Instead, the proper area for a woman's success is seen as her ability to attract high‑status men. In a study for the National Institute of Education, researchers Holland and Eisenhart found:
Men's prestige and correlated attractiveness come from the attention they receive from women and from success at sports, in school politics, and in other arenas. Women's prestige and correlated attractiveness come only from the attention they receive from men [Holland 1990, page 104, emphasis in original].
This attitude is exemplified by the way one college woman attempted to insult another: "[You] may be able to do calculus, but I'm dating a football player" [Holland 1990, page 104, brackets in original]. The study found that female friends often did not even know each other's majors [Holland 1990, page 14], although they spent large amounts of time together discussing other matters, primarily boyfriends [Holland 1990, page 14].
1.2.5 Implications of Gender Double Standards
The double standards discussed above should be a significant concern. Aggression, competitiveness, and even some brashness are necessary for a graduate student, for example, who must compete with other students for equipment, funding, and attention from professors. One doesn't get far by politely waiting to be noticed or for other people to stop using the computer. In her paper on being a female graduate student at MIT, Candace Sidner addresses some stumbling blocks women face:
Receiving an advanced degree, in fact, any degree, from MIT is rather like being admitted to a fraternity. One has a certain set of rituals to go through, and both the process and one's performance define one's position in the fraternity in the years that follow....
It surprises no woman to say that women are socialized differently than men in our cultures. What is surprising is the effect of that socialization when women take roles traditionally held only by men. The most significant role change centers [on] developing confidence and competence. Part of the process of hurdle jumping is not just the getting over, it is the form which one presents in doing it. For the MIT fraternity ritual, the form is confidence; a woman student must use what I call strutting behavior, that is, she must look and act like she knows what she is doing.
While developing confidence from accompanying competence, is difficult for all initiates, for women there is a subtle, but remarkable difference; women in the everyday world are not supposed to appear very confident and competent.... As a result, women must not only build and show confidence and competence, just as their male counterparts do, but un like the men, they must decide first to unlearn their normal behavior patterns....
The strutting behavior appears slowly; there are stops and starts, forward and backward progress. A woman student begins to act from a little bit of confidence in her competence, and tests out this confidence among her peers and superiors. Two more difficulties follow. First, a woman feels less feminine, because in fact she is less feminine according to the prevailing behavior patterns. In her personal life, her feelings may be communicated to her partner(s) who may find her less attractive. This threatens her personal status. Eventually a woman can learn to find personal friends who value her confident image, but the time in between is frightening [Sidner 1980, pages 2‑3].
Empirically, a comparative study of male and female Stanford graduate students in technical areas [Zappert et al. 1984] found that women were less self‑confident and assertive than their male peers:
[W]omen less frequently than men reported that they felt free to disagree with their advisors...and that their ideas were respected by their advisors [Zappert et al. 1984, page 9]....
[W]omen more often reported having trouble saying "no" and in giving criticism. Women also more often reported having difficulty sticking up for themselves and tended to let annoyances pile up [Zappert et al. 1984, page 12].
1.2.6 Specific Stereotypes Against Female Engineers
As if the culture‑wide inhibitions to success were not enough, there are additional barriers in engineering. Nowadays, high school girls from middleand upper‑middle‑class families are expected to go to college and to do reasonably well, but going to a technical institute or majoring in a technical field is still considered unfeminine, as these anecdotes indicate:
•When a female student at an engineering institute went home for vacation, her mother leafed through the book of photographs of the freshman class and exclaimed in surprise, "Why, some of these girls are pretty!"
•A male computer professional wrote:
Back in 1983, I was a freshman here at [X] and one of my friends was a genius who happened to be a pretty blonde girl....
She was also a freshman and spent one of her first days here searching for her advisor's office. While hunting around [Y] Hall, a man in his early 30's came up to her and asked if she needed help. She said that she was looking for her advisor's office. The man responded with a puzzled, `What major are you?' When she answered, `I'm in Electrical Engineering.' The man smiled at her and oozed, `Oh, you're far too pretty to be an EECS major.' [She] immediately left and told us in the dorms about this slimy guy.
The next day we went to our first lecture for [the introductory computer class]. [She] gasped as one of the lecturers entered the hall. He was the same slimy guy she had encountered the day before....
I'll never forget the quote, "Oh, you're far too pretty to be an EECS major."9
•A male computer professional wrote:
I used to teach undergraduate computer science classes, and saw a number of cases in which very promising and talented women abandoned computer science, much to my disappointment since they were some of my better students.... At least where I was teaching, the discouragement from that field was given more by other women, particularly in the sororities, rather than from within the field itself.
It is worth repeating, however, that the stereotype of male engineers is almost as bad. Jokes and television portray male engineers as unattractive, unpopular, awkward, and either unsuccessful with or uninterested in women.10 However, I believe that in our culture, females are more susceptible to such stereotypes. This is in large part because, as described earlier in this chapter, femininity is considered to be at odds with success, while masculinity is not.
While the stereotype that female engineers are inherently unattractive seems to be without rational basis, scientific fields may well be in conflict with some values traditionally thought of as feminine and currently held by a majority of females. The situation seems not to have changed since the following was written:
I think [women's lack of achievement] comes from the general orientation of girls, young women, and even older women, toward `others' (in David Reisman's sense of being `other directed'). Women are constantly urged to consider `Am I doing the right thing?' and `What shall I be or do that will please my husband, children, and parents?' Occupational success never comes out as the positive answer to these questions. Pleasing others and doing the `right thing' always means holding back, and retreating from a position of strong ambition and career commitment [Epstein 1974, page 15].
I would add that being other‑directed might steer women away from objective sciences into the humanities and the more peopleoriented social sciences. Thus, the values that are encouraged in women would not only make them less career‑oriented but more likely to avoid the sciences.
In our society, males and females are regarded very differently. Assertiveness, confidence, and high achievement are considered consistent with masculinity but not with femininity. In addition to the stigma associated with success in general, technical fields are considered particularly unattractive for females. These factors can influence a girl not to pursue an interest in math or engineering, and they can sabotage a woman's career because either she acts feminine, e.g. demure, and is not taken seriously, or she acts masculine and is met with disapprobation. Of course, as mentioned in [Sidner 1980, page 3] and [Horner 1970, page 70], confident females eventually find male and female friends who like and respect them. The problem is thus not insurmountable. Still, it is an additional barrier that females face, and the playing field will not be level while these stereotypes exist.
THE MASCULINE ENVIRONMENT
I do not see that the sex of the candidate is an argument against her admission... After all, we are a university, not a bathing establishment‑-David Hilbert, arguing unsuccessfully for the appointment of Emmy Noether to the faculty at Göttingen.11 Currently, the majority of professionals in computer science departments and workplaces are male. As a consequence, these places often have masculine environments in which women feel uncomfortable or unwelcome. The behaviors described in this chapter are generally not meant to be harmful to women, which makes the participants often hostile toward criticism. Such behaviors include the display of nude pictures, discussing sex, telling dirty jokes, and expressing negative stereotypes of women in an attempt at humor. Additionally, other activities are morally faultless, such as coworkers playing basketball together, but they may tend to make a woman feel less part of the group if she does not enjoy the same activities.
2.1 Sexist or Sexual Humor
Often, men make sexist or sexual remarks in attempts at humor. As the following examples show, this happens in classrooms, computer magazines, and at conferences. In most of these cases, the speaker probably means no harm. However, the behavior makes some women feel uncomfortable. In order to highlight the effect such statements have on women, their reactions have been included where available.
•A female graduate student had the following experience:
[A professor] in the introductory part of a guest lecture on robotics to the graduate core AI class: (approximate quote) `Pretty soon we'll have robots that are sophisticated enough to wander around in shopping malls and pick up girls.' I didn't listen to the rest of the lecture, so I don't know what else he had to say.
•A female computer science professor wrote:
When I was in graduate school, the professor in automata theory introduced the topic of decomposition by saying: `Machines are a lot like women‑-many forms for the same function (wink wink).' As the only woman in the class, you can imagine that I felt terrific. And all of a sudden the guys sitting next to me sort of tensed up‑-instead of a fellow student, his remark had made them see me as something else, something kinda dirty.
•The narrator of the industry gossip column in the trade journal Infoworld is an adult male with a young girlfriend Pammy, shallow and uninterested in computers, whose silly statements and actions pad the columns, such as her return to beauty school. ("[A]t 21 she's older and can handle the pressure now.")12 •A female computer science professor wrote:
[A]t a conference in France, a male speaker (French), who was speaking about the importance of testing, showed an overhead slide of a naked woman with a caption of the sort‑-`Would you buy this product without testing it first?' There were only 2 or 3 women in the audience (of about 150), but I had fleeting feelings of having accidentally walked into a stag party and wondering if he had either not expected any women to be there or had discounted the importance of directing his remarks to the women in the audience.
What these examples all share is that the male speaker or writer was attempting to make a cute statement but that females (and some males) had negative reactions.
2.2 Sexual Displays and Discussions
2.2.1 Different Reactions
At the workplace, many women feel uncomfortable with the "locker room atmosphere," which includes pictures of nude or partially nude women on posters or computer screens and the telling of dirty jokes. Unlike the sexist remarks described above, however, there is disagreement among women on how inappropriate these actions are, with a significant number of women not personally offended by the behavior (although some of these women oppose it on the grounds that it upsets other women). This point is illustrated by the different reactions in the following examples:
•When a graduating engineer was touring a company that wanted to hire her, they took her through the laboratory, which had a pin‑up on the wall. The other people in the lab (men) and the men showing her around seemed oblivious to the poster and to her discomfort. She felt uncomfortable with the idea of working in a laboratory with a picture like that up and ended up refusing the offer, partly for this reason.
•When a graduating computer scientist was taken out to lunch by engineers of a small computer company, one of the topics the employees (all male) discussed was a series of lingerie shows in the region. The student did not feel uncomfortable about the subject matter, and it did not affect her decision about the company, but she thought it was something which might make other female interviewees uncomfortable.
•When a computer science undergraduate had recently begun working in a research group at her university, some male graduate students entered the office and began playing an "adult" computer game, "Leisure Suit Larry," crowding around the screen, discussing the game loudly. The undergraduate left the office because the situation made her too uncomfortable for her to work there. When she recounted the story a year later, she said that she would not react the same way now and would either be able to keep working or would say, "Hey, get out of here, guys." The change was due to her feeling more confident about her position in the group and knowing the individuals personally.
One female computer science student explained one reason that some women are offended by sexual humor while others do not understand what the fuss is about:
I have noticed that how offended I am by [genderrelated humor] depends very strongly about how comfortable it is to be female and in the present environment.
When I first entered grad school in the CS [X] group at [Y], there were some women graduate students, but only a couple. A secretary deliberately placed me, when I arrived, sharing a desk with a male graduate student who was at that time desperately trying to find a woman (she was trying to be nice)‑-a professor had a `funny' newspaper article about [a sexual topic] posted outside his door. Don't get me wrong, I found nearly no‑one among the faculty and graduate students who was anti‑women or took me or my work or my concerns any less seriously than any other first‑year student. Still, the graduate students were 90 percent men, and they talked all the time about how hard it was to meet `available' women, and as a first year student trying to establish myself within their community, I found the `locker room' atmosphere oppressive and daunting. If someone had sent around [a sexist joke through email] that year, I think I would have hit the roof. In a world where I was struggling to find my place, it would have just helped to undermine it.
Today the graduate student population in CS [X] has quite a few more women, and is much more comfortable. Instead of the "guys" in school here, it's the `people' in school here.... In my current environment I might have easily [passed along the joke] to my [male] office‑mate.
2.2.2 Attempts at Changing Behavior
Some computer science graduate students and staff at Carnegie Mellon were sufficiently disturbed by the display of nude pictures as backgrounds on computer terminals that they got together and tried to change the situation by publicly appealing to the community. [CMU 1989] is a fascinating report describing their appeal and the friendly and hostile reactions. Their appeal included the following passage:
When a woman sees such a display on your workstation, is she likely to believe that you take her seriously as a fully contributing member of the department? Rather, she may feel that you could be a source of sexual harassment, and feel hostile towards you, or nervous about working with you. If so, that is a loss for you, for her, and for all of us. Among the visitors to the department, some of whom are prospective students, staff, or faculty, there are surely some who will view us as unprofessional if they see these displays, and this hurts us all, too. Conversely, an environment more hospitable to women‑-specifically, one in which relations between women and men are less strained‑-is of clear benefit to men as well.
For some people, displays of naked women on workstations, or elsewhere in offices, remind them of the forces in our culture that view women as sexual playthings, not as men's peers. For others, such reactions do not occur. People who are offended will interpret such displays as derogatory, even if that is not your intent. We therefore ask you to refrain from using them out of respect for those who are offended, even if you believe the offended people are just overly sensitive [CMU 1989, page 2].
The appeal closed by making clear that they were not advocating banning such displays but were requesting that people voluntarily remove them out of sensitivity to others. Responses about the appropriateness of the displays and of the appeal were mixed and are categorized in the report. Negative reactions included the position that the writers were advocating censorship "like the Nazis or the Ayatollah Khomeini," that people should not be asked to change their behavior merely because of what others might think, and that a public appeal was inappropriate but instead should have been made by individuals to individuals. Of those agreeing, the majority of responses said that the request was reasonable and not an attempt at censorship, that it prevented people from unintentionally giving offense, and that it was effective at raising consciousness. In response to the criticism that individuals should complain personally, several women wrote that "[w]omen asking for changes in behavior individually are exposed to ridicule and abuse" [CMU 1989, page 4]. This point was echoed by a woman quoted in a paper about the "Garden," a laboratory in the MIT Media Lab:
[W]hen comments are made about the offensive nature of the music or movies, they are often ignored, or belittled, or are chortled at. Ironically, once you are labeled a feminist in the Garden, your comments are taken less seriously, because you are considered radical and your judgment less fair [Tidwell 1990, page 14].
Both the Carnegie‑Mellon and Garden papers conclude that the attempts at changing people's behavior were somewhat, but not highly, successful.
2.3 Behavior Due to Sex‑Correlated Differences
An additional category exists of behavior that is not directly based on sex but which nevertheless discourages women. While attempts at changing sexist behavior are partially effective, there seems little that can be done about this category.
2.3.1 Socializing with Co‑workers
Through no real fault on any side, a woman sometimes feels out of place being one of the few women in a semi‑social gathering with a group of men, even in the absence of any behavior directly related to the sex of the participants. One reason is that, in our culture, men are often interested in activities or topics that women tend not to relate to.
A female graduate student complained about her experiences as a teaching assistant (TA) for a course in a particularly male‑dominated area of computer science. She wrote:
Perhaps because the percentage of males is often high, men tend to dominate non‑academic discussions with topics of interest to them, such as sports and cars, topics which women are often uninformed about or uninterested in. The resulting inability to participate in discussions can make it difficult for women to bond socially, and often leads women to feel outright alienated... This is exactly what happened to me at each T.A.‑faculty meeting.
Another female computer science graduate student described a similar experience:
My first summer at [a certain computer company], I worked in a group that was otherwise all male. While I got along okay with them and never had any behavior to complain about, I didn't socialize with the group. For example, every day after lunch, they would go outside to `shoot some hoops' [play basketball], an activity that I just did not relate to. For my next summer, I joined a group that had other female programmers and a female manager. I was much happier in that group. We would have barbecues, celebrate people's birthdays, and socialize in other ways that I related to better than `shooting hoops.' My third summer, I chose to return to this group and not to the first one or to find a new group.
However, when she casually discussed her social dissatisfaction in an exit interview with the department head, he pointed out that, coming from a different country, he did not relate to American sports either. This raises the important point, which holds for all examples in this section, that dissatisfaction with certain activities is not strictly divided by sex. There are individual women who enjoy sports and are better at them than some men. Sex‑based differences are a tendency, not a fixed rule. Sex‑correlated preferences in our society, however, are strong enough that these phenomena tend to work against women (or whoever is underrepresented in a group).
Additionally, female group members do not always feel comfortable joining male group members who go out drinking together. Not only might they not enjoy drinking, but some men are inclined to making lewd remarks after a few drinks. Thus, there are often times when women feel unable to take part in activities to which, as group members, they are invited.
Another problem is that some men do not feel comfortable socializing in a professional manner with a woman, as this anecdote illustrates:
I was ... the first full‑time woman faculty member in my department. There really was difficulty among my male colleagues in associating with a woman as a colleague. I think they literally did not know how to talk to me, and as a consequence often just did not talk to me. They would ignore me. They would not invite me to have lunch with them, which was a very ordinary experience there ... they would walk past my office and ask the next person and never ask me. [Years later] I asked one of my colleagues why this was so. And he said, `You know what would happen if I asked you to lunch ... People would talk' ([Clark et al. 1986, pages 36‑37] in [Sandler 1986, pages 7‑8]).
2.3.2 Different Communication Styles
The language that women use often differs from that of men in subtle ways. As discussed in [Hall 1982, page 9], specific constructions appear more frequently in women's speech than in men's:
•hesitation and false starts (`I think...I was wondering...')
•`tag' questions (`This is really important, don't you think')
•a questioning intonation in making a statement (`The second chapter does most to clarify the theme?')
•excessive use of qualifiers (`Don't you think that maybe sometimes...')
•other speech forms that are excessively polite and deferential (`This is probably not important, but...')
As Hall concludes:
If, for example, a woman student begins her comments hesitantly and uses many qualifiers, she may be immediately perceived by her teacher and by her classmates as unfocused and unsure of what she wants to say. Her `overly polite' style may seem to `invite' interruptions by, or inattention from, both teacher and other students. Indeed, even the most insightful points made in this manner‑-especially by a woman‑-may be taken less seriously than the identical points made by a man or delivered in a more `masculine' assertive style [Hall 1982, pages 9‑10].