NYT fail: “Men invented the internet”


Grace Murray Hopper: American computer scientist and U.S. Navy officer, one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer and developed the first compiler for a computer programming language. Pic via Boing Boing.

Xeni Jardin at Boing Boing has a great response to this weekend’s New York Times’ piece on Ellen Pao’s sexual discrimination lawsuit against the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, which is problematic in its very first line:

MEN invented the Internet. And not just any men. Men with pocket protectors. Men who idolized Mr. Spock and cried when Steve Jobs died. Nerds. Geeks. Give them their due. Without men, we would never know what our friends were doing five minutes ago.

Jardin responds:

Radia “Mother of the Internet” Perlman and the ghosts of RADM Grace HopperAda Lovelace and every woman who worked in technology for the past 150 years frown upon you, sir. Women may have been invisible, but the work we did laid the groundwork for more visible advancements now credited to more famous men.

“Men are credited with inventing the internet.” There. Fixed it for you.

Check out the rest of her analysis, which most notably debunks the implication in some quotes that sexual discrimination and harassment within the tech industry is not commonplace: “I worked in Silicon Valley, and in technology startups in other regions, and have experienced sexual harassment and gender bias. It’s as normal and constant a part of the landscape as the fabled foosball tables.”

Any folks here from the industry who have thoughts/experiences to share?

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14 Comments

  1. Posted June 4, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    I’m a software engineer and its an odd landscape out there. It is still a hugely male dominated field and there is a lot of sexism. I find I have to prove I have the qualifications I do in interviews and the like more than my male counterparts. Its almost like men in the field are assumed to know their stuff, but might disappoint whereas women are assumed not to know software engineering but might surprise.

    I also am sometimes used as the token woman. Trotted out in meetings to make the company look more ‘hip’ and progressive. Which obviously can feel very patronizing. On the other hand, the companies I have worked at generally want to keep me happy so I dont leave.

    I will say tho, once I’ve gotten over the hurdles in the interview process, or proving myself to a new team, most of the actual day to day working conditions are pretty great. A few things here or there… microagressions and whatnot.

    I do know I have it easier than other women in the field since I can fit in as ‘one of the guys’ so to speak. I’m nerdy and like video games and the like. Girls who are considered more ‘girly’ generally have a harder time. (And wow did it feel dirty to type that. I obviously don’t buy into those stereotypes)

  2. Posted June 4, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    I work in the programming industry. This is the more of the same BS that has helped exclude women from computer science for years. Ugh.

  3. Posted June 4, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    Is it okay that I work in tech and didn’t cry when Steve Jobs died. He was a great marketer. Fan boys (and girls) who write hagiographies of the guy are really, really ignorant, though.

    Most of the people in charge at my employer are female. The difference? I work in public ed, not in the corporate world. However, I do find it harder for women to get jobs in development or security, even in my environment. It’s sad that even female managers seem to hold these biases. The saddest thing is how many are funneled into support, which is the lowest paid and gets the least respect.

    Oh, and I hate the “I’m not a girly girl” bullshit more than anything. That’s essentially putting the blame on women for not being “nerdy” enough. Screw that.

    • Posted June 4, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

      Oh I absolutely agree. I wasn’t trying to put blame on women at all. I was commenting that my observations while working in the tech field is that these stereotypes are applied to women unfairly.

    • Posted June 5, 2012 at 8:07 am | Permalink

      I think all the real tech people I know cared a lot more when Dennis Ritchie died the same week.

  4. Posted June 4, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been a student in computer engineering for a few years now, and the ratio in classes is generally… 95% guys. Since classes are only ~20 people, this means that I’m almost always the only girl in any of my classes. I’ve gotten used to it, but the first few years I came incredibly close to switching out of it just because it’s varying degrees of hostile (ranging from ‘you should do documentation/visual design, since those are girl things’ – I’m in the hardware side of computer architecture – to the more blunt “You’re a girl. Girls can’t code”.

    Probably the worst example I’ve personally experienced was at an AI all-night codeathon, where the event t-shirts slogan was “Nice Rack-o” (we were coding an AI to solve the game Racko).

    On the fun side though, it’s fun watching the worst offenders’ reactions when they get their a** kicked by a girl :)

    • Posted June 5, 2012 at 8:45 am | Permalink

      I’m in pretty much exactly the same situation as Emily here, although I can’t recall ever being told outright that I ought to be doing visual design/doco.

      The good news is that I tutor one of the first year, first semester Programming subjects. It seems to help wake the students up to the fact that yes, girls can program, that we can do well at EVERYTHING in IT; particularly when I get to chatting about the more technical stuff I’ve done over the years, or show off with over-the-top versions of their assessment programs.
      You can always tell the more obviously sexist students, because they get this sort of stunned look on their faces when they realise a) I’m in charge and b) I actually know what I’m on about.

      The bad news is that I’m about to attempt getting a ‘real world’ job, so I may have to see how I go on the sexism front there.

      On a side note, I am both a girly-girl and a self-proclaimed geek and nerd. I love wearing pretty dresses; I’ll often pair them with geeky or steampunk jewellery, or plait my hair into a padawan braid. I’ll paint my nails something bright, sparkly and/or pastel while watching Star Trek, Doctor Who, or Babylon 5. I get as excited about mastering a new recipe as I do about winning video games. Why does everyone seem to think these are mutually exclusive categories of attitude and behaviour?

  5. Posted June 4, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    If women invented pistons, would we be unable to say men invented automobiles? Would we have to say they are just “credited” with it?

    • Posted June 7, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      Cool story, tra!

  6. Posted June 4, 2012 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    I just graduated with my first degree. And in one of my last classes, we had to do presentations on Eastern religions (Hindusim, Taoism, etc…it had to be something we talked about in class.) One of the students, a guy who liked to often talk about how he’s a computer science major and all that (also a member of Anonymous…which he made very obvious.) Instead of doing the assignment properly, he decided he was going to give us a presentation on his self-invented religion revolving around computer science. His “Gods” were all people who had done something in the field of computer science. His “afterlife” was getting your name in a book. He decided life wasn’t sacred so it was okay to kill animals, and he still had yet to decide if killing people was bad. (I’m telling you…this guy was creepy. This is just the tip of the iceburg. Authors and literature majors as well as theatre and art got no “afterlife” because it wasn’t sciency enough for him and only computer scientists could become “gods.”)

    Anyway, on top of his crazy self-created religion he was plugging, I noticed that every single “god” he mentioned was male. All of them. Mary Curie was an afterthought, and he said she doesn’t count as a goddess because she died. The hypocrisy and sexism in his presentation was staggering.

    I know not every computer science major is like this guy (thank goodness) but I have seen bias against women (and the arts) in a lot of computer science people. Mostly men. Including my fiance’s younger brother, an engineering major. He talks big about physics and science and engineering, but is completely inept with women, makes sexist comments about them, and complains about how they’re all “slutty, gangsta, religious or taken.” Nevermind that his own mother is a biochemist.

  7. Posted June 8, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    Adm Hopper will have her revenge…
    http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2516

  8. Posted June 12, 2012 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    First patents for thermionic valves, calculators based on those, the cat’s whiskey transistor, the integrated circuit, all by men. Tim Burners Lee, a man, established HTTP transfers at CERN.

    As someone who has studied electronics at university, I can entirely agree, there aren’t enough girls involved. Because they don’t have much interest in it as a whole it appears.

    I discovered, from one of the handful of girls studying the subject, that they were also being paid an additional £400 per term (about $1.8k a year) in grant money for studying an engineering related subjected, and being a girl. She went on to explain that she didn’t particularly enjoy the subject.

    It gets extremely boring sitting around in lectures that last all day with almost the entirety of the conversation being between guys. The idea that this is a boys only club that rejects girls can only be conjured up by a girl who has not actually studied the subject. How on Earth it could possibly be biased against girls, when they are being paid a few thousand pounds to be involved, is beyond me.

  9. Posted June 12, 2012 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    *cat’s whiskeR

  10. Posted June 12, 2012 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    How many of you know who Jeri Ellsworth is without googling her?

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