Rachel Cobleigh (reveilles) wrote,
Rachel Cobleigh
reveilles

gender bias

A fellow female grad student with a son recently sent me this e-mail while we were discussing gender bias in computer science:
Just as an aside, I was asking my son about what he wanted to be when he grows up (he's 8), and I asked him if he wanted to be a computer scientist, and he said no because mostly women do that, and then added that he wanted to be a teacher like his dad.

(...not quite what I was going for...)

While it is funny on the surface, it does indicate something about how gender bias is developed at an early age. The reason we were discussing this whole situation is because the representation of women in computer science is one of the lowest percentages of all of the sciences and that percentage is dropping. I suspect that women in our generation, if they have a parent that was in the sciences or engineering, experienced a father who was in the field, not a mother, and that experience may have caused them to develop such a bias without realizing it--and this is before they were ever brought into the educational system and biased by modern teaching practices.

When I mentioned this idea to my friend, she said that,
My mom (who is a social worker) told me when my son was born that babies more often resemble their father early on as nature's way of ensuring that the father accepts them.

In my case, while my father was the one involved in a science field, he was also the one who really encouraged my to use my imagination. While my mother was generally encouraging and proud of my achievements, she seemed neither able nor willing to discuss abstract scientific ideas with me. My father, on the other hand, was willing to discuss all sorts of wild theories, from science to metaphysics, even if he did not have confidence in his knowledge of the topic. Maybe I chose my field not because of which gender was involved with which task (my mother was a homemaker), but rather which parent actively encouraged me to pursue my interests.
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