GoldieBlox commercial wins the internet over

This commercial’s taking the internet by storm, because who doesn’t love Beastie Boys, girl engineers, and Rube Goldberg devices.

Some time ago, I wrote about the kickstarter for this project, and how I could live with the pinkification it took to sell these engineering projects for girls to parents already steeped in rigid gender roles. Looking at this commercial, though I love the commercial itself, I sort of feel like it’s overselling the product.

See, the actual product introduces a specific goal and a narrative in the form of a story book, drastically limiting the engineering potential of any one set. There’s only so much you can do with the ribbon and sticks and crank, so letting your imagination run wild doesn’t seem really, truly all that possible.

As a gateway into the wider world of toys, though, if GoldieBlox leads any girl to ask her parents for LEGO or K’Nex or some other engineering toy, I feel like it’s worth it — even if it requires not only retraining girls that it’s okay to like “doing things” instead of “being pretty”, but also getting in under parents’ gender policing radars.

And everyone loves a Rube Goldberg device. Hopefully inventive girls with enough toys can invent all sorts of crazy devices, if unfettered by the prescribed play mode.

Google offers travel grants for female computer developers

Google has done something decidedly not-evil (despite recent major missteps), and put together a travel grants program for several computer science conferences aimed at encouraging women entering fields under the T umbrella in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

As part of Google’s ongoing commitment to encourage women to excel in computing and technology, we are pleased to offer Women in Tech Conference and Travel Grants for female computer scientists.

To encourage attendance at technical conferences, we are offering the winners:

  • Free registration for the conference
  • Up to 1000 EUR towards travel and accommodation costs (to be paid after the conference)

To be eligible for a conference grant, the candidate must:

  • Be a female working in or studying Computer Science, Computer Engineering or a technical field related to the conference subject
  • Have a strong academic background with demonstrated leadership ability
  • Attend the core day(s) of the main conference

How To Apply

To apply, by the indicated deadline, please submit this form by the indicated deadline.
You may apply for multiple conferences.

Eligible Conferences 2013 (ongoing, more conferences will be added throughout the year)

Winners and claim process

All applicants will be notified of the outcome of their application by email, approximately 3-4 weeks prior to the event. If you are selected, you will receive additional information on how to register for the conference and how to receive your travel grant.

For any questions, please reach out to [email protected].

This is how you fix the gender disparity between men and women in technology: you help women who might otherwise not be able to travel or who might think these conferences are not for them because of a lack of women representation in the field, get to the conferences to begin with. This puts those women in a position to be seen, so other women know that it’s not a gender-specific job. And they get a chance to talk with people inside the industry, too — which encourages them to recognize women programmers when they see them.

Lower the barriers that have developed naturally that keep women from being seen at such conferences and drives the lack of women interested in the field — when you don’t see anyone shaped like you in a field, you come to believe it’s not for you. It’s why Surly Amy was, until the JREF president made it clear by his actions that feminists were unwelcome at TAM, offering travel grants to women to attend — to improve gender ratios and give these women a chance to discover that the movement was indeed for them. (A shame how that all turned out, by the by.)

How to get more women in STEM? Stop telling them they don’t belong

Sometimes it takes someone saying something so gobsmackingly obvious that it makes people ashamed they didn’t realize it before, to clue people in that there might actually be a problem, and how to address it. This post, I truly hope, is one of those times.

Sometimes, men talk about the gender disparity in tech communities as if there’s some big mystery. I have to conclude that these guys haven’t talked to women who currently work in computer science academia and the tech industry, or who did and then left. As someone who was perceived as a girl or woman doing computer science for 12 years, my solution to the lack of women in tech is:

Stop telling women that they aren’t welcome and don’t belong.

Sounds pretty obvious, right? Well, you’d think. But read on to see what counts as telling them they don’t belong. A tip — it’s not just making the blatantly sexist comment, like Prof. Doaitse Swierstra’s saying that more women in Haskell’s programming school would make the program “more attractive”.

When I watched the video, what I heard after Prof. Swierstra’s comment about attractiveness was laughter. No one called him out; the discussion moved on. I might be wrong here, but the laughter didn’t sound like the nervous laughter of people who have recognized that they’ve just heard something terrible, but don’t know quite what to do about it, either (though I’m sure that was the reaction of some attendees). It sounded like the laughter of people who were amused by something funny.

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Thoughts from on a plane travelling 504km/h

Air Canada, I have to say, has some snazzy planes. I have a live map of where I am in the flight, how long it will be til I get there, and to feed my OCD and need for more information than is actually necessary for any normal traveller, exactly how fast I’m travelling and at what altitude. All on an LCD panel that’s built into the seat in front of me. 1h 46 mins, touchdown at 10:02 am local Toronto time. This is definitely information overkill.
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