How the Issue Arose
 -Is It a Problem?
 -The Role of Gender Bias
 -The Pipeline Effect

Is There Gender Bias?

Why is the Pipeline Shrinking?
 -Academia vs. Industry
 -Lack of Self-Confidence
 -Parental Support
 -Personal Life, Family and Academia
 -Social Awkwardness
 -Subtle Bias
 -Support Networks

Conclusion &Recommendations

 -Female Faculty
 -Female PhDs
 -Female Masters
 -Females Who Switched Out
 -Male faculty
 -Male PhDs
 -Male Masters
 -Males Who Switched Out


Females PhDs

Note: This interviewee initially found our questions gender-biased and responded thusly.

Sorry, I just got really turned off because I really sensed a bad vibe about outright blaming the department and others for the shortage of women in science, without any balanced, non-prejudicial scientific inquiry. I think they are many many factors other than bias. Unlike you I have never been subject to (or even noticed) any sort of discrimination, so of course I find these arguments less than savory.

So there is bias, other women have told me about it, but since I've never experienced it myself I find it hard to swallow. I wonder how much of it is historic, before all the attention has been brought to being PC. And how much of it is from women who are overly sensitive, and not willing to be as flexible and open-minded as they would require people to be of them. Anyway I think the best way to get rid of any bias is to ignore it (unless it is very bad) and focus on working together, rather than setting women apart as some special group and doing special things for them. That aggravates the problem and only provides a temporary solution. The prime example of this is what happened at MIT with the female professors complaining of being treated unfairly. Regardless of the truth of their claims, MIT should not have fixed the problem by just throwing money and more laboratory space at them. That's a terrible terrible solution. All it does is engender even more resentment towards women, and reinforces the notion that people can hijack institutions into getting stuff by playing the race/gender/etc. card. It doesn't even really solve the problem.

But anyway, factors that I think do make a difference include fundamental biological/genetic/social differences, and the fact that women are still the primary caregivers when it comes to having children.

I went to this women's conference in Boston in 1997 (I forget the name), and there was an enlightening seminar on fundamental differences between men and women, that begin as early as age 5. For example, men, when speaking, tend to prefer to address each other side by side, while women prefer looking at the other person straight on. Guys will form bonds of friendship by ragging on each other and playing practical jokes, which can make girls think they are despised rather than liked. It is little quirky differences like this that can cause undue stress in the workplace, which has nothing to do with bias or harassment (well the jokes can unfortunately be construed as harassment, but it really is a form of bonding). I think differences like this should be studied and made more public, so that men and women can understand and appreciate their different ways of interacting, so that they don't get into fights instead over these miscommunications.

So childbearing is another issue. As women we are blessed with the choice of a career and kids. Guys don't even really get the option of choosing. But this blessing is interpreted as a curse, because yes, now we have to choose. So women are faced with three possibilities (or of course only having kids or only having a career):

1. have kids then career 2. have career then kids 3. have both simultaneously.

(3) I think is what a lot of moms do, but I also think it is the most stressful. You have to constantly balance your job and your family. I am a little scared to go along this path because I worry that if I do both, I will do both tasks half-assed and that is unacceptable to me and my standards. I plan to have kids and raise them myself, I think it will be not only fun and better for everyone, but just as challenging and intellectually stimulating as research. I really look forward to reading to my kids and taking them to museums, just as much as I have taking my Crypto class and writing papers. Plus I am hoping that I will be able to do a limited amount of research on the side -- as one of my lady colleagues told me, "You can prove your theorems anywhere, like when waiting for your kids to get out of ballet class."

So I guess already alas!, I am watering down my aspirations because instead of cruising full speed ahead for some kind of hard core professorship, I might work for a while, then raise kids and maybe do something on the side, and then return to academia/industry, where I probably won't do as well as if I had been working the whole time. (I am hoping this won't be the case.) But hey, and this is what people do not understand, I am making this decision because I WANT to do stuff with my kids, not because anyone is forcing me to. A guy could do the same exact thing, relax his career aspirations to be a full-time dad. Or I could send my kids off to a nanny, and continue working. So there's no gender bias here, unless you want to count the fact that full-time dads aren't as common in society, and women are expected to be stay-at-home moms. But if you're going to let society influence you like that, rather than doing what you believe to be right, then you're spineless and its your own damn fault.

But you know what, even if there is bias, unless it is ridiculous people need to learn to deal with it. Life isn't perfect, and no one is going to get the same treatment. A pretty girl is going to be noticed more than an ugly man. That's just life. People are imperfect and will make prejudicial judgements -- after you took CS323 you should know that of necessity you will need to make some default assumptions, if you are going to reason about anything. But the thing about people is that while they are prejudicial, most are also very happy to change their behavior if it is hurtful, and will quickly disregard any conflicting prejudices after they get to know you.

But anyway, I could ramble on and on but I should get back to work. Sorry, most of these thoughts are rather incoherent, just things I've noticed and counter-arguments that seem to have been omitted in these discussions. Feel free to write me back because I am not sure I made these arguments clearly enough.


 1. Do you have a spouse/kids?


2. What is the occupational and/or education background of your

PhD both, in math. Both work for the American Mathematical society. And if you think that’s bad, both my grandparents on my dad’s side are also math phd’s, and my brother did math/biology.

3. Were your parents supportive of your CS pursuit?


4. What is your perceived % of women faculty in the Stanford Computer
Science Department?

20%. Maybe less. Actually that’s probably a little high.

5. What is your perceived % of women graduate students, masters and
PhDs, in the Stanford Computer Science Department?

Well, for PhD’s there were 34 in the entering class last year. And there were at least 6 women, maybe more. I don’t know about Masters.

6. What is your perceived % of women in the computer science industry
(technical positions)?

No idea.

7. What motivated you to pursue CS?

It’s interesting. It’s kind of like math, but not really.

8. What challenges/struggles have you faced in your pursuit of
computer science? We want specific instances.

I don’t think I have. There were others, not necessarily guys, who were more prepared, they had commodore 64s and wrote programs for their macs, and I didn’t do that. There’s always someone better than you, and that’s fine.

[I mentioned what a previous interviewee had said, that she was far less inclined to know about hardware than her male colleagues]

I’m theoretically inclined and not into hardware, but that’s just what I like.

9. Through the whole process, do you perceive graduate school to be
easier for males or females? Socially, does it bother you to be one of a few women?

It doesn’t bother me at all.

10. Why do you think there are more males than females among the
Stanford Computer Science faculty? Or, what do you think keep women out?

Well, there’s a low percentage as undergrads and graduate students.

[I mentioned that the percentage goes down]

Yeah, but if you think about the math: say you have 40 men and 2 women. If one man drops out, it’s no big deal. But if one woman drops then the percentage drops a lot. If there are few women to start with, the numbers are even more against them as time goes on.

12. Why do you think there are more males than females among the
Stanford Computer Science graduate students? Or, what do you think keep
women out?

If you figure it out, tell me.

11 & 13. How do you feel about shortage of women in the CS graduate
program? And among faculty?

It doesn’t bother me personally. I know it bothers a lot of people. There’s programs at other universities where there’s women’s mentor programs, and I think it’s good to have for someone who needs it.

14. Why would you pick academia over Industry or vice versa? Which will you pick when you’re done with the PhD, and why did you go into a PhD program instead of straight into industry?

I probably won’t do academia. I don’t have enough motivation to think of my own problems and then solve them. I don’t know if I’ll enjoy that.

But I need to learn more than I did as an undergrad. I want to do industrial research, and to make progress I need an advanced degree.

15. Why do think women would choose academia over Industry or vice
versa? Different reasons than men?

I don’t think there should be. For me there aren’t, but there might be for other people.

15. Do you perceive discrimination against women faculty in funding

I have no idea, I’m a grad student. Ask a professor about that.

17. Do you think professors are inclined to seek out female graduate
students for research?

It varies by professor. I don’t know about Stanford. At Brown professors tried to attract female TA’s, sometimes too aggressively, sacrificing quality.

18. For grad students, would you prefer to have male/female advisor?

It doesn’t matter at all.

(Note: On the way back we were talking about video games. When her family got their first computer, they weren’t allowed to play shooting or racing games because it would destroy the keyboard (from punching the keys too hard), and replacement parts are hard to come by in Russia. So they played role-playing video games… which I think are pretty gender-neutral. When they were able to switch to speed games (arkenoid?) it was still a family event, when they spent six months trying to beat each others’ high scores.)