the lady doth protest too much: a response

My mom sent me a snippet of this article, which was quoted in the WSJ last week. She was all, "I don't agree, but I thought you might want to see this..."  Right she got my blood boiling.
The “women in tech” experiment has been a disaster. [...] It all comes down to one, dirty little secret. Whisper it. The tech industry is not sexist.
Tech isn't sexist?  Most individuals I've met in tech aren't sexist, but some are, just like in any industry. It's harder to see when you're not the recipient of the bias, but it certainly exists.  Additionally, I have my own sexist moments, so how could others who have not thought as long and hard about women in tech not have sexists moments?

Okay, so assume tech doesn't have any more sexist individuals than any other industry.  There is still an huge issue that Yiannopoulos doesn't even consider: that the culture is sexist.

That's right.  A culture that encourages starting work at 10am, taking long lunch breaks, and playing pinball mid-day means that you basically spend all day at the office.  Why is that sexist?  Because there's pressure from (some of) the rest of society for women to have kids, clean house, and be home to make dinner.  I'm not saying women should feel pressure to do those things, and so our general society's culture can be fixed too.  But it should be a lot easier to change the beneficent tech industry to be more flexible rather than the other way around.

For each of the four industry jobs I've had, my daily start and end times have been earlier than the average employee.  I was usually one of the few who cooked their own dinner, let alone packed the occasional lunch.  The stereotypical mother and wife norms clash with the norms of tech employees.  A lot of women want jobs where they can do homework with their kids, go out to a bar to meet someone after work, or hang out with friends not related to work.

So when our Mr. Yiannopoulos might actually be right when he says things like the following.
Of course, the number of women in tech will never be the same as the number of men, because most women simply don’t want to do these sorts of jobs.
He might be right not because women aren't good at tech, but because the culture is insular and demanding, and many women (via nurture or nature) want to do stuff outside of work.  But, even if he is right, I want him to prove it, because it's ludicrous for anyone to pull a statement like that out of nowhere.  I'm doing my best not to degrade into a fit of profanity.

There are a lot of reasons for fewer women in tech, and the answer to many of them is to break the stereotypes that perpetuate the issues, which isn't just about fixing the numbers in schools and watching it propagate, as Yiannopoulos naïvely suggests. Women need role models and other women at the top to both show that it can be done and to help make the policies so that it can be done with greater ease.

The article isn't all bad; in fact the most interesting point is that underrepresented racial minorities and socio-economic groups deserve more air time, which is very true.  That doesn't mean that women deserve less, though.  If anything, women are even more underrepresented in those groups.  By evening out the playing field for all women, it also helps other minority groups, not to mention roughly half of the population.

In addition, the minorities that are most underrepresented, in my opinion, share many stereotypes in common with those for women: being family-focused is an easy example. By making the tech industry more appealing for one category of minority, we're widening the door for everyone.


trains are the best

I am writing this from a very comfortable seat on an Amtrak train headed for a weekend trip.  Now, I don't do sponsored posts, but if I did, I don't know if any of them could compare to how gushy I'm going to be about trains.  Amtrak, you should really be paying me.

Anyway.  Trains are my absolute favorite mode of long-distance transportation.  (Biking and walking are my short-distance modes of choice.)  Airplanes are really convenient for some things, like crossing continents or oceans, but for trips that might take half a day by car, trains are the best.  Perhaps you ask: Why?  Buses and driving are usually cheaper.  Planes are faster.  But!  The thing people usually don't take into consideration while traveling is stress.

There was only one line I stood in for three minutes to board the main train, I have an open seat next to me, and there were no security hoops.  I don't have to deal with traffic.  Everything is as scheduled.

This morning, I walked out my door, waltzed onto a train (figuratively), had two completely painless transfers, and several hours of reading, working, playing Minecraft, writing email, and blogging later, I'll arrive at my destination.  It's quite nearly as comfortable and productive as sitting on my couch, and so the day of travel has really cost me under an hour in terms of time.

You can see the countryside in ways that driving doesn't allow.  And while the price of Amtrak isn't the lowest relative to buses or driving, if you play things right with AAA, booking early, and Amtrak rewards, it's quite reasonable.  I'm willing to pay a little extra not to lose a day driving or cramped on a bus. And I'd really rather not be subject to the whims of traffic.

Also, trains are just awesome.  What other mode of transport is so cool that there are miniature replicas of it made for adults?  Sure, there might be the occasional car miniature, but trains win hands down.  Because they really are that amazing.

I love trains for commuting and for longer weekend trips.  I love them abroad and domestically.  I love them here or there.  I love trains anywhere!

The fine print: I love everything right now; being done with generals is making me a touch high on life.


the new MCMC

MCMC typical stands for Markov chain Monte Carlo, a standard class of algorithms in the world of machine learning.  Well, now that I'm done with generals, I'm redefining MCMC to stand for Minecraft and Mac'n'Cheese.  I look forward to rebalancing myself, but for now I'm spending a night on the sloth end of the spectrum to make up for the roughly nine months of uncharacteristic pertinacity. I swear, if my life were a movie, the vast majority of this year so far would have been a look-at-me-working montage.

(I won't actually know the results officially for a bit yet, but I feel pretty good.)


Answering the Temple Recommend Interview Questions, Part 1

Originally posted at Zelophehad’s Daughters.

The LDS temple interview is an interesting process to me. We’re expected to give relatively short answers to fifteen questions, but I feel like some of them require more elaborate answers. For the sake of the interviewers, I spare them the ten-hour monologue that would be required to give them the full picture of my faith. While I’ve thought through each of the fifteen questions, I’ve wanted to record a written answer to each of them. This is the first post in a series in which I will answer each with varying degrees of verbosity.

Question 1: Do you have faith in and a testimony of God the Eternal Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost?

I have faith in God; my most honest prayers are Teyve-style. I do not know if God is male, female, both, or neither, but I’ve prayed to each one. Because of my upbringing, praying to a male or joint-gender god (Heavenly Mother and Father) is most comfortable for me. More fundamentally, I do not know that God exists, but I have had experiences that feel like they come from a divine source. I have prayed particularly about the existence and nature of deity, and received ambiguous (but comforting) experiences that allow my otherwise hyper-rational self to have faith in God, without firm knowledge of his/her/its existence or nature. I don’t know if God is embodied, but I find that perfectly reasonable, given that I hope for an embodied afterlife. I am comfortable talking about my faith in God and its complexities (as made obvious by this post), and consider that to qualify as a testimony.

My faith in Jesus Christ is inherently tied to my understanding of the Atonement, so I’ll leave most of my discussion of that for the next post. I believe that Jesus lived as a real person, and taught the principles, if not the same parables, that are recorded in the gospels. I believe that it’s possible that he is the son of God as we are all children of God, but that he played the role of Savior, advocating on our behalves and acting in some sort of pre- and post-mortal leadership role. While my faith in God is stronger than my faith in a divine Jesus Christ (the former is intrinsically more general), I would be comfortable explaining the gospel of Christ and testifying of the role it has played in my life.

While the Holy Ghost is arguably the member of the Godhead with whom we are in most direct contact, I feel that I know the least about him/her/it. The Holy Ghost could have some connection to Heavenly Mother, but my hunch is that she is too important to play spiritual courier and instead conveys her love and messages to us through the Holy Ghost, as does Heavenly Father. I’ve never prayed about the Holy Ghost–I think of it more as a medium for spiritual communication than something I need to ask God about. It’s a little like calling your folks up and asking, “Can you tell me that this phone is working?” after you’ve asked “Are you there?” Thus, my faith in and testimony of the Holy Ghost is very much wrapped up in my faith in God, as I think it’s supposed to be.

For doctrine relating to the Godhead or anything else, I strongly prefer to keep any of my now rare proclamations of spiritual witness or testimony (of this or any doctrine) to audiences eager to hear such affirmations. On the other hand, I am much more comfortable talking about my pragmatic involvement in the LDS church.

In the end, my simple answer to this question is “Yes,” sparing the poor interviewers my long-windedness every two years–they probably would rather be home with their kids.


white male boards and white male commenters

Just read this article on the breakdown of the boards of directors in tech. The article is great, but some of the comments are really distressing.
Not having women on the board is an issue of innovation? Since when did women innovate? People need to get used to hearing non-PC but completely accurate assessments. Companies don't perform based on 'wishful thinking'.
Wow.  Since when do women innovate?  Uh...since men started innovating?  Perhaps they don't have as long of a history in industry, but that doesn't mean they don't innovate.  The problems are that 1) far fewer women have the training necessary and 2) being on a board requires being pushy enough to move up the chain, which most women aren't comfortable doing, either because it's not culturally acceptable or because they care more about their personal lives.  And we shouldn't get used to non-PC statements of this variety because these are all cultural issues that have solutions. Addressing them starts with identifying a problem. Well, problem identified.  (Hint: part of it's you, bucko.)

Another doozy:
Let's hire based on race and gender instead of qualifications because people who can't get hired on qualification are moaning! Great idea for those who are moaning but horrible idea for people actually running the business.
Nobody said we should hire more women that aren't qualified.  Nor are we saying the the problem needs to be fixed RIGHT NOW.  It's a matter of understanding the causes and then addressing the cultural factors that impact this imbalance.  Until we do address the underlying issue, it's important to take just a little time to consider candidates outside the usual mold, but still qualified.  They exist, but it's harder to find them, so it takes effort.

The reason why this is important?  Because you care about equal opportunity, not for those that are qualified, but for future generations.  People need role models, and if there are no women on your board, what does that say to your female employees?  What does that say about your company to women students?  It says: don't bother trying to climb the ranks because you won't get there.  We need to say please try, so that we have a better candidate pool.

We have the opportunity to craft our society for the future.  We can either say: well, that's the way its; suck it up.  Or we can say: that's not the way I'd like it to be; here's how we can change it.  Saying that this is just the way to world works is equivalent to stating that women and other minorities deserve these inequalities, not for cultural reasons, but because of their inherent lack of ability.  Or that you're okay with the inequalities (often because they benefit you).

Next steps to fix these issues: trying a little harder to find qualified minority higher-ups, creating or improving family friendly initiatives for both genders, and developing mentorship programs for students and lower ranked employees to increase retention.  We know these things already, it's just about taking the time to help them play out in order to reap the rewards.

P.S. I like white male people!  My husband is and most of my wonderful mentors are/have been white males. You are instrumental in making these changes happen, so thank you!  


in the loop

In the past two hours or so, I've gotten 2 texts, 3 automated calls, 2 emails with voicemails attached and 6 emails in text form (3 to my personal address and 3 to my university email) all about the gunshots heard on campus.  That doesn't count the call I got from my mom when it made national radio news, and it also doesn't count N's phone going off almost simultaneously with mine.

All's clear, and I'm not sure if there was any threat to begin with, but BOY do they take things seriously 'round these parts.  I mean, gunshots are pretty serious, but they've got the notification system down for sure.  Whew.  No worries about being out of the loop here.

And now, just because I'm in the mood for it:

two clicks becomes three

Google Chrome recently updated.  Some of the changes are fine, but I don't like that they've hidden the "recently closed" tabs up in the menubar, which is a feature I use all the time.  The new tab launch page is now prettier, but it takes me three clicks (or actions, really since the second can be a hover), when it used to be two.  Also, the new actions require more mouse dexterity because the targets are now smaller. Screenshots of old and new below.  And yes, I still haven't removed the Google Reader bookmark.




unintentional haiku

This past week I got a text from N that read in typical cryptic textese: "Leaves falling and it feels like summer. Weird."  (For those of you that don't know, yes, we finally reenabled texting after a few years of having it disabled.  Do I regret it?  A little, but not because of texts like this.) Anyway, N isn't a particularly poetic bloke, but I read the text as haiku-ish:

leaves falling
feels like summer

And then, of course teased him about it repeatedly.  What he meant was that the autumn leaves are changing colors and falling, but that it's been consistently warm. And that's really strange. Yesterday when we got it the car it was hot, as in about 85 degrees outside, let alone inside the car.  Temperature-wise, this past week could have been in July.  I wonder if the government controls the weather...


the parable of the peanuts

It was an all around unprofitable year in the garden, but mostly due to my taking a huge plot and then working a full day in the city, commuting for 3 hours, and then prepping for generals in the evenings and on weekends.  (That last part is still happening...)

Anyway, I experimented with peanuts this year, and I learned that they need to be babied a bit more than I had time for; as a result, they produced fewer peanuts than I planted.  Thus, the parable of the peanuts:

For the garden is as a woman travelling into a far city, who called together her vegetables, and delivered unto them her seeds.

And unto Peas she gave a two hundred seeds, to Zucchini fifty, and Peanuts twenty and five; to every vegetable according to his several ability; and straightway took her journey.

Then he that had received the two hundred seeds went and made them other four hundred.

And likewise he that had received fifty, he also gained other hundred.

But he that had received twenty and five went and digged in the earth, and hid his lady's seeds.

After a long time the lord of those vegetables cometh, and reckoneth with them.

And so he that had received two hundred seeds came and brought other four hundred seeds, saying, Lady, thou deliveredst unto me two hundred seeds: behold, I have gained beside them four hundred seeds more.

His lady said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lady.

He also that had received fifty talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me fifty seeds: behold, I have gained hundred other seeds beside them.

His lady said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lady.

Then he which had received the twenty and five came and said, Lady, I knew thee that thou art an a busy woman, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:

And I was afraid, and went and hid thy seeds in the earth, where squirrels did findest them and did eat many: lo, there thou hast that is thine, the remaining ten seeds.

His lady answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:

Thou oughtest therefore to have put my seeds to good growth, and then at my coming I should have received at least mine own.

Take therefore the seed from him, and give it unto him which hath four hundred seeds.

And cast ye the unprofitable vegetable into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.