Friday 16 November 2007

How to get girls into programming

The Sun tools team have blogged about the perils of abstraction. They say something like "we need to stop thinking abstract everything".

I don't know where they got this from - not all programmers try to abstract everything. Some programmers hate abstraction, and love the detail, and no, they are not unintelligent. In fact, some of these guys and girls can be brilliant programmers, creating much more user friendly applications that users love.

As every psychologist will know, humans' brains are not wired the same way. We have strong preferences for ways of thinking, and the same information is not handled the same way in different brains. If you could have two identical people with different brain wirings but the same knowledge, and you put them into exactly the same situation, they would extract different knowledge from that situation.

The masterminds behind software architecture often favor abstract thinking over details. They are good at spotting abstract information, creating abstract knowledge from experiences etc., but they usually don't put much value into minor details, like "it looks ugly" or "that's not what the customer said". If you put 5 abstract-thinking people together in a team, you will get a result that is abstract and possibly horrible.

If you want a well designed product, architecture, specs etc., you need to involve people with different brain skills. Psychologists say, that our sexes have different brain skills (T/F) that relate to exactly this problem.

I believe the biggest problem in IT is the lack of product quality, and not the lack of girls. But I do believe that these two problems are closely related, and solved using the same management techniques.


Anonymous said...

I think people should be free to do what they want. If programming happened to appeal less to women, why should we try to get women to do something they don't like? I find this assumed homogeneity of the human population a troubling notion.

Maybe things are exactly how they should be. I know it's harder to get a date, if you're a single computer geek. But hey. If you go over to the Sociology department, at most university campuses, you find the cute girls are over there.


Anonymous said...

From my own experience, you find the girls with hairy legs and hairy armpits in the Geology Departments.

... This might be true in the Computer Science Departments too, I'm not sure.

Anonymous said...

I went to the same technical university as Lars (I finished 3 years before him). When I started I recall the director was very happy that they for the first time had 30% women. However being a classical engineer school this was uneven spread out: Most girls went to chemistry department, some went to building (civil-engineering) department, even fewer went to mechanic and only a couple of girl who got lost on their way to the first chemistry lesson ended up at the electro department ;-). At the electronics and computer science classes the kvota were like 98% boys, 2% (or less) girls.
- Doei RIF

Anonymous said...

I would suggest wine!