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Silicon Valley likes to think of itself as a meritocracy, where they get the outsized rewards from venture capitalists and other angels of the market because they deserve those rewards.  They are chosen because they deserve to be chosen, because their specialness demands that they be chosen.

Except maybe not:

If someone was going to be really good at programming they would have found it on their own. Then if you go look at the bios of successful founders this is invariably the case, they were all hacking on computers at age 13. What that means is the problem is 10 years upstream of us. If we really wanted to fix this problem, what we would have to do is not encourage women to start startups now.

It's already too late. What we should be doing is somehow changing the middle school computer science curriculum or something like that. God knows what you would do to get 13 year old girls interested in computers. I would have to stop and think about that.

That is right, one of the people who chooses who gets a chance to win in Silicon Valley is son stupid as to claim that the only people who make good founders are people who have been programming since they were 13.  Oh, and of course that means no female founders are possible, because God knows that girls don't program at 13.

Graham, who runs the influential Y Combinator, is essentially saying that only people who fit narrow archetype are given the opportunity by venture capitalists to succeed in building a company. Poor and not exposed to programming until college?  Tough luck, kid, you should have chosen your parents better.  Minorities are disproportionately likely to be raised in poverty?  Sorry, kid, choose the melatonin level of your parents better next time.  Born with two XX chromosomes?  Sorry, it's just a well-known medicinal fact that chicks can't program.  Overcome that social norm after high school?  Sorry, honey, but you are the digital equivalent of spoiled milk.

This is not an isolated idiocy, either:

One study, conducted in 2010 by CB Insights, showed that only one per cent of venture-capital-backed founders were black; eighty-three per cent of founding teams were all white. From 2009 to 2011, per capita income rose by four per cent for white Silicon Valley residents and fell by eighteen per cent for black residents.

This is what discrimination looks like: the disadvantage of people based on unthinking, often unconscious prejudices that are very often not recognized as prejudices by the people spouting them.  Graham is why affirmative action is needed.  Without meaning too, without even realizing he is doing it, Graham is contributing to limiting the opportunities of people of color and women in one of the most important industries in the country.  Affirmative action helps prevent people like Graham from following their instincts into a world where significant portions of the population are locked out of opportunities.

Originally posted to angryea on Mon Dec 30, 2013 at 05:19 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

    •  True problem, possibly wrong scapegoat (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elfling, Nulwee, Alice in Florida

      Paul Graham comes across as fairly apoplectic about how a conversation he had with a journalist was edited into a interview, and he feels that his views were greatly misrepresented:

      This is not to diminish the very real concerns about diversity in Silicon Valley, just to point out that Paul Graham might be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

      •  I think if you read this commentary (6+ / 0-)

        there is much truth here. Most particularly, I agree with him that the best programmers are people who truly love solving problems with programming, rather than people who have a computer science major. There is some overlap but probably less than the average person realizes.

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Tue Dec 31, 2013 at 10:34:01 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Bah (15+ / 0-)

          Graham (and I have met several of his, ah, 'progeny', founders of companies that he helped start up) believes in the myth of the 'maverick programmer'. He believes that the people who work 16-hour days, 7 days a week, and found a successful company, are necessarily good programmers.

          They aren't. The ones whose code I have dealt with are almost uniformly BAD programmers. (Albeit very fast, and 'clever', for their own definition of that word.) Their code is unmaintainable, has horrible bugs, and is in general horribly inefficient. They almost always end up with 'scalability problems' much sooner than they ought to, because they don't think about scale when they're writing. (There are plenty of perfectly legitimate times to run into scalability problems, and times to say 'if we get big enough to worry about this scalability problem, we'll be big enough to fix it', but if you aren't willing to think at least six months or a couple of orders of magnitude ahead, where it isn't hard to do so, then... you might be a Y-Combinator founder!)

          They are the reason that it has become acceptable to continue calling a product that a multitude of people depend on for their livelihood 'BETA', and to do so for years. Because people expect software to work poorly, unlike everything else they buy.

          In short, they are brilliant at lashing crap together into something that does not, from a distance, resemble crap. And then going on to something else, and leaving the horrible mess for other, more poorly paid, people to clean up. And they to a man believe that this makes them 'truly great programmers', and most of them believe that nobody who works in any other way is any good at his job.

    •  don't give 'em that benefit of the doubt (0+ / 0-)

      programming (well, most math & science) is something girls start getting 'trained away from' in about 2nd grade -- it's HARD, and you're not CUTE when you're GOOD at it.


      It's lookadouche writ large. Has been for ... centuries.

      LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

      by BlackSheep1 on Thu Jan 02, 2014 at 10:40:43 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is Not As Idiotic As You May Think. (24+ / 0-)

    I'm not talking about the absolute racial or gender remarks, only the point about age. We have millennia of experience in all manner of pursuits backing this up.

    There was a segment on This American Life last year or so that pointed out there is a temporary growth spurt of neurological tissue beginning around age 11. For the teen years or most of them, as I understand it you've got more brain and nerve tissue than you will some 10 years later.

    This is the explanation for why so many physical and mental skills have a prime window during those years for learning. As the aging brain culls underused tissues, structure used in the skill in question is retained often for life. It's not my specialty so I'm sure I'm missing detail.

    If you master any of a wide variety of skills and subjects in this period, later in you declining skill years (30's for some athletics, 90's for some intellectual and musical pursuits) you can often outperform a 50 year old who learned the skill as little late as their early 20's.

    Now to clarify I'm not talking about rank and file skill, as I believe the author wasn't, I'm talking about a high professional level of skill and also high creativity.

    I've been an instrumental music teacher since the 70's, and dealing with students from pre teen, teens and adults of various ages. The early teens are an entirely different species for learning in my area, no matter how more earnest and better organized a young adult beginner might be, or how much more physically nimble a pre teen might be.

    The young teens can learn multitasking of multiple fingers and limbs moving at the same time and keep track of them often after just 2-3 tries. Then if I give them a 30 second break and ask about school, when they pick it up again they're actually better than they were when they were repeating their first attempts.

    Just 10 years later we typically have to break a skill set down into sub tasks and spend extra lessons integrating them, as the ability to learn rapidly when multitasking recedes. When I give the older student a break, usually the next try there'll be disasters like the same finger moving on both hands when one is supposed to stay put, and it will take them almost as many tries after the first break to get back to where they had been at the beginning of the break.

    Where the technique is intricate and rapid, a top level of skill often is never acquired. I could give up my dirty artisan shop and retire as a comfortable musical instrument teacher of middle aged adults if I could find a method that would help them learn what the teens learn. I searched and experimented more than 30 years before I heard the latest scientific explanation.

    There are other areas of music and other activities such as multiple language learning, that have prime windows at younger ages.

    Programming and complex system design may very well be one of those skill sets that can be learned deeper and broader in those prime early teen years than later. The fact that in the early years of the software industry, musicians were often favored as programmer trainees, definitely not a preference an engineer would've dreamt up but for empircal experience, adds some soft evidence to the idea.

    If we were talking instrumental music or gymnastics or a number of academic pursuits, there'd be no argument, and in order to get broader diversity into the activity everyone would agree we've got to bring females and minorities into it just as young as the privileged demographic population kids are laying their foundations. We'd all agree that the worst place to increase diversity is the symphony tryout.

    You're up against some formidable physiology in this. There's so much depth and breadth of experience about these learning-age windows that I have to presume he's right till there are studies showing him wrong.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Mon Dec 30, 2013 at 06:00:52 PM PST

    •  Yeah (5+ / 0-)

      I think there likely is truth to the idea that those who are more successful have likely been programming for longer. The 10,000 hours thing applies here even if it's not precisely that number. Just in general those who are more experienced have an advantage over those who are less so.

      The question is how to get a more diverse pool of younger people to get that experience. The person quoted was kind of dumb with the idea that you can't get girls interested in it, but I don't disagree that starting earlier and being intentional about expanding the pool to be more inclusive would help.

      •  We also have to consider access. (13+ / 0-)

        Doesn't matter if you are interested in computers and tech as a pre-teen if you have no access to these devices.  Sounds stupid, I know, but a lot of rural communities in America (as well as poor inner-city) don't have computer labs with free access at school, and the kids don't really get devices to tinker with at home.

        "I don't want a unicorn. I want a fucking pegasus. And I want it to carry a flaming sword." -mahakali overdrive

        by Silvia Nightshade on Tue Dec 31, 2013 at 05:36:24 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I recall a couple of decades ago... (7+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          elfling, Nulwee, kyril, ER Doc, marina, RudiB, Naniboujou

          ...reading that in East St. Louis, students were taking keyboarding classes on cardboard mock-ups in lieu of actual typewriters or keyboards.

          Not exactly "leveling the playing field." In fact, it was more like institutionalizing failure.

          Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. --Martin Luther King Jr.

          by Egalitare on Tue Dec 31, 2013 at 08:15:49 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  School lab isn't enough to become a hacker (6+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          elfling, Nulwee, kyril, ER Doc, RudiB, Naniboujou

          in the sense he means, at least not without getting kicked out of school.  You need to have your own computer to test new things and break and fix it many times.  You can't break the computers in a school and fix them to learn like you can with your own.

          I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.

          by Futuristic Dreamer on Tue Dec 31, 2013 at 08:57:44 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yep (4+ / 0-)

            And the laptop-lending programs won't cut it either. You need your own computer with full admin privileges at a minimum. Ideally, you should be free to install new operating systems, flash the BIOS, and generally break stuff, which means you really can't be using the one home computer that Mom and Dad depend on.

            It helps if you're also the home network admin (which obviously requires there to be more than one networked device).

            "Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines." - Sgt. Maj Michael Barrett on DADT repeal

            by kyril on Tue Dec 31, 2013 at 11:12:58 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  However, (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            marina, Naniboujou

            some schools sell old equipment for surplus. My son went to junior high school in a largely minority district, where the students had first dibs on old equipment. He used to spend his allowance at the component flea market under the bridge in Dallas, and cobble together fairly good computers from broken PCs. He then sold them on for about a tenth of the price of a new one. Fifteen years later he still works with hardware. Rich? No. Early adopters are a far different kettle of fish from entrepreneurs. Fred Fnord is describing the former, someone who gets into an industry early, scoops the laurels, and lets others (like my son) clean up the mess.

            "The 'Middle' is a crowded place - that is where the effective power is - the extreme right and left might annoy governments, but the middle terrifies them." Johnny Linehan

            by northsylvania on Wed Jan 01, 2014 at 03:12:26 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  Gooserock - great comment (13+ / 0-)

      On a related point the people who are funded by venture capitalist and angels are people with great ideas and the skills to manage a team to execute them. When a venture capitalist reads a business plan he or she has no idea about the race of the founders. I have read thousands of business plans and have meet with hundreds of startup teams. Very few startup teams that I have met included blacks or Latinos, but Asians are over represented in relation to their percentage of the total population. The other group that is highly over represented is immigrants. In addition, many of the Silicon Valley startup teams are from Stanford, Cal, and UCSF, where blacks and Latinos are also underrepresented.

      "let's talk about that"

      by VClib on Mon Dec 30, 2013 at 06:44:05 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  So we should make everybody learn programming ... (6+ / 0-)

      in middle or high school? That's not a bad idea. Having taught college students for many years, there are some students who don't know programming and cannot seem to pick it up worth beans, some college students who can learn to do it quite competently, and some students who come in knowing how to program and are way better than anybody else.

      •  I'm probably one of the few (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kyril, ER Doc, mmacdDE, Naniboujou

        of my generation who learned rudimentary programming in high school.  This was in the late 60s; and the "computer lab" such as it was was some Olivetti-Underwood suitcase-sized thing that could store the programming for solving the quadratic equation on a large, flat magnetic card.  It was cool (but I was a nerd.)

        Having had that exposure, however, likely contributed to my present computer literacy and technical career.  Knowing how to do it is less important IMO than knowing it can be done.

        You can't spell CRAZY without R-AZ.

        by rb608 on Tue Dec 31, 2013 at 12:01:19 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Chicago's been floating this idea (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ER Doc

        and it's not a bad one.

        "Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines." - Sgt. Maj Michael Barrett on DADT repeal

        by kyril on Tue Dec 31, 2013 at 11:13:26 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Fascinating.. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      martini, Nulwee, kyril, ER Doc

      Thanks for that comment.  It explains a lot that I have felt over the years but had no evidence for.

      I find it extremely difficult picking up new musical skills this late in life.  And, as a programmer, multi-tasking  has become somewhat more difficult as well.

    •  Agree 110% (7+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Vatexia, martini, Nulwee, kyril, ER Doc, mmacdDE, RudiB

      There is no question that Graham's remarks show an ignorance of how gender and race bias work in the real world.  But that's not the most important takeaway.

      The most important takeaway is that the vast majority of our challenges with tech and science - which are growing larger every year and of course include problems of gender and race bias - need to be addressed far earlier and outside of places like universities and tech institutes. This is for multiple reasons, most notably the brain attributes you cite.

      Want a progressive global warming novel, not a right wing rant? Go to and check out New World Orders

      by eparrot on Tue Dec 31, 2013 at 07:13:05 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  makes sense. the only thing i seem to be good at (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Nulwee, kyril, ER Doc, marina, RudiB, Naniboujou

      is train sets, tree forts and tracking mud in the house.

      and ringing doorbells before running away but the knees are starting to limit that.

      elipsii: helping the masses express aposiopesis for...

      by bnasley on Tue Dec 31, 2013 at 10:23:14 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  You realize what this implies? (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      atana, Cofcos, ER Doc, RudiB

      Our system of education - long school days and years at an early age - is actually counterproductive. We are making demands of our children that they are not yet equipped neurologically to meet. As a result we condition our children to abhor learning before they reach the time when they would blossom. They wind up learning all about Peyton Manning and Justin Bieber instead of - ugh! - science.
      Back in the 70's there was an experimental school (I forget the name, but someone will remember it - it was famous and lasted perhaps to this day) that essentially let the children learn what they wanted and when they wanted. It turned out that at about the time they reached the age you're thinking of, after years of nothing but playing, they became suddenly very curious, and wound up learning better than the traditionally schooled.

      •  It's even worse (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ER Doc, mmacdDE

        we drug the kids who can't sit still at the age when their neurological development requires physical activity. We claim they have a "mental illness" called "attention deficit disorder". Anything US Big Pharma wants to sell drugs for, US psychiatrists will rubber stamp as a "mental illness" -- after they have been paid handsome "consultant's fees" to do so. You thought only politicians were corrupt?

        •  We are never at an age when physical activity (0+ / 0-)

          is not essential. The cubicle farm as a work environment is just as destructive as the traditional schooling model is to learning.

          Did you ver notice how har it is totype accurately on an iPad?

          by RudiB on Wed Jan 01, 2014 at 06:06:24 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  The Open Living School now in Golden Colorado. (0+ / 0-)

        My eldest attended the school-in the 70's location of  Evergreen Colorado.

        At the time, there were kiddos in high school so turned on to learning (and the concept) that they did not want to graduate.

        It was an amazing experience & experiment.

        I first learned of it my senior year of high school-never imagining that I would someday be living in Colorado & having a child attend this school.

  •  As a Silicon Valley engineering manager (7+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    VClib, FG, OrganicChemist, Pi Li, hmi, martini, Nulwee

    I gave everyone the same test to see if they knew the material.  Mostly, applicants either worked every problem correctly or poorly.  Those that passed were primarily Asians educated in Asia.

  •  Perhaps if those in the Vally who donated to (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TooFolkGR, Nulwee

    the President instituted affirmative action, and those that didn't don't you'd have a valid study at no government expense.

  •  Affirmative action? How would you do that? (6+ / 0-)

    Ban Asians from coding? There is no direct government funding of startups so it's not like government can order VCs which teams to fund.

  •  So ARE women interested in programming? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hmi, wilderness voice, Nulwee

    They didn't appear to be when I was in college. And after 30 years in the business, I still haven't seen more than a handful of women most places I've worked.  Software can be exciting, but it can also be boring as all get-out, so I don't blame anyone who prefers to do something more fulfilling. If women as a group would rather not, that's their right and their choice...not "discrimination against XX chromosomes."

    •  A basic, but important, question... (5+ / 0-)

      You quote this as an indictment:

      One study, conducted in 2010 by CB Insights, showed that only one per cent of venture-capital-backed founders were black; eighty-three per cent of founding teams were all white.
      but don't ask or answer the critical questions:

      What percentage of VC APPLICANTS were black?
      What percentage of ALL VC proposals are funded?

      You point the finger at VCs but fail to acknowledge that they can only make funding choices among those who approach them. If women and minorities are underrepresented there, the question shifts from "why don't they get VC money" to "why aren't they getting to the point that they ask for VC money?"

      When we look at it from that perspective, the comments about "starting early" are spot-on for ALL applicants.

      Affirmative action in VC?  That's the most unrealistic thing I've heard in quite some time.

      The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

      by wesmorgan1 on Tue Dec 31, 2013 at 07:00:20 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I occasionally edit fiction (relevance coming) (0+ / 0-)

        and every once in a while I ask myself what gender/race/age the writer is. I am right more than 50% of the time - at something that I consciously refuse to practice at. (granted I only try on a whim and when the writing has a gender/racial/age component that comes through)
        But VCs are like employers - they have biases, conscious and not, and they are looking for what they think are worth supporting. An applicant who writes in the right jargon, and with the right slant (ebonics would be the obvious stereotype, but ESL asians also have distinctive grammar) would be more or less likely to appear worth favoring.
        The same cultural biases appear in education. Children are graded to not write ethnically - and that means people with an ethnic identity are discouraged, even by the well intentioned.

        •  In other words... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kyril, thestructureguy

're making assumptions without data.

          Let's stay grounded in reality, so that we can address the problem at the proper stage.

          It's one thing to say, "we need affirmative action to help minorities reach the point at which they can compete for VC funding on a level field," but quite another to say, "we need affirmative action in venture capital decisions."

          The former is a completely worthy goal, but the latter teeters on the edge between 'level playing field' and overkill.  What's next - calls for affirmative action in IPOs?

          (I also suggest reading the article linked in the diary in its entirety; it discusses several VC firms specifically focused on startups pitched by persons of color - including one funded by Mitch Kapor, a VERY big name in tech.  It would seem that the first steps in addressing the problem are already underway.)

          The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

          by wesmorgan1 on Tue Dec 31, 2013 at 09:46:40 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  well of course (0+ / 0-)

            even assuming I'm right about there being subtle biases, your solution is the way to go.
            I would only add that since the career of a venture capitalist is longer than an educational cohort that even if we achieved educational equality there would still be problems, at least for a time. I think we make a mistake when we assume that Capitalism - especially mature Capitalism - is strictly a numbers game. The bottom line is never the be all and end all, especially within a relatively stable economy. And by "stable" I mean for the power structure's power. By that definition America is still a very stable economy.

    •  an important point (0+ / 0-)

      I don't know that any study has done to make that distntinction.  Discrimination is a factor, but it may also be that the way women are wired biologically results in less interest in the hard sciences and engineering.

      •  Larry Summers, is that you? (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        atana, kyril, RudiB
      •  That's what I'd long heard. (0+ / 0-)

        And I'm not sure wesmorgan was really replying to me.

      •  This statement, with all due respect, (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        elfling, Hawksana, atana, kyril

        is an affront:

        but it may also be that the way women are wired biologically results in less interest in the hard sciences and engineering.
        The eradication of proven gender inequality in education must be a burning priority in people of good sense and goodwill.

        It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

        by karmsy on Tue Dec 31, 2013 at 10:01:43 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'd like to hear the opinion of women in the (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          karmsy, marina

          education field. TV and movies have shown us for decades that if a woman is a beautiful blonde, she can have a doctorate in astrophysics at age 23, but unless and until I hear from women education experts and leaders, I'll take that with a pillar of salt. Ditto a particularly obnoxious scene in "NCIS:L.A." wherein the woman wonk gets in an admiral's face, telling him, "I accurately predicted that Noriega would do such and so." Considering she'd have been a one-digit age at the time, no mean feat.

          I'd wager a lot of us would like the straight story on the "wired" argument--for and against. I do have a friend with a doctorate in EE (unemployed for a while, sorry to say), so she'll be my first POC....although her stories are all about "Men resent me because I'm pretty AND smart" rather than whether or not women gravitate to the sciences. I need to talk to her anyway....

        •  my apologies (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ER Doc, RudiB, Naniboujou

          It was an ill-considered comment.
          No question there is plenty of discrimination.

      •  I think instead (10+ / 0-)

        that women who are very good in science and engineering are also usually very good at writing and language arts and other skills, so they have a lot of choices.

        IME... there are plenty of women who love science. Truly love it as a discipline. Science, however, is not always all that friendly to women who want or have families (tenure track time is during prime reproductive years) and science can also be a career where you don't have a lot of control over where you can work - that is, the science you're doing may only be done in one or two cities. Woe to you if your partner can't also find a job in one of those cities, and/or if your partner's career has the same requirements in other cities.

        I think women tend to value security and continuity more than men do, and science in America is becoming very much a winner-take-all kind of field where a handful of people have lucrative, steady careers but a lot of highly trained and talented people are struggling on the margins with a string of more temporary positions.

        There are many talented people of both genders highly trained in science who have left the field for one reason or another, and it's not always easy to come back in if you've had a break in employment - whether it was to raise kids or to travel for a year in Africa.

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Tue Dec 31, 2013 at 10:43:47 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  My daughter is a chemist. (7+ / 0-)

          While doing her post-doc in a top ranked research group, a couple of the men with families indicated that they thought that she was not interested in motherhood, since she had not yet started having children. It had never occurred to them that she could not have children until she was no longer working with chemicals in the lab.

           Likewise, one of them told her that she would only get interviews because she was a woman, and later on when she had a large number of interviews, some at top ranked universities, that she only got them because her doctoral adviser was doing very well.  He ignored the fact that she was one of the first members of that research group, and had a much stronger record than he had. In the end, she got a tenure track position at a major university.  He did not get any offers in academia. I have three daughters in the stem fields.  They have definitely had to deal with gender bias.

      •  I doubt it's biological, (5+ / 0-)

        but a result of cultural prejudices that steer young women away from technology.  Despite a half century of the modern "women's lib" era, Pink dolls are still marketed to girls, and war toys and building sets are still marketed to boys.  It was only recently that Lego finally created a professional woman toy character, for example.

        You can't spell CRAZY without R-AZ.

        by rb608 on Tue Dec 31, 2013 at 12:08:09 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Bayer has produced an excellent study (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Naniboujou, rb608, worldlotus

          of this effect. If I recall correctly: more than half of PhD scientists and engineers queried reported that they had developed their interest in STEM before they were 11 years old via hands-on activities led by adults. This at least suggests that The "achievement gap" is really an "opportunity gap."

          Did you ver notice how har it is totype accurately on an iPad?

          by RudiB on Wed Jan 01, 2014 at 06:22:47 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Big problem with that explanation (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        is that women used to be a lot more prominent in IT than they are now. Biology hasn't changed over that period.

        Unfortunately when smart and educated people get crazy ideas they can come up with plausibly truthy arguments. -- Andrew F Cockburn

        by ebohlman on Wed Jan 01, 2014 at 08:34:48 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  I don't get it. . . (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      . . .my sister is a successful software engineer who has invented programs good enough to sell independently. I, on the other hand had college board scores, opposite to hers. It used to be that my scores were considered consistent with female achievement at the time (1969) with good verbal and less interesting math scores.
      My sister was and is, very interested in programing and I would consider suicide if I was forced to do it every day.

      Boring is in the eye of the beholder.  Since we are no doubt within the same I.Q. range, her interest and my strong distaste cannot be gender based.  The only difference that I can detect between us are that she is very introverted and I am not.

      The point is women can do what they are encouraged to do.  In my opinion there is bias at play.

      If we are going to elect Democrats, lets elect real ones!

      by waztec on Wed Jan 01, 2014 at 09:21:33 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  This observation is spot-on in medicine. (12+ / 0-)

    Just sayin.

    It was recognized back in the 1970s that medicine was overwhelmingly white and male, and that was accurately seen as a problem.

    The first whack at the problem involved affirmative action in the sense of encouraging women and minorities to apply to medical school, and making it a bit easier for them to gain admission. This proved immensely helpful to women (particularly to women from affluent families with access to excellent schools, naturally), and most med school classes are now at least 50% female. But our society's to-the-bone inequality in education and access to opportunity has proved a much tougher nut to crack for African Americans, Native Americans, and poor folks of any ethnicity. The drop-out/failure rate for minorities was astronomically high in the 1970s because many were very poorly prepared academically, and just couldn't handle the course work without a great deal of help, and often with such help.

    This led to all kinds of 'Potemkin village' weirdness. The medical school I attended was so desperate to look good, they imported extremely wealthy children of privilege from Caribbean nations who just happened to be black. The attrition rate among African American students at my school was astronomically high. Many of those who passed were very shaky academically, leading to an unfortunate but often accurate assumption that an African American resident was likely to be less skilled.

    It was recognized that our education had to intervene much earlier, say around 5th to 7th grade, to adequately prepare minority students to succeed in medical school. Needless to say, we have actually gone backwards since the 1970s in terms of educational equality. We are doing even less to provide disadvantaged students any access to the next rung on the socio-economic ladder.

    What has changed is the gradual development of an African American middle class. There are now a lot more well educated, academically well-prepared African American college graduates fully able to succeed in medical school.

    •  Completely agree. We need smth like affirmative (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Nulwee, ladybug53, atana, kyril, ER Doc, Naniboujou

      action but it needs to start early. Middle school or earlier. That way we will have more genuinely qualified minority applicants for a variety of high-paying jobs. Of course, it's easier said than done.

    •  I don't agree about going backwards in education (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Nulwee, ladybug53, kyril, ER Doc, marina

      IME... and keep in mind I'm seeing this from California, so YMMV - there's never been a better time, in aggregate, to be a black, hispanic, or female student in public schools.

      In my generation, one of my college classmates was repeatedly transferred from advanced math to woodshop because his last name ended in Z.

      If you're telling me that in the 60's or '70s or '80s that we were doing better for average poor and minority kids, I'm skeptical. Extremely skeptical.

      What we see in California, if you like test scores, is that all kids are scoring better than they did. What is not routinely reported is how much more rigorous the material is today. The elite track of my day is the ordinary track of today.

      What we also see is that wealthy kids are scoring much much better. IE: all kids are doing better. But the gap is increasing because wealthy families are doing more for their kids and those kids are scoring higher at an increasing rate.

      That said, there is much we need to do. All schools in our great nation should have high speed internet with sufficient bandwidth for their size. How is it that we haven't done this, not even for schools? All kids need access to computers, not just for explicit schoolwork, but for free experimentation and play. As in, here's a computer with photoshop, do what you want for the next few days, have a blast.

      There are many wonderful new tools and toys that kids can benefit from, and strong afterschool and summer school programs that are optional and free form are needed so that all kids can have a chance to take advantage of the areas that interest them.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Tue Dec 31, 2013 at 10:56:45 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It looks a lot worse where I stand. (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        elfling, Cofcos, kyril, ER Doc, marina

        In NY State we're seeing 'resegregation' with a vengeance. Most upstate cities of any size are doing steadily worse by most measures of student performance, have rapidly enlarging class sizes, declining teacher quality, and are increasingly 'minority majority'. Affluent suburban districts are doing much better, but they're generally very white.

        Rochester for example is now about 60% African American or Hispanic, but the city public schools have a much higher proportion of minority students than that. Most whites have fled to (far better funded) suburban school districts, or attend private schools. And the city graduation rates are simply abysmal; Rochester has a high school graduation rate for African American males of just 9%.

  •  Hm.. I Do Not Find His Comments Controversial (6+ / 0-)

    He's saying the disparity of women succeeding in programming doesn't start at the front door of a silicon valley startup, and it simply doesn't.

    I have quite a bit of experience in this space.  Women and girls face ridiculous hurdles... starting as early as elementary school... when it comes to getting the education needed to succeed in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) careers.

    There are numerous initiatives in both government and the private sector to combat this.

    I support affirmative action too, but I don't believe people with no training in flying an airplane should be made airline pilots.

  •  The inherent inequality in capitalism (8+ / 0-)

    The problem isn't silicon valley, it's the whole damn system. The people who are born with advantages keep those advantages. The poor get poorer and the rich get richer. This isn't going to change until we address the fundamental problems with capitalism it's self.  We need to address income inequality and the poor social safety net if we want to fix this.

    I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.

    by Futuristic Dreamer on Tue Dec 31, 2013 at 08:51:10 AM PST

    •  To create a startup (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ladybug53, ER Doc, mmacdDE, marina, Naniboujou

      One needs a very high risk tolerance.

      This means, one needs a personal safety net of some kind, or a sense that there is nothing to lose.

      If one is supporting an extended family with no family assets, it is a much harder and much less attractive proposition than if one is completely alone or if one has at least parents who own their home and a spare couch should the worst happen.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Tue Dec 31, 2013 at 11:00:12 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  One of the most seditious ideas afloat today (7+ / 0-)

    is that talent actually isn't rare. Rather, it's often stifled.

    Important, timely diary. Tipped and recommended.

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Tue Dec 31, 2013 at 09:50:19 AM PST

    •  I have met so many talented, bright (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      karmsy, kck, ladybug53, kyril, ER Doc, marina

      people in "unexpected" places that I firmly agree with this.

      Once upon a time, I hired a talented kid who had washed out of community college (couldn't afford the books) and was running a 1-hour photo machine. I sat him down with a copy of photoshop and put him to work doing some graphic work for a web project. From there we taught him to program and he turned out to be one of my favorite and most useful developers.

      It was pure luck that I knew him and that I was able to give him a job.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Tue Dec 31, 2013 at 11:10:10 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I was once standing in line to get LiveScanned... (8+ / 0-) a sheriff's station located at a community college and started chatting with the receptionist who I'd overheard say he was a programmer but couldn't find work. He was around 20, polite, soft-spoken, and charming, seemed like English was not his first language and Spanish was probably what he spoke at home. Turns out he'd quit during his 1'st year at the community college because he couldn't afford it and being a receptionist was the best job he could find. It didn't take long to find that indeed, he was not just bs'ing, he was a programmer to his core. I gave him my card thinking that if he called I would see what I could find for him. He called the next day. As a result, he's been firmly entrenched in an IT career for these last 10 years and I imagine he might be near or at a 6-figure salary now. He's making a good salary, secure, much appreciated, challenged, a very high achiever, get's his education paid for, get's continuously trained in new tech, and he's happy.

        Luck is part of it, his character and decision making were the main ingredients. But the country is so conditioned to antiquated ways we have no process by which every person's talent is identified and channeled. I'm convinced we lose more than we cultivate.

  •  Has the rise of social media helped at all? (0+ / 0-)

    Girls now are using computers and gadgets all the time.  Is that translating into any future interest in tech, or does their interest rarely stray beyond consumerism?

    We need more positive role models.  Wouldn't it be great to have more Sally Rides and fewer Kardashians and Mileys?  More programs too where kids can get hands on with cool stuff like robotics to help spark an interest.

    •  Using stuff is hardly the same (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I drive a car, but I can't fix or build them.

      Same thing.

      Often it's because they never see ANYBODY who does those jobs, male or female, and have no clue where to start or what to take even if they are interested in learning.

      And often the courses they can find are geared toward teaching use, not development. It's like the difference between learning how to use a cake mix and learning how to bake.

  •  An editorial suggestion for the diarist (0+ / 0-)

    I added "Paul Graham" to the tags. Currently, the only direct reference to him is in the form of "Graham," which left me saying to myself, "Who?" I'd introduce him sooner as the author of the first block quote. I'm pretty we'll read and I had no idea who he is, nor "Y Combinator."

    Thanks for writing on this important topic!

    Did you ver notice how har it is totype accurately on an iPad?

    by RudiB on Wed Jan 01, 2014 at 05:51:21 AM PST

  •  I learned to program at age 30 (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Naniboujou, ebohlman, worldlotus

    Nobody was hiring pilots in 1992 and I found unemployment to be a powerful motivator.

    I found that my ability to actually talk to the business people was a great asset over many of the hard-core techies who could only talk to other techies.

    If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

    by Major Kong on Wed Jan 01, 2014 at 07:40:54 AM PST

    •  Bingo (0+ / 0-)

      Get a hold of Gerald Weinberg's classic The Psychology of Computer Programming. One of his key theses is that programming has to be considered as a social activity as well as an individual one.

      Incidentally, he discusses the relative paucity of women in programming (and back when he wrote it in the 70s, the disparity was less than it is now) and concludes that it's entirely a matter of attitudes rather than abilities.

      Unfortunately when smart and educated people get crazy ideas they can come up with plausibly truthy arguments. -- Andrew F Cockburn

      by ebohlman on Wed Jan 01, 2014 at 08:45:24 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I don't think you can put this entirely on society (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ebohlman, worldlotus

    at large.  Much of it comes from parental and teacher support.

    When I was growing up, I was astounded by this thing called a teletype that our school somehow had acquired. As a student aid to the science teacher, I'd have access to this thing and played "Zork" and other text games which were astounding (World of Warcraft?).

    So unbidden, I saved up my allowance and extra money to buy a thing called a computer. TSR with chicklet keyboard. My dad was rather furious that I spent $600 on such useless thing. Despite that, I taught myself basic language in between farm chores. One day, I devised a way to launch model rockets using my computer. I had a countdown program that could be halted for wind conditions or other problems.  Of course I didn't bother showing my family...they wouldn't care. But I did show my science teacher whom I otherwise admired greatly. He said: "that seems a bit unnecessary, doesn't it?"

    Well, that was pretty much the last time I did anything with computers. Students of all race and gender should be encouraged by parents and teachers both.  It starts with parents getting their children interested in science instead of sports or pink Barbie dresses.

    "Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities" Voltaire.

    by JWK on Wed Jan 01, 2014 at 01:45:33 PM PST

    •  How are parental and teacher support not (0+ / 0-)

      aspects of "society at large".

      Unfortunately when smart and educated people get crazy ideas they can come up with plausibly truthy arguments. -- Andrew F Cockburn

      by ebohlman on Wed Jan 01, 2014 at 08:47:05 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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