It has been a while since I updated this. Mainly the
reason for this is that the webpage was intended to support
a course I was teaching, and once the course was over other
things took priority. However this is not to say that
my interest has moved on. I've begun a new project called
U, Mathematics and Computer Science, which is fun, and of
course my family has demanded ever-increasing amounts of
This morning, however, I had an "aha!" moment when my 2-year-old
turned on the TV before we left to catch the school bus for
my 6-year-old. I've been struggling, lately, with whether
or not it is worth fighting to be different. Wondering whether
I should just "go along and get along", and not worry about
making a difference, recruiting more women, changing society's
attitudes. It's stressful, thankless, and time-consuming,
after all! But this morning's message on whatever kids'
cartoon it was went like this: Being different makes you
Yes, I know that having diversity in groups is a good thing,
but trying to convince everyone else of that has felt like a
futile effort lately. And yes, I'm constantly hearing "good
for you" when I tell people I'm a Professor in Computer Science
(with three kids), which is nice. But the ultimate message
I get is "it's ok to be different". To not be the stay-at-home
mom. To have a family and a career. There, there dear, it's
ok. I DON'T WANT TO HEAR THAT! I want to hear that what I'm
doing is good, and necessary, and SPECIAL. So thanks, morning
cartoons for kids, for reminding me that being different is
not just ok, it makes me special.
May 29, 2006
I have just returned from a conference on circuits and systems.
It is THE conference in this area, and attracts a huge number of
attendees. The banquet this year was particularly entertaining,
but not because of the "official" entertainment. The interest
was generated by the comments and conversation supplied by one
of my table-mates, who seemed to think that my sole purpose for
attending this conference was to supply him with some female
companionship. I had never met this person before, so
I was quite shocked by his attitude, and by the fact that he
was so open in his expression of it. I told my colleague
who was also attending that there are three ways to deal with
a) out-crude him, or attempt to;
b) freak out and call him a sexist pig and storm off, or
c) laugh and smile and make subtle barbs that once in a while
actually sink in.
I chose option c), and this seemed to work, as I clearly had
the sympathy of the rest of the table (mostly men).
When I got up to leave,
he practically chased me around the table to say goodbye.
Fortunately I was able to keep him at arm's length by shaking hands.
During this interaction it was made obvious that I was at least 4 inches
taller than he, and I had a nice clear view of the top of his head :-)
Petty, but satisfying.
The most satisfying part of the evening, however, was when my
colleague, who also left with me, said "Now I know what you mean". We'd
had a discussion earlier when I stated that at these events I was either
shunned or the center of attention, and not usually in a good way.
He said he believed me, but I don't think he really knew what I meant.
Now he certainly does!
He also went on to relate an experience he had as a grad student;
he was invited to a gathering held for Women in Computer Science.
There was extra pizza, so we went around to the graduate labs
inviting everyone to help us finish it off. He and his buddy (also
male) found the room, and looked in ... hesitated ... then left.
They were totally intimidated by a room full of women. His buddy
then commented that "now we know how women in computer science feel."
Sept. 15, 2005
A friend of mine quoted me this the other day:
"rule of thumb is the more you keep your body out of the water,
the more people think they can pile on you before you can drown.
Unfortunately, they often fail to remember the 1/9th philosophy
wrt icebergs. If only they knew what we are already carrying
before they threw more crap on us."
This is true of everyone who is competent at their jobs, I suspect,
but my experiences have been that it is even more so with women.
Women, at least those in my current immediate circle, tend to
be less apt to "blow their own horn", and just carry on with
their jobs, being
quietly competent. It's great to work with people like that, but
many (most?) people forget about all the unsung work that they
are doing in the background! We're just not good at tooting our
own horns. I'm sure this applies to plenty of men, too, but
majority of the
men I know seem to know how competent they are (or think they're
competent when they're not) and aren't shy about letting people
know about their opinions of themselves.
Is this something we can train? Or should we look at training
managers to better identify and recognize, in both senses of
the word, the quietly competent folks? Or, are we doomed to
have icebergs worth of tasks piled on us until we sink? Hmmm.
July 21(b), 2005
Another link I ran across today: a student running a project
on prenatal gender selection -- certainly
a science that has a direct impact on women (i.e. women's reproduction)
but also raises some dilemnas for women who live in cultures where
female children are accorded less value (or even no value) than are
July 21(a) 2005:
Here is a very interesting article
about enrollment in Computer Science at universities with some discussion
about attracting women and minorities.
July 19 2005:
I recently ran across some comments I made last year on my
personal blog about success
and how to measure it: what is success
June 21 2005:
I spoke with a female student doing her Master's in Computer Science the other day.
She said her supervisor liked to have at least two "girls" in his research group.
I would have preferred the term "women" but that may have been changed in the
translation from person to person, so I won't blame that on anyone. I did find
it interesting that a specific number of women was given; not "some", or "one",
or a "few" but "at least two". I had to wonder why.
There were a couple of possibilities I came up with:
1. given the current atmosphere of promoting women to follow areas like Computer
Science, has this particular person found that having more than one "minority",
in this case women, working together, provides a more congenial and friendly
atmosphere to the minority members? Or,
2. has he discovered that the research group as a whole is more cohesive and
productive with a mix of genders?
You see where I'm going with this? Is this an attempt to make the group more
friendly towards women (thus making the female students more productive and
successful, at least in theory), or is it an attempt to make the group more
friendly towards everyone? Or am I totally out to lunch and there is another
reason entirely? I don't really care either way, I just found it something
interesting to think about.