study) was at the time. Computer science has such a broad interpretation that one could imagine a major curricula shift in the late 70s causing the numbers to change–see also that massive dip towards the 00’s where startup fever seemed to have taken hold (perhaps a red herring, perhaps not).

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          In sources I read, it was believed to be clerical work requiring no brain. So, women were hired and assigned to do the work. Eventually, they realized it was creative, inpressive work to be a programmer. Gender’s changed to male in relatively short period.

          Women’s interest in challenging and high-impact work remained but a willingness to hire them did not. Some continued to do impressive work like Liskov despite the changes.

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            This Liskov, for the curious. :)

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              Yeah, I should’ve cited it instead of assuming they’d know or find the right one. Appreciate you adding the link.

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            To add to that, I found a Wikipedia article dedicated to examples of women running computers in important contexts that has citations we can check at some point.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_computing

            Especially see Worldwide Timeline section.

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        For as long as I’ve heard any arguments at all there’s always been a clear counterargument: that sex-based differences and variations in the human population are far and away unlikely to cause the dramatic differences we see in representation.

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          Well, like all things, it depends where you’re looking. Sex-based differences are why wars are fought primarily using young biological males, for about as long as we’ve been conducting organized conflict. Similarly, the number of biologically male wetnurses has traditionally been rather low.

          That said, I think that there is a lot of good work to be done exploring along the lines that you point out–one of the big differences being the sex composition of, say, programmers from Eastern Europe or non-American economies.

          The reason I posted this is that I’m exceptionally tired of the “counter-argument” against the science, when the science is pretty irrefutable, because it discredits the people whose agendas and positions I (and other people) might otherwise take seriously.

          Like, there is no counter-argument (without data) that the physical structures and observed capabilities from testing are different between biological sexes. There is, though, a point to be made that the biological facts of the matter are orthogonal to job performance and capability. For example, despite the advantage that cis-males enjoy in 2D and 3D visualization tasks, we clearly have cis-females doing wonderful work in graphics and computational geometry (at least one of whom is here on this very site!).

          Similarly, the preference for people versus things is perhaps irrelevant unless the job description literally requires hugging stuffed animals (recalling the limitations of the original research).

          It’s immensely frustrating, the same way that observing climate change folks argue is frustrating–people blindly believing they can extrapolate from their science to a policy decision and people blindly asserting that the research doesn’t mean anything so they can’t even engage on the policy level effectively. People are terrible at this nowadays.

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            The reason I posted this is that I’m exceptionally tired of the “counter-argument” against the science, when the science is pretty irrefutable

            This isn’t clear. At all.

            The science that male babies prefer toys with wheels over plush toys, and that males have an advantage in performing visual-spatial rotations in their head seems pretty irrefutable.

            The science that shows these advantages translate into any kind of material advantage in being a high performer as a software engineer at Google seem entirely missing in action. Claims to any kind of scientific basis for that claim seem eminently refutable.

            1. There are demonstrable biological differences between men and women cognitive abilities in early childhood.
            2. ???
            3. ???
            4. ???

            ….

            N. Therefore women are not well equipped to be software engineers, and this explains the gender ratio imbalance in the industry

            is so far from irrefutable science as to be an entirely laughable argument.

            Indeed, it’s not even clear that these differences would advantage men. I spend precisely fuckall of my time rotating 3D objects in my head to be a successful engineering lead. I spend a fuckload more time on communication and group coordination issues.

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              We are in agreement here…your second example of “science” is what I would consider faulty policymaking.

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                abilities and also interests

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                You are mixing up two different things. Clearly, people like the Google programmer who ranted about diversity in the workplace are not making a case for fearless science - they are making a case for entrenched privilege. The same thing was shown here where scientifically illiterate racist nonsense from e.g. Charles Murray was defended as if he were Galileo faced by the Inquisition. The science of human sexual differences, brain development, and genetics is very complex and interesting - but the common and established tactic of presenting non-science as an excuse for racism or sexism is real and significant while there seems to be no actual ideological limit on scientific investigation in practice. It is interesting that female rhesus monkeys prefer plushy toys, but there is no possible application of that research to decide whether Google should prioritize hiring female engineers and the existence of that research does not in any way excuse stupid sexist ranting.

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                  You’ve misrepresented the original memo, and if we can’t agree to have read the same thing we’ll just end up talking past each other. I tried to post a concise but accurate summary here (though I don’t have the original document at hand, which is troublesome).

                  There is definitely a long history of pseudoscience used to propose incorrect policy positions, on this we agree. And there is slim change that rhesus monkeys hugging things is super relevant to GOOG hiring practices, on this we also agree.

                  I’m not “mixing up” anything. I’m pointing out that we can both acknowledge the very real science and still reach palatable policy conclusions, and that denying the science because it offends our moral sensibilities is both sloppy and counterproductive.

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                    But there is absolutely nobody “denying the science because it offends our moral sensibilities”, yet examples of people misrepresenting science to advance racist or sexist positions are a dime a dozen. What the article shows is that the predominant theory in the research community has been challenged by new results - great. Nobody was arrested for doing the new research or fired for working on it or shot for publishing. However, every day women and people of color and LBGT people get discriminated against or subjected to actual violence. There is no moral equivalence between these two things. And I’m going to remind you, because it happened here recently that one of the people claiming that science of racial differences was being shouted down by intolerant anti-science bigots forgot to keep pretending and started yelling about Africans in huts. There are very good reasons for being suspicious that these types of arguments are often mendacious or simply examples of how easy it is to confuse one’s prejudices with reason. The reason all this is in the news right now is that a Google programmer circulated a sexist tract. That’s the motivating example and it’s inaccurate to try to cast the issue as one of ideological censorship of science.

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                      The reason all this is in the news right now is that a Google programmer circulated a sexist tract.

                      This is not the memo that was circulated. Read the memo, there’s a lot more going on there.

                      But there is absolutely nobody “denying the science [snip]”

                      Yes, there are. Go watch Twitter.

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                        Yes, there are. Go watch Twitter.

                        You’re misrepresenting his claim. He’s not claiming that there are no biological and cognitive differences between men and women – merely that there is no science linking those differences to the ability to perform well in a job such as being an engineer at google. That’s the wild hand-wave that the original Google memo made – differences exist, ergo that lets me make the following unrelated conclusions.

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                          There is absolutely nothing in the Zunger memo you cited that denies science. Provide a quote. The original Google memo is a bunch of political bullshit with some sciencey language to make it seem more substantive.

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                            I’m not going to spend any length of time on (1); if anyone wishes to provide details as to how nearly every statement about gender in that entire document is actively incorrect,¹ and flies directly in the face of all research done in the field for decades, they should go for it. But I am neither a biologist, a psychologist, nor a sociologist, so I’ll leave that to someone else.

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                              Zunger: The author of the memo misrepresents the science

                              Your Interpretation: Zunger denies the science.

                              Not even close.

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                                He said that nearly every statement about gender in that entire document is actively incorrect and flies directly in the face of all research done. But as far as I can tell, all claims about gender in that memo were mostly consistent with what little research has been done. Much of the wording, in fact, seems to be lifted (plagiarized) from the abstract of this.

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                                  That a wild misreading of the Google document - as if it were stating that (A) science shows there are gender differences and by the way, on a completely unrelated note (B) Google’s efforts to hire and promote women are misguided. In fact, the claim is A->B, so even if we took the article you point to as accurately summarizing the scientific consensus rejecting the implication, the argument that these “scientifically” determined gender difference read in some way on Google’s diversity agenda is nothing near “denying the science”. Of course, the “science” in that article is also far from established or consensus or even widely believed - it is a claim depending on meta analysis of personality assessments. If there is any relationship between what those personality schedules assess and engineering ability for Google’s products, I’d be shocked. So, yes, every statement about gender in the document is either false or out of context or conjectural. To paint this judgment as denial of science is silly.

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                    Like, there is no counter-argument (without data) that the physical structures and observed capabilities from testing are different between biological sexes. There is, though, a point to be made that the biological facts of the matter are orthogonal to job performance and capability. For example, despite the advantage that cis-males enjoy in 2D and 3D visualization tasks, we clearly have cis-females doing wonderful work in graphics and computational geometry (at least one of whom is here on this very site!).

                    I think this strays too dangerously into zoological fallacy. There is no use in comparing people to statistical averages. I think part of the worry is that by beginning to include conversations about statistical distributions, people will begin to make inferences about individuals based on them which would be disastrous. Just framing someone as being successful “despite” “biological facts of the matter” is a misuse and abuse of statistics and erring toward the kind of inference I’m talking about. So to be more specific I disagree that the biological facts are orthogonal (they are not, because they attempt to make predictive claims about resultant distributions) and I also disagree with the bit I was responding to (sorry for not quoting):

                    We would all save a lot of time if we acknowledged the science and then focused on showing why that science doesn’t make a clear argument for a particular policy direction.

                    The opposite is probably true: if people have thusfar not been acknowledging science, then that has been saving everyone time and energy.

                    I should add that I’m skeptical it’s possible to have a population-wide conversation about anything that preserves nuance. The science that men and women are different neurologically and probably leads to some differences in society isn’t news and isn’t hotly debated in academic circles between an intransigent leftist group of sociologists and simple, honest scientists. I learned that fact years ago in college, and I didn’t learn it in a science classroom, I learned it in my gender studies course.

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                      zoological fallacy

                      ecological fallacy

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                      Like, there is no counter-argument (without data) that the physical structures and observed capabilities from testing are different between biological sexes.

                      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_differences_in_intelligence#Researchers_in_favor_of_males_in_g_factor

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                      Doesn’t seem clear to me.

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                      Let’s say there’s biological differences that may be the cause of women’s difficulty in programming or getting hired. Let’s say the evidence for differences makes this a strong hypothesis worth testing. Next step is testing it by giving same training to men and women at a very young age to assess (a) interest and (b) capacity to learn the material.

                      Work with kids in projects like MIT’s Scratch show kids of all types are capable of learning the basics. Those that applied them in projects or even started businesses as preteens had plenty of women in the mix. Far more than we see in Silicon Valley.

                      I’ll also cite the recent stories on Russia where they started teaching the topics early (one said 5th grade), encouraged women to do it, and a huge chunk of their engineers are women. If we look at biology, we’d be saying women in SV are innately dumber than those in Russia. Given results with children and Russia’s approach to educating/hiring, it’s more likely the latter was the cause of increased female engineers. So, next we need to know what’s going on with American women in SV.

                      Two ways to assess that. First, the biology addicts can keep running training tests on females to see if they innately get dumber or more attached to non-IT fields over time. I mean, how else would biology explain that they had aptitude & interest as kids but it goes away without any intervention of culture and environment.

                      Simultaneously, my camp can do surveys and observational studies on any differences between men and women on what parents/teachers push them to do, reactions to desire for tech jobs/toys + what percentage had interest, how teachers/students interacted with them about STEM interests, how recruiters interviewed them, percentage hired or not who could meet the requirements, manager interactions, and pay or promotions with similar experience.

                      Oh wait, we already have all that data! It consistently shows women on average pushed away by parents, teachers, and male geeks in the first things I mentioned. They rewarded non-STEM stuff. They’re treated differently than male peers in interviews, promotions, pay for same work ouput, VC pitches, and so on.

                      So, we have a biology hypothesis and a culture hypothesis. I reject the biology hypothesis… that innate differences cause the macro issues… since work ranging from kids to adults with interest shows they can learn the material and do the job. The culture hypothesis has a pile of supporting data that went way past confirming its predictions. New ones were created that were usually corroborated by subsequent studies.

                      The empirical data is in and the case seems open and shut: our culture systematically discriminates against women for STEM among other things. Changing it will require acknowledging the problem, giving women opportunities to build STEM skills early on, judging based on actual skill, and piece by piece spotting and eliminating the differences in treatment that are based on culture over performance.

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                        This article was really disappointing - it did not point to any in depth studies - either at a point in time or longitudinally.

                        In a 2014 study, University of Pennsylvania researchers imaged the brains of 428 male and 521 female youths — an uncharacteristically huge sample

                        A sample of 949 people is not huge - it’s not even 4% of the student population at the University of Pennsylvania.

                        While these studies might uncover some interesting ideas to research, they all appear to qualitative and not quantitative.

                        The science in this article was lacking good science.

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                          A more quantative study I posted a while back. N>5000 Britons, and the visualizations in the paper are really good.

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                            I don’t have the bandwidth to read a paper right now, but from the abstract and a brief skim it appears that it’s primarily a study of gross brain anatomy and fMRI. When interpreting papers like this, it’s crucial to recognize that links between brain anatomy and brain function are poorly understood, and fMRI as a research tool can be problematic, as in the famous “dead salmon” fMRI study.

                            Also, it’s a pre-print, so it hasn’t been peer-reviewed.

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                          It’s really disappointing to see harmful and flimsy science posted here under bad political pretenses.

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                            It’s really disappointing to see this sort of stuff dismissed as “harmful” without explanation. @fcbsd raises better objections.

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                              What’s hard for me to understand is how a document as ideological and whiny as the original document can be defended as if it were making a scientific argument. This is how he starts:

                              Google’s political bias has equated the freedom from offense with psychological safety, but shaming into silence is the antithesis of psychological safety. This silencing has created an ideological echo chamber where some ideas are too sacred to be honestly discussed. The lack of discussion fosters the most extreme and authoritarian elements of this ideology. Extreme: all disparities in representation are due to oppression Authoritarian: we should discriminate to correct for this oppression -Differences in distributions of traits between men and women may in part explain why we don’t have 50% representation of women in tech and leadership. Discrimination to reach equal representation is unfair, divisive, and bad for business.

                              So he’s working for a company that he feels is pursuing a business policy that he doesn’t like, is run by people who don’t share his political views, and is then not sensitive enough about his feelings. He thinks Google’s policies to encourage women in leadership and engineering are a form of discrimination against people like him. He thinks that the company is not sufficiently open to his critique of their policies - a critique that is impressively illogical and poorly thought out. He is worried about his own psychological safety - by he apparently means to say that people are mean to him when he complains. And he ends with some bullshit reference to “distributions in traits” that is irrelevant to his argument.

                              WTF? Why is there so much sympathy for this nonsense? It’s hard to find a positive explanation.

                              The irony is that he’s claiming to be defending a conservative point of view that is more favorable to authority. In that case he should shut up and do what his bosses tell him to do.

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                                Wrong thread.

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                            We would all save a lot of time if we acknowledged the science and then focused on showing why that science doesn’t make a clear argument for a particular policy direction.

                            I think it’s worth noting that the sexists will be arguing in bad faith no matter what. I feel like saying “we should be 100% rigorous” is noble, but I also think it’s dramatically underestimating the depth of the problem, perhaps malignantly.

                            Moreover, it would be nice if we could come out and unequivocally say that women are capable of programming, analytical thinking, and that anyone who doesn’t believe this is completely wrong.

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                              TRIGGERED #morethantwogenders

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                                This comment needs to suckless. Please be more constructive.