Archiv : Frauen und Internet
The Los Angeles Times is making available the full text of an e-mail
roundtable we conducted on women and computing. You may freely distribute
electronic copies. The opinions expressed are those of the participants.
Any for-profit use requires permission from the Times, as would any paper
reprints other than for personal or classroom use. We hope you find it

Dan Akst
Asst Business Editor
Los Angeles Times

LA Times Roundtable on Women in Computing

Why are there so few women in the world of computing? Why do men
predominate online and stay up all night, tinkering with their
config.sys files? And does it matter?

If computers in the near future do get like cars--just sit down and
drive--and content really is king, will it make any difference that
so few women are nerds? Will computers as communicators eventually
give women an edge in the field? Are the differences between male
and female computing behavior attributable to childhood socialization,
differing household burdens or some gender link to monomania? Is the
relative absence of women in the computer industry just plain discrimination?

The Los Angeles Times hopes to address these issues in a special
section April 11 on The Information Revolution. We're sure the
members of this mailing list--about a dozen, not counting us at the
Times--will have some interesting things to say on the subject, and
we plan to publish as much of this discussion as we can. The rest
will be made available electronically. (If you don't want to
participate, just let me know, and I'll immediately take you off
the list. Apologies in advance for any unwanted mail.)

Since we don't yet have a functioning listserv available, and to
make it possible for people to get off the list at will, I'll
handle postings. To make a comment, just send mail or reply to I'll then forward it to the entire list. For
publication purposes, we'll have to cut things off on Tuesday,
April 5, so please get your comments in before then.

Thanks in advance for taking the time. Let the discussion begin.

Dan Akst
Asst Business Editor
Los Angeles Times

Our Panel:

Reva Basch runs a women-only forum on The Well, an on-line service
based in San Francisco.

Esther Dyson is a computer industry analyst who publishes the
newsletter Release 1.0.

Mary Flynn is an editor of technology coverage at U.S. News &
World Report.

Karen Frenkel has just completed a film documentary on how women
are changing computing.

George Gilder is a fellow of the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-
based technology think tank. He is the author of "Life Beyond
Television" and other books.

Wendy Kaminer is a writer and public policy fellow at Radcliffe
College. She does not own a computer.

Robin Raskin is editor of PC magazine.

Jo Sanders runs the Gender Equity Program at the City University of
New York's Center for Advanced Study in Education, where she
studies computers and girls.

Wed Mar 23 13:44:27 1994
Date: Wed, 23 Mar 1994 13:41:45 -0800 (PST)
From: Daniel Akst <>
Subject: Re: Women in Computing (fwd)
To: LA Times List <>

---------- Forwarded message ----------

Date: Wed, 23 Mar 1994 15:58:03 -0500 (EST)
To: Daniel Akst <>
Subject: Re: Women in Computing

Hi, Dan.

I'm frustrated that I'll miss the best of this discussion since
I'll be away from my computer between March 26 and April 3, but
I'll try to get a couple of 2 cents in.

I am increasingly concerned by the direction the popular media is
taking about women's issues, including computing. We seem to be
hearing more and more about the equivalent of a "computer gene"
that makes women different in essence, innately, from men. This
thinking leads to the conclusion that it's not surprising there are
so few women in computing, relatively speaking, and, not
coincidentally, also reinforces the status quo: if women are by
nature unsuited to computing, why bother trying to increase their
numbers in any way?

In the same way, I've been seeing a lot of articles (print and
electronic) lately about the "virtues" of sex-segregated schooling
for girls. This thinking goes that since boys behave so badly and
make education for girls such a torment and a trial, then we should
exclude the boys and protect the girls. Maybe the next step will be
an 8-foot high wall around girls' schools and what the hell, maybe
veils to match.

In all my years of research on girls and computing, it surely does
seem to me that there are so many cultural influences that explain
the differences in computer behavior and achievement between men
and women that looking for the functional equivalent of a computer
gene is at best misguided and at worst a cynical attempt to keep
women out of computing. We know a great deal about the subtle and
not-so-subtle influences: parents who buy computers for boys and
put them in boys' rooms, software that appeals (not to say
panders!) to male tastes, pornography in electronic networks and
software, nerdy boys who chase girls out of computer rooms -- I
could go on and on and on and on, and you all will be bored far
before that. But I would love to hear from the rest of you what you
make of the "computer gene" trend. Is it as apparent to you as to
me? Am I exaggerating its extent or its importance?

Looking forward to hearing from you all.

Jo Sanders Director, Gender Equity Program Center for Advanced
Study in Education CUNY Graduate Center, New York City

Thu Mar 24 10:21:00 1994
Date: Thu, 24 Mar 1994 10:19:15 -0800 (PST)
From: Daniel Akst <>
Subject: RE: Women in Computing (fwd)
To: LA Times List <>

---------- Forwarded message ----------

Date: Wed, 23 Mar 94 21:10 EST
From: George Gilder <>
To: Daniel Akst <>
Subject: RE: Women in Computing

The dominance of males in computing is no greater than their
dominance in mathematics, logic, business, politics, physics,
chess, athletics, and violent crime. These areas of dominance are
obviously not an effect of socialization since they arise in all
societies known to anthropology. Although it is not politically
correct, male dominance as Steven Goldberg proved to the
satisfaction of Margaret Mead and most of the other readers of his
definitive book recently republished as Why Men Rule, originates
with the biological differences between the sexes, beginning with
the perceptible differentiation of brain structures. As long as
computing is a leading edge activity, it will be dominated by
males. This was true of driving until the car was routinized. When
the computer becomes a routine tool, men will turn to something
more challenging.

Best, gg

---------- Forwarded message ----------

Date: Fri, 25 Mar 94 00:38 EST
From: Robin Raskin <>
To: Daniel Akst <>
Cc: "Mary K. Flynn" <>, LA Times List
Subject: RE: Women in Computing (fwd)

<<As long as computing is a leading edge activity, it will be
dominated by males. This was true of driving until the car was
routinized. When the computer becomes a routine tool, men will turn
to something more challenging>>

George, Surely this was meant as inciteful conversation? I think
the operative word here is not "leading edge" but "impractical"...
that is as long as computing is an "impractical" activity it will
be dominated by males.

Women, in part due to the nature of their roles in society, are
practical creatures...driven by very practical, goal oriented
needs. While men have the luxury of "frittering away" their time
with online banter, the latest video game technology, a round of
sports, a few hours of listening to high fidelity, or some other
"sharper image" pursuit, women have been juggling the realities of
family and work lives. Men have some sort of entitlement to the
explore "because it is there" mindset while women, I believe, need
to justify their explorations.

I'm a woman who spent 10 years at home minding the children, and
writing about technology as a sideline activity. When my children
were school aged I returned to the office and was shocked beyond
belief at how inefficiently men in the office used their time
relative to women at home. I also quickly came to realize and
appreciate that sometimes it's this playful/tinkering/explorative
behavior that leads to the most creative work. As a woman in this
industry, I try to balance the practical considerations of getting
a hi-tech magazine out on time and on budget with the more noble
pursuit of "testing the heck out of a software or hardware
product". In other words I try and bring a sort of androgenous
blend to the picture.

Women have as little incentive to go online and "chat" with
electronic cronies as they did to hang out at the corner bar. As
the computer becomes a tool with a means to an end .. a way to get
the school newsletter out, or shop for a family, or find out what
an expert family doctor says about the new HIV vacination, or plan
a family trip, or balance the family budget .. that's when women
will see the value of computing. Women see a "tool" where men see
a "toy". There's a world of difference between waiting for
something to become practical and waiting for something to become
routine. Don't you think so?

--Robin Raskin

---------- Forwarded message ----------

Date: Fri, 25 Mar 1994 13:49:56 -0500 (EST)
To: Daniel Akst <>
Subject: RE: Women in Computing (fwd)

In reply to George Gilder's message:

I'm always amused at the certainty people have of innate sex
differences, considering that such a thing is unknowable. When
we're prepared to raise children in individual boxes with no
environmental influences whatever then we will know what is innate
and what isn't. In the meantime we have to assume that since we
know a fair amount about environmental influences that shape
expectations and behavior, at least a lot can be laid at that

I'm not an anthropologist, but I was under the impression that
societies vary considerably along sex role lines. Indeed, this is
how the field as a . In fact this is how the field as a whole got
its start. That's hardly proof of innate sex differences in

Jo Sanders

---------- Forwarded message ----------

Date: Fri, 25 Mar 1994 12:43:22 -0800
From: Reva Basch <>
Subject: RE: Women in Computing (fwd)

I have to approach this discussion from the perspective of my own
experience. Whatever the historical reasons for the lack of women
in computing -- something that I do think is changing, by the way
-- I see a tremendous interest among my female friends and
colleagues, not so much in how computers work as in what they can

I didn't think about computers one way or another until I started
doing online searching for a living -- and I was coming,
incidentally, from the traditionally female-oriented profession of
library science. At that point, they became a tool, something that
was essential to my job, so I had to become at least moderately
conversant with them. Working with computers every day helps
de-mystify them. You learn what you need to function at a certain
level, and when you have to go deeper, you learn some more. Good
programs are designed to allow you to work like that; the more
complex features are invisible until you've learned enough of the
basics to start wondering about the harder parts. That's a very
natural way to learn a complex system, and from what I've seen,
women adapt to it extremely well.

For any technology to take hold, you need a "killer app," an
application that makes using it irresistable. For many women, the
killer app is communications, the ability to connect with other
people through their keyboards and modems. I host Women on The
WELL, a private, women-only forum that happens to be one of the
most active conferences on that system. I see women who got hold of
a computer and climbed the learning curve solely to participate in
online communications. There are artists, single mothers, people
who live in isolated rural areas, whom you wouldn't think of as
computer users at all, but they have gotten adept simply because
there was something they were strongly motivated to accomplish that
happened to be computer-related.

I don't believe in the "computer gene" theory. I think it's a
question of socialization, and the messages girls and women have
gotten until recently, the whole "math is hard" business. There are
plenty of female nerds, women who make their livings working with
computers *as* computers. Of course, their numbers are still
relatively small at this stage. But what I find even more
interesting is how many women, myself included, became comfortable
with computers as a means to an end, and then enthralled with what
*else* they could do with them. Once you're hooked, you start
exploring how they work, and all kinds of other possibilities
present themselves.

Perhaps it's because I hang out online, but I know as many women as
I do men who stay up until the wee hours, tweaking their config.sys
files or installing new software, surfing databases, participating
in online conferences and so on. That trend is going to continue,
I have no doubt.

---------- Forwarded message ----------

Date: Fri, 25 Mar 1994 13:49:56 -0500 (EST)
To: Daniel Akst <>
Subject: RE: Women in Computing (fwd)

In reply to George Gilder's message:

I'm always amused at the certainty people have of innate sex
differences, considering that such a thing is unknowable. When
we're prepared to raise children in individual boxes with no
environmental influences whatever then we will know what is innate
and what isn't. In the meantime we have to assume that since we
know a fair amount about environmental influences that shape
expectations and behavior, at least a lot can be laid at that

I'm not an anthropologist, but I was under the impression that
societies vary considerably along sex role lines. Indeed, this is
how the field as a . In fact this is how the field as a whole got
its start. That's hardly proof of innate sex differences in

Jo Sanders

Sat Mar 26 18:44:30 1994
Date: Sat, 26 Mar 1994 18:42:25 -0800 (PST)
From: Daniel Akst <>
Subject: RE: Women in Computing (fwd)
To: LA Times List <>

---------- Forwarded message ----------

Date: Sat, 26 Mar 94 12:08 EST
From: George Gilder <>
To: Daniel Akst <>
Subject: RE: Women in Computing (fwd)

The issue of differences in behavior between men and women in
relation to anything, from knitting and figure skating to baseball
and computing-- cannot be seriously discussed without confronting
the demonstrable reality of biological differences. I spent several
years studying the anthropology on this point and wrote three books
on the subject. Although sex roles have varied tremendously among
societies throughout history, in all societies, men are more
aggressive and competitive, hold the warrior role (Amazons are a
myth), and command the positions to which the society ascribes the
greatest prestige and importance outside the always central and
indispensable maternal roles. In recent years, studies of the brain
have demonstrated physiological differences in the hypothalamus and
the cortex, and in the entire endocrinological system. Differential
performance in math and science is not a peculiarity of the United
States; it is universal. Greater male focus on earning money is
universal in all societies with productive economies. It stems from
the fact that as an overwhelming rule men must outperform women in
the marketplace in order to marry. The computer is the leading
wealth producer in the world economy. Men flock to it not for
diversion but for sexual survival. In general, the more money a
woman makes the larger is the gap between her income and her
husbands larger income. Feminist leaders like Gloria Steinem do not
traffic with flower children; they chase real estate magnates. The
male dominance in computing is merely another expression of the
universal need of men to dominate economically in order to win

Sun Mar 27 18:30:57 1994
Date: Sun, 27 Mar 1994 18:29:49 -0800 (PST)
From: Daniel Akst <>
Subject: Re: Women in Computing (fwd)
To: LA Times List <>

--------- Forwarded message ----------

Date: Sat, 26 Mar 94 23:25 EST
From: Robin Raskin <>
To: Daniel Akst <>, "Mary K. Flynn"
<>, LA Times List <>
Subject: Re: Women in Computing (fwd)

But George you can't say that spending hours and hours information
surfing on the Internet, or playing some golf simulation, or
Fantasy Baseball League, or electronic chat boards, or heaven
forbid even electronic pornography has much to do with going out
there and "making a killing" (financial or otherwise). These guys
have a "because it is there" attitude -- not unlike climbers of
Everest. While I won't disagree with your findings about innate
differences in the sexes, I think the male "kill" gene doesn't
really explain what's going on here. As a matter of fact, I could
argue that there's an escapist gene at work here.

I've heard wives complain about their husbands computer habits with
the same tone that wives complain about drinking or drug habits.
Over and over I've seen the near-addicted male and the
"i-don't-understand-a-thing-about-these-computers" female live as
couples. And while I know some women, in fact, quite a few women
that frequent the electronic hangouts of cyberspace, the
overwhelming majority of on-liners I know, or hear from in my
professional capacity are men. --Robin

Mon Mar 28 14:49:10 1994
Date: Mon, 28 Mar 1994 14:46:29 -0800 (PST)
From: Daniel Akst <>
Subject: RE: Women in Computing (fwd)
To: LA Times List <>

---------- Forwarded message ----------

Date: Mon, 28 Mar 94 16:37 EST
From: Mary K. Flynn <>
To: Daniel Akst <>
Cc: Robin Raskin <>, LA Times List
Subject: RE: Women in Computing (fwd)

Wow, there's a lot to respond to on this thread! Here goes:

Re: Women online.

Cyberspace may have traditionally been a men's club, but that's
changing. Fast. Earlier this month, at U.S. News & World Report, we
launched a women's symposium on our CompuServe forum (Go: USNEWS):
in the first three weeks, 2,000 people participated, about 95
percent of whom are women, estimates US News sysop Kristen Gunn.
And we certainly aren't the only ones who've been successful in
bringing women online. The New York-based bulletin board Echo isn't
aimed especially at women, but by virtue of its being founded by a
woman, Stacy Horn, it's captured 40 percent female membership.
Compare that with CompuServe, which estimates its female membership
at about 10 percent (and maybe as high as 30 percent if you count
women using their significant others' accounts). Women's Wire,
launched in January in San Francisco by Ellen Pack, has 700
members, 90 percent of whom are women.

Clearly women are very interested in communicating online. But the
way women communicate electronically seems to be very different
from the way men do. While men spend a lot of online time
expressing their opinions and arguing, women seem to be more
interested in sharing resources--Women's Wire, for example, is
jammed with articles people have posted and references to books and
organizations)--and in connecting with each other in the real world
(the U.S. News women's symposium is filled with a lot of career
networking). At this point, I wonder if the very thing men seem to
like about online services--the electronic "pub"--is what has been
turning women off.

Re: Toys vs. Tools

I think Robin is absolutely right that men don't have as much
trouble justifying playing time as women do. That playfulness is
something I'm constantly envying in my male friends. As 3DO CEO
Trip Hawkins told me, in the consumer market, women buy white
functional appliances like refrigerators and washing machines
whereas men buy black fun machines like stereos and TVs. I think
this is one of the reasons for the difference in online
behavior--men are playing whereas women are trying to accomplish
something (making a career contact, finding an article to read).

Re: Why so few women in the computer industry?

This is a question I've been asking male and female executives in
the computer industry for the last eight years. Many of the women
I've spoken to talk about that magical age between 11 and 13 when
all of a sudden you can't be both pretty and good at math. (If I
were George, I guess I'd say women discover that in order to get a
man, they have to fail at math.) Most of the women who managed to
succeed in math-science-computer fields despite social pressures
point to strong role models (not always female). Encouragingly,
many companies--Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Lotus and Microsoft are the
ones I know about--are actively involved in bringing more women
into the field through community outreach programs, scholarships
for women in the sciences, and recruiting from women's colleges.
With women like Carol Bartz (CEO of Autodesk, the number four
software company), Martha Sloan (former president of the IEEE, the
world's largest technical association) and Patty Stonesifer (vice
president of the consumer software division at Microsoft, the
software giant's highest ranking woman), the next generation of
women will have more strong female role models in the computer
industry than ever before!

Mon Mar 28 20:02:34 1994
Date: Mon, 28 Mar 1994 19:56:53 -0800 (PST)
From: Daniel Akst <>
Subject: Re: our discussion list (fwd)
To: LA Times List <>

Since there's been talk on this list of how women use computers for
communications, and of women-only or female-friendly online
services, I thought Nancy Baym's observations on
might be of interest... Dan Akst

---------- Forwarded message ----------

Date: Fri, 25 Mar 1994 11:08:46 -0600
From: Nancy Baym <>
To: Daniel Akst <>
Subject: Re: our discussion list

What I've been doing is basically an ethnography/discourse analysis
of the group (rats) which is a Usenet discussion
group that discusses (primarily daytime) soap operas. The group is
extremely successful, distributing more messages than almost any
group on Usenet. My data includes one month of posts from late
1991, 10 months from 1992 (together this is a corpus of almost
35,000 messages), e-mail surveys and interviews, the Usenet
statistics posted to news.lists, and a "yearbook" participants who
discuss All My Children compiled.

The group is interesting for a lot of reasons, not the least of
which, of course, is that it is dominated by women (by my estimates
it's 72% women). Most of those women are professionals
(predominantly in the computer & software industry), academics
(predominantly scientists) and students.

I have done analyses of how the talk is divided into named genres,
politeness in the group, and humor in the group. My primary
research question has been "how do the patterns of language use in
this community reflect the concerns around which this community is
organized?" In other words, I start with how they talk and deduce
what matters most to them.

Findings in a nutshell:

* Participation in this group is radically un-equal. The
overwhelming majority of participants lurk (a term without negative
connotations in rats) without ever reading (perhaps as many as
40,000 readers). Of those who do post, 3% of the approx 2500
posters write 46% of the messages.

* This is an interpretive group -- far more so than the
distribution of information, this group is about pooling
interpretations. All non-interpretive genres, for instance, are
explicitly marked in the subject lines with genre titles, while
interpretive comments are not tagged. Descriptions of the talk in
my survey data also support this.

* People are extremely polite to one another, especially when they
are disagreeing on matters of interpretation. Politeness is
accomplished through a number of specific linguistic devices (such
as qualifications, agreements prior to disagreements, use of the
other's name, acknowlegement of the other's perspective, provision
of reasoning, and more). Participants do not flame one another. A
high level of civility is the norm.

* The group is very very funny. Humor serves a lot of functions:
entertains others, compensates for the shows' shortcomings and
simultaneously unites the participants in solidarity against the
shows' writers, provides a means for individuals to develop
distinctive identities within the group, and expands and codifies
the group's collaborative meanings.

My explanation of the findings has to do with the nature of soaps:

(1) they are designed to elicit multiple ongoing interpretations of
events and characters. The more interpretative resources one has
access to, the richer ones experience of/pleasure in the show.
Hence the group is enriching soap pleasure by giving all the
participants interpretive materials with which to enhance it.

(2) soaps are about emotion in intimate relationships. When people
pool interpretations, a lot of what they are doing is talking about
their own experience and understanding of private emotionality (it
is through this knowledge that they interpret the soap). Much of
the politeness, humor, and other phenomena in this group are
oriented toward creating a place safe and pleasant enough that
people will feel free to voice these highly personalized
interpretations. The group thus provides a space to discuss
socio-emotional issues, through the activity of talking about

Since this is a discussion of women and computers, let me just
position myself in terms of that topic. I have not taken an
explicitly gender-focused approach toward the group, though I am
sure the fact that it's largely women is part of the reason it
looks as it does. I have found no gender differences within the
group. I have tried to present the material so that those who would
like to draw implications about gender or take it in that direction
further will be able to, and it is an angle I'd like to see
elaborated eventually. My stance has been that what they are doing
here, creating a rich friendly personalized and pleasurable
community through language alone, is interesting in its own right,
and I have sought to describe and explain that process.

One thing that I think emerges as particularly noteworthy for those
interested in how women may be left/pushed out of the computer
phenomenon is that this is a case where women have been extremely
successful in creating and sustaining a public space where they can
discuss issues of concern to them (for instance, using the soap as
a launching pad, there is often explicit tangential discussion of
"feminist" issues including physical safety, abuse, sexism, etc.).
As such I think it is a model of the up-side of the coin.

I am happy to elaborate on any of this further if people have
questions or comments.

Nancy Baym

Nancy Baym
"Education is the only place where Speech Communication people try
to get the least for their University of Illinois money" -- my

Tue Mar 29 11:12:06 1994
Date: Tue, 29 Mar 1994 11:10:22 -0800 (PST)
From: Daniel Akst <>
Subject: Re: our discussion list (fwd)
To: LA Times List <>

---------- Forwarded message ----------

Date: Tue, 29 Mar 94 11:34 EST
From: Mary K. Flynn <>
To: Daniel Akst <>
Cc: Robin Raskin <>, George Gilder
<>, LA Times List <>
Subject: Re: our discussion list (fwd)


Sounds like a fascinating study. I'd love to hear some examples.
I'm also curious to know more about what you mean by interpretive.
I have a philosopher friend who believes soap plots are constructed
so that you want a particular outcome; she finds the plots most
interesting when it's not clear which outcome you're supposed to
want (should you want Dixie to end up with Tad or his not-so-evil

Also, on the 3 percent participation--how does that compare to
other forums? I wonder if primarily male online discussions have a
higher or lower percentage of participation. It seems to me that
women have less practice--and are therefore less comfortable with--
expressing their opinions in public (something I've never had a
problem with!)--one reason I'm at least sympathetic to single-sex
education (after all, my college, Vassar, was all female for 100
years!, though it was co-ed by the time I went there) is that it
gives women a chance to catch up on skills like speaking in class.


Tue Mar 29 13:57:25 1994
Date: Tue, 29 Mar 1994 13:55:24 -0800 (PST)
From: Daniel Akst <>
Subject: Women & Computers Discussion (fwd)
To: LA Times List <>

---------- Forwarded message ----------

Date: Tue, 29 Mar 1994 13:16:42 -0800
From: Reva Basch <>
To: Subject: Women & Computers Discussion

Mary raises an interesting point with her mention of Echo and
Women's WIRE. Both of these online services have made a special
effort to reach out to women, to try to convey the message that
there is, indeed, something to grab and hold their attention once
they get online. Neither system coddles users or condescends to
them. In fact, from what I've seen, Echo's interface is no
friendlier than The WELL's notoriously cryptic and non-intuitive
PicoSpan. Women often need to be *shown* that there's something of
value behind the technology. I tried explaining to my 80-year-old
mother-in-law how it was that I had made such good friends "on the
computer." Finally, I sat her down and demo'ed The WELL to her. Her
comment? "Why, honey, it's just people *talking*, isn't it?" She
was thrilled, and had me browse through conference after
conference, looking for topic headers that she found interesting.
I don't go along with Mary's suggestion that women seem to be more
interested in sharing resources and connecting in the real world
than in hanging out in some electronic pub. Again, this is from my
perspective as a host of Women on The WELL, but the electronic pub
model is *exactly* what appeals to many of us. We work at home, or
live in areas where it's difficult to find kindred spirits, and we
fulfill many of our social needs by hanging out online.

Tue Mar 29 17:16:49 1994
Date: Tue, 29 Mar 1994 17:14:58 -0800 (PST)
From: Daniel Akst <>
Subject: re: women in computing (fwd)
To: LA Times List <>

---------- Forwarded message ----------

Date: Tue, 29 Mar 1994 18:06:24 EST
From: David Kennedy <>
Subject: re: women in computing

Hello, this is Wendy Kaminer. You can reach me at David Kennedy's
address above.

I'm a computer illiterate, having my first E-mail conversation (is
this called a conversation?) Imagine my delight when while reading
George Gilder's remarks, I discovered the excape key. I may learn
to love computers after all. I'm already enjoying the spectacle of
a new technology being used to conduct an old conversation.
Computers may be strange to me but notions of gender difference are
as familiar as my yellow pads. Women have traditionally been
considered ill-suited to do whatever jobs it would have been
socially or economically disruptive for them to do. The professions
- law, medicine, and business - and the more lucrative trades were
exclusively male for much of our history, partly because it was
believed that women were dumber than men, less analytic and
ambitious, as well as weaker. "Scientific" theories about gender
difference were always used to justify gender discrimination (just
as theories about racial difference were used to justify racism.)
Darwin asserted that men were more creative, energetic and
courageous than women, who, he suggested, were not as evolved as
men. He associated women with the "lower races." (Guess which races
he meant.) Of course, George, I don't know as much about evolution
as Darwin did, but I do know a dinosaur when I see one. l9th
century sceintists also kept themselves busy weighing the brains of
famous men, in the belief that brain power was a function of
weight. But, as feminist Helen Hamilton Gardener pointed out, no
man's brain, not even Byron's, was a match for the brain of a whale
or an elephant. "Almost any elephant is an entire medical faculty,"
Hamilton wrote. Still, sceintists persisted. "The brain of a woman
is inferior in at least l9 different ways to the brain of a man,"
a former U.S. Surgeon General asserted in l880. Hamilton tried to
disprove this notion by bequeathing her own brain to researchers at
Cornell University, who found that it "equalled the best brains in
the Cornell collection." Today, popular, pseudo-science about the
brain focuses on left brain/right brain theories. (Here
pseudo-science merges with New Age). Popular theories feminize the
right side of the brain and masculinize the left. (Since the right
brain is associated with spatial perceptions and the left brain
with verbal ability, this means that women should be beter at chess
than men and worse at learning how to talk, but never mind.) More
important to biological determinists today than theories about the
brain are theories about genes. Practically everything, it seems,
is said to be genetic, which means nothing is anyone's fault and
nothing is changeable. We have alcoholism genes, homosexual genes,
and now, it seems, we have computer genes. (We really ought to have
a biologist in on this convesation to explain how genes work: it's
not that simple.) How convenient all these theories are for men
who want to maintain their monopolies. Actively discourage girls
from succeeding in math and science and then count the number who
change to humanities majors in their sophomore years as evidence
that women are naturally uninterested in math and science. When a
woman has been forced into a corset all her life, Helen Hamilton
Gardener remarked, it's hard to judge her natural shape.

---------- Forwarded message ----------

Date: Tue, 29 Mar 94 20:57 EST
From: Robin Raskin <>
To: Daniel Akst <>, George Gilder
<>, "Mary K. Flynn"
<>, LA Times List <>
Subject: Re: our discussion list (fwd)

For those of you who still have time left in your day to ask more
questions, here's an interesting slant on the gender issue. The
folks on Ziffnet (which can be found on CompuServe) are holding a
week long forum on how to market computer stuff to women.

There have been many unsuccessful attempts to attract women into
computing including one I remember called "WomensWare" which was
sort of a practical database for the home. It came packaged on a
clothes hanger. Thankfully, it died a quick death.

Also, to take up where Mary left off, one of the gratifying things
to see regarding women in this industry is how well they do once
they are there. I think that women are born communicators and they
are eloquent liasons between the technical world and the rest of
the world. They can be "in the club" but still relate to those who
aren't. This is a crucial skill.


Today on ZiffNet

What Do Women Really Want in a Computer Ad Campaign?

It's no secret that the male-dominated computer industry has
traditionally geared its advertising and marketing campaigns to men

But that scenario may be changing. A March 21 article in PC Week
Inside, called "The Other Half," cites some pioneering new
approaches to marketing computers to women.

These and other issues are being discussed this week in the Women
Online forum (GO WOMAN) with a number of special guests, including
Ellen Guon, author of Pickle Wars; Vivica Stone, president of Stone
and Associate Educational Software and make of a program designed
specifically for girls; and Carolyn Leighton, president of
Criterion Research and founding executive director of the
International Network of Women in Technology.

ZiffNet's Sandy Donnelly hosts the event, which runs through
Friday, April 1, in the Women Online of the Executives Online Forum
(GO EXEC to Message Section 17 or GO WOMAN directly).

Wed Mar 30 18:32:00 1994
Date: Wed, 30 Mar 1994 18:30:34 -0800 (PST)
From: Daniel Akst <>
Subject: Women in Computing Forum (fwd)
To: LA Times List <>

---------- Forwarded message ----------

Date: Wed, 30 Mar 94 16:39:54 EDT
From: Karen Frenkel <KARENF%ACMVM.bitnet@CUNYVM.CUNY.EDU>
To: Dan Akst <>
Subject: Women in Computing Forum

LA Times Forum on Women in Computing

I have just finished filming a documentary for Public Television
that addresses the same questions as this forum. The one-hour film
is tentatively entitled Minerva's Machine: How Women are Changing
Com- puting. Over 40 people on both coasts were interviewed,
including computer scientists and computer company executives,
sociologists, developmental psychologists, sexual harassment and
gender discrimi- nation lawyers and their clients, computer science
students (from grade school to graduate school), and their
teachers. The program will revolve around four in-depth profiles of
women in computing.

George Gilder's statement that there are few women in computing
because males dominate leading edge activities is, at best,
simplistic. The reasons for unequal gender representation are
complex, as we learned from our interviews and research. As one
sociologist explained, boys and girls exhibit different styles of
programming. Boys generally use the "hard master" style--they
conduct a monologue with the computer, commanding and writing code
according to a structured, linear plan. In contrast, most girls
employ "soft mastery," engaging in a dialogue and even a
negotiation with the computer in order to see what works. Their way
is to interact and explore what the computer can do, rather than to
conquer the box, as males try to do. In school, girls get their
hands slapped for programming the "wrong way." As a result, they
believe that they are not good at programming, become discouraged,
and stay away. Yet truly creative, virtuoso programmers draw on
both styles in order to maintain their "leading edge." Think of all
the talent that is being deterred and lost unnecessarily.

The idea that women are not capable of excelling in computer
science because they are biologically not fit is absurd, and
irrelevant. Tired of the worn out nature/nurture debate, one
exasperated developmental psychologist told me, "It doesn't matter
what causes differences between men and women and boys and girls.
What matters is our evaluation of these differences. Regardless of
whether or not growth hormone or nutrition causes height, we don't
discriminate between people who are five foot four and five foot
seven. In the same way, if we really did allow for different ways
of knowing and thinking in our society, then it really wouldn't
matter what causes particular preferences and styles of thinking
and doing."

Yet, as the developmental psychologist went on to say, we do live
in a dual society that calls attention to the masculine and
feminine and assigns value to each. There are numerous, concrete
reasons why women either do not enter the field of computing, enter
and drop out, or top out before reaching their full potential. And
I have not even addressed how alienating violent and misogynistic
video games are to girls, how parents unwittingly perpetuate the
notion that girls are not mechanically minded by buying or not
buying certain toys, etc. These issues will be fully explored in
Minerva's Machine. For now, suffice it to say that many bright
women in computing report cumulative fatigue--they get tired of
fighting every step of the way, especially while watching how
relatively easy it is for men to succeed.

As we move further into the information revolution, society cannot
afford to exclude or lose women, who represent more that half the
population and are half the professional workforce. If the
information revolution is to really work, people of all kinds
should participate both as inventors and users of the technology.

Karen A. Frenkel
Executive Producer Minerva's Machine

---------- Forwarded message ----------

Date: Fri, 1 Apr 94 14:37 EST
From: George Gilder <>
To: Daniel Akst <>
Subject: re: women in computing (fwd)

Wendy Kaminer's response is typically feminist: throw some dirt and
change the subject. A belief in the differences between the sexes
is alleged to imply racism, genetic determinism, and male

I actually believe that male and female brains are different and
that in many ways the female brain is superior: for example, female
brains manage a much more complex endocrinological system, more
sensitive social perceptions, and verbal subtleties. I have shown
in several books that women are sexually superior and that men are
more dependent on marriage, and hence on women, than women are
dependent on men. Women are healthier and play the central roles in
procreation. A society could survive the deaths of nearly all its
young men, but would go extinct if its women were not protected.
But men in all societies are more aggressive, competitive,
enterprising, mathematical, and tall. It so happens that computer
science is heavily a mathematical pursuit and that the computer
business is one of the most competitive on the planet. But as the
father of three girls, one of whom I am currently teaching
calculus, phasor algebra, trigonometry, and other advanced
engineering math at age 13, I resent the idea that my observation,
shared by everyone on this panel, that women around the world are
less involved in computers than men are, makes me somehow a
dinosaur. Any society, however, that fails to come to terms with
the profound differences between the sexes will likely go the
way of the dinosaurs.

---------- Forwarded message ----------

Date: Thu, 31 Mar 1994 15:47:57 -0600
From: Nancy Baym <>
To: Daniel Akst <>
Subject: Re: our discussion list (fwd)

Mary K. Flynn writes:

>I'd love to hear some examples.

I'm not quite sure what you'd like to see examples of, but anyone
with Usenet access can peek in to the group, and
see for themselves what's going on.

>I'm also curious to know more about
>what you mean by interpretive. I have a philosopher
>friend who believes soap plots are constructed
>so that you want a particular outcome; she finds
>the plots most interesting when it's not clear
>which outcome you're supposed to want (should you
>want Dixie to end up with Tad or his not-so-evil twin?).

By interpretive I mean simply that the assertions are not matters
of fact which can be determined right or wrong. Your friend raises
some good points. I think soaps construct their stories so that
they open up multiple possible meanings, people may disagree on
what they want to have happen. The ambivalence about outcomes you
mention is probably one factor in enjoying a storyline, but even
stories like this can drag on to where everyone seems to hate it
(Tad-Brooke-Dixie being a good example of this). There are so many
things going on in soap involvement, which is of course the main
reason people want to talk to each other about soaps so much!

>Also, on the 3 percent participation--how does that
>compare to other forums? I wonder if primarily male
>online discussions have a higher or lower percentage
>of participation.

This I don't know. For clarification, the 3% are the heaviest
posters, those who write over 10 messages/month and together
generate 46% of the messages. There are not any gender differences
within this, that is, the proportion of men/women among heavy
posters is the same as it is among lighter posters. My intuition is
that participation probably breaks down fairly similarly in other
fora, though I would REALLY like to see more work on this. The
other mailing lists and newsgroups I participate in seem to be
dominated by a few voices who do most of the talking.

>It seems to me that women have
>less practice--and are therefore less comfortable with--
>expressing their opinions in public ...

I don't know about this. Women and girls spend a lot of time
voicing their opinions to one another. R.a.t.s. is one particular
sample of women, and maybe they differ in some way from other women
(though probably not from other women on-line), but I don't see any
evidence to indicate any kind of ineptitude or reticicence about
expressing opinions. Indeed, it's a group that is remarkably savvy
about doing so with humor and graciousness. I see hundreds of women
relishing the pooling, comparing and justifying of opinions
publically. Enough to make r.a.t.s. much higher traffic than the
vast majority of other (primarily male-dominated) newsgroups.

It seems significant to me that r.a.t.s. seems to be carrying more
messages by women that any other group on Usenet, which is far
larger than any other newsgroup system, including all commercial
nets and bulletin boards. Though I don't feel I know the rest of
the groups well enough to make any arguments about what the
significance really is...

But I'm willing to bet it has nothing to do with genetic
differences between men and women!


Nancy Baym
"Education is the only place where Speech Communication
people try to get the least for their University of Illinois
money" -- my mom

Date: Fri, 1 Apr 94 18:19 EST
From: "Mary K. Flynn" <>
To: Daniel Akst <>
Cc: Robin Raskin <>
Cc: LA Times List <>
Subject: re: women in computing (fwd)

Nancy, thanks for your response. Your study sounds very
interesting. As a 20-year veteran viewer of
All My Children, I just may pop in on r.a.t.s.
one of these days.

George, I'm trying to follow your arguments but
I'm perplexed. If men are genetically better designed
for mathematics, what is the point of teaching your
13-year-old daughter calculus, trig, etc? There'll always
be a guy around who can do it better, in your view.
I also don't understand why the historical evidence
you refer to leads you to the conclusion that mena nd
women are genetically different--all of it could be
explained by socialization, not biology.

Does anyone else on the panel believe there are
genetic differences between men and women?

I, for one, don't--though I do believe there
tend to be some general behavioral differences
(with zillions of exceptions), but I think they
stem from the different training we give girls and boys.
Some of the signals we send are so subtle we don't
even notice them. I try to be very vigilant about
this stuff, buying gender-neutral clothing for the
kids we know, but I fall into old habits sometimes too.
For example, when my husband I were Christmas shopping,
we chose a Fisher Price garage for our nephew and
a Madame Alexander baby doll for my best friend's daughter.
It was only later that we realized what a different
set of messages--and training grounds--we gave to each
child. Who knows? If my parents had given me a garage
when I was two, maybe I'd be a mechanic instead of a writer.

Another question I have about the makeup of the panel:
How many participants actually are women in the computer
industry? I count one so far, Reva, since she's a sysop.
The rest of us seem to be writers, thinkers, teachers, etc.


Dan Akst responds: Unfortunately, I've had a helluva time getting
response from computer executives of either gender, perhaps because
the issue is such a sensitive one. Perhaps I should have tried
harder. Anyway, the members of this list are below; as you can see,
a number are women in the computer industry. Some were included
without being asked, except for the initial email request for
participation, which invited them to say no. Bill Gates was
included for awhile but asked to be removed. Terry Myers is
reading these things on paper, as I understand it; since she lacks
an Internet address of her own, we're using that of a male
subordinate. If anyone can suggest some computer industry women who
would actually participate, I would be glad to include them. It
would be a small matter for me to zap them a copy of the discussion
so far. On the other hand, I think the discussion has been pretty
lively and interesting, so no disappointment on this end, and I'm
endlessly grateful for everyone's help.

The List
Terry Myers--Quarterdeck
Robin Raskin--PC Magazine
Jo Sanders--CUNY
Sherry Turkle--MIT Media Lab
Karen White--Oracle Corp.
Carol Bartz--AutoDesk
Denise Caruso--Friday Holdings
Esther Dyson--Publisher, analyst
Mary Flynn--US News
Karen Frenkel--documentary journalist
George Gilder--author
Wendy Kaminer--Harvard fellow, author
Dan Malcor--LA Times techie, for emergencies
Steve Manes--writer
Reva Basch--The Well (Women's forum)
Nancy Baym--graduate student
Amy Harmon--LA Times multimedia reporter

---------- Forwarded message ----------

Date: Sat, 2 Apr 1994 14:31:34 -0800
From: Reva Basch <>
Subject: re: women in computing (fwd)

I wouldn't identify myself as a "woman in the computer industry,"
although my business -- online database searching, writing and
consulting to the electronic information industry -- relies heavily
on computers as tools.

---------- Forwarded message ----------

Date: Sat, 2 Apr 94 13:00 EST
From: George Gilder <>
To: Daniel Akst <>
Subject: re: women in computing (fwd)

It is amazing to encounter extremely intelligent people who believe
after the last 50 years of revolutionary advances in biology,
neurology, endocrinology, and physiology that the differences
between the sexes manifested in all societies ever studied by
anthropologists are environmental. The superior male performance in
mathematics is not debatable. It is a fact. However, my daughter is
far superior to me in mathematical aptitude and in mechanical
aptitude, just as there are millions of men better than me in
mathematics. This fact does not stop me from studying math, any
more than the fact that several of the female participants in this
wrangle know far more than me about computers stops me from
studying computers and writing about them. Speaking not as a
long term student of the science and anthropology of the
differences between the sexes but as a debater with feminists in my
youth, I was always amazed by their inability to absorb general
sociological arguments.

This current discussion is supposed to be about the general issue
of lesser participation by women in computing. This general
question is answered by general differences between the sexes in
mathematical ability mechanical aptitude, and economic roles
deriving from the biological roles in families. One cannot answer
these general propositions by the streams of anecdotes that are
perpetually offered by feminists in this debate. If particular
differences between the sexes, such as on mathematics and
aggression, are found in all societies, then the argument
that they are determined by the enviroment just moves the debate to
a different level. The enviroment in the feminist argument becomes
a force as all encompassing as biology itself. Why do human beings
everywhere create an environment that makes women less aggressive
and less mathematical?

---------- Forwarded message ----------

Date: Sat, 2 Apr 94 22:56 EST
From: Robin Raskin <>
To: Daniel Akst <>
Cc: "Mary K. Flynn" <>, LA Times List
Subject: re: women in computing (fwd)

I have no problem with the fact that George thinks women and men
are different -- and whether that difference is nature or nuture
in essence isn't really the question here. George opened his
comments here by saying that men are the explorers and innovators
and once the is "chartered territory" they will turn their
attention elsewhere.

Here are his exact words: As long as computing is a leading edge
activity, it will be dominated by males. This was true of driving
until the car was routinized. When the computer becomes a routine
tool, men will turn to something more challenging. (quote is
brought to you by the magic of cut and paste).

I have problem with this concept on numerous levels. First off,
the wonderful thing about the computer is its evolution. Thanks
to chip innovation, the speed at which we can process information
doubles every 18 months. As the speed doubles we get to harness
the power to invent new graphical user interfaces that can tap
into every sort of ability. I don't see any end to the wonders of
computing --- at least not in my lifetime.

Second, and closely intertwined with this is the fact that as
computers evolve it becomes less and less essential that you be
mathematically inclined, or that you be an engineer, or even a
computer nerd to make your "mark" on the computing world.
Computers become a form of expression and exploration for everyone.

Will more and more women enter into engineering, chip design,
mathematics or data processing? I'm not sure. I think that part
of the reason they've stayed away is not a matter of ability or
inclination but of our social system. The nuclear family is
probably the single biggest impediment to women entering
traditional 9 to 5 jobs and sticking with them long enough to
make an impact.

Why do women dominate the teaching field? You think it's because
they have some sort of biological inclination to teach the next
generation? Hogwash! It's because you get summers off and the
workday ends at 3:30 PM.

I think that when there are good daycare alternatives - when you
know that your children are cared for and nutured -- maybe even
better than you could do it yourself-- when raising children
becomes a communal effort between a man and woman and their
community --- that's when you'll give women a chance to do their
best work.

On a personal level: I can be the Editor of the largest computer
magazine today, because I stayed home with my three children and
wrote freelance articles about computing until the were all in
school. (Truly my initial attraction to computing was that the
pay was better than most freelance writing and the work was

And even now (ages 14,12 and 8) I have an extensive and elaborate
support network of relatives and paid help that get me and them
through each day. My husband, great guy, and successful that he
is, never had to balance the demands of family and professional
life the way that I have.

He writes books while I write magazine length articles. And I
tell him that in part, the reason I stick to magazines is because
I can't think for more than 5,000 words without being
interrupted. I think many women are driven by such realities.

-- Robin

Sun Apr 3 19:03:14 1994
Return-Path: <>
Date: Sun, 3 Apr 94 20:58 EST
From: Robin Raskin <>
To: Daniel Akst <>
To: George Gilder <>
To: "Mary K. Flynn" <>
To: LA Times List <>
Subject: Re: Women in Computing Forum (fwd)

I wonder if your findings on gender differences with computer
programming will change now that programming has become more object
oriented and less procedural.

With new visual development environments, and the rules of object
oriented programming: encapsulation, polymorphism, and inheritance
coming into play, I wonder if women won't be better off. The things
you mention, like having a dialog with the machine, and testing to
see what works and what doesn't figure heavily into the object
oriented model. The ability to see the gestalt of the application
becomes very important too.

Of course, I just wrote a column I dedicated to Lenny Bruce, where
I lambasted the "fellas" who are developing some of the new
language of object oriented programming. Concepts like "exposing
your objects" , "naked objects", and "inserting objects into
containers", dominate the language of object oriented programming.
Freud would have had a picnic, huh? --Robin

Wed Apr 6 13:27:05 1994
Date: Mon, 4 Apr 1994 11:17:05 -0700 (PDT)
From: Daniel Akst <>
To: LA Times List <>
Subject: women in computing (fwd)

---------- Forwarded message ----------

Date: Mon, 4 Apr 1994 12:36:15 EST
From: David Kennedy <>
To: Subject: women in computing

from: Wendy Kaminer via David Kennedy

And they say feminists have no sense of humor. I wasn't "throwing
dirt" George, I was trying to provide some historical context for
this discussion. (How is that changing the subject?) Since you rely
so heavily on "science" it seems useful to examine some historic
scientific biases. I did not imply that you are a racist, though
believing that the sexes are naturally different in character and
intellectual ability does make you something of a biological
determinist. (I'm surprised that you consider the term
"determinist" an epithet.) Nor do I understand why you bother
denying your belief in male superiority; it's evident in the
assertion that men are more enterprising and more likely to be
involved in leading edge activities as well as more mathematical.
Of course you assign superior social skills and emotional
sensitivity to women; male supremacists usually do. Stressing
women's superior capacity for nurturance and their relative lack of
amibition and aggession is merely a way of stressing that they
belong at home. In any case, I find assertions about female
superiority as silly as assertions about male superiority. Women
aren't "born communicators" anymore than they're born to be stupid
at math, anymore than occupational segregation is natural. Consider
this bit of history, cited by labor historian Alice Kessler-Harris:
During World War l, when there was a shortage of male workers,
women were deemed ideally suited to low level bank jobs, because
they were presumed to be neat and in possession of good characters
and nimble fingers - qualities that might have made them born
blackjack dealers. How come it made them born secretaries? During
the Depression, when there was a surfeit of male workers, experts
discovered that women were ill-suited to banking work after all,
partly because they were lousy at math. White collar jobs, in
particular, can be easily categorized as either stereotypically
male or stereotypically female, depending on what job
qualifications you choose to emphasize, and how. Executive
positions might be considered naturally male, if they're said to
require a penchant for hierarchical authority structures and for
cool, analytic decisionmaking that puts the interests of the
company above the feelings of individual employees. Or, executive
positions might be considered naturally female if they're said to
require a penchant for cooperation and nurturance, or even nagging.
Computing might just as easily have been labelled naturally
feminine activity, since it requires typing skill. (Although it's
worth noting that women office workers are using computers not
merely for clerical work but for financial management, database
management, and desk top publishing. It is invariably the women who
know how to make these systems work; the men go to them for help.)
We might have pointed to men's fascination with computers as
evidence of the feminization of the male work force. (It is, after
all, hard to imagine Hemingway on a video safari.) We might have
focused on the phenomenon of men sitting at keyboards, getting
soft. Instead we've fixated on men exploring cyberspace. What if
we focus on virtual community? I've heard it said that [...] see
essays as collections of interchangeable parts - paragraphs that
can be thrown into the computer and spit out in any order.
Computers have contributed greatly to the increasing incoherency of
writing. (Note to Dan: I'm most interested in seeing how you edit
this forum. It won't be easy.) I know that I'm the one sounding
like a dinosaur now; at least I'm not sounding post-modern. But
that has nothing to do with my sex. The women writers I know took
to computers as quickly, and with as much consequent evangelism, as
men. If there is a gene involved in my own dislike of computers,
however, it may be my own particular version of the writing gene.
How interesting that, like the gene for math, science, and
computing, the writing gene was once considered male.

Wed Apr 6 13:27:56 1994
Date: Mon, 4 Apr 1994 11:21:52 -0700 (PDT)
From: Daniel Akst <>
To: LA Times List <>
Subject: Women and Computing (fwd)

---------- Forwarded message ----------

Date: Mon, 04 Apr 1994 12:50:54 -0500 (EST)
To: Subject: Women and Computing

Well, well, it's been a pretty lively discussion since I've been
gone! I'm fascinated by the extent to which the group seems so
involved in thinking about what's learned and what's innate.

One advantage to working on the educational/kid end rather than the
industry/grown-up end is that it is easier to see developmental
processes occurring. I am increasingly able to understand just why
it is that the "computer gene" approach is so attractive to so many
people, not just our friend George. It seems to fit so well with
the evidence! After all, it rarely happens -- perhaps just about
never happens -- that anyone forbids girls to use computers or have
access to computers. Parents don't tell girls that only their
brothers are allowed to use the family computer. Teachers don't
restrict computer courses to boys only. In fact, we all know that
parents and teachers often wish girls would be more involved in
computing than they are. The conclusion that the boy/girl
difference must be innate is so easy to reach, since nothing else
seems to account for it.

There are two major problems with this kind of thinking. The first
is the most obvious. Computer ability can't be innate when some men
are poor at computing and some women are superb at it. In fact, all
educational research on gender differences in achievement in math,
science and computing indicates that there are larger within-sex
differences than between-sex differences.

The second explanation is to my mind less obvious but far more
interesting. The reason we see different behavioral outcomes but do
not see the causes leading up to them (thus concluding the cause
MUST be genetic ...) is that the causes are there, all right, but
they are so subtle and cumulative that they are terribly hard to
identify. When a boy in a computer class makes a disparaging
comment to a girl about what she's doing, and what's worse the
teacher lets it pass unchallenged, a tiny influence has lodged in
her mind about her computing ability. One incident alone is
nothing, but many of them add up to a considerable force. The girl
who eventually decides in high school that computers aren't as
interesting as she thought they were when she was younger surely
doesn't understand the influences on the change in her thinking,
but this doesn't mean she wasn't influenced.

One charge frequently leveled against feminists is that we have no
sense of humor, that we take umbrage at trivial, picky nothings.
Well, I think that the trivial, picky nothings are probably
responsible for the vast majority of the sexism in the world. After
all, when the deck is stacked by a long series of subtle, tiny
influences, gross bigots and evil villains aren't needed to ensure
that the girl will reach the predictable result.


© 1994-2003 WOMAN