Although it was determined that no outright discrimination was being waged upon women in Computer Science keeping them out of faculty positions, our interviews and studies did show that women are often in a slightly different manner that may not clearly seem discriminatory but nonetheless can have damaging effects. This difference in treatment, which we will call subtle bias, can occur subconsciously and often go unrecognized by both the females recipients and the male perpetrators.
Subtle Bias can come in many forms. Many of the more apparent forms, such as the lack of role models and social awkwardness in male dominated environment, have obvious damaging effects, even though it is difficult to pinpoint any damaging intent. However, other forms are even more ambiguous.
One area of interest is the idea of there being different expectations for men and women. In an interview with one female masters student, she agreed that this occurred, and sometimes was completely obvious. Id be in a class where, if a man would ask a question or need help or have some kind of problem, the professor would rip into him and basically make him look stupid. But then if I needed help, the prof would be totally supportive and help me out. I knew I was getting special treatment, but I loved it
certainly better than being excluded. Over time, though, this type of treatment could be damaging.
In a study of this type of subtle bias, Sandler writes, ``Singly, these behaviors probably have little effect. But when they occur again and again, they give a powerful message to women: they are not as worthwhile as men nor are they expected to participate fully in class, in college, or in life at large. Likewise, professors may give difficult assignments or research opportunities to men instead of women, pushing them to grow and giving them an opportunity to advance in their field, which they would not give to a woman because they would not want to challenge her too much. While this the cause of this is often blamed on professors having lowered expectations of women, our interviewees felt that more often it was professors ways of trying to give women an easier time, not due to any derogatory views, but simply because they did not want to drive women away.
Another interesting form of subtle bias is the notion that women have fewer barriers to exit. As one professor stated, When a woman wants to switch to classics, no one really tries to stop her. But if a man said the same thing, his advisors and peers are much more likely to ask him why and get him to think twice about it.
Most of my friends were like, youve finally made a sane choice when I decided to drop CS [and switch to Political Science], said one female undergraduate who originally hoped to major in Computer Science, but gave it all up after programming Boggle in CS106B. It was killing me. I loved 106A, but after that it became impossible and wasnt fun anymore. I had to ask for help every five minutes. The people at the Lair must have hated me and rejoiced when I was gone In regards to how she currently feels, she wavers. Sometimes it bothers me to know that Im not good enough for CS. But I deal. Most of my friends are also in Poli Sci and IR anyway, so Im enjoying school more. And Im not too worried
Im still getting a Stanford degree. I just dont know what Im going to do with it.
As a sharp contrast to this, a male undergraduate who just recently decided to switch from Computer Science to Symbolic Systems told a completely different story. My friends and I were all majoring in CS together, but I hated debugging. It just wasnt rewarding to spend several hours trying to get one stupid thing to work. I couldnt see myself doing this for the rest of my life
my friends gave me a pretty hard time about it. Sometimes it was half-joking, like theyd call me a Sym Sissy or something, and just generally spoke of Sym Sys majors as people who couldnt cut it in CS. But I really do enjoy it a lot more. I wanted a broader education
and Sym Sys majors make more money anyway, so whats there to lose?
These differences in barriers to exit are a particularly difficult form of bias to understand since they stem from people thinking less of women, but are not executed in a derogatory manner. It is difficult to form a simple solution to these forms of bias, since increasing the pressure on women by challenging them may potentially drive them away from Computer Science just as much as offering them extra leeway. Nonetheless, extra encouragement of women to continue pursuing Computer Science is necessary, which will be possible once more women professors are there to provide a larger support network.