back to article Girl Geek Dinner lady: The IT Crowd is putting schoolgirls off tech

Sexism in The IT Crowd and other TV shows that chronicle of life in the tech industry is preventing women from considering a career in IT, said Sarah Lamb of women-in-tech-group Girl Geek Dinners. Jen from the IT Crowd The IT Crowd's Jen: Not an inspirational role model The portrayal of IT workers as sexist and women as …

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  1. mark1978

    "a culture of not wanting to appear to be clever among teenage girls combined with a desire not to stand out from the crowd"

    That's not limited to teenage girls, it's the same with all teenagers. Even back in the mid-90's when I was doing my GCSEs there was massive peer pressure to do poorly, or not to study.

    1. Sartori

      Completely agree, male or female, as a teenager there is so much pressure to try and blend in as those who stand out from the crowd can often end up isolated and/or bullied.

      1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

        I call it the snobbery of indifference: it's cool to be cool in the sense of not really caring about anything, and certainly not about learning. I am not sure it is a world-wide thing, I see many more people in the east doing computer science (or indeed any science or engineering course), and that includes a lot of women. I have seen a similar pattern in Uganda, where many girls do Computer Science. I think people in many non-western countries have way more respect of science and engineering, because they are all too aware of the huge benefits they bring. Many westerners are all too complacent in that respect. Many kids just want to get rich quick or be famous (often willing to debase themselves on TV for such purposes).

        Teach them the fun and excitement of science and technology early on (before puberty) and you stand a much better chance of winning them over.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. P. Lee Silver badge
            Childcatcher

            Re: The snobbery of indifference

            +1

            I came back to the UK in the mid 80's having been in a British overseas school and was horrified to have my teachers tell me that I didn't really need to go to university if I didn't feel like it. I wondered what they thought I my reasons were for doing A-Levels.

            It isn't limited to the UK however, there is a lack of a culture of excellence at my daughters' current school which I find very disturbing.

        2. Just An Engineer
          Linux

          The problem in the West and the US in particular is, 50 percent of the population does not believe in evolution and some surveys put the number even higher. So there is no incentive to study something like science which cannot prove nor "disprove" the existence of the creation myth..

          This causes wide swaths of the population for "religious reasons" not to pursue careers in the sciences. Since it clashes with their beliefs. Sad really after all this time to put myth in front of science....

          1. NB

            The 50% not believing in evolution thing is pretty much ONLY in the US. I don't know of any European nations that glorify and revel in their ignorance to any where near the same scale as the U.S. Unfortunately, despite secularism being dominant in the UK our teenagers still seem to be under the misguided impression that being intelligent and actually working for things is somehow uncool. It's deifinitely a trend that needs to be reversed and an unfortunate by-product of a couple of generations of over privileged kids being coddled and handed everything on a plate for their entire lives.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              How does evolution affect anything? Maths? Physics? Computing? Chemistry? Medicine? Biology? Architecture? Art? Communication?

              What evolution pretends to give us is a theory of origins. That isn't quite true, it gives us a theory of development. How life comes from non-life is beyond the scope of evolution, but we don't mention that in polite company. We are here by chance with no purpose and no responsibilities. There is no hope for anything beyond what we see and beyond our lifespan. Eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. Plus we can have any kind of sex we want.

              A christian worldview would suggest that we were designed with a purpose, we are accountable for what we do, that there is something better beyond this flawed world, that we should avoid the things which cause people damage, that justice and mercy can and will be executed for all to see, that death does not have to be final and god will fix the things that we cannot.

              Now for the hard bit - can anyone spot which worldview is being played out logically in society?

              1. Bronny

                "How does evolution affect anything? Maths? Physics? Computing? Chemistry? Medicine? Biology? Architecture? Art? Communication?"

                It affects a huge amount! If you believe that nothing you do makes much difference anyway because a magic hand will determine all outcomes then what is the point of trying to learn how to make a difference yourself? Steve Jones has made the comment about the number of post grads in his research area (biology/medicine) and about half now do not believe in evolution. If you are not in awe of how the human body has evolved and works and adapts then why bother studying it?

              2. A J Stiles

                Is it hard work being that dense, or does it come naturally?

                "How does evolution affect anything? Maths? Physics? Computing? Chemistry? Medicine? Biology? Architecture? Art? Communication?"

                Your inability (or unwilling) to understand something is indicative of nothing beyond the fact of you being pathetic. Evolution is what makes biology make sense, so obviously it affects medicine (since organisms are continually evolving resistance to drugs).

                Since ideas evolve in a fashion analogous to living organisms, studies on the latter may help us understand the former.

                "We are here by chance with no purpose and no responsibilities."

                Except, you know, such purposes and responsibilities as we choose for ourselves. Yes, that's hard. It's part of being a grown-up.

                "There is no hope for anything beyond what we see and beyond our lifespan."

                Yes, indeed; which is precisely why it's so important to make what we've got count: this is everything we've got, and we have to make the most of it.

                "Eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. Plus we can have any kind of sex we want."

                That's pretty much the size of it, yes. As for the sex, well, it really depends on the other person. They have the final veto, you know.

                "A christian worldview would suggest that we were designed with a purpose, we are accountable for what we do, that there is something better beyond this flawed world, that we should avoid the things which cause people damage, that justice and mercy can and will be executed for all to see, that death does not have to be final and god will fix the things that we cannot."

                The prospect of an afterlife diminishes respect for this life, which is the only one we get. The idea that God will sort everything out absolves us of responsibilities.

                "Now for the hard bit - can anyone spot which worldview is being played out logically in society?"

                On the Continent, and especially the parts where they went straight from Roman Catholicism to agnosticism without passing through a reformation, people tend to have great respect for life, thinking it's the only one they will get. Whereas in the über-religious USA, people have little to no respect for life, thinking there is going to be another one anyway so what does it matter if we f**k this one up?

                Simple, observable fact: If your kids think you're going to take them to Alton Towers next month, they won't enjoy a visit to Trentham Gardens tomorrow.

              3. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                A christian view does...

                ...NOT suggest that we should tell lies about nature or about the bible. Creationists frequently do both once they start arguing. The origin of life, as you say, is not what evolution is 'about'. It merely describes how life develops once it exists.

                Facts about the material world do not force you to have any particular worldview. Which is probably why mainstream christianity has no problem with evolution.

              4. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                How does evolution affect anything?

                "Maths? Physics? Computing?"

                OK, I'll bite. What about genetic algorithms? I would *really* like to see you explain why they work if evolution isn't how things work in actual genetics!

          2. Figgus

            You can't entirely blame religion:

            The problem in the West and the US in particular is, 50 percent of the population does not believe in evolution and some surveys put the number even higher. So there is no incentive to study something like science which cannot prove nor "disprove" the existence of the creation myth..

            This causes wide swaths of the population for "religious reasons" not to pursue careers in the sciences. Since it clashes with their beliefs. Sad really after all this time to put myth in front of science....

            The problem in the West and the US in particular is, 50 percent of the population does not believe in being self sufficient and some surveys put the number even higher. So there is no incentive to study something like science which cannot increase or decrease the size of their government checks...

            This causes wide swaths of the population for obvious reasons not to pursue careers in the sciences. Since it is a huge waste of time better spent on xBox and creating illegitimate children. Sad really after all this time to be beholden to the government instead of an independent human being...

            1. Daniel B.

              Ayn Rand called, Figgus

              She wants her arguments back.

              1. Figgus

                Re: Ayn Rand called, Figgus

                I have never read anything of hers, but you don't need to read about it... It's plain as day and easy to see if you just LOOK. The schools in the US are failing, and everyone is frantically blaming teachers, unions, parents, the Federal DoE, and all along the problem with our schools is simply our welfare state.

                Mom got free checks, grandma got free checks, great grandma got free checks... That's just how you live, so why study in school when you're just going to get free checks too? I see it every day.

                Of course, like a lot of serious problems, it's better to deny it and blame the boogeyman than it is to criticize a failed charity program.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Ayn Rand called, Figgus

                  The people with the most comfortable lives in the 'welfare state' that you whine about are NOT the people on welfare who have little opportunity to change their lives, but the people from more privileged backgrounds with better contacts and early education, ie: those who assume they will have a comfortable life because that's what everybody they know already has. Fatally for your argument, that sense of entitlement DOESN'T hold them back.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            @Just An Engineer: I call bullshit.

            "The problem in the West and the US in particular is, 50 percent of the population does not believe in evolution and some surveys put the number even higher. So there is no incentive to study something like science which cannot prove nor "disprove" the existence of the creation myth..

            This causes wide swaths of the population for "religious reasons" not to pursue careers in the sciences. Since it clashes with their beliefs. Sad really after all this time to put myth in front of science...."

            I call bullshit. First I want to see where you figures come from and secondly, I want to see the difference in the percent of people who study science among creationists as opposed to evolutionists. And then take into account those people who study and/or believe in post-modernism, and the "sociology of science" or "the sociology of knowledge", all of which essentially deny the existence of objective knowledge, claiming that science is a propagandistic construct based on ideology.

            1. Just An Engineer

              Re: @Just An Engineer: I call bullshit.

              Well AC. Google is you r friend. From a 2010 survey

              Check out 2010.

              http://www.religioustolerance.org/ev_publi.htm

              Actually it is 71 percent that believes in creationism and or theistic evolution.

              "Beliefs elsewhere in the world:

              Belief in creation science seems to be largely a U.S. phenomenon among countries the West. A British survey of 103 Roman Catholic priests, Anglican bishops and Protestant ministers/pastors, perhaps conducted in 1999 showed that:

              bullet 97% do not believe the world was created in six days.

              bullet 80% do not believe in the existence of Adam and Eve as actual persons."

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            1. A J Stiles
              FAIL

              Re: It's ironic, but the same thing is true of scientists

              Science can explain dowsing perfectly well.

              It is what scientists call "bollocks".

              1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Flame

      Iwakura Lain syndrome

      Yeah, and it's not limited to females and high-schoolers either. University engineering courses have their share of the Retard Clan. I couldn't believe the blinkered attitudes (along the lines of "Why do you know anything about my area of specialization? You are not supposed to do that!"). What do these people do after they got their degree? They are done learning, become civil servants and grow a paunch. Then complain about Chinamen eating their lunch I guess.

    3. Stu

      @mark1978

      You're absolutely right.

      A rather sad side effect of this though is that this Girl Geek Dinner lady group has used the whole 'culture of idiocy' thing for their own 'feminist' angle, conveniently sidestepping the fact that young men have the same peer pressures. What about us guys eh ladies?

      I'm not at all against their ideas about getting more ladies into IT, I welcome them into IT, but there are better, less bandwagon-ey, arguments for it.

    4. jason 7
      Stop

      The one important thing they never teach you at school.

      I wish on the first day of starting Secondary School the headmaster/mistress would call all the new kids in and tell them this -

      "If you want to join chess club, the football team, drama, computer club or take any subject you like but your friends tell you "its not cool and not to do it!" Well just consider this. You are not actually at school for very long and chances are once you leave school you will never see 99% of your friends here today, ever again. Just consider that if it's something you want to do. What they say means nothing. It's up to you."

    5. JohnG Silver badge

      Apart from the obvious problem for teens (girls or boys) of being labelled as a nerd, perhaps the smarter ones have noticed statistics that show over 30% of graduates in IT related subjects are jobless. Graduates in medicine have much higher prospects for employment - a field in which women are well represented. Maybe the dinner ladies think that girls are too stupid to consider the probability of employment when selecting subjects and careers.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      Uggghhhhhhhhhhh REALLY.

      The "me too, just like us" culture, I call it being weak minded, spineless and indifferent. The community and the education system is mostly responsible for this, while in some circumstances it's good, but it's also quite bad, and it's even worse when the badness of conformity is denied.

      Or as one therapist / social commentator - I think is Brian Tracey - is that people don't (be the leader, think for themselves and live their own lives) or play follow the leader, they get into the game of "follow the follower".

      The head master said:

      "She said a culture of not wanting to appear to be clever among teenage girls combined with a desire not to stand out from the crowd stopped them from going into subjects where they felt they don't "belong"."

      The headmaster of a girls grammar school in outer London said that schools had a lot of work to do too. Desmond Deehan explained how he turned the situation around for the 1,500 girls from diverse backgrounds at Townley Grammar School For Girls:

      Then you get stupid parents, who refuse to stand their ground and make things happen...by saying to the people they employ to run the education department, "You are on our payroll - first rate resources all the way", and as parents, to take up collective parenting and home education from common facilities.....

      The head master also said:

      " When I took over as headmaster in April 2010, ICT wasn't offered, Wikipedia and YouTube were banned. Students weren't allowed to bring in any personal phones or computers. Now we have 80 students doing computer science and the first cohort is going through to A-level."

      The banning of access to resources such as Wikipedia and YouTube.... fucking morons....

      It's SOME of the BEST resources on the planet.... I mean it has it's "interesting side" but it also has a very FAST educational side... on how to do almost anything....

      I remember not long after Moses brought the goose quill pen down from the mount, that the ubiquitious Bic ball point pen came onto the market, and the STUPID FUCKS in the education system said they were banned, because everyone was supposed to be writing in their exercise books with fucking pencils - so said the idiot glove puppet teacher to the whole class.

  2. sabba
    Happy

    Sexist joke alert

    I see no recent why girls shouldn't be electing to do computer science these days - after all they are the ones who will really need to know how to use MS Office.

    (since computer programming was removed from the syllabus)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sexist joke alert

      Do you think this is the time or place for a sexist joke? You are part of the problem.

      1. oddie
        FAIL

        Re: Sexist joke alert

        Sexist jokes (that aren't even funny) aside, the problem is that there are people with axes to grind... like picking on a show that is made up entirely out of stereotypes, where everyone is ridiculous and inept in some way or another, and managing to take from that that its all about discouraging girls from doing computer sciences in school.

        (Because as a male of the species after watching the IT crowd I became convinced that the only way forward was a career in IT and completely destroying any notion of a social life/emotional intelligence that I may have had up until that point... either that or become psycotic and join management.)

        Torchwood, Bones, Firefly (ok, engineer more than computers), 24, Jurrasic Park, Hackers, The Net: Series and movies from the top of my head that have strong female characters who also happen to be the techy ones / computer experts.. although quite a few of them still include the old stereotype that computers steal your social life...

        Maybe they should look at why so few girls pick the subject rather than making uneducated guesses.. or maybe they should ask the ones that do why they chose it.

        Failing that we need to take off and nuke ourselves from orbit, it's the only way to make sure :(

        (in case anyone missed my point above it was that portraying Jen as a blubbering idiot (but with the social skills so sorely lacked by the male members of the show) is unlikely to have a massive impact on the education choices of young girls (or boys).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Sexist joke alert

          It seems that black people (in my experience) are underrepresented in IT, as are the disabled...

          It's also interesting that I've heard people complaining about the feminisation of the veterinary profession but that doesn't seem to make the headlines.

          The practical answer is probably not to bend over backwards for one group or another but to make sure artificial barriers are removed or at least lowered.

          As for school kids I think for this and in general they need to be taught that standing out is OK and can even be a good thing. Learning that is, after all, part of growing up.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Sexist joke alert

            I've worked with more black men in IT than I have women of any minority. Black men make up rather less than the ~50% of the population that women do.

        2. pPPPP

          Re: Sexist joke alert

          "like picking on a show that is made up entirely out of stereotypes, ......."

          The whole point of the Jen character is that she was thrown into IT without knowing anything about it, which parodied the majority of people in the workplace, and life in general, who think they know about computers, or at least pretend they do. This is not the same as women working in IT.

          Roy and Moss were also stereotypes, who don't represent the majority of us in IT at all, but they do portray many many traits which do exist in a lot of people in this industry. In general that's how sitcoms work.

          The reality though, is that most women simply don't find IT interesting. The same's true for most men, but the number is significantly less.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Sexist joke alert

            i've worked in IT for 12 years and even I don't find it interesting, so what hope is there for getting anyone else interested in it?

            1. Ben Tasker Silver badge
              Joke

              Re: Sexist joke alert

              Roy and Moss were also stereotypes, who don't represent the majority of us in IT at all,

              I know, they're so normal and boring!

              Even my missus is a fan of The IT Crowd

              1. Code Monkey

                @Ben Tasker (was Re: Sexist joke alert)

                You are Richmond and I claim my £5

        3. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Sexist joke alert

          Apparently in an episode of ST:TNG (Qpid) the male cast members were given swords to fight with, but Deanna and Beverley weren't... and they were the only actors who actually *were* trained in fencing. Mind you, ST:TNG is getting on a bit now.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Sexist joke alert

            Of course. The women had to stand there and tell them what they were doing wrong.

      2. boltar Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Sexist joke alert

        "Do you think this is the time or place for a sexist joke? You are part of the problem"

        Well I thought it was amusing. Am I part of the problem too? Not that I give a **** one way or the other.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Sexist joke alert

          "at Google, [where] 50 per cent [of the staff are] women."

          do they really NEED that many cleaners????

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Sexist joke alert

            > do they really NEED that many cleaners????

            No, but it is known as the chocolate factory, so perhaps they got the wrong idea.

            When I used to often work out in the Bay area 20 years back, I would have thought that the average proportion of female frontline developers was slightly less than 50% (women don't quite make up 50% of the working population, some choose not too) but wasn't way under. But more recent trips there have shown a big shift away from women in technical positions.

            1. Christine Hedley

              Re: Sexist joke alert

              "When I used to often work out in the Bay area 20 years back, I would have thought that the average proportion of female frontline developers was slightly less than 50% (women don't quite make up 50% of the working population, some choose not too) but wasn't way under. But more recent trips there have shown a big shift away from women in technical positions."

              Interesting, I've noticed exactly the same thing; the male/female split was almost 50:50 when I started working in IT in the late '80s but in each successive job I saw fewer and fewer women working there. Some employers seemed to be very keen to fast-track women into management in a desperate bid to be seen to be doing the right thing, but I'd hazard a guess that a big part of the problem are the various "women in IT" programmes which seem to actually have the opposite effect to what was intended. I can't speak for anyone else but I personally find them rather patronising and they seem to have a habit of highlighting problems where previously there were none, for the most part. It doesn't make a compelling argument for the next generation to get into IT when people just want to get on with it.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Sexist joke alert

                Back in the 80s HP ran a series of adverts looking for support engineers. To feature in the accompanying photo someone thought it would be a great idea to pick one of the women engineers working in the Response Centre. As soon as the ads hit the press HP got blasted by several feminist organisations for using a model rather than a real engineer. Their assumption was that no woman working in IT could look..., well feminine.

      3. sabba
        Mushroom

        Re: Sexist joke alert

        @AC - I was going to follow up with a smart arse remark but obviously someone's left the kitchen door unlocked at the wrong time of the month so I'd better not. :-)

        Just out of curiousity, when and where are the best times and places?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Re: Sexist joke alert

      But you don't need MS office or a computer in the kitchen to make sammiches.

  3. Khaptain Silver badge

    Quantity is irrelevant without quality

    "In February we took 40 of those GCSE students to Silicon Valley. We saw Google, Stanford, Intel. And seeing so many women working there was important, especially at Google"

    What the article does not explain is what the women were doing.

    Were they writing and compiling binary trees ?

    Were they making cups of tee and watering plants ?

    Were they designing new publicity spots ?

    Were they creating new google doodles ?

    People that work at Google don't necassarily do IT.

    I would suggest that IT in general simply doesn't interest most women, the subject seemingly bores them to death. ( It doesnt really interest a lot on men either).

    I have worked with several women in the last 15 years but unfortunately none of them ever gave me the impression that they did IT for any other reason than the money. They just didn't seem to hold any personal interest or genuine enthusiasm.

    1. Khaptain Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: Quantity is irrelevant without quality

      Oops just saw the "Cups of Tee" error.

      El Reg please give us the opportunity to edit our posts !!!!!!!!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      Re: Quantity is irrelevant without quality

      We have threeladies in the department I am currently working, and nobody is impolite to them. I don't know what the quality of their work is (yet), but one is the de-facto assisstant of the dept. manager, while the other one is also a kind of de-facto manager, while doing technical work, also. The third is an "ordinary" engineer.

      These three women are doing technical work (related to generating statistical analysis of product faults) and we don't harass them in any way. I think the guys are happy to have three pretty ladies working here (they are !), but there are absolutely zero nasty jokes, even when there is a "guy-only" meeting.

      This is a corporation more than 100 years old, doing still their main line of engineering (but have added electronics and software to that in an organic fashion). The CEO is an engineer and most managers are so too.

      So in this case at least, all the arguments of the article are crap.

      1. Tibbs
        FAIL

        Re: Quantity is irrelevant without quality

        Ah the good old "The Plural of Anecdote is Data" argument...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          FAIL

          Not At All

          "Ah the good old "The Plural of Anecdote is Data" argument..."

          I have worked in quite a few companies from document management to big finance to engineering. I have never seen technical people making nasty sex-related jokes about women.

          Maybe this is different in Germany, I don't know.

          1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

            Re: Not At All

            Mileage varies, as ever. Don't forget, even if all the men treat the women with the respect they deserve, women may still be put off by a very much "male" atmosphere if you are one of very few women in an otherwise all male organization.

            We have some outstanding female students (but far too few), and the general attitude of our male students is one of respect (though quite a percentage shows signs of the usual nerdy awkward behaviour towards the opposite sex, but that is par for the course). Strikingly, most of our female students are from abroad. This shows that not all women (by quite a long way) aren't interested in IT. In international conferences in image processing I would guess that about 25-30% of delegates are female (mainly Asian). It seems to be a thing in western culture to keep women out of technology (a long-standing tradition, as women were banned from most guilds in the distant past). I do see a gentle upward trend in the number of Dutch girls enrolling in our course, but we have a long way to go.

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