Misconceptions about computer scientists are rampant and numerous. Here are just a few.
- Computer scientists are all dudes.
- Computer scientists are all nerds.
- Computer scientists are all socially inept.
- Computer scientists are all great at math.
- Computer scientists only drink energy drinks.
- Computer scientists do nothing but write code.
Granted, stereotypes have to start somewhere, but computer scientists are a diverse bunch. So, while you will meet those who live up to the stereotype, there will always be others who do not. Unfortunately, it’s been shown that one of the reasons ladies may not be entering the field is that they cannot relate to the associated cultural stereotypes. Consequently, they perceive themselves to be outsiders, and are dissuaded from joining the club.
However, some of us have never felt this way, and are happily engaged in work at the nerdery. Sadly, “some of us” amounts to slightly less than 25% of compsci grads. So, I have to wonder, in a field with such strong overall stereotypes and misconceptions, what kind of incorrect information is floating around about that rare breed that is the female computer scientist?
To find out, I considered giving a talk at a recent BarCamp – a Reddit-IAmA-style talk letting the audience ask me questions they might have, given I was a lady-nerd (one of only a small handful present that day). But, I had a suspicion that there might actually be no questions – surely the dude-nerds present already understood their lady-counterparts and grokked that misconceptions are just that.
I also considered posting an IAmA post on Reddit to see what kind of questions would spew forth from the masses, but I was concerned that this wouldn’t weed out interesting nuggets and might actually encourage a lot of unwanted attention. A quick review of past posts by ladies in my situation proved me right. Here’s a sampling:
what’s the quickest way to turn you on?
I just want a face-pic to see if you’re pretty
Is your goal to sleep with everyone of the boys in your major?
Are you fat?
wow, marry me
Are you a virgin?
Ok so forgive me if I imply this, but the girls in CS at my engineering school in NC are more accurately described as ‘creatures.’ So I ask what would you/your friends rate you in attractiveness on a scale from 1-10?
Admittedly, there were some good questions interspersed with the anonymous junk. But, I realized the questions in this forum weren’t what I was most interested in. Instead, this exercise brought me to a realization about what I was actually looking to understand. Specifically, what are the misconceptions about computer scientists held by young ladies who have an interest in entering the field?
With that in mind, let me say that if you or someone you know fit into this category of interest, send me some questions! You can enter them in the comments section, or email me. But please, check first that they don’t already appear in the list above. Those important questions have already been answered by others elsewhere.