cs492 - Spring 2017

Societal Implications with Computer Science

rpe05 -- Evolution versus Revolution

Background.

Many studies have shown that systems are built better when the programming team is diverse, diverse in gender, age, race and so on. This practical observation reinforces considerations of equity. Consequently, the CS community encourages women to join and graduate from CS programs. Unfortunately, when these women take programming jobs they often find workplace customs that are intolerably misogynistic. Some, the evolvers, say that publication of these experiences is likely to decrease female interest in CS; others, the revolvers, say that these stories are a gun to the head of companies that fail to discourage misogyny. You are a team of University of Waterloo professors and graduate students who are putting together an event for elementary school girls. The idea of the event is to get them interested in programming so as to help correct computer science's gender imbalance. Last year, adults at the event told the girls that careers in computer science offer good work-life balance and a friendly working environment for women. This resulted in a parent writing an angry letter to last year's team, accusing the team of lying to the girls. This year your team has to decide what you will say about working conditions in computer science to your own crop of girls.

Team A. Evolvers.

You are thoughtful, and like to analyse problems through to the end. But you are also a contrarian. You like to take positions that oppose the consensus view, and to support them with arguments that are surprising and counter-intuitive. You like to consider incentives when you think, and you can see that if the studies are true software companies have an incentive to stamp out misogyny; their products will then be better and sell better: companies that accept misogyny will go bankrupt. All that's required is a steady supply of female programmers, so the stories should be discouraged.

Team B. Revolvers.

You are passionate. When you read stories about misogyny they make you angry. (Your name is derived from revolution: just as somebody who lives by evolution is an evolver, you, who live by revolution, are a revolver.) The injustice of luring a girl into a pit of misogyny is not okay. Something must change, who controls the government, who interprets the constitution, who has the power. These stories of misogyny have the power to raise consciousness, to create anger, to raise a revolution: they must be known by every girl.

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