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How does biology explain the low numbers of women in computer science?  Hint: It doesn't.
My name is Terri. I'm a mathematician.
I'm also  female .
Nowadays, I work as a computer scientist. There aren't that many women in CS.
People like to say this is due to  biological differences in math ability between men and women.
Turns out, people really suck at math.
Let me explain.
People claim the biological differences go like this: Rawr! I eat calculus for lunch! Math is hard. Let's go shopping! Men Women Rawr! I eat calculus for lunch! Math is hard. Let's go shopping! Men Women
That's not how it works Rawr! I eat calculus for lunch! Math is hard. Let's go shopping! Men Women Rawr! I eat calculus for lunch! Math is hard. Let's go shopping! Men Women
Ability graphs look more like this: Most normal people fall somewhere near the middle Only a few geniuses Ability # of people
When they hear men have higher math scores than women, people guess math is like this: Ability # of people Men Women
Which  could  explain why computer science is around 75% male... Ability # of people Men Women Must be at least this tall to  write computer code
...except that it's a lie. Lies, damned lies, and statistics, eh?
First, CS doesn't require that much math ability. When I was an undergrad,  we drew the graph like this: Trees Computer Science Majors Slime Mould Moose Math majors
Heh.
But degree rivalry aside,  I've been teaching CS for 7 years. You only need moderate math skills to code. Ability # of people Level needed to code
So that'd be something like this... Old Graph: Very few women New Graph: Lots more women Ability # of people Men Women Must be at least this tall to  write computer code Dotted line is average for both genders
Except...  Remember how I said the graph is a lie?
Ability # of people Men Women
The population difference looks more like this: Ability # of people Men Women
Don't believe me?  Here's the graph from a paper on the subject. Hyde, J; Fennema, E; Lamon, S. “Gender differences in mathematics performance: A meta-analysis.” Psychological Bulletin. Vol 107(2), Mar 1990, 139-155.
So if we put that line back in... We should have nearly 50% women Ability # of people Men Women You must be approximately  this tall to write code
Therefore,  Biological differences do  not  account for the gender disparity in computer science. They can't.  They just aren't that significant. Not even close.
Also... You know who  really  sucks at math? People who think biology explains why there aren't more women in CS.
Now you know. Thanks for listening.
This presentation was created by Terri Oda And is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license:  If you want to use it in other ways, just ask: [email_address] Or email to let me know you liked it!

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How does biology explain the low numbers of women in computer science? Hint: it doesn't.

  • 1. How does biology explain the low numbers of women in computer science? Hint: It doesn't.
  • 2. My name is Terri. I'm a mathematician.
  • 3. I'm also female .
  • 4. Nowadays, I work as a computer scientist. There aren't that many women in CS.
  • 5. People like to say this is due to biological differences in math ability between men and women.
  • 6. Turns out, people really suck at math.
  • 8. People claim the biological differences go like this: Rawr! I eat calculus for lunch! Math is hard. Let's go shopping! Men Women Rawr! I eat calculus for lunch! Math is hard. Let's go shopping! Men Women
  • 9. That's not how it works Rawr! I eat calculus for lunch! Math is hard. Let's go shopping! Men Women Rawr! I eat calculus for lunch! Math is hard. Let's go shopping! Men Women
  • 10. Ability graphs look more like this: Most normal people fall somewhere near the middle Only a few geniuses Ability # of people
  • 11. When they hear men have higher math scores than women, people guess math is like this: Ability # of people Men Women
  • 12. Which could explain why computer science is around 75% male... Ability # of people Men Women Must be at least this tall to write computer code
  • 13. ...except that it's a lie. Lies, damned lies, and statistics, eh?
  • 14. First, CS doesn't require that much math ability. When I was an undergrad, we drew the graph like this: Trees Computer Science Majors Slime Mould Moose Math majors
  • 15. Heh.
  • 16. But degree rivalry aside, I've been teaching CS for 7 years. You only need moderate math skills to code. Ability # of people Level needed to code
  • 17. So that'd be something like this... Old Graph: Very few women New Graph: Lots more women Ability # of people Men Women Must be at least this tall to write computer code Dotted line is average for both genders
  • 18. Except... Remember how I said the graph is a lie?
  • 19. Ability # of people Men Women
  • 20. The population difference looks more like this: Ability # of people Men Women
  • 21. Don't believe me? Here's the graph from a paper on the subject. Hyde, J; Fennema, E; Lamon, S. “Gender differences in mathematics performance: A meta-analysis.” Psychological Bulletin. Vol 107(2), Mar 1990, 139-155.
  • 22. So if we put that line back in... We should have nearly 50% women Ability # of people Men Women You must be approximately this tall to write code
  • 23. Therefore, Biological differences do not account for the gender disparity in computer science. They can't. They just aren't that significant. Not even close.
  • 24. Also... You know who really sucks at math? People who think biology explains why there aren't more women in CS.
  • 25. Now you know. Thanks for listening.
  • 26. This presentation was created by Terri Oda And is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license: If you want to use it in other ways, just ask: [email_address] Or email to let me know you liked it!