Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Wondering why there are few women in tech? Here’s the perspective of someone in tech.

Via Instapundit and Bill Quick, I’ve noticed discussion about this Forbes article on why females are under-represented in technology companies.

As someone who has spent an adult lifetime in the tech industry, let me suggest an angle that I didn’t see in this article, and which I have not seen in other similar articles.

Most jobs of any consequence in tech companies require people to successfully write code at some point in their careers. Writing code is a very unusual human activity. In addition to logic skills and some other cognitive capabilities that the articles usually do touch on, there is one aspect of it most people outside the industry have never thought about: you must be comfortable being wrong and prepared to constantly acknowledge and fix your own mistakes.  

You are wrong a few dozen times a day. The computer tells you (via a compiler error or problem in the running program) that you are unambiguously wrong, and you *must* figure out how to fix the mistake before you proceed. The mistake can’t be overlooked or ignored. It must be fixed, and to the exacting standards of a machine with no emotions.

And here’s where I think the problem results in disparate impact between males and females: the computer is invulnerable to pleading, sweet-talking, eye blinking, hair tossing, lip licking, or any of the other things a substantial fraction of young women have learned to use to get their way in the world, via persuading a male to take care of it or overlook it.

Think, for example, about all those famous stratagems for getting out of traffic tickets, and the jokes about wanting to use one and finding out the cop is female. Whether feminists like it or not, that behavior is common among young women, and it’s common because it works in many social situations.

Whether you think it’s cultural or genetic, woman are less comfortable in the harsh reality, hard edged world of writing code. I think it’s at least partially because it goes against how they have learned to deal with the world around them. Because the computer isn’t a person, and certainly not a male, their best social skills avail them nothing. Plus, they have to be completely comfortable being told flat out “you are wrong about this – deal with it” many times a day, every day.

This is hard. No one likes being told that they are wrong. I know plenty of men who can’t deal with it either. But I think women, on average, have less experience with it than men.

There is evidence to back that up. For example, there is research confirming that teachers pamper girls in school. So, from a young age, and given our current educational system, I think a male is less likely to have someone overlook their mistakes.

There are certainly amazing and talented women developers. I know some and I’ve hired some. In fact, I’ve hired a larger percentage of the women candidates who interviewed with me than men. I just don’t see that many of them.

I strongly challenge the idea that the disparate numbers are due to sexism at the level of the technology companies. In the ruthlessly competitive world of tech, we’ll take talent where we find it. I don’t care about a candidate’s gender, race, religion, sexual preference, or anything else irrelevant to the prime consideration: can they effectively write software? 

In fact, given the current lop-sided proportion of men in the industry, in many cases a qualified woman actually has an advantage! Men are hardwired by eons of evolution to prefer to look at a woman across a conference table than another scruffy, bearded, overweight male nerd. Male decision makers, in my experience, simply never turn down a qualified woman due to sexism. (I supposed there are Neanderthal male decision makers out there who do, but in a long tech career, I’ve never met one.)

So, to the extent that gender matters at all, women typically have the better of it. But decision makers can’t afford to let that factor override the need to perform. Anyone running a software development team knows the dangers of having someone who can’t deal with the harsh realities of being told they are wrong and figuring out how to fix it many times a day. One of the prime characteristics I look for in interviews is defensiveness, which usually indicates an inability to deal with being wrong a lot. Such a person (male or female) not only fails to contribute much, they degrade the overall ability of the team to get things done.

I don’t know how to fix this comparative lack of women in the industry, and I would certainly like to see it fixed. But expecting university computer science departments or tech companies to do it is silly. Any solution is going to have to go a lot further back in a female’s life than young adulthood, and involve a much bigger effort than just encouraging more girls to enter science fairs.

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Assuming rights that no one has

That’s precisely what this pediatrician is claiming when he talks about what he has a right to do as it pertains to his patients and guns in the house:

As a pediatrician, I have one, straightforward professional obligation: to safeguard and support the health and wellbeing of my patients. In my case, those patients are children, but you could change the age range of the people coming into the office and apply that statement to any medical provider.

Every question I ask and every part of the physical examination, no matter how uncomfortable or invasive they might sometimes seem, is directed toward that one goal. I don’t ask about my patients’ sexual habits for the sake of prurience, for example, but rather to assess their risk for problems like sexually transmitted infections or unintended pregnancy.

Asking about guns in the house is no exception. When I ask parents if there are firearms in the home, and if so how they are secured, it is for the sole purpose of keeping their children safe. Given that access to guns in the home has been shown to increase the risk of death from suicide or homicide, to say nothing of the risk of accidental death, these questions are important. I ask because the answer matters.

He won’t ask you if you have a pool.  Or a car.  Or knives.  Just a gun.

He assumes a right to ask based on the false notion that it is his job to “keep children safe”.  Well, it’s not.

So when asked by anyone about guns in my house, I will invoke my real right – that of privacy – and look an intrusive bastard like this right in the face and say, “that’s none of your ‘effing business.”

Question asked and answered.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 30 Jul 14

The Commerce Department’s initial GDP estimate for 2Q 2014 came in at a 4.0% annualized rate of growth. The GDP price index rose at an annualized 2.0%. The Commerce Department says the high growth in the quarter is a rebound from the weather-related GDP declines in 1Q.

The Federal Open Markets Committee met today, and left interest rates unchanged, with a Fed Funds target rate of 0.0%-0.25%.

ADP’s estimate for private payroll growth in July is 218,000 jobs. Econoday’s analyst consensus is a bit higher at 235,000.

The MBA reports that mortgage applications fell -2.2% last week. Purchases rose 0.2% but re-fis fell -4.0%.


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Economic Statistics for 29 Jul 14

ICSC-Goldman reports weekly retail sales up 0.2%, and were up 4.6% on a year-over-year basis. Redbook reports a 3.0% rise in retail sales over last year.

The S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index continued to fall in May, down -0.3% for the month. On a year-over-year basis, the index is up 9.3%, however.

The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index is moving steadily to new recovery highs, to 90.9 in July.

The State Street Investor Confidence Index fell to 114.7 in July from a revised 119.3 in June.


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When bureaucracies run health care

When they do we see scandals like the VA.  What the left will tell you is that’s an exception.  That the government can run health care vastly better than the private sector because it knows how to control costs.

For example:

NHS doctors are prematurely ending the lives of thousands of elderly hospital patients because they are difficult to manage or to free up beds, a senior consultant claimed yesterday.

Professor Patrick Pullicino said doctors had turned the use of a controversial ‘death pathway’ into the equivalent of euthanasia of the elderly.

He claimed there was often a lack of clear evidence for initiating the Liverpool Care Pathway, a method of looking after terminally ill patients that is used in hospitals across the country.

It is designed to come into force when doctors believe it is impossible for a patient to recover and death is imminent.

There are around 450,000 deaths in Britain each year of people who are in hospital or under NHS care. Around 29 per cent – 130,000 – are of patients who were on the LCP.

Need beds?  LCP an oldie.  Problem solved.  Because with the bureaucracy, you’re not an individual or a patient, you are literally a number to be managed in a way that best benefits the bureaucracy.

Professor Pullicino claimed that far too often elderly patients who could live longer are placed on the LCP and it had now become an ‘assisted death pathway rather than a care pathway’.

He cited ‘pressure on beds and difficulty with nursing confused or difficult-to-manage elderly patients’ as factors.

Now it’s not like we don’t have examples that confirm this – this is one, the other is in our own backyard.

Death panels?  Don’t need ‘em.  Doctors – you know, the guys who swear to the Hippocratic oath – are empowered by the bureaucracy to arbitrarily assign you to the death pathway. Or, in the case of the VA, simply ignore you by leaving you on a wait list until you die.  Either way, a smart person would quickly see where the movement here in this country is going.  A bigger version of the NHS.

Just watch.

~McQ

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Observations: The QandO Podcast for 25 Jul 14

This week, Michael, and Dale talk about the Halbig Decision, Immigration and lawn watering.

The podcast can be found on Stitcher here. Please remember the feed may take a couple of hours to update after this is first posted.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Stitcher. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here.

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Lawlessness only begets more lawlessness

I imagine there are those out there who will write this off as the usual political squabble, but there’s a larger point here, and if you look closely you’ll see it:

Top White House political adviser David Simas refused again Friday to honor a congressional subpoena, prompting Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to vote to rebuke the administration.

The Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted 19-14 to reject the White House’s claim that Simas has absolute immunity from a subpoena from Congress.

Republicans said they were standing up for the principle that no one is above the law, and Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa quoted a long list of Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, who have backed Congress’ right to subpoena top administration officials.

Democrats, led by ranking member Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, said they strongly disagree with the White House’s claim of absolute immunity but also strongly disagree with Issa’s push to press the issue, warning it could hurt the institution if they take a case to court.

The White House informed Issa at 7:30 a.m. Friday that Simas would not appear, Issa said. The absence was “not excused,” the California Republican added.

White House Counsel W. Neil Eggleston asked Issa to withdraw the subpoena to discuss his late Thursday offer for Simas to give a deposition instead of subpoenaed testimony.

Issa refused to do so.

“We have an absolute right and obligation” to investigate the new White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach, he said.

It is about this presidency’s seeming desire to be unlawful.  Screw Congress, screw the law, screw oversight, we (the Executive branch) get to decide what is or isn’t lawful.  And we’ve decided that we have full immunity.

Nice.  And this isn’t even some big agency or the like.  It’s a 4 person office.  It’s about the Constitution and the law:

“This was intended to be a short, and I hope it will be, oversight of a relatively small but in the past controversial office, consistent with our requirement to do oversight even without a predicate of wrongdoing,” he said.

Issa said oversight of the previously troubled political office will help American people be more comfortable and ensure taxpayer dollars are being used properly.

“This is not alleging a scandal at any level,” Issa said of the subpoena. But oversight is still legitimate, he said. ”We are accusing neither the president nor anyone in this four-person office of any wrongdoing.”

Nope … this is just their normal duties.  Oversight.  What a concept.  Make sure that executive agency entities are following the law, spending (or not spending) taxpayer’s money as prescribed by law, etc.

And, as I mentioned yesterday, perception is going to be what?  That they’ve got something to hide.  The optics on this sort of thing are horrible – but they either don’t seem to understand or they don’t care.

There’s no good reason at work here for this president, there’s just arrogance and defiance.  Even the Democrats won’t buy into the total immunity nonsense.

So we sit and watch as this administration continues to thumb its nose at the lawful functions of government and obeying the law.

But why should they?  They haven’t in the past and nothing has happened.  Why should they worry now?

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 24 Jul 14

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose 0.1 points to 37.6 in the latest week.

Weekly initial jobless claims fell a surprising 19,000 to 284,000. The 4-week average fell 7,000 to 302,000. Continuing claims fell 8,000 to 2.500 million.

The PMI Manufacturing Index Flash fell from 57.6 to 56.3 in July.

June new home sales fell very sharply to a 406,000 annual rate from May’s 504,000. Prices fell 3.2% to a median price of $273,500.

The Kansas City Fed manufacturing index rose to 9 in July from 6 in June.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $12.5 billion last week, with total assets of $4.411 trillion. Total reserve bank credit rose $14.7 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply fell $-12.4 billion in the latest week.


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