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UW computer science school is misrepresenting professor’s article on gender gap, he says

He never said women are programmed to avoid tech

It wasn’t enough for the leadership of the University of Washington’s computer science school to publicly disagree with a professor who suggested the gender gap in tech will always exist because men and women are different and hence make different choices.

This week Director Hank Levy issued a second statement trashing Stuart Reges, an untenured senior lecturer who has managed introductory CS courses at UW for 14 years and won the Distinguished Teaching Award in 2014.

Levy claimed that Reges didn’t “adequately” answer “why” women choose fields other than computer science. The director mischaracterized Reges’s anecdotal claim that “women I talk to” in Silicon Valley don’t feel victimized by supposedly patriarchal tech culture, saying without evidence that Reges “completely dismisses” the idea that some women suffer discrimination and sexual harassment.

This administrator – who has the power to fire an untenured lecturer for expressing his viewpoints on a field he studies – seems particularly angry about Reges’s “honest view” that the percentage of women in tech will probably not cross 20, regardless of how many diversity efforts are attempted.

Levy notes that medical school graduates have risen from 16 percent in 1975 to about half today, in a field that shares similar hurdles as computer science:

How could that be? Obviously something changed over that long period … The point is, we can clearly work to change some of the factors … and young people (of all genders) can and do make different choices over time in the fields they wish to pursue: those choices are not predetermined at birth based on the colors of our baby blankets. …

Our goal is not to force people into computing, but to make computing appealing to a broad community, to remove barriers that prevent people from discovering that they like computing, and to ensure that everyone is treated with dignity and respected for their contributions once they join our field. Instead of remaining silent about the problems women and other minorities encounter in certain segments of the industry, in a misguided attempt to avoid scaring them away, we should focus on fixing those problems, which will make a better community for all.

Reges told Inside Higher Ed that Levy misrepresented his article and showed his “lack of commitment to scientific inquiry”:

He says that I have not addressed the “why” even though my article describes several relevant studies that provide an answer to that question. He says that I claim that, “women’s choices are essentially entirely due to gender-based differences,” when I went out of my way to say that, “It’s Complicated.” When scientists aren’t willing to consider the possible influence of free choice in explaining the gender gap, they will come to the wrong conclusions about whether there is still significant oppression in our field.

Read Levy’s statement and the Inside Higher Ed report.

MORE: UW prof gets heat for saying men and women are different

IMAGE: Luis Molinero/Shutterstock

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