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re: The Unbearable Whiteness of Coding VIEW POST

FULL DISCUSSION
 

I'm unhappy to confirm that this problem is in no way limited to the US; and that it can be applied to pretty much every field of work that might earn you a good wage. I'm from the UK and from the time I was at Uni in the 90s to the present day I've seen the same pattern here.

There's little that can be done to address this issue at the point of recruitment since by then it's already far too late. Whites have already rigged the system so that access to good education is limited (in the UK property/rent prices are directly correlated to the quality of the local primary schools). Those Black kids who manage to get the grades to go on to Uni then have to meet the prohibitive costs involved. That might mean working part time; which means less time/energy to study. And the list goes on...

Those that make it through all the barriers that are put in front of them are then held up as proof that "meritocracy works". What utter BS. You can guarantee that any Black person (and any woman for that matter) who has 'made it' - has had to work far harder than their white/male colleagues to get where they are.

What can we do? Like so many of these problems (e.g. the climate) as an individual I feel rather helpless. I do what I can: I try and educate myself and others around me and so on; but I'm sure there's more that I could be doing.

 

Well, one thing we can do is reinstate grants for university fees. Well, we can't, but we can push for governments who understand it's a good idea.

 

Unfortunately NOMIS doesn't offer up data for employment by occupation of black people specifically, they only go down to ethnic minority for that data in particular. For the ethnic minority group the only occupation group in which there is under representation is skilled trade occupations. For all others the representation is either about right or higher than the population. This addresses the point about well paid jobs.

Black people are over represented in University education, compared to the population.

As you also seemed to cut it down the sex line. Women are massively over represented in Universities. Additionally they consistently do better than the men in terms of achievement.

However in relation to this industry in particular, the data does show that black people are underrepresented in scientific and technical activities with only 2.2% of all the employees being black people against the 3.4% or so of the population.

In the UK there are a myriad of grants available for university and maintenance fees, including the standard means tested ones.

 

I just think we have to be careful about statistics. I hope current trends mean that we are on the way to a change.

Women are massively over-represented in universities in the UK in 2020 and increasingly are prepared to take up STEM subjects, but in the past, this was a different picture. Hence the number of women with higher experience levels is more limited.

I have had no women apply for a job as a developer in the last 6 months. In my career, I've had < 10% of my developers be female, those I have hired have performed at a good level and I think gender diversity is very beneficial to team structure. The problem here is that we aren't going to close the gender pay gap unless we can get experienced team members that can earn the higher salaries.

Having run and participated in development teams around the world I can say that in the US, Vietnam, and Singapore our teams were more equal in terms of ethnicity but never in terms of gender.

Yes, we have to be very careful with statistics. But we still have to use them. We can't just keep using "our" experience. Often they are the best light we have.

Women have had a greater representation in universities than men (in the UK) since 1992. And it has only increased since then to what we have now.

I agree, from my personal experience I see very few women applying. I also agree, the ones I have worked with, and the few that were in my cohort at university are incredibly good. Diversity in a team is always going to be a good thing.

I don't think the lack of women in technology is a problem though. Not only is the student cohort in higher education dominated by women, but the teaching profession is also overwhelmingly dominated by women.

As such I find it hard to believe that there is some sort of pressure pushing women away from STEM, in fact in my personal experience from school it is quite the opposite.

The pool for female candidates is so low because few women are going on to study the degrees or work in the fields that lead to a job as a developer. I think that is happening due to the slight difference in interests between men and women.

I think your point about the pay gap is important though. Here you are coming about it in the right way in relation to experience. The "pay gap" that is normally given takes no account of the jobs that men and women are doing or experience grades. The only thing I think is important about it is in relation to the experience. I imagine children can be a major factor in this, and we need a good way of dealing with it which I don't think we have.

I hear you, here's my additional clarification. I have women in technology, but that's the leader of our implementation team, 2 out of 3 of our UX designers, all but one of our manual QA team, and my HR business partner. These people are really great, but it's a bit like all (portrayed) nurses in the 1960s being women, isn't it? Are you going to think "that's odd" when you're looking back in 20 years? I know I do when I think about the stereotypes from my early career. So IDK, but I rather hope so. I rather hope we won't be able to guess a tech person's function based on their gender.

It's my recollection from the early 90s that STEM was not a common choice for women and that the desire to change that was nascent. I studied in the 80s, there were certainly brilliant female mathematicians then too, but geekiness was frowned upon and decidedly less cool than it is today.

You are right on families etc, it takes a massive social change over many years to fix.

Look around the rest of my business though and there are women leaders all over the place. Heading operations, heading sales, managing directors, head of legal, etc. My company should be proud it has so many female leaders, but we are still lacking balance universally and hence still have a gender pay gap. I think your point is that people may choose these roles and that families are an interruption to a woman's career path. I hear that, and everyone should have a choice about the importance of career and family, but I just think we have to account for this too - better maternity pay that encourages work/life balance, etc. Other things I haven't figured out for sure.

I see what you mean. And that is definitely the case where I work too. If you scope out to wider roles in the company, there are many more women.

But I find it interesting how HR, leaders, UX and nursing are all mentioned in the same paragraph. I also think it would be great if we couldn't take a guess at somebodies job roll, and be correct a good percentage of the time. But I also want people to be completely free in what they chose to do, and partake in what interests them. The thing I find interesting is that it seems all of the mentioned roles would align to the greater interest in people (as opposed to things) that we see in women.

Social change will definitely be needed. I do worry about how much of it is generated by biological factors though. I think rather importantly though we need some economic change. We don't have a good way of placing value on the work involved around children.

Yes, my point is that choices between men and women will be different, and we need a better way of dealing with childbearing/care. I suppose I just think it is important we really identify:

  1. Is there actually a problem.
  2. What is the real root cause? We can't fix it with incorrect or bad solutions that come from a an oversimplified or surface view which I think too often is the case.

I suppose I just think it is important we really identify:

  1. Is there actually a problem.

Why do "we" need to identify this? Is it not enough to listen to the people who are telling us there is a problem? Or do their voices not matter because "we" are the arbiters of truth?

 

Just to be clear, when I point out the disparity between my city's black population (30%) and my personal experience with black developers here (<1%), I'm not trying to harp on any minute differences in percentages. If the city had a 30% black population and 28% of the developers were black, I don't believe there'd really be much of a story. There's no reason why every career field must (or even, should) perfectly match the demographics of the surrounding area.

And, if economic opportunities for blacks in America in general were on par with those of whites, then I also wouldn't care much about the disparity. Because, if everything was generally "equal" - in terms of overall opportunity - then it wouldn't much matter if blacks were underrepresented in one particular field. Such data anomalies can happen without necessarily being driven by systemic racism.

But when the overall landscape for black Americans is tilted against them, and the landscape in this particular career field is so severely tilted against them - it gets my attention. And it weighs on my mind.

Just to be clear. I was mainly just trying to address the comments about the situation in the UK.

When people talk about this in the UK, too often they don't ground what they say in reality, and just make claims.

When it comes to the UK, I wasn't even particularly targeting "developer" as a role. I point out that there is indeed a small underrepresentation in scientific and technological fields.

I was simply trying to address the claims above which, as far as I can tell, are pretty inaccurate and not grounded in reality.

I don't know any of the actual numbers for the representation in America, as I don't live there. I would agree that it seems from what I know there is an economic disparity in America between black Americans and other ethnic demographics.

But it seems to me you hit the nail on the head when you say "Such data anomalies can happen without necessarily being driven by systemic racism". I think there are good indicators of why there is this disparity in America, and if systemic racism is one of them, I think it would represent a very small part.

 

Matthew - you appear to be pulling a few carefully selected statistics out of the bag to imply there isn't a problem with racism in the UK. I really do hope things are improving; but from my perspective the UK has a long way to go. For one thing representation within an industry by no means confirms equality of opportunity. You would also need to demonstrate that all those black people (and women) in 'good jobs' are getting equal pay and have equal opportunity to advance to higher grades.

So as an example of the fallacy you're pushing - and since you mention the university sector - despite the fact women undergraduates are over-represented and "consistently do better than the men in terms of achievement":

Although equal pay legislation has been in place for over 40 years, the gender pay gap in Britain remains the highest in the European Union.

ucu.org.uk/genderpay

Check out HESA for detailed stats on higher education. They don't casually lump "ethnic minorities" together so you can see that - despite being "over represented" in the undergraduate body - Blacks are under-represented in the academic body and especially in senior grades.

It's easy to cherry-pick statistics to argue that things are all fine; but to make a proper assessment you have to look across the board. What about those statistics you don't want to be included in? If we're to accept your argument then we would find that the prison population is also properly representative of the overall demographic; that application of 'stop and search' is not unfairly targeted against people of a specific race; life expectancy is equal and on and on... When you can demonstrate that there's no significant statistical deviation based on race across the board I'll accept your argument (to a point); but the UK is most definitely a long way from achieving this.

  1. You mention carefully selected statistics to make a point and then affirm a point with statistics from university staff only. As opposed to the statistics that cover job roles. There will always be variances within the individual industries, and at the low scale numbers we are talking about, the difference isn't actually that great. But hey, maybe your right, maybe specifically the higher education sector has a racism problem? Although I doubt it with the ideological leaning in the education sector.

  2. I agree it would be nice to know if ethnic minorities, once in the job, have equal pay and opportunities for advancement. As per the office for national statistics once education and occupation are taken into account, the pay gap between ethnic minorities and white British narrows. If this is a problem it is the Bangladeshi ethnic group we need to look at!

  3. Have we built a system that is only systematically racist towards black people and no other ethnic group that is not white British or white other? Because the Chinese and Indian ethnic groups are doing much better in terms of earnings than the white British group. Additionally to your point, as per your link to the higher education staff statistics, ethnic minorities are overrepresented.

  4. As I have pointed out in another reply and in relation to your comment about bad statistics. The pay gap is the worst. It doesn't take role/sector, experience or part-time/fulltime into account what so ever. I think there are issues that affect women in the workplace, that we need to find some good economic way of dealing with. These issues aren't related to sexism. As pointed out in the other comment, women make different choices to men, at the more extreme pay variances, when it comes to jobs.

  5. The prison population is representative of the right demographic. Using the overall population demographic isn't correct, as the prison population isn't created by census, is it? The prison population is generated from the criminal population.

  6. "Stop and search" is definitely disproportionately used. But the use of this as a sign of systemic racism seems off. It doesn't seem to account for why the police might carry out a "stop and search", referring back to the criminal demographics. Now, I fully accept that there may be some sort of bias built into this. Are there more criminals reported because of the higher "stop and search"? Or is there a higher "stop and search" because of the increased criminal population? A question I think should definitely be looked into. However, because of this complete uncertainty, it cannot be used to support the idea of systemic racism. And I would choose to air on the side of the large majority of the police forces in the UK not being racist myself.

  7. There are a number of reasons why the life expectancy between population are lower. Between the black ethnic group and the white, there are some factors to it that are genetic. Not exactly a systemic racism problem. What about the significantly higher life expectancies for Indian, Pakistani and Chinese ethnic groups in the UK? I agree, there definitely could be some economic factors behind this. I, however, don't think they are tied to systemic racism.

  8. I would want any systemic form of racism or sexism to identified and removed, as it isn't good for anybody! There are certainly instances of racism and sexism on all fronts. For it to be systemic it would have to affect the group as a whole.

  9. I want to take the entire range of data into consideration to get the whole picture. Hence my point that we can't rely on a vocal section of people giving their experiences or views. Please give me something in terms of data that shows systemic racism/sexism that isn't calculated blindly or considered without relevant context so that I can change my model and start trying to work against it in whatever way I can.

  10. Finally, it is you making the rather strong claim about systemic racism causing significant inequality between groups within the UK that has been engineered and perpetrated by white people. The burden should be on you to give the evidence that this is the case. I just presented some figures that tried to capture the pertinent data categories based on the claims made.

1... But hey, maybe your right, maybe specifically the higher education sector has a racism problem? Although I doubt it with the ideological leaning in the education sector.

Strange. You say statistics are important. The statistics demonstrate that there is inequality in the HE sector; but you casually brush that aside based on a personal preconception.

2... If this is a problem it is the Bangladeshi ethnic group we need to look at!

"If this is a problem"? So living in a society that unfairly distributes wealth based on the colour of your skin isn't a problem?

4... These issues aren't related to sexism.

The experiences of female colleagues (I worked in the HE sector) and friends tells me otherwise. The experiences publicly reported by many women working in HE tell me otherwise. I have seen nothing to suggest it is different in other work sectors.

And let's be clear: statistics demonstrating inequality are just a symptom of a more significant problem. You can try and argue away the pay gap based on 'reasonable' factors; but you can't argue away the sexism (and on-topic racism) people experience on a daily basis.

5... The prison population is representative of the right demographic. Using the overall population demographic isn't correct, as the prison population isn't created by census, is it? The prison population is generated from the criminal population.

So by implication you're saying that Black people are over-represented in the criminal population? I'm curious to know why you think that might be the case.

  1. Statistics are important. I already addressed it. At the very low percentages we are talking about, the difference in the number of black people within (specifically academic) HE roles is not very significant. The numbers for job roles as a whole don't show a lack of representation. Picking out one very small specific sector (not even HE, specifically academic roles within HE) is a silly thing to do to try and prove the point. Especially considering the comparative sample size for that subsection is small. What if I use only the nursing sector to tell you that there is systemic sexism against men?

  2. You clearly didn't look at the data or it's analysis. Wealth is not distributed based on the colour of your skin. When factors that would affect income like education and occupation are taken into account there isn't a significant difference. And you seem to perpetuate this idea that this is a systemically racist society engineering and run by white people, for the benefit of white people. So what about the Chinese and Indians?

  3. We are specifically talking about systemic racism/sexism. As I have pointed out, the statistics don't demonstrate any inequality. The pay gap you are talking about is a ridiculous statistic. When factors that will affect pay that isn't sex are factored out, there is no significant difference. You think ALL economists wouldn't be creating a much bigger issue about this if it was legitimate and half the population where getting paid less. You seem to be using the existence of people who are sexist or racist as an argument for systemic racism/sexism.

  4. Yes, black people are overrepresented in the criminal population. When you ask why do I think that might be the case, do you mean why I think they are overrepresented, or what I think the reasons for it might be? They are overrepresented across all stages of the criminal justice system from arrest to prison populations. There could be a myriad of reasons for that, but fatherlessness is one.

All of these issues become massively more likely if you grow up in a family without a father across the ethnicities. Despite the apparent systemic racism driven by white people, the Chinese demographic are doing exceedingly well, they also have the lowest single-parent rate.

Still, you made a strong claim about systemic racism and sexism in the UK and your proof is a useless pay statistic and your personal experiences.

This is getting very dull. TBH what I don't understand is: what do people like you have to lose by accepting that there is a problem? Throughout my adult life I have seen evidence of racism and sexism in UK society. I could do a straw poll of my friends and colleagues distributed around the country and I suspect I'd get very similar responses. There have been official reports acknowledging that there is a problem. The people directly affected by racism and sexism have been vocal about it. There are people on the streets protesting about it... And here you are trying to say there isn't a problem. Why?

Needless to say; there are plenty of people writing about this topic who are better informed - and better able to make cogent arguments - than me. Consider the possibility that a problem exists and educate yourself.

Over and out.

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